Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA coming of age story from Andy V. Roamer. WHY CAN’T SOPHOMORE SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA? is the fourth book in the Pizza Chronicles and features a high school sophomore determining how to navigate several difficult friendships, and if he should come out. I adored WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA?, WHY CAN’T FRESHMAN SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA?, and WHY CAN’T RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE PIZZA? I highly recommend reading this series in order.
Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $50 GC giveaway!
About the book:It’s the summer after sophomore year and RV plans to enjoy new adventures and new challenges after finishing two years of high school.
He gets a job as an usher at a movie multiplex but discovers the realities of dealing with job stresses and unruly customers. It’s also time for him to start learning how to drive, and his father is eager to give him lessons. But he’s not the most patient of teachers and RV is not the most capable of drivers.
RV opens himself up to a new relationship and it looks like the start of a budding romance—until it isn’t.
And then there is RV’s family… Luckily, as always, Mr. Aniso, RV’s freshmen-year teacher, is always there to talk over anything that might be bothering RV. But he’s away for the summer, so there’s only so much time and attention he can give RV. It looks like RV’s summer won’t be fun and games after all.
How about a taste?
I can’t believe it’s summer again. I’ve finished two years at Latin School. Halfway to graduation.
And I just turned sixteen. Yeah. Sixteen. Wow. Am I an adult? I can do some things, like drive once I get my license. I can have sex here in Massachusetts. As if I’m going to, LOL. Though my parents can still forbid me to see certain people until I’m eighteen. Whoa! What? I can’t buy a drink yet. And I can’t vote. But I can pre-register to vote? What?
So, I’m, like, half an adult? A third? Two-tenths? Three-eighths? Double LOL!
Do I feel like an adult? Sometimes. And sometimes I still feel like that scared, confused kid with so much to learn about life. So, what is life going to teach me next? Where do I go from here? Where do I go from here?
Okay, RV, chill out. Stop getting ahead of yourself. Learn to stay in the moment like all those books say. Not just books, but Mr. Aniso too.
I hear you, Mr. Aniso! Hope you’re enjoying summer in— Where did you go? Ames, Iowa? Helping out your partner Ben’s parents. You’re such a good guy. Will I ever be like you? Helpful. Confident. And strong. Yes, strong. Maybe not macho strong on the outside, but definitely on the inside. As I keep pointing out to Bobby.
Oh, Bobby. Took him to our favorite place in the woods today. It was a perfect afternoon. Blue sky, green trees, those hills in the distance that always make me believe there’s a future. A good future. I wanted to share it with Bobby. Wanted to celebrate the start of summer, sitting on our rock, looking out at everything.
I don’t think Bobby was into celebrating anything. He just sat there, not saying a word, looking out into space.
Celebrate. Maybe it wasn’t the right word to use. I know Bobby teases me whenever I use a fancy new word—me and my words!—but “celebrate” isn’t fancy, is it? It’s regular, something everyone does. I know he probably doesn’t feel like celebrating these days, given everything he’s dealing with, but I’m just trying to stay positive. Is that so wrong?
I glanced over at Bobby. He just kept sitting quietly, staring straight ahead.
Wasn’t sure whether to say anything else that might come out as annoying. Or better to keep my big mouth shut. Last thing I ever want to do is upset him.
I decided a question would be okay.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked quietly, staring straight ahead too.
“Nothing much,” he repeated. “Only about last summer.”
“Yeah. Do you remember how we began last summer?”
“When we went to the park, you mean?”
“Yeah. Larz Anderson Park. It was nice, wasn’t it?”
The memory of sitting on the hill in that little grove of trees, looking over at the twinkling lights of downtown Boston, came back to me. And then another memory. Bobby’s hand on top of mine, making me feel happy and secure.
Today was and wasn’t the same. Bobby’s hand was resting on the rock right next to mine. I wanted to place my hand on top of his, connecting to that moment a year ago. But I didn’t dare. This was a different summer. And a different beginning.
This is the fourth book in a series and I’m going to sum up a bit of stuff that many be spoiler-y if you haven’t read the previous books.
Arvydas “RV” is the eldest son of Lithuanian ex-pat citizens and living a middle class life in Boston. RV’s parents have worked hard for their modest American existence; it’s not exactly the American Dream they had envisioned upon emigration. RV has a younger brother Ray who is more outgoing and popular–he’s got a steady girlfirend and regularly challenges their parents on their conservative beliefs. In contrast, RV is very non-confrontational, and hides pretty much all of his feelings, all of the time. This is especially true about his sexuality, which RV is pretty sure that he’s gay. He did have a girlfriend, Carole, and he like the physical things they did, but his responses are away more intense when he’s with or near a boy he likes. One of these people is Bobby, who was his boyfriend–until he’d had a catastrophic concussion playing football and he’s been struggling to recover since.
It’s the beginning of summer and RV has a new job as an usher at a multiplex–which means doing whatever is necessary in the theaters, like clean up, ticket taking, and telling customers to behave when they are unruly. He meets Matteo there, and Matteo is a bit of a kindred spirit. He’s about the same age, and has gay or bisexual attraction. Casual attention seems to bloom into more, leaving RV both excited and guilty. Bobby is not really acting like a boyfriend, but he still wants RV to visit him at home and help with his recovery exercises. It’s tenuous and troubling because Bobby’s frustration with his physicians and condition is high and he’s sometimes angry with everyone that he’s so injured. He wants to recover and get back to football by the end of summer, no matter how dangerous or unrealistic this sounds. In truth, I felt his parents were problems here, for not being honest or realistic with Bobby, allowing him to hope for something that was never to be. And, it upset RV too, to see Bobby so determined, and be so scared for him.
During the summer RV connects with people that had been important in previous stories: Carole, Mark, the S-head cousins, Mr. Aniso, even Joe the pizza guy. They provide support and struggle for RV to work with and against. Like Carole gets RV to have some fun tours with her boyfriend Guillome. And, Mark gets him thinking about whether gayness could, or should, be cured. Mr. Aniso and Joe are voices of reason and comfort, allowing RV to help them in turn. Even Ray, his argumentative brother, is a source of immense support, knowing RV’s sexuality and loving him unconditionally–challenging him to come out to their parents, and supporting him through it.
As RV is learning growing up is about overcoming challenges, and building friendships that will stand the test of time. It’s about loving yourself, and being your true self, whenever possible. RV has brushes with bullies in this one, those who pick on him for suspected gayness, and his levelheadedness and need to analyze the situation before acting sometimes aggravates the people around him. It was fun to watch RV practice driving with his dad, who is trying to build some type of rapport on common ground, except that RV is terrified of driving, and he’s really bad, at first. RV’s friends all consider him to be a pretty innocent kid, and he may be, but it’s refreshing that he’s not totally jaded.
Like the previous books, this story hits a great balance between voice and action, with RV both narrating and living his experiences. I’m glad I’ve read this series through, and would be happy to keep riding along on RV’s emotional and evocative journey. Highly recommend for readers who enjoy YA and tween LGBTQ stories.
Interested? You can find WHY CAN’T SOPHOMORE SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA? on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Books2Read. I received a review copy via NetGalley.
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 GC from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.
Catch up with Andy on his website and Facebook.