Author: Steven Harper
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Length: 218 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
Kevin Devereaux’s life can't get worse. He’s on probation. He’s stuck with an unemployed ex-convict dad. And he lives in a run-down trailer on the crappy east side of town. To keep his probation officer happy, Kevin joins a theater program for teenagers and falls hard for Peter Finn, the lead actor in the show—and the son of the town's leading family. Despite their differences, Peter returns Kevin’s feelings, and for the first time, Kevin learns what it means to be in love.
But Peter’s family won’t accept a gay son—let alone a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks—and in their conservative town, they must keep the romance secret. Still, they have the play, and they have each other, so they’ll get by—
Until a brutal attack shatters Kevin’s life and puts Peter in danger of going to jail for murder.
When his father returned home from prison and his mother abandoned them, Kevin Devereaux turned his anger inward and set himself on a path to self-destruct. Running with a dangerous gang of older boys whose behavior escalated from simple theft and minor property destruction to attacking and hospitalizing another boy, Kevin is caught up in the frenzy and lands in juvie. Now on probation, he must either find a job or join a summer program. Since no one trusts an ex-con a job is impossible to find so Kevin tries one last ditch effort to escape going back into juvenile detention and auditions for a play. He not only makes the cast—he gets one of the leads.
His fellow actors all embrace him, especially the other male lead, Peter Finn. Peter is older and a sophomore in college. Kevin is just sixteen but still at the legal age of consent so the two begin a clandestine relationship. During the course of their time together, they are caught on video and the man who has it uses it to blackmail Kevin sexually. When Peter discovers what the man has done to Kevin he goes after him. Little does either boy realize what is about to go down and how it will explode around them.
With a subtle mix of young and new adult themes, author Steven Harper delivers a new novel, The Importance of Being Kevin. It is a poignant and gripping coming of age romance complete with a mystery subplot that left me guessing till the end. With fully realized characters, a compelling story line and an evil villain, this novel grabbed hold of my imagination from the very beginning. My heart bled for poor Kevin and his dad. It was horribly unfair how the world treated these two and they paid for their mistakes over and over again. For Kevin, Peter was someone who looked beyond his poverty and his record and saw something of worth. For the first time, Kevin felt valued and loved and it was heartbreaking to see him deny both those things over and over and fall into self-loathing.
But what made these two so perfect for each other is that Peter had similar feelings. He hated that his parents ran his life using their wealth to hold him hostage. He couldn’t tell them he was gay—his father was a homophobe and his mother simply refused to see Peter for who he was. Both Kevin and Peter felt alone and in that loneliness they found each other. Their investment in each other and their happiness was the best part of this novel. This was a gritty, unflinching look at how a young man down on his luck can be abandoned by the system and forced into doing things that no one should ever have to do. I will warn you there is a rape scene in this novel—it is not explicit but it is vile and horrifying, nonetheless. It is also an important part of the book for it sets up the pathway that will lead to a devastating climax that is shocking to read. Every moment in this novel is well placed, carefully executed and important to the overall story—nothing is gratuitous or there just for shock value even when it is indeed shocking to read.
I think the only part of this novel that didn’t read true for me was the near instant capitulation of Peter’s family and their attitude toward Kevin and his dad. With all their prior interactions coming off as hostile, the way in which the author chose to resolve the parent’s many issues was just a bit too easy and quick. There was so much escalating drama between Peter and his parents and the fallout was always aimed at Kevin and his father. For things to change I felt more time was needed to explore how to correct it all. However, this was a minor glitch in an otherwise wonderful novel.
The Importance of Being Kevin was an intense story that kept me on the edge of my seat. The two main characters were really well written and the romance was sweet and well done. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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