Author: John Goode
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages
At a Glance: John Goode makes it laughably easy to say, “I highly recommend this novel to you.”
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: After graduation, Kyle Stilleno and Brad Graymark move to California to pursue their dreams. But high school sweethearts are called that for a reason, and their love rarely stands up to the test of time. As money, school, sex, and jealousy test their relationship to the breaking point, Kyle and Brad fight to hold on to the love that brought them together.
But when a frantic phone call sends them back to Texas, they discover love and understanding might not be enough this time.
Review: Holy expletive, Batman, what just happened? Okay, I had to, sorry, but to start a review for this one any other way would just feel wrong! Let me try again. First, if you are a Tales from Foster High series fan, get ready, because, in the immortal words of Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” Oh dear. All right, before any credibility I have as a reviewer dissolves into some other applicable quote, let me begin to discuss with you When I Grow Up by author John Goode.
I am afraid I must begin by stating that if you have not read this series, this novel will lose quite a bit of its impact without the background story those previous seven novels will provide. I should also mention here that I highly recommend you read Robert Halliwell’s book A Way Back to Then prior to diving into this one so that you are up to speed on what has happened to the character of Robbie, and have met his new boyfriend Sebastian. Finally, if you are looking for a lengthy synopsis on Mr. Goode’s latest gem, you will not find it here, for to give you that would mean giving away too much of a story that you must read and savor.
So, what can I tell you about When I Grow Up? I can relate that the novel picks up with Kyle and Brad as they arrive in California and begin life after high school in a tiny apartment above a family run Chinese restaurant. Kyle is convinced of three things: One, that he will do anything to be successful in his pursuit of a degree from Berkeley. Two, that he is so far out of his league in almost every aspect of his new life that he is doomed to fail. And three, Brad will most assuredly be dumping him for someone else before the week is out. In other words, welcome to Kyle and his ongoing insecurities.
Brad, on the other hand, remains clueless as to why his love for Kyle and his ever impossibly positive outlook about his and Kyle’s future will never be near enough to weather the storm that is about to hit the pair of them. Growing up is one mother of a disturbance for most, but for these boys it will be the near undoing of everything they hope for and love. You will watch as their lives spiral out of control, and just want to leap into the story and shake them both in the hopes they wake up before they destroy each other.
John Goode has this uncanny ability to create stories that have that gloriously scary yet exhilarating feel of being on a runaway roller coaster. You love the ride but pray you survive the end of it. This latest Foster High installment nearly did me in. Every character you love, and some you hate, is in this story. They converge in a town that is still able to destroy a person with its inability to move forward, to see all the dark and nasty secrets that are covered in that sweet home town persona it gives off. Each character has their part to play in supporting Kyle during one of the toughest chapters in his life, and all of them will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own. The problem is that Kyle is nearly beaten by none other than himself. He has used up every get out of jail free card he has with Brad, and there really may be no way to salvage what he has come so very close to destroying on the path to growing up.
So, I offer this advice to you. Read every single word and chapter of this novel; trust me, it is vital you do so. Revel in how this author creates such an imperfect world, peopled with very flawed characters, and reveals through their interactions with each other how much those who society marginalizes can love and support one another. Delight in the idea being offered that while life can be so very hard, it can also contain such impossibly perfect moments that it gives a person the strength to carry on despite the odds being stacked against them. Finally, enjoy every single second that you can visit with these amazing characters once again.
When I Grow Up is told in multiple parts, narrated from the perspective of several characters, and is such a gripping story that you will not be able to put this one aside before hitting the very last page. This author, his writing, his stunning ability to weave a story just gets better each time, never fails to leave me shaking my head at the truth and compassion his novels impart. John Goode makes it laughably easy to say, “I highly recommend this novel to you.”
You can pre-order When I Grow Up here: