When Everything is Blue
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a raving about newly-discovered-by-me author Laura Lascarso and her book The Bravest Thing. Right on the heels of said discovery came When Everything is Blue, and I was all sorts of grabby hands about reading not only another well-crafted m/m young adult contemporary but also getting to dive into another book by this author so soon after the first.
When Everything is Blue lacks the angsty emotional resonance, not to mention the darkness, of her previous book. Instead this title channels the sweetness, the newness, and the awkwardness, of a first love compounded by being in love with your supposedly-straight best friend while also occupying space in the closet.
Since the day that Chris Mitcham saved him from being beat up by a local bully, Theo Wooten has been the nerdy sidekick to Chris’ cool, popular, partner in crime. Their friendship has been effortless, filled with surfing, video games, emotional support, and, for the last year of Theo’s life, the shocking realization that he might not just love Chris – he might be in love with him. Just a few weeks short of his sixteenth birthday and the start of school, Theo hopes the fact that time spent away from Chris over the summer will have lessened his feelings and the awkward physical reactions to their close proximity, but his hopes are quickly dashed. Chris’ return from vacation doesn’t make it any easier for Theo to be around him, what with the Florida heat, the growing collection of muscles on Chris’ maturing body, and the fact that being shirtless is an everyday event, regardless of whether they’re shooting hoops together, out on the surf or just hanging out.
Not wanting to ruin a friendship that means everything to him, Theo is determined to get over his feelings for Chris, who shows no sign of being sexually conflicted – especially considering the string of surfing groupies with boobs who latch onto him – until one night, the boys end up messing around a bit. Together. Theo’s quick-to-flame hope is quickly smothered, though, by the morning-after regret Chris exhibits and how he quickly moves to surround himself with women in order to prove just how much of a ‘bro’ he actually is, no matter what he and Theo got up to in the night. So when a new arrival – quickly dubbed Asshole Dave – shoulders his way into their social group at school, makes it obvious that he knows Theo’s truth and is interested – Theo finds himself agreeing to some secretive no-strings hook-ups, not only for the opportunity to experiment, but also in the hope it might lessen his pesky attraction to Chris.
I will admit that When Everything is Blue did take a while to pull me in. I didn’t find the opening chapters as compelling as the other work of Lascarso’s I’ve read, and Theo’s preoccupation with Chris’ looks and way he affect him is a little bit over the top and repetitive, right from the get-go. I found the author’s continual statements that Theo was a dweeb or just plain weird to be repetitive also – if this is something I need to know, I’d much rather the author showed me rather than continually hitting me over the head with it. I was a little less than impressed by some of the supporting characters, such as Theo’s rather annoying twin sister and his alcoholic deadbeat father (not that we’re meant to like him anyway); however there’s a great-uncle who has some truly moving scenes, and I really loved Theo’s mum for all that she had a small role to play.
The book eventually finds its stride, and I was swept up in this sweet coming-of-age – and coming into their own – love story. The loyalty of the friendship between the main characters, the transition into more, the doubts, the youthful obsession and possessiveness; it’s all very well done and feels authentic. I also really enjoyed Lascarso’s diversity, not only in the race of her characters but in the variety of her coming out stories within this book, and all the challenges the characters face – or don’t face – along the way. This is definitely more of a YA novel than The Bravest Thing, and I don’t think I’d be as inclined to recommend it to those who are iffy about this sub-genre; however there is certainly enough heat – unusual for young adult books – that I think would tempt those who are often less interested by the sweeter, less smoldering, romances.
While When Everything is Blue certainly doesn’t knock The Bravest Thing off from its pedestal, I did enjoy it and appreciated the fact that the author has proven she can still write a good story without putting my emotions, or heart, through the wringer. If you’re looking for a sweet friends-to-lovers coming-of-age – while coming out – story, without big overwhelming conflicts, give this one a try.