Sunday, March 6, 2016

Honesty by Seth King

Honesty by Seth King
Release date: February 29, 2016
Series status: Standalone

Summary (from Goodreads): 

A radiant story of first love and self-acceptance for fans of John Green, Jandy Nelson, and Rainbow Rowell 

“Maybe we weren’t meant to collide. Maybe we were meant to explode.”

As a closeted teenager in the Deep South with a holy-roller father and the scars to prove it, bookworm Cole Furman has resigned himself to experiencing life and love only within the pages of his favorite novels. But after Nick Flores seems to walk off a page and starts to rewrite his story, Cole finds his dreams spinning into a dazzling – and complicated – reality.

If you have ever found yourself on the wild breathless thriller ride that is young love, Honesty will rip you back again in screaming color.

My rating: 5 "chandelier" stars

I've already done a review of one of Seth King's books: The Summer Remains. I specifically recall calling it "the best book I've read in two years." And it was. Because Seth King has a way with words. 

He has a way of ripping your heart clean out of your chest and making you feel so much for the characters. He has a way of making the characters come alive. 

In The Summer Remains, King tackled the difficult subject of life and life beyond death. In Honesty, King does it again but this time, it's LGBT rights. 

Cole Furman is gay. He doesn't want to be gay. In fact, he fights so hard to be as un-gay as possible. Being gay in America is a struggle to begin with but being gay in the South? Absolutely horrible. Time and time again, I see Cole struggle to come to terms with himself and his attraction to other guys. He hates himself, hates not being able to measure up to what his gay-hating father wants from him. 

And my heart seriously hurt for him. 

But his miserable life suddenly changes when he meets Nicky Flores at a exercise program that his father dragged him to. Nicky Flores is beautiful. 

"He was magnificent, really. As I pretended to stretch, I admired the curve of his shoulder muscles and his shortish, curly hair, which was medium brown, but touched by the sun on top. I noticed the thoughtful expression he always took, like he was figuring out a math problem that was just out of reach." 

Cole is fascinated by Nicky the moment he sees him. When Cole downloads a gay dating app and finds Nicky on there as well, sparks fly. Over the course of the next months, Cole and Nicky enter into a beautiful, tender secret relationship. 

"'I don't know," I said. "But I think I was meant to love you."'

But their relationship is so full of pain. While Cole is more comfortable exposing himself as possibly gay, Nicky is downright frightened. With straight jock friends, Nicky feels the need to hide his relationship with Cole. And it hurts both of them so much to keep their love a secret. 

Throughout the entire book, King emphasizes the dogma and homophobia that exists in their little Southern town. And it almost made me cry to see people's cruelty through Cole's eyes.
"'Exactly. We can't walk down the street, Nicky. We literally can't walk down the street. You'll only ever love me with the lights off."'

Cole is a beautiful, kind boy. If he was real, I would give him a big ol' hug. This boy has gone through so much--he has to literally hide his true self. But he stays honest and true throughout the whole book and in the end, he grows from a shy, insecure teenager to a strong, confident man. 

Nicky Flores is something of a puzzle to me. On one hand, I want to love him so much. He loves Cole so much and is so entirely sweet with him but at the same time, Nicky wrongs Cole many times. He's a complex character because I know that Nicky is scared to be himself when being himself will result in being shamed by his friends and family. I guess King is trying to emphasize that we are all human and we make mistakes.

This book was just great. It leaps into a struggle that is very real and current. I was personally shocked by how far behind the South is in terms of gay rights. Cole and Nicky are literally gawked at by people everywhere they go. Regardless, the bigotry in the South toward gays or anybody not straight has got to stop. There is nothing wrong with loving someone of the same sex--because at the end of the day, deep down, it's same love. 

I won't say anymore because I don't want to spoil too much but this book is just so freaking realistic and complex. King poured his heart and soul into this book, people. Every word is imbued with meaning. It was like reading an autobiography. And at the end of the book, King wrote a heartfelt, beautiful Author's Note relating his own experience that I still cannot recover from. 

Do yourself a favor and read this mind blowing, spectacular novel. 

"So: I am going to love you forever, regardless of whether I am ever strong enough to love you out loud or not. What would you say if I did ask you all this, once we built this perfect world, or it built itself? Would you take me as your real, actual, official boyfriend, once the wreckage and the bullshit was cleared?

P.S. --here's the thing I was never able to say in person, for a million reasons and one: I love you, Coley. Someday I hope we both can free." 

Let's change the world, guys. Let's make it truly perfect. 


Seth King is a twenty-five-year-old American author. He enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with his family.