Title: This Is Not a Love Story
Author: Suki Fleet
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.
Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.
This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy).
Romeo and Julian are two broken teenagers living on the streets, surviving on the kindness of others and what little cash can be found through sacrifice and sheer will. Their history is slowly revealed through Romeo’s voice, as he tells of their meeting, their close calls, and about his feelings for Julian. As their story progresses, however, their strength and their determination to overcome and remain together are tested at every turn, begging the question of whether love is truly enough for a relationship to endure under such grim circumstances.
Well. Here I sit with the cursor blinking, blinking, blinking while I wonder how to describe the reading experience I had with this book. Despite my notes, I struggle to express my feelings about this powerful, gripping, and heartbreaking tale that I simply could not consume in large chunks. No, I had to partake of it in nibbles, as the anguish that poured from Romeo’s voice as he tells his harrowing story would begin to overwhelm me. At one point, I had to ask myself if this was just too much emotion, too much suffering. My heart was breaking on every page as Romeo sat next to me, his mute voice echoing in my ear, spilling out the brutal realities of his life on the London streets with his true love, Julian. Just at the moment when I thought Romeo and Julian couldn’t take any more, that I couldn’t take any more, the story suddenly shifted. It was a relief, a necessary quiet in a storm, a brief respite of sorts that allowed me to breathe and regroup. It was also when Romeo was forced to look at himself, his circumstances, and his dependence upon Julian in a new light. It was an excellent turning point in the plot that was perfectly placed and skillfully written.
The characters in this story are also beautifully drawn. Mute and underage, Romeo is a victim of his vulnerability. It is like a huge, hulking shadow that torments him constantly, forever lurking, threatening to undo him, overpower him, and render him helpless. Through Romeo’s first person narrative, a picture of Julian is also rendered as the rescuer, the savior, the one who protects and makes the sacrifices in order for the two of them to make it to the next day. Suki Fleet has written characters that are flawed, determined, and resilient, and she does a superb job of keeping the reader tethered to them by the heartstrings without making them pitiable. In addition, the secondary characters are very well written from a realistic and pragmatic perspective, and though I do not know if the author plans to make this a series, I hope we have not seen the last of Pasha and Crash. These two jumped off the page and shone like stars amidst the tragic events that unfolded around them.
I am in love with Suki Fleet’s prose. It is graceful and enthralling and creates an interesting contrast to the harsh brutalities being depicted. Her imagery is a lovely conduit for Romeo’s mute narrative:
“The huge echoey shower room is freezing but clean, and I can’t wait to stand under the showerhead, the warm water blissfully washing away my thoughts, letting them drain away in that dark oblivion beneath the streets.”
“The thought is blinding, like a torchlight thrust into a sleeping face. And I know this sort of panic is a hurricane, picking up the debris of my mind, swallowing the tiny rational voice that asks where would he go?”
These quotes from the text are just a tiny sampling of the vivid descriptions artfully laced within this story. They compel me to pick this book up again and to immerse myself in the expertly crafted illustrations that I know I will appreciate even more the second or third time around.
I adored this story. Period. No, it wasn’t an easy read, because it is raw, gritty, and real in its portrayal of life on the streets. I caution younger readers that though this is labeled as a YA title and Romeo’s voice is young and innocent, the content is very mature, including strong language, violence, and sexual activities. However, it is also a gorgeous love story in which loyalty, fortitude, and the strength of the human spirit are tested over and over. It is a story of love and courage, compassion and resilience. I don’t know what kind of research the author had to have completed in order to bring Roman and Julian’s tale to the page, but the end result is compelling and wondrous. The final truism here is that one cannot judge or make assumptions based upon what one sees. Everyone has a story, a skill, and strength, and living on the street does not alter that reality.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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