Beach Bum Books
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Finding Shawn began with a whimper and ended with a bang.
The whimper was a train wreck of multiple POVs (major head hopping), a case of a het romance taking precedence over the M/M pairing and the attendant coming out subplot, an action sequence that appears first as a backstory or a prelude, then reappears much, much later when the real event occurs. And the tense issue! Oh, the verb tenses flip-flopping from present to past, coupled with the POV problems… headache inducing.
All this in the first half of the book. It had me irritable and seriously considering a DNF, but! Yes, some redeeming features saved Finding Shawn from being a total hot mess. It did so by exploring some genuine teen conundrums of wanting to fit in, of fearing making your teammates angry at you, of missteps in that tentative first date/romance department, and a myriad of poor choices that only a young man can make as he is struggling to find his place in the world.
The pressure the football players are under—performance-wise, physical, mental—were nicely handled, as were instances of foolhardy behaviors that had deleterious consequences later in the book. The action on the field was handled extremely well, with authentic touches and a real sense of urgency built into the game, above and beyond a simple ‘go team, win’ scenario.
The protagonists, Alex and Shawn, are lifelong friends. Shawn has a secret even Alex couldn’t guess at, at least not until Alex is forced into an unfortunate situation that ricochets from bad to worse and leads to a revelation that impacts all involved. Shawn’s girlfriend Pam is a minor infringing on major character territory, while the parents, the Coach and others perform their roles with competence.
The antagonists, Dan and Pete, were real pieces of work, and so well drawn they made me want to reach into the Kindle and rip their spleens out. You know these guys: bullies, toughs, scumbags, athletes and all around privileged a$$holes (whew, yes, I still carry around baggage from high school, thanks for asking).
From a tepid beginning with uncertain and annoying narrative features, Finding Shawn finally found its legs when acts of violence escalated in a shocking way. There’s no one defining moment, just a slow accretion of learning about each character, of coming to terms with their insecurities and moral ambiguity, and having to develop some patience and fortitude (as a reader) to allow the characters to grow into their final form.
A lot of YA story telling is of that frenetic first person, present tense style. If done well it works, if it doesn’t… well, it probably won’t bother a fifteen-year-old reader but for a seasoned adult lover of proper tales, it’s a bit of a chore.
Watching the characters grow and change and come to terms with their families and friends was interesting and, overall, it actually worked. It’s squeaky clean, the angst level is moderate, the gay teen tropes are handled well, and the het romance was a nice touch, albeit off the mark when it comes to categorizing this one. It’s not really a romance and the pairings, het and gay, were grossly uneven in terms of narrative treatment. This is better categorized as a coming of age story with both straight and gay characters. In other words: a mashup.
With some work, Finding Shawn could be reworked into a compelling Young Adult story. As is, with all the POV and verb tense issues that dominate half the book, realistically I can only give this one 3 Stars, but based on a much better second half, I’m bumping it to 3.5 because the practices and the game scenes were done right. Props for that.
Finding Shawn was provided to GGR-Reviews for a fair and unbiased review.