Author: Luke Hartwell
Publisher: *Not Listed
Cover Artist: Publisher
Rating: 0 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 06/03/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance
Atom Heart John Beloved chronicles the lives of two boys who become friends at age thirteen. The story is told by eighteen-year-old John, who quietly whispers to his best friend one night in bed, “Do me.” This novel is a breathtaking love story and an intense coming of age story that resembles no other book. John’s narrative voice is one of the most unique in gay literature. Atom Heart John Beloved is literate, intimate, erotic, and delightful, delivering unexpected moments of grace.
I finished Atom Heart John Beloved just a few minutes ago – my eyes wide with shock that anyone would rave about this book. Never have I been so out of sync with the Amazon reviews… I won’t be able to review it anywhere, just put my commentary here within our community. But let’s start at the beginning…
John Parker is in high school. He goes to a speaking-tongues fundamentalist church, one step away from snake-handling. So does his best friend, Nathan Cernoch. John suspects his best friend is gay – and more than half suspects that his friend is in love with him. Right on both counts. But John all but invites him to jerk him off one night, and so begins what everybody ELSE on Amazon and Goodreads feels is one of the great, earth-shaking gay teen love stories of all time.
I give up. I must have gotten off the train somewhere along the line, because I am lost and confused. You see, John is straight, and to the very last page he claims adamantly that he is straight. I’m sorry, is this a real thing? I believe in straight people; I believe in gay people; I believe in whole fucking Klein grid of sexual and emotional attachment. But I do not believe in straight men who fall deeply and fully in love with only one other man and have no sexual attraction to men at all otherwise. In all my 58 years, and with all the thousands of gay men and women I’ve met, I have never ever met one who claimed to be a “gay for you only” person. It is a trope much beloved by female m/m romance writers, and I have I admit embraced a few of these stories…but this is not just the operative trope in this story – it seems to be a point of pride for the author to hold him up as some exemplar of chivalrous romantic love.
I started out being OK with the book – enjoying the teenage voice; liking the author’s style; being intrigued by the quirky setting that made the story not just like many other such tales I’ve read. It seemed like a good, solid, YA story – and I figured that John Parker was going to realize he wasn’t straight eventually – like actual real men do. They realize they’re bi or gay. But no…and now I have to give the warning:
SPOILERS and bad language hereon in…
In other reviews everyone goes on about how John is hard to like. Yeah, I felt that. But for me, it only got worse as the book progressed. Conceited, manipulative, constantly talking about low self-esteem issues while in fact so full of himself that I could barely stand it. John spends great amounts of time describing how much he enjoys fucking girls – and talking about how many girls he’s fucked (sorry, no sweet euphemisms for me) and even describing in lurid details the look of his (very large, we are always reminded) dick going into his girlfriend Mary’s cunt (really, I’m sorry, it’s in the book). No longer a gay teen YA novel, is it?
John accepts Nathan’s unquestioning love for him (which is the only totally beautiful thing in the book – but even this bothered me because if I were Nathan I would have pushed John in front of a bus). And then he fantasizes about – and eventually insists that Nathan fuck him. So this straight boy is totally into being submissive and getting anally penetrated by his gay boyfriend; and then he gets progressively obsessed with eating Nathan’s semen – and having Nathan shoot over his face. Long passages describing how yummy Nathan’s come is. Like tapioca. I kid you not. And because he’s straight, John continues to fuck, and to lie to, his longtime girlfriend Mary. And he also cheats on her with any girl willing to get a grip on that big ol’ boy dick he keeps telling us about in all his low self-esteem. And he never tells Mary or Nathan about these sidebar sex incidents. Because as he tells us, so meekly, “I just love humping people.”
And then there is a rather touching, disturbing secondary story line about a younger boy who has been horribly abused by his father and other male members of this super-Christian church – and he comforts and is a mensch for this boy – but then fucks him and is fucked by him, because apparently this will be therapeutic or something. He doesn’t tell Nathan this, either.
And then there’s the hot, Nordic Brian Larson, the hottest boy in school, who apparently got a BJ from Nathan (who, understandably, wanted to see if other guys would be of interest, since he has to share John with Mary, not to mention all those girls he doesn’t know about). So John confronts Brian. And Brian seems to be an OK guy, and possibly bi.
And then Brian rapes John. And calls John a Mexican whore (oh, yes, John’s mother is Ecuadorian – a fact we learn halfway into the book). Then John rapes Brian. More come eating, by the way (really, NOT a YA book). And they somehow remain friends, and John admits (still straight, in case you forgot) that he sort of loves Brian “in some weird way.” WTF?
Finally, after all of this – John realizes that he really does love Nathan more than anyone in the world. And after just letting Mary fade away into the sunset and the Ivy League (she goes to U. Penn, just so you don’t worry), he buys a ring and gets naked (but for his cowboy hat and boots – there’s a whole horseback thing I can’t even bother with) and proposes to Nathan.
Who, by the way, he finally fucked. And amazingly, Nathan loves it. And Nathan hears his confession of every single thing he did, and forgives him and loves him and they apparently go off and live happily ever after, shooting all over each others faces and loving every last drop.
Oh, and John is still straight. “A worthy straight boy who was lucky enough to fall in love with Nathan Cernoch.” It is a huge romantic bells and hearts ending – and it left me appalled. What did I not see?
And this book won awards. God help the confused teenager who reads this. Apologies to the author, Luke Hartwell. I wanted to like this book – I really did. I’ve got 450 m/m and YA gay-themed novels on my kindle – all of which I’ve read and not one of which has freaked me out like this book.
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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