Monday, January 2, 2012

Nineteen by A.J. Mars

TITLE: Nineteen
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 16k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $3.99

A typical day of hanging with other people his age turns into a moment only imagined in fairy tales for a young man who’s only been kissed before…

After a year with few real knockouts on the reading front, I took a break from reviewing and romances to focus on real life and the holidays. I have to admit, I wondered about coming back at all. Was it worth it? Would 2012 be as disappointing as 2011 was? But when I dipped into my TBR pile and found this short novella buried from its 2010 release, I discovered I could still be surprised and enchanted enough to keep going.

Rather than a long, drawn-out plot, this tidy little offering encapsulates a single day and night in the life of nineteen-year-old Ezra. He’s hanging out with other students one hot summer day, not really doing anything, not really expecting anything, when he spies another young man named Nick. Magic happens. He doesn’t really believe it at first, because it’s the stuff of fairy tales, this clicking at first sight, but that’s what happens, and the two spend some rather amazing time together, all leading to the loss of Ezra’s virginity.

The story is told in third-person, present tense, in a breathless style that tumbles phrase over phrase so quickly, there’s little time to pause. Even if it is in 3rd person, there’s a definite stream of consciousness to Ezra’s voice, complete with the way his youthful thoughts scatter and jump, sometimes repeating, sometimes disappearing altogether. It’s utterly enchanting at the start, and lends a unique authenticity to the narrator that prevails for the bulk of the telling. At times, it does feel a tad romanticized, but that’s likely a byproduct of the entire surreal mood of his disbelief that all of this is actually happening to him. It’s easy to go along with it, at least until closer to the end when the frenetic pacing drags on a little too long, giving the sense of same-old, same-old when it really isn’t.

While not quite as much is known about Nick, since this is so brief and he plays such a romanticized role in it, he has a certain casual charm and innocence about him that makes it very believable for Ezra to fall for him so quickly. Without that, the story wouldn’t work nearly as well, and honestly, only fails because of the lack of variation within the pacing. I also found myself wondering a little about when this might be placed. The sixties music is considered old, but if there was a time marker to designate when exactly this occurred, I missed it. Probably a victim of being caught up in Ezra’s emotions. But I did love the HFN ending, and because of this, am excited about reading again. I only wish this author had other books for me to buy.


9/10 – Fresh, unique voice, with the breathlessness of youth in the phrasing

Hero #1

7/10 – Authentic if slightly romanticized

Hero #2

7/10 – Love the casual innocence about him

Entertainment value

8/10 – The urgency of the moment carries this far, but it begins to drag with a little bit of same-old, same-old near the end

World building

6/10 – Though the moments and people feel real, there’s a sense of timelessness to it that makes it too hard to pinpoint when in contemporary times it really is



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