Title: Turning 17
Author: Perie Wolford
Publisher: Self Published
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Sam is turning 17 this year and he is being pushed towards adulthood too fast. He has a whole bunch of grown-up problems on his hands now. Like how to make a distant relationship with your boyfriend work? Or how to stop yourself from cheating on your boyfriend with a hot friend who wants to be more than friends? Or how to disattach yourself from your parents and follow your dreams independently? But all that is just too much for a seventeen-year-old to handle. So Sam finds himself gravitating towards Eric, a little daredevil who introduces him to fun things, like stealing, lying, drinking, smoking, and having sex.
But we know that things like that can lead you into trouble. Sam doesn’t know about that though, and he is headed towards a disaster. Somebody is just gonna have to show him the right way.
I gave Perie Wolford’s “Turning 16” 3.5 stars. I’m upping this winsome new novella’s rating to four, because I found myself delighted all the way through, even as I was cringing at its protagonist Sam Dorsey’s self-defeating bad choices.
Again, there are some editing issues, but much fewer and less distracting this time around (check out the actual meanings of plight and faceted, please, I’m pretty sure they don’t mean what you think they do, Perie!). But the core of my enjoyment of this book is to be found in Sam himself.
If Sam Dorsey had been my best friend in high school, I surely would have been in love with him. And although I turned 31 the year in which this book is set, I am still very much in tune with what was going on in my overheated head when I turned 17.
On the other hand, at 59, I have two teenaged children, and so I approach this book with both a gay teenager’s memories and a gay parent’s anxieties.
Just as “Turning 16” was an homage to “Sixteen Candles,” this sequel pays tribute to “Dirty Dancing.” And of course I saw that movie in 1986. We gay thirty-somethings were all swooning over Patrick Swayze.
But Patrick Swayze isn’t in this book. It’s just Sam, and his besties Melissa and Kenan. Oh, and Jake, the closeted football star Sam was crushing on in the last book. Sam’s boyfriend Mitch, also a football star, has moved to Boston to prep for college, so their relationship has become mostly stolen moments and daily phone calls.
We learn two crucial things at the start of this book: Sam and Mitch have not had sex, because Sam just never felt it was “right.” And Sam has never been able to return Mitch’s “I love you” when he says it.
Uh oh. Now, I was one bottled up 17-year old in 1972. I knew I was gay, but I had the lid so firmly clamped down on it that I wasn’t ready for a kiss, much less anything else. So I can completely relate to Sam’s reticence. This is one of the little pleasures of Wolford’s narrative style. It rings true. It stirs up memories of my own teen years, and I can only assume that today’s gay teens—hell, any teens—will be able to relate to it.
There were times in this book when, as a parent, I wanted to take Sam by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. There were times when, remembering my repressed teen years, I wanted to take him by the shoulders and kiss him.
Yeah, it’s freaky being me and reading YA books. Which is exactly why I love them.
In spite of the light touch and comic tone of “Turning 17,” it covers some fairly heart-rending ground, at least from a teen perspective. Feeling entirely out of control while desperately trying to reassert control is one of those things I remember in my own life and see in my kids’ lives. Sam’s resistance to listening to his parents while simultaneously being grateful for their love and support also rings true—from both sides of my brain.
Next year Sam will turn 18, and go to college. I’ll be there, for sure.
I would like to thank the author 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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