Friday, February 20, 2009

Poor Boy by Jaime Samms

TITLE: Poor Boy
AUTHOR: Jaime Samms
PUBLISHER: Freya’s Bower
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 32k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary romance
COST: $4.99

Just because he has money, doesn’t mean Roy’s life is a good one. His parents blame him for his brother’s death, blame he most readily accepts, and when one demand too many is made of him Roy decides to abandon the wealth that has always protected him. His addict boyfriend isn’t as interested if Roy won’t put out sex or cash, so Roy takes off, ending up on the other side of the tracks in the company of a street hustler named Scooby. With no money, no friends, and nothing else to fall back on, he’s left to try and survive. And if he can save Scooby at the same time, even better…

Poor Boy is an edgier read than most m/m romance out there. It doesn’t even read as a romance for a good part of the story; both leads are just trying so desperately to survive that any real romantic development is abandoned in favor of heaping more and more trials upon them. It gives them a lot of potential problems to work through, but unfortunately, while there is an HEA, I can’t say much of it really worked for me.

My primary difficulty lies with the two main characters. Roy is an affluent young man with a savior complex and a guilty conscience larger than Texas. These drive almost every decision he makes, but ultimately, he makes some clearly idiotic choices – as well as unexplainable – that only exacerbate an already awful situation. Though the story is told in 1st person from his perspective, I was never able to emotionally connect with anything he was able to go through. In some sections, the POV was so deep that crucial details explaining what his motives might be were missing, gone most likely because they’re so ingrained in the character’s identity. In others, information gets dumped awkwardly and distances me from involvement.

On the other hand, Scooby comes across as a selfish user, and I never understood what exactly the appeal was. An explanation is given – that Roy feels the need to save him – but Scooby’s actions speak louder than words. It’s realistic, but so realistic that I just can’t buy any sort of real connection. The effect is worsened by the fact that Scooby and Roy never actually solve their problems. All those problems that get heaped upon them by their choices get erased by either events that happen off the page or the actions of others. It’s all circumstantial, random events that just so happen make it possible for them to be together. Just like the random events that make it possible for them to meet in the first place. That might have been intentional on the part of the author, but for me as a reader, it fails to engage me emotionally.

That’s not to say there isn’t definite potential in this novella. The author has some very sharp prose in more than one place, and paints enough vivid pictures to give a real feel for the difficulties Roy is having slumming. Her dialogue rings mostly true as well, which just enhances the harsh reality of her world. It’s a great combination when it works, and does so often enough to draw it to my attention. It just didn’t work for me on a structural level, feeling like the author got 2/3’s of the way through the story, thought, “Oh, I don’t know how they can fix this,” and then decided to have somebody else eliminate the problems for the two heroes instead. It resolves their issues, that’s for sure. At the same time, it disconnected me even more and resulted in an unsatisfactory read. However, it’s still a memorable read, because of the author’s more realistic approach and glimpses of her talented voice.


7/10 – An awkward beginning and a few awkward sections scattered throughout hold back some promising prose

Hero #1

4/10 – It’s hard for me to empathize with a character who makes so many unexplainable choices that clearly led to his and other’s problems

Hero #2

4/10 – A user, I never understood the appeal

Entertainment value

5/10 – Explanations came too late to garner empathy for the characters, with too many cases of incidental action to resolve problems

World building

8/10 – The grittier underworld is very well played out.



No comments: