“I’d never lived on a planet where such atrocities could happen, even before the souls came. This place was truly the highest and the lowest of all worlds- the most beautiful senses, the most exquisite emotions…the most malevolent desires, the darkest deeds. Perhaps it was meant to be so. Perhaps without the lows, the highs could not be reached.” ― Stephenie Meyer, The Host
It is really hard to pigeon hole Omorphi into one genre. It is YA, LGBT romance. It is about surviving the worst atrocities human beings can inflict on one another. It is a thriller. I didn’t expect that. I knew it was about a young man who had been indescribably abused. I knew it was a romance between two young men. But it was so very much more than that. There were villains. Yes, plural. And what those villains would do and when and how they would do it kept me on the edge of my seat through the entire book. The romance was sweet, Christy learned to live with what he had been put through at the hands of his captors. Michael learned to love Christy the way Christy needed to be loved. There were so many facets to Cody Kennedy’s first full-length novel, it was just… so much.
It is at this point in most reviews where the reviewer includes a bit of a blurb about the book. The point is to let the reader know what the basic plot of the book is. There are many other places to find that blurb. I believe this forum would better be used to tell you what this book meant to this reader.
I am the survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am not afraid to say that, I have done so on this blog before when circumstances called for it. The abuse I suffered was a drop in the bucket compared to the abuse Christy suffered at the hands of his many pedophiliac, masochistic abusers. I would really like to use some not so G-rated words to describe the bastards, but I’ll keep it cleanish. I struggled long and hard to overcome my abuse. I was not so blessed as to have a Michael come into my life and accept me, scars and all.
The perfection that Christy and Michael are when combined can’t be quantified. It is ομορφιά, beauty. There is Christy’s outward beauty. The cover of the book perfectly portrays Christy’s beauty as described by the amazingly talented new writer Cody Kennedy. There is the beauty of the garments Christy likes to wear to make himself feel pretty. The beauty inside Christy that manifests as the strength required to not only survive, but to surpass expectations placed on his healing process. There is the beauty that Michael sees when he looks past Christy’s scarred body and into his heart. The beauty of Christy’s artwork, which can also be quite ugly when required.
There is beauty in Michael’s caring so much for Christy’s well-being that he actively seeks out counsel regarding how to not only smooth the path for Christy, but to help him navigate it. The beauty of young love, first kisses, clumsy exploration and how Michael is brutally honest with both his mother and Christy’s counselor about their relationship in order to gain wise counsel on how to love this damaged soul without damaging him further. There is beauty in the friendship between Michael and Jake. Jake would do anything for Michael, and by extension, Christy.
Omorphi also contains more than it’s fair share of ασχημία, ugliness. The scars on Christy’s body. The descriptions of what was done to him to cause those scars. The bullying that all out gay high school students are victims of. The lies that pervade Christy’s life, starting at a very early age and continuing to Omorphi’s climax. The fact that Michael and those who surround Christy find themselves forced to continue to tell those lies to protect Christy’s delicate mental health.
Some have found the subject matter of Omorphi to be offensive. I’m not sure exactly to which subject they refer. The abuse perpetrated upon Christy happens before Omorphi opens. Any descriptions of the torture he suffered while in captivity are told mostly in vague terms. The reader doesn’t experience the anguish of reading of the abuse as it is happening, just the aftereffects on Christy’s psyche and skin. The sexual exploration between Christy and Michael is appropriate for 19 and 18 year old young men. Some of it is touched on, on page. It, too, is referred to in vague terms and in no way is intended to titillate the reader. It is consensual, delicately handled by Mr. Kennedy and is a beautiful expression of the growing feelings these two young men are developing for one another. I can be a stickler for books with a YA rating toeing the line, never crossing it. I believe Omorphi stays firmly on the right side of the line.
Eventually, ομορφιά, beauty and έρωτας , love triumph. Omorphi has elements of truth in it. If you read the author’s note, in which Cody Kennedy shares openly and honestly about himself, you will see this. There is a lot of realism in Omorphi. There is also some literary license taken, as is the case in most fiction. The residential counseling that Christy was able to move to America to receive would not be available or affordable to most people. The group of people, professionals and other survivors, that surrounded Christy were what is realistically needed to overcome what he suffered. Even Darien, one of the other children at the facility in which Christy lived showed how much he needed Christy. Darien had to have someone who was further along in his healing journey to be a mentor to him and make him feel like he could get there, too! This is truly an integral part of recovery, knowing that someone else did it, so you can too.
According to Childhelp (1-800-4-A-CHILD), almost ten percent of children under the age of eighteen are sexually abused in America. I believe this number to be much higher, as many cases go unreported. Mine went unreported. So did that of my sister. And my brother. And we are one family. Cody Kennedy has written a disturbing, thrilling, sad, but most importantly hopeful story about one young man’s triumph over his circumstances. In Omorphi, as in life, it takes a village. No one child can help themselves. The first step is, as Cody says in his afterward, tell someone. Tell someone. TELL SOMEONE. TELL SOMEONE. Otherwise, you may never get the chance to live the ομορφιά that all children are entitled to.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. You need to read it.