Preston has been in love with his friend and former college roommate, Art, for years. They shared a drunken kiss in college and then Art indicated they never wanted to speak of it again. When Art shows up sobbing in the lobby of Preston’s apartment building, having just broken up with their awful boyfriend, Preston invites Art to take his spare room. He sees an opportunity to show Art that he would make a great boyfriend. But first, Preston need to let Art grieve, which frustrates him. During a conversation, Art throws cold water on the whole plan when they tell Preston that he isn’t romantic.
Preston starts writing a romance that expresses all his feelings for Art. Preston works at a publishing house where he asks one of his coworkers to read his work in progress. It spirals from there and the book is bought, edited and published. Two problems – Preston’s book is clearly about Art; he doesn’t tell Art about the book, or about his feelings (three problems?). You can see the bleak moment coming from a mile away. When the bleak moment hits, it’s anticlimactic because I knew it was going to happen. Everyone, except Preston and Art, knew it was going to happen.
This is where Ripper’s choices are so interesting. Book Boyfriend is told entirely by Preston in an almost chaotic stream of consciousness. The noise in his head is so loud you can see how he has convinced himself that what he’s doing is a grand romantic gesture. In the aftermath, Ripper allows us to see Preston’s anger and confusion, and then his deep sadness. Ze uses the readers expectations of how bleak moments, grand gestures and grovels work, thwarts them, and then makes Preston and Art grow up, take responsibility and take charge of their lives. Throughout the book, ze shows us all of Preston’s flaws, but also all the ways that Preston accepts and supports Art. Preston’s grand gesture and attempts to grovel are self serving actions, but he never stop trying to understand what went wrong and how to make it right.
I struggled with this book because being inside Preston’s head is much too much like being inside my own head – chaotic, self-absorbed, and insecure. I could see that Ripper was going somewhere interesting, and ze made the pain and frustration worthwhile. I would love to go into more detail, but I worry I am veering into spoiler territory. Discussion wise, this would be a great book club book.
Book Boyfriend is very low heat, but emotionally satisfying.
CW: a side character’s drug addiction and possible suicide attempt, toxic parenting, parents without boundaries, second hand embarrassment in anticipation of a public grand gesture gone wrong.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Carina Adores and NetGalley. My opinions are my own.