Review: Small Circles by Megan Duke

Small Circles is the story of four friends over four years of their young adult lives in Tennessee. Starting in their sophomore year at a boarding school and continuing through their freshman year at different universities, the friends face the same trials most teenagers face today, as well as a few other things. This inspiring story touches base with the struggles of defining oneself in spite of homosexuality, drug addiction, suicide, and heartbreak. Most of all it sends one message: it’s okay to be happy.

When we talked about the blog and discussed our heart rating system at some point one of the Unicorns suggested a broken heart for DNF books or books that an individual reviewer just finds impossible to rate. I have to admit, though I love chief designer extraordinaire Natasha's design, I didn't think I'd ever use it. I mean you either like a book or not, right? In a book you don't like there are usually aspects to be found that are good, even with a book you really don't like a review can be written to explain why you've chosen the rating you have. The most negative review can be written without being a slag fest. So, beautiful though this heart is, I knew I would never have to use it.

Then I read Small Circles.

Before I start this review I will give my usual disclaimer that, to me, the most beautiful thing about reading is that it is entirely an individualistic pursuit. What one loves another doesn't. Even the most famously popular books have their critics (and not all of them are trolls looking to hell raise some controversy in this quiet little bookland of ours) - heck even in the clubhouse we disagree strongly on what we like and don't like. *Shocked face* I know right? But it's true, you only have to read our monthly bookchat to see. So when I finished this book, with no freaking idea what to with it, what I felt about it, how to contemplate writing a review I decide to see what others thought of it. I perused the reviews on GoodReads and to my surprise it has garnered an average of 4.55 stars. What????? Did these people read a different book to me? Nope - they just had a different opinion, which is good, no car crash, no drama, nothing to see here folks. (Well apart from the review that is).

So from the beginning;
This inspiring story touches base with the struggles of defining oneself in spite of homosexuality...
This was the promise I loved. That a book has homosexual characters but it isn't all about their sexuality. The recognition that teens are struggling with many issues and whilst their sexual orientation/preferences may be one of them, it isn't all of them.

Did it deliver?

In many ways it did, we followed the lives of these teens throughout High School. Three boys and one girl whose lives were intermingled in that way that only happens to teenagers. Paxton and Larson have been friends forever, then Owen joins their group. The feisty 12 year old who stuck up for Larson when he was being bullied fitted into the threesome easily and the trio became four when Jade joined at the beginning of the story.

I loved the interactions and dynamics between the four of them. That ease that comes with years of friendships - the angst of growing up. Life had been particularly hard for Paxton and he didn't always make the best choices to help him cope. Larson, the openly gay one of the group and Paxton's best friend, did what he could to help - he listened and advised and tried to steer his friend on the right tracks. But Paxton wasn't always honest and Larson was dealing with his own teenage angst. Add in some complicated love triangles (squares) and secrets between these guys and it all becomes one big, hormonal, angst fest.

So far so good. 

The writing is easy to read, Megan Duke has some fabulous characters, some real and raw scenarios and some definite understanding of what it's like to be a hormonally charged teen.
I did have one complaint at this point and that is that it seemed at times to rush. In an averaged sized book we got through four years of life. It was set out in these four years of High School and, in my opinion, each year could have been a separate book. The issues and tribulations penned in each portion of the book could have been written more in depth, at times resolutions seemed to come a little quickly and easily in order for the next problem to appear. This is my take on it, how I felt. Not badly written just a little....convenient at times. The troubles were hooking though and I wanted to keep reading. I invested in the characters, I wanted it all to work out for them. I really did.

I have to be honest here, I can't write this portion, the bit that explains my rating, without some kind of spoilerage going on - so if you really don't want to know, stop reading now. Please, I don't like spoilers but I can't justify my rating without it.

So why the broken heart rating?

Because it did break my heart, but not in a way that I felt was relevant or necessary to the story. One of the MC's dies. So? Yeah, I know, though I'm an HEA kinda girl I can and have read and highly rated books that has an MC death. Some of them have left me distraught - a good book draws you in, makes you fall in love with the characters. In the M/M genre I can think of three books straight off the top of my head that had me in that gut wrenching place (I won't name them because if you've not read them I don't want to spoil them), that awful place where you genuinely feel like you have lost a good friend. You're grieving with the other characters but some of it is your loss too. It's only a book, only fiction you cry. I know and sure, once the book hangover's cleared, I've got up and carried on. But for that moment in time it is as real to me as an actual death, a good author has that knack.

What I don't like is a death that seems irrelevant to the story, appears to be there just for a touch of drama and that 'Oh my fucking fuck I did not see that coming,' moment. Those plot lines I really don't like. I know in real life shit happens. It really happens and we can't control it - but part of the beauty of reading is to escape from real life. I don't need 100% butterflies and unicorns and hearts and flowers and glittery rainbows. (Well Unicorns I always need) but yeah I need the other stuff some of the time. I like it a lot of the time, in my reading I really, really enjoy it - but a well written, relevant angst fest I can get onside with. I can become involved with and I can even be happy at the finish. Death for drama I can't. I left the reading of this book feeling deflated and - well I suppose angry, angry that I'd invested myself in these characters, that life and the HEA I'd hoped for, that I'd seemed to be getting, was snatched away from me. I felt let down and so close to the end of the book I didn't have time to resolve those feelings. I was just left hanging and hating the time I had invested in it. So that's why I chose the broken heart. It wasn't an easy choice - the writing is good, it was just the closing storyline that I had the problem with.

A copy of this novel was given to us in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment