reviews

Book Review: With or Without You by Brian Farrey

Remember that time where I made a giant TBR for pride month and then stuck to it? Yeah. Me neither.

wowy

Summary from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Evan and his best friend, Davis, get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik – whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.

Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan’s lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect


“There is no universal meaning attached to color. When you try to tie color to a single meaning, you’re limiting what you can say. That doesn’t mean you can’t use color to represent a feeling or idea. But you need to keep your mind open to all possibilities. That’s how you make art.”

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Content warning: mentions of sex, mentions of AIDs and HIV, homophobia (including very violent homophobia)

It has been a long time since a book has made me think as much as this one has. It has also been a while since I stayed up to finish a book like I did one (because for once in my life I had a semi-decent sleep schedule). If you go to this book’s goodreads page, it is a hot mess of different opinions and some anger, but I really liked it?

I spent a long time trying to figure out what to rate this because this is one book that I couldn’t figure out what the rating should be as I was reading it. After thinking about it from like one am to three am and then all of this morning, I decided that any book that has sparked so much thought (like, good thoughts) and even prompted me to do research, should get a pretty high rating. With that said, I am going to attempt to explain why this book hit me so hard. The key word here is attempt.

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This book follows Evan, an eighteen year old who has just graduated from high school, as he goes through what will most likely be his last summer in his hometown where he has been bullied mercilessly for years because he is gay. During this summer, Evan has to figure out how to bring the two spheres of his life – his home life, with his longtime best friend and his parents, and his life with his year long boyfriend, Erik – together without losing anyone in the process.

I have been trying to grasp what it was about this plot that hooked me in so much, and I still cannot put my finger on it exactly, but I have a guess. This book discussed the AIDs crisis, a topic that I knew was like, a thing, but had never learned about or heard discussed. It doesn’t come up in full force until later in the book, but when it does I think it was discussed in a thought provoking and intriguing way (for the record, I am saying this because I have spent my entire morning reading articles and pondering why the public school system never thought to mention that this was like, an important thing that happened).

Like I said, I can’t say exactly what drew me in about this plot. It was mainly just following Evan as he went about his summer, trying to figure out how he should navigate this life post high school and it was oddly comforting.

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Evan

Evan was a very interesting narrator. I have seen a lot of other reviews complaining that he was boring or uninteresting, but I found him very intriguing. He somewhat reminded me of Ari from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in the way that he is pretty quiet and guarded, choosing to only open up to a few people that he trusts deeply. He is also an artist, and I really really enjoyed all of his discussions concerning art and why he painted what he did. I feel like I will say this 15,000 times throughout this review, but I have no clue way, I just really connected with Evan in a way that was oddly comforting.

Davis

I am not sure that I even know where to start with Davis. I wish that we had gotten to know him better throughout the book, because while I feel like I understand the decisions he made and why, I feel like he could have been explored even more and that character exploration could have brought with it even more discussions. Regardless, he added a very interesting element to this story which I liked.

Erik

Erik made me think of Adam from Secret by Brigid Kemmerer, which is to say that I liked him. Like Davis, we didn’t get to know him 100 percent through and through, but I really understood why we didn’t with his character. He is so supportive, caring, and I can honestly tell that he has a heart of gold. I loved him so much, I wish we could have seen more of him.

overall thoughts

I have so many thoughts about this book, I will most likely be puzzling over it for a while. If you are looking for a thought provoking and hard hitting LGBT+ book for pride month, I could not recommend this enough. I read it really fast, even though it was very melancholy at parts and that normally means it would have taken me a while to read. The characters were great, and the writing was so nice? I don’t know how to explain it, it was just, like, really good.

This book is available for free on RivetedLit for the rest of pride month! The link is here if you want to check it out and maybe read it.

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