Say It Right
Say it Right is the second in the A.M. Arthur’s All Saints series, and although characters from the first book have page time, it is a standalone title. The cover might portray differently, but the two main characters are Hispanic – namely, Marc Villegas and Anthony Romano.
Marc has poor, Catholic, Puerto Rican parents who threw him out onto the streets at sixteen for being gay. He has never understood why his best friend Anthony didn’t stay in touch or help him. He turned to heroin and prostitution, had an awful time and was saved by a Catholic priest. Marc now works at a shelter for LGBTQ+ homeless teens.
Anthony was disowned by his poor, Catholic, Puerto Rican /Italian parents for becoming a drug addict and later for being gay. He went downhill when Marc’s parents and his own turned their backs on Marc for being gay. Anthony doesn’t understand why best friend Marc didn’t turn to him for help, or ask him to go with him. Anthony lived on the streets, had a trip to prison, turned to prostitution, had an awful time and was saved by Marc.
The first half of the book concentrates on Anthony’s detox from drugs and his battle to stay away from them while staying with Marc. His one relapse is so minor considering what we are dealing with here, that the overreaction from both characters felt rather humorous – which I am sure was not intended.
The writing is fine if rather pedestrian, but the whole plot and exposition feels like it was written to a formula. This ‘episode’ needs to have people of colour represented, so let’s bring out the poor Hispanic template. By the end of the novel any male Hispanic character is written either as drunk, violent, mixing with a bad crowd, or totally homophobic. One character retains all of these qualities.
To top off the whole angst-ridden episode, the author includes gang rape and makes a character HIV positive and of course, there is a death.
A story where the only men who have done well are white, and the poor ‘saved’ Hispanic drug addicts are saintly, does not paint an accurate picture and perpetuates really harmful stereotypes.
Often reviews include trigger warnings – I do not usually, but here I feel they may underline my main points:
- Hard Drugs
- Drug Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Gang Bang
- Poverty and Homelessness
- HIV +
- Death of a loved character
- Domestic Abuse
Despite the list of disasters that befall or have befallen these characters, I felt no emotion or empathy towards them. This was angst by rote. There is more to emotive writing than merely detailing an event or memory. I have read this ‘story’ so many times by so many different authors, and I am bored with this formulaic approach. This is not the worst example by any means and I’m sure there are many readers who really enjoy romance in this form and will enjoy Say it Right. As a last plea – could we have more novels featuring Hispanic characters with relationship issues rather than religious and criminal ones?