What a great story! I mean, I was expecting something fun and flirty, some good giggles and a sweet love story from the blurb and the cover. Both are cute as heck. But, to use Lionel's turn of phrase – Oh my Gawd! - this story was so much more than that!
First off, the writing was spectacular. We got just enough detail so that we knew what was going on, were centred in the locations and situations enough, without it being overbearing, but mostly it was character driven and I love that. It's been a very long time since I've read a 1st person POV in both character's POV (maybe even the first) but it was ideal for this story. We definitely needed to see things from both sides, but it also wouldn't have felt right in 3rd person, which has pretty much become the standard of late.
For me, the best part of this story was the undercurrent. There's a real message here, as the book tagline says - “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - but also as it says in the blurb - “Mostly, Lionel and Dog learn what it means to be a man.” Yes, yes they really do. The growth of these two characters is so fantastic to read. From Lionel, we get the happy-go-lucky character, who tries his hardest to be himself, even in the face of diversity, even when everyone looks down on him for it. Through Dog, we see the closeted gay man, the man who is so naturally 'straight-acting' that he practically needs a sign on his forehead for people to believe he's really gay. It's not a matter of Butch vs Femme, though that's the obvious theory to take from the story. What's really the issue here is that both straight and gay men still look down on Femme men, just because they're not afraid to be themselves and, even when they are, they know that being true to themselves is more important than being accepted.
Really, although this story gave me more than a few good laughs, I also had my crying moments, my sad, feel sorry for Lionel and hating Dog and his insistence on being nice and naive, moments. I was on a total rollercoaster with this one, convinced of one thing one minute, only to be sure of something else the next.
The writing was great. In terms of editing, they were a few very minor mistakes, a missing word here or there, but nothing that impacted my reading. In terms of plot, there wasn't anything I would change. Ever. It was perfect just the way it was. Characterization – well, I figure I've kind of covered that with my fangirling above, but let's just reiterate that I loved both main characters, loved Carlos and Maddy too, and the chemistry was off the charts.
NOTE: There were a lot of fun, hilarious quotes that I could have included, but I decided to pick the most important ones. The profound, really emotional parts that affected me the most. Because, really, those quotes are what the story was about in the first place.
“It amazes me that we're not all kinder. And when I saw we, I don't just mean gay men, I mean the whole big we. Humanity. If you think about it, there really isn't anyone, anywhere who isn't on the outside looking in at some point in their lives; at some point everyone is the wrong color, the wrong religious, the wrong weight, the wrong age, the wrong sexuality, the wrong gender, the wrong something. We have so many ways of judging each other that it's hard to imagine anyone getting through life without being some kind of wrong at least some of the time.”
“One of the hardest things in life is truly being yourself. Most of us are the person we think we should be, the person who pleases our parents, the person who pleases our friends. So few of us are truly who we are.”