Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Before Now and After Then by Peter Monn Book Review


This is another book I’ve received from NetGalley but this time I requested it because Sharon over at Behind Green Eyes recommended it. I decided to give it a shot as it’s a YA book and we all know I like a bit of YA every now and again! I actually did a brief review in my August Reads post but decided to do a proper review post for it too.

Danny and Sam are twin brothers, close but extremely opposite in personality. Sam may be the younger brother but he’s more confident, he is very popular and well loved by all. Danny is quieter, happy living in Sam’s shadow and tagging along. Danny is also gay and gets bullied in school but copes with it, especially since Sam is fiercely protective of him. On their 17th birthday, Sam hatches a plan that will allow Danny to tell his parents about his sexuality. But while on his way to tell them, he over hears them arguing about his father cheating on his mother. The door is opened, everyone looks at each other in shock and all Danny can do is burst out ‘I’m gay’. At that moment, there’s a knock on the front door. Danny expects it to be Sam, as part of the plan, but instead it’s the police and instinctively Danny knows something has happened to Sam.

Flash forward a few months later and some things have changed. His parents have separated and Danny and his mother live in another house across town. His Uncle Alex (really his mother’s friend) is coming to stay with them for a while and Danny is starting a new school. His first day starts off on the wrong foot when he is immediately picked on by a school bully for being gay. Things do pick up though when he makes a friend in Cher, a loud confident girl who is named after the singer. Danny also spots a cute boy called Rusty and he begins to fall for him. The book then centres around the progression of their relationship together.

This is the first YA book I’ve ever read that centres around a gay main character. But besides that, there’s no real difference between this and a YA novel involving a straight couple. It’s not distracting or different that they are gay, it just another teenage romance blossoming. Their sexuality does come up a few times in different ways, in that Danny’s mother is always buying him films where the main character is gay, which Danny hates and never watches. But when Rusty hears of this, he gets mad because he feels Danny doesn’t appreciate how cool and understanding his mother is trying to be and that so many young people don’t have that support when they share their sexuality with their parents. Another time it crops up is when Danny’s mother cautions him and tells him he should be careful because she can tell he’s falling hard for Rusty and that he should take his time. Danny asks if his mother ever had this talk to Sam when he first started going out with his girlfriend and that Sam told Danny he was falling in love with her within the first few days of dating. He points out that it’s a bit of a double standard to be talking to him like this when she didn’t with Sam.

Even though Danny and Rusty’s sexuality does come into it, this book is not about being gay, it is so much more than that. It’s about Danny trying to cope without his brother and his now broken family, learning to be one instead of two, finding out who he is. A coming of age story I suppose. It did kinda remind me a bit of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. The only thing I had a big problem with is that the story seems rushed. In the sense that the main story, once Danny and Rusty start dating, takes place over just a week or so. That’s not to say some relationships and emotions don’t develop that quickly but I think I would have preferred it over a longer time period, I think I would believed the emotions more if that was the case. But honestly I do think at the same time that until it’s pointed out at some stage in the novel about the time passing, it does feel a bit longer. If that makes any sense?!

It’s a sweet novel, definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy YA. I think it’s good to try and be a bit more diverse with your reading, be it reading more women authors if you only read men, trying new genres, reading more books written by people of colour or reading books where there are more diverse main characters, whether they are people of colour or LGBT people. And I think this is a great place to start if you’re interested in doing so.

This copy was requested from NetGalley, with no obligation to produce a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

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