Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Locker Room by Amy Lane

TITLE: The Locker Room
AUTHOR: Amy Lane
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 85k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Xander Karcek loves two things in this world – basketball and Chris Edwards. Both saved him from a neglectful home and a potential life on the skids. But being gay and being a prominent athlete don’t seem to go hand in hand. Chris and Xander are forced to keep their relationship under wraps, even though it’s slowly killing both of them…

This was one of those books that hooked me from the start, but increasing problems as it progressed ended up making me wish I hadn’t spent the time on it.

With a druggie, neglectful mother, Xander is literally starving to death when he meets Chris Edwards on a local basketball court. When Chris’s mother allows the new friend to come home for dinner, the start of a deep, lasting relationship takes root. Chris and Xander are inseparable, and as their athletic careers progress, so do their feelings for each other. They realize they’re in love before they graduate from high school, but their positions as popular sports figures, especially in light of their desires to go pro, keep them private, through college and then on to the pros when they beat the odds and get signed by the same team.

I loved Xander at the start of the story. He’s fighting horrific odds and somehow has the humility and strength to not realize just how hard he’s fighting. Chris literally saves his life by reaching out to him on that basketball court, a connection both Xander and I as a reader recognize. Since the story is told in Xander’s perspective, it’s very easy to get sucked into his pain.

However, those feelings started to ebb about a third into the story, for two very different reasons. First of all, the author is far too much in love with parentheticals for me. One or two are interesting, but more than that and I find the whole stylistic device too contrived and cutesy to stay immersed within the text. They do dwindle down as the story progresses, but there were whole sections where there were multiple parentheticals within single paragraphs. It’s disruptive to my reading experience because contrary to how I’m sure the author intends, it feels like the author has pulled me aside to whisper this little aside in my ear rather than the character doing it. That constant reminder, that sense of over-friendly “let me tell you this little bit,” was enough to destroy how deeply rooted I was within the story.

The second issue stems from the story itself. While I was initially enraptured by how much in love these two guys were, the heavy, heavy melodrama surrounding them grew too unreal to believe. All the conflict is external to these two, which is more than fine as long as that conflict is organic. But there is no middle ground with these two. They’re either flying higher than a kite, or they’re vomiting over the choices they have to make. It’s too extreme for me, and by halfway through, I felt like I had an ulcer, too. Toss in the fact that all the women surrounding them lack nuances, all worshiping at the altar of Xander, and I realized I just couldn’t relate to any of these people as believable enough to get past the other shortcomings.

I’ve heard so many readers exclaim how much they love this author, so I wanted to give her a try, but I can see now that her style is not going to be one I’ll be able to enjoy. The angst levels are too extreme, and the heroes too idealized. But at least now I know.


7/10 – The overuse of parentheticals and italics exacerbate the story’s over-the-topness

Hero #1

7/10 – His anguished, insecure strength was appealing, but it becomes increasingly unrealistic as the story progresses

Hero #2

5/10 – Too idealized to ever really believe

Entertainment value

6/10 – I was actually really enjoying this, but the constant over-the-top melodrama proved too much

World building

8/10 – The sports element is well incorporated and feels mostly authentic, while the rest of it suffers from extremes



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