Title: The Unwanted
Genre: Gay YA Fantasy
- A few clichés. There were a few things about this book that were a bit of a cliché. The one that struck me the most was the bully who turns into a possible love interest. This seems to be the gay equivalent to the bad boy with a heart of gold that we see in so many mainstream YA books – saw it coming from a million miles away and I had to groan just a little bit. Still, Ricker managed to pull it off and turn it into something sweet and real, so I give him credit for that. And there were plenty of things about this book that were NOT cliché, so I didn’t feel like it hurt the book much at all.
- The ending. Okay, I know it’s a bit odd to start off with talking about how much I loved the ending, but it was just so amazing that I had to mention it first. There were several things that I imagined might happen as I neared the end of this book – what actually finally happened was decidedly NOT one of them. I was completely taken by surprise and the ending was really kind of perfect – incredibly bittersweet and emotional and very unexpected. While I mentioned that there were a few small clichés in this book, the ending was NOT one of them!
- Jamie and Billy. I really enjoyed Jamie as the hero in this book. He’d suffered through a lot of bullying, but he wasn’t a bitter or angry person (which he certainly could have been). Sure, he didn’t always have the best sense of self-confidence, but he didn’t mope either – there was no pity party going on here. His relationship with Billy was complicated, to say the least. Billy’s turnaround from bully to friend could have taken a bit more time, in my opinion, but I was very glad that Ricker didn’t have Jamie and Billy jump straight into romance once they became friends. Instead, the two had to navigate some confusing territory, and things move slowly.
- Positive parental figures. Yep, a YA book with positive parental figures. Yay! Jamie’s father, especially, is incredibly close with his son and supportive of him. He is never turned into the bad guy – or the oblivious dad who has no idea what’s going on in his son’s life. And he’s not the only one – pretty much every parent in the book (and there are several!) is portrayed as a positive influence in their child’s life. That’s not to say that some of them don’t have flaws or make mistakes, but they are refreshingly real and involved in their kids’ lives. I definitely applaud that!
- The Amazons. I can’t write a review of this book and not mention the fantasy storyline! I thought that Ricker did a fantastic job of incorporating the mythology without making the story confusing. I thought that the whole idea of the Amazons and their male sons was really interesting and the story was filled with lots of action and suspense. I appreciated that Jamie didn’t just suddenly develop a bunch of powers once he discovered that his mom was an Amazon – his life does get crazy, but he doesn’t turn into an amazing superhero overnight.
About the Author
Jeffrey Ricker’s first novel, Detours, was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books. His second novel, The Unwanted, will be published by Bold Strokes in 2014. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Paws and Reflect, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, Blood Sacraments, Men of the Mean Streets, Speaking Out, Raising Hell, The Dirty Diner, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, and others. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he is pursuing an MFA at the University of British Columbia.