Reaching the BREAKING UP POINT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for BREAKING UP POINT, a contemporary M/M romance out today from Brian McNamara. I reviewed the previous book in the series, BOTTLED UP SECRET, and liked it, so I jumped into the sequel when it came on offer.

Breaking Up PointAbout the book:
Brendan Madden is starting his freshman year of college and, although excited, he is sad to say good-bye to his high school boyfriend, Mark. After a rough transition, Brendan carves out a place for himself at school, where he has new friends and newfound independence. With the added strain of distance, however, he now finds it hard to maintain his relationship with Mark, especially due to the fact that Mark still must hide the relationship from most of his friends.

Brendan’s college life allows him to be open and honest about who he is. He debates whether he is willing to compromise this for Mark, especially since staying in the relationship means forgoing the possibility of finding new romance at college.

My Review:
This book is the sequel to BOTTLED UP SECRET, and better enjoyed if the books are read in order.

To sum up from the previous book:  Brendan came out to his mother, one of his five sisters and his cadre of friends seven months ago. He has a closeted boyfriend, Mark, who is a senior in high school–though Brendan is just entering his freshman year at the Ohio State University. Mark and Brendan had shared some intimate experiences in the previous book, and Brendan is not eager to move things farther as he’s rather set on saving his virginity for marriage, but he’s not happy keeping the secret of Mark from their mutual friends, or in general.

As Mark begins his new life away from home he is open about his sexuality–to everyone, with positive results. He joins a musical theater group and slowly makes friends. At times I felt the prose dragged. For teens, this may seem like a roadmap regarding the initial college experience, but it was too telling, with little advancement. I struggled to emotionally connect with Brendan until the second half of the book.

Brendan does come out the rest of his family in this book–with mixed results. Three of his sisters are cool with it, two are NOT cool, bordering on homophobic, and his mom is on the fence. She still thinks his “situation” is a phase. I really began to engage with the book when all this started happening. Brendan’s interactions with Mark show advancement in terms of physicality, but not emotion. They are separated by distance, and different objectives. Brendan gets the (accurate) sense that Mark will never “come out” and he fully acknowledges that Mark had only dated girls before him.

As Brendan flails in his relationships, his new friendships thrive. In particular, Andres–a project partner from his business class–becomes a close confidante. It turns out that Andres provides very good counsel, and helps Brendan through the rocky issues with both Mark and his family. I liked Andres quite a bit. He’s a little older, and more mature than Brendan, but very compassionate and fun.

There are two sexy scenes in the book that are a little more graphic than fade-to-black, but they are not hot-and-heavy. Mark is exploring himself, and his boundaries. He talks a bit about the physical features of guys he likes (most specifically penis features), but this seemed in keeping with the character’s age and did not feel inappropriate for the audience. (Straight teen guys get graphic about the female body features they enjoy after all…)

I think I did enjoy this book more that the first, but it ends on a more bittersweet note. It explores the morass of coming out, and dealing with disapproving friends or family. It felt very honest, if a little naive. Brendan certainly owns his feelings regarding his family’s response to his news–and this was very engaging. The writing, at times, seems a little clunky, with stilted dialogue and too much description of stuff that was not central to the plot. That said, I do like Brendan, and I am intrigued about his future.

Interested? You can find BREAKING UP POINT on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I received a review copy via NetGalley.

McNamara, BrianAbout the Author:

The youngest of six kids (and the only boy!), Brian McNamara was born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. His favorite hobbies growing up were tennis and musical theater. He obtained a degree in finance in 2009 and moved to New York City shortly after to work for a management consulting firm. While pursuing his true passions of writing and acting on the side, he decided to quit his corporate job to focus all his energy on what he loved.

Brian can be contacted at BrianMcNamara.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Couldn’t Keep it BOTTLED UP SECRET–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a recently published YA gay romance about a boy who wants to come out–and his secret boyfriend, who doesn’t… Brian McNamara’s BOTTLED UP SECRET is a coming-of-age book that puts the focus on feelings.

Bottled Up SecretAbout the book:

Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked.

As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret.

As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out.

My Review:

Brendan is a high school senior at an all-boys Catholic school in Ohio. He recently accepted the fact that he is gay, but has yet to come out or act on his feelings. He meets Mark, a younger classmate, through Chris, a mutual friend, and is enamored. In his infatuation, Brendan realizes he needs to make a statement to his friends, most of whom are girls, about his sexuality.

While Brendan’s coming out is not met with scorn–his good friend Chris is already “out”–he’s still nervous about revealing his sexuality to his family. What he actually does is reveal his crush to Mark, who is stunned, but not upset. In fact, Mark is anxious to remain friends. A couple weeks pass, and Brendan is blindsided by Mark’s confession of interest.

They begin a relationship, under the agreement that no one know. This causes a lot of problems for Brendan. He has to hide Mark from his friends, and keep his nosy mom out of his business. In fact, his mom picks up on Brendan’s sexuality and while Brendan tells he truth, she is upset. She wants him to deny it, and go on pretending he is not gay. It’s an awkward experience as they are the only people in the house–it leads to a lot of silence.

The secrets seem to pile up around Brendan, however. He is enjoying his brief, stolen moments with Mark, but his friends begin to notice–and ask questions. Will an accidental “out”ing cause Mark to freak?

I did enjoy this quiet romance. The physicality of their relationship is extremely downplayed–only a few kisses with little description, and one (maybe) hot-n-heavy experience that is completely glossed over. I would have really liked a bit more headiness from Brendan–more exuberance or excitement about the thrill of first love, first contact. His attitude is almost dauntingly even keeled.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought Brendan acted very maturely. He was presented with a difficult opportunity for a relationship and he handled it with grace. I just felt the story was a bit superficial when it came to the emotional context. We hear that Brendan cries, for example, but we do not experience his pain, per se, which left me feeling a bit removed as a reader. I suppose this might be okay for some readers, but I wanted more. I wanted to feel Brendan’s highs and lows, and instead of getting a thrill ride, I bounced along a lazy river, so to speak.

I do believe this book will resonate with young gay readers, however, and I am glad that it showed some positive relationships in both Brendan and Mark’s social/family spheres. Brendan’s mom was not my fave–because I’m not the kind of mom who would try to pressure my child into my point of view (case in point:  I’m a flaming liberal and my eldest is, gasp, a libertarian), but she still came across as an honest character. Her disappointment, and the fear behind her constant inquisitions, was palpable, even if I didn’t agree with her point of view.

I also appreciated how Brendan didn’t allow his experience with Mark to shut down his life. He still visited with friends, and performed in the school musical and tennis, and even attended two proms with gal pals. His life went on, and it actually got better, to some degree. That’s a very positive message for questioning youth to encounter, and I applaud the effort by the author to write an approachable coming out story where the MC isn’t bullied, hazed, disowned or a pariah.

Interested? You can find BOTTLED UP SECRET on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. This is my honest review.

McNamara, BrianAbout the Author:

The youngest of six kids (and the only boy!), Brian McNamara was born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. His favorite hobbies growing up were tennis and musical theater. He obtained a degree in finance in 2009 and moved to New York City shortly after to work for a management consulting firm. While pursuing his true passions of writing and acting on the side, he decided to quit his corporate job to focus all his energy on what he loved. Using his own high school experience as inspiration for his debut novel, he is thrilled to publish Bottled Up Secret with Bold Strokes Books.

Brian can be contacted at BrianMcNamara.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!