He Learned to Love Between THE BEFORE NOW AND AFTER THEN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a contemporary YA gay romance newly released by debut novelist Peter Monn. THE BEFORE NOW AND AFTER THEN relates the tale of Danny, a high school boy growing up gay in Indiana and learning to love following the loss of his twin brother, Sam.

The Before Now and After ThenAbout the book:

Danny Goldstein has always lived in the shadow of his identical, twin brother Sam. But when a hurricane of events forces him into the spotlight, he starts to realize that the only thing he’s truly afraid of is himself. With the help of his costume changing friend Cher, a famous gay uncle with a mysterious past of his own, two aging punk rocker parents, and Rusty, the boy who will become his something to live for, Danny begins to realize that the music of the heart is truly the soundtrack for living.

My Review:

Danny Goldstein’s family dissolves the day he “comes out”–though the issues don’t surround his confession. No, it is also the same day his mother learns of his father’s infidelity and his twin brother, Sam, dies in a car wreck.

See, Danny was the shadow twin. Sam was bigger-than-life with all the friendships, girlfriends and sports prowess. In the wake of the family trauma, Danny and his mom move across town and he attends a new school for senior year. He is tentative, but actually makes a friend his first day. Cher, who is a spirited-outsider-girl, anxious to have a gay BFF. Danny hasn’t even confessed his sexuality, but all the kids he meets simply assume he IS gay, so I guess that worked out.

He also meets Rusty, a Venezuelan boy with bright eyes and a kind smile who may-or-may-not be gay (spoiler: he is) and an over-the-top-ass-riding-bully Pat Jones (who may or may not be gay…). Danny clings to his friendship with Cher, and makes a few other friends through her, though they don’t go to his school. Meanwhile he and Rusty become close.

Danny has never had a boyfriend, and Rusty becomes that–but Rusty has issues: his young sister is very ill. His family has moved around the country seeking specialized care for her for years. She is currently being treated in a teaching hospital in Indianapolis, but this may change at any time. As such, Rusty doesn’t want to get too serious because he doesn’t want to be hurt if/when his family up and moves, as they always do. Rusty stands up for Danny, against Pat’s bullying, which leads to some low level stalking and a big showdown that calls into question Pat’s sexuality.

During the six months the books spans, Danny learns a lot about himself. His “Uncle” Alex, BFF of his mother from high school, provides some insight–Alex is gay and had a rough time as a teen, and Danny has a good sense of his story growing up. For Danny, life isn’t much like that–his punk-rocker-grown-up parents accept his sexuality–almost eerily so. They shower him with acceptance and love, in a way that feels stifling, as if they are afraid he’ll get too depressed and kill himself and they’ll be left with no children; it’s almost its own burden.

There are some other, larger, societal issues–teen pregnancy, grief, the “out of control” aspect of teen life, homophobia, and bullying–touched on. Danny, after many months of not speaking about/dealing with his emotions regarding Sam’s death, his parent’s divorce, his own homosexuality, and his love-and-loss regarding Rusty, finally opens up to his therapist and gains some closure as well as the strength to grow into his own person–outside of the shadow of Sam and his parents’ expectations.

The ends wraps up tightly, with a rather solid happy. This is an excellent book for gay and questioning teens with lovely language and believable characters. For all that I have described here, I haven’t even done the novel’s plot justice. It moves so fast, and with such grace, I read it in a day.

Interested? You can find THE BEFORE NOW AND AFTER THEN on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I received an advanced review copy via NetGalley.

Peter MonnAbout the Author:

Peter Monn is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana where he lives with his dashing husband Alex and their brood of dogs named after their favorite literary muses. He is known for being one half of the infamous celebrity interview team, http://raannt.com, as well as being a Huffington Post Gay Voices guest blogger. Besides being a life coach, a dreamer, a romantic, a moon-child and a lover of carnivals, night swimming and driving around late at night, he is also a writer. His first book, The Before Now and After Then, is now available.

You can find Peter on his website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping by and keep reading my friends!

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