July Challenge: Lovely RITA (past RITA winners or nominees)
Title: Every Time I Think of You
Author: Jim Provenzano
My Rating: 4 stars
Since I'm trying to keep this year's Reading Challenge books to all gay romances, taking titles from the Rita winners or nominees won't work for this month's challenge. Maybe someday, but not this year, alas.
So where would I find award-winning and award-nominated gay romance books? There are a few good choices, but my go-to site is the Lambda Literary Awards.
A short recap: From 1989-2001 although Lambda gave awards, none were for romance per se. This year's winner for gay romance is Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, and although I haven't read it, I decided not to read it for this challenge.
Instead I chose the 2012 winner, Every Time I Think of You by Jim Provenzano, which was a self-published work. I'd read the nominated Something Like Summer by Jay Bell, also self-published, and loved it, so I wanted to see if I would have chosen Provenzano's book over Bell's.
Now I know why Provenzano won, but I'm not sure if I agree with the choice. Fortunately, Bell's Kamikaze Boys, another m/m romance I really enjoyed, won the award in 2013, so I didn't feel so badly that Bell lost in 2012.
While Provenzano's book is enjoyable after the first few chapters, it's the beginning chapters that really bothered me the most. In them two boys go into the wooded area between their two very different neighborhoods in the middle of an Illinois winter to pull of their clothes and jack off. They don't know each other, but spy what the other is doing and form a bond.
Not a bad opening volley, right? It's clever, catches attention, and seems right enough for two teenage boys. So what's my gripe? The writing style which is overblown and pretentious. Not only was it off-putting considering what was going on in the scene, but I was really afraid it would be used throughout the book.
I understand that the narrator is supposed to be a nerdy, word-smith geek, maybe even a precocious kid, but considering that the language choices and tone don't continue throughout the book, the beginning struck me as unnecessarily condescending considering that male teens might want to read this.
But I don't think that is why the book won the Lambda Award, even though many award-winning literary fiction works begin the same way.
I think the book won because it centers on one character's unexpected off-scene accident which makes him paraplegic. Although the issue of gay men and paraplegia isn't really addressed in the book, I think the shock value of a young men in love romance turning down that path sealed its award.
True, because the book is a first person account from the boy who isn't injured, delving into the mechanics of how a young man lives and functions in a wheelchair isn't the focus of the romance. Perhaps that's why Provenzano published the sequel, Message of Love, this March--in order to flesh out the parts that were missing in the original story.
No matter what his purpose, even with the quibbles I talk about here, Every Time I Think of You was a good choice as the Lambda 2012 gay romance of the year. It took an established theme in a new direction and did it well.
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