At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down
The Meta Details:
Length: 309 pages
Publication Date: August 14th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content Level: Adult
Pearl Clutching Content: drinking and fucking to hide from your pain
Trigger Warnings: Jesus, what triggers aren’t here? There’s internalized homophobia, externalized homophobia, dead high school boyfriends, escaping from highly religious family, slurs and abuse hurled in anger, drinking, parental abuse, parental disinterest, suicide attempts, and pressuring your boyfriend into letting you rim him… basically eating disorders, rape, and animal abuse are the only things missing
Featuring: Poor broken Joel who I want to hug and sob and please see a counselor… you need to talk through your grief. (Also Travis, Paulie, and Angie, but I’m too focused on Joel.)
Recommended for: fans of romance or anyone who needs a good cry
Rating: This was fucking excellent.
Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I just… I just need to lie here very still for awhile and let the emotions wash over me. I’ll be shaking and sobbing openly, and you may want to hug me, but please don’t. Please just let me lie here in the dark and get all this ugly emotion out. I need to purge it so I can move forward.
I need a controlled burn so I can start fresh.
I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, so while many factors in this book hit very close to home, it wasn’t until the end that I got the meaning of the name. You see, we don’t often have controlled burns around here.
We cut our grain, roll it into bales, wrap them in white plastic, and then call them marshmallows… like adults.
Despite not understanding the book name from the beginning, though, I did recognize the small town feel of the book. I felt at home with the pain and loss that kept Joel locked away. And so when Joel hurt, that hurt resonated in my bones. It shook me to my core. It allowed me to cry, and bleed, and finally breath again.
It was incredible.
Every character was crafted to perfection. Bleeding Joel, insecure but happy Paulie, best friend Travis, other best friend Angie… even the teachers, parents, and hookups that you ran into from time to time. The whole novel was constructed perfectly… and despite some dissonance I felt at the beginning (probably my emotions trying to protect themselves) I lost myself in this book. Quickly, if not easily.
But easy isn’t always good. Sometimes it’s the hard stuff that makes life worth while.
Like this book.
And controlled burns…
A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.