Author: J.H. Trumble (author website | blog)
Release Date: Dec. 27th 2011 by Kensington Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, heart-pounding, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.
But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York--at Nate's insistence--that certainty begins to flicker. Nate's friends can't keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam's shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it's the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.Tender, thoughtful, and unflinchingly real, Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble is a witty and beautifully written account of young love, long-distance relationships, and learning to follow your heart.
Love. It’s romanticised, mythologised – frequently sanitised – and at its most beautiful, its most pure, there is no single greater force for good in this world. Yet soured or corrupted, or viewed from aside with a poisoned heart, the hatred it incites is perhaps the most destructive, and it is this – love and hate, and the price of both – that Don’t Let Me Go examines – in often heartbreaking extremes.
It’s a basic right, particularly in the Western world, that we may love who we choose, or, should the adage prove true, who our hearts decide we must. Yet many who take this simple freedom granted for themselves do not believe it a right, but a privilege, one earned by merit of religion, the colour of one’s skin, position, or gender.
We meet Nate, our narrator, and Adam, the Juliet to his Romeo – or vice versa – on page one, which also happens to be the middle of their story. Through a series of flashbacks, Trumble shows the couple’s past and present: sweet romance and horrifying brutality in parallels to a present of petty fights and bickering, of distance which renders hearts strangers, not stronger in their affections. Yet to talk of Don’t Let Me Go in context of romance or of ethical allegory alone is to do it an injustice, for it is so much more than each, or either.
It's a story of extremes, of shining love and blackest hate, of marginalization and bullying, and about a gay teen dealing with a world who views him as a thing which must be ‘dealt with’, rather than a boy with feelings and a beating, hurting heart. Concerned as it is with hate and homophobia (though I suppose the two are, truly, synonymous), it is far more than a simple parable. Dealing with the broader meaning of love than romance alone, family, friendship, and, above all, finding oneself, Trumble handles her characters with sensitivity, warmth and humour. The story’s heartache is balanced with joy, and a love story so tender and pure in its honesty, its messiness, its good and bad, it’s intoxicating. Don’t Let Me Go a ‘feeling’ book, an emotional one, one driven very much by its vividly real characters.
The cast of Don’t Let Me Go is varied and disparate, and amongst its friends and families and heroes, is a love so beautiful and fierce it is humbling to witness. Yet none of them are perfect. Some are certainly more so than others – Adam’s family, Nate’s grandmother, the lovely Juliet and hilarious Daniel Quasimi among them. Others are profoundly flawed, with Nate – broken, combative, and self-destructive – winning that race by a country mile. Nate is not always easy to like. He makes impulsive, foolish decisions, acts in anger and hurts those who love him most. Yet there’s a painful authenticity to his actions, and Trumble doesn’t make excuses for her characters, showing them simply as they are: human. Despite his failings, readers will find in Nate a sympathetic hero, even more so as his story and history unfolds in heartbreaking clarity.
Four hundred years ago Shakespeare penned his now famous maxim on the path of love and, while comic in context, it rings, loudly, true in Don’t Let Me Go. Marrying (500) Days of Summer and Hannah Harrington's Speechless with the raw emotional authenticity of Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, Don’t Let Me Go is a powerful story with a profound message.
Don’t Let Me Go starts with goodbyes, and ends with hope, with promise of a future just beyond a not-so-distant horizon. It’s not possible to take the journey through this tale without seeing horrifying truths and the blackest sides of humanity, but, ultimately, it is ‘much to do with hate but more with love,’ and it is this – love – which makes it such a powerful story. Interwoven with a deep appreciation of music, a warm sense of humour, and profound understanding of how much our world needs books such as this, and needs to have such conversations, Don’t Let Me Go is a gem – one uncut and unpolished, authentic and untainted, and immeasurably precious.
I sometimes wish simply saying 'read this book’ were enough – because this book has something very important to say, and to teach, and it's also (when it's not utterly heartbreaking) an absolute joy to read. So perhaps I'll say it anyway, if I may: Read this book. And love. Above all things, in all things, love.
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