Review: Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.

Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.

Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.

I stewed over this book for a couple days, wavering between 4 and 5 hearts, finally settling on 5 mainly because I can't remember being as affected by a book since Rattlesnake, one of my favorite reads of 2015. I'm not sure if it was a case of the perfect storm of our current political climate colliding with these characters or if it was simply Sexton's deft crafting of this story that did it for me, but I had a bad case of The Feels reading Trailer Trash.

Told from both Cody and Nate's perspectives, set in late 80s Wyoming right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic that was largely ignored by the US govt. thereby making being gay tantamount to a death sentence and fueling the fires of homophobia and grotesque bigotry.

"Serves them all right if they die, if you ask me."

Nate has moved to Wyoming with his father after his parents split and he is not happy about going from Austin to Podunk, WY, pop. 2,833. Thankfully, he meets Cody almost immediately and latches on to him. I loved all the characters to varying degrees, but I latched on to Nate. He's never really thought all that much about his sexuality. He just figured he'd meet a girl one day that did it for him and they'd get married, blah blah blah yada yada even though he's never been attracted to a girl when most of his friends are already having sex and/or have girlfriends already. He knows he likes being around Cody so he just... keeps being around Cody and they become friends.

Until school starts.

Hope was dangerous. Hope would make him bleed like nothing else in the world could.

Cody is from the wrong side of the tracks and, yes, there is a Pretty in Pink thing happening. He and his mother live in the poorest area of town and he is the epitome of loner. In a lot of ways his mother is a failure as a parent, but she supports and loves her son in her own way. She's not going to win any parenting awards, but she won me over.

To save Nate from being tainted by association, Cody withdraws leaving Nate to fit in with one of the cliques-the Grove kids, the Mormons, or the cowboys. Only Nate doesn't fit in with any of them. The Grove kids are rowdy; they have sex and do drugs and get hella drunk and set fields on fire and all of it scares the ever loving shit out of Nate. He tries with the Mormons but that's not quite right either. And he's a prep at heart so no way are the cowboys going to work out. But none of that really matters because he can't stop thinking about Cody. Missing Cody. Wanting to be with Cody.

So he does and promptly freaks.

Nate thought of all the words he'd heard people use. All the cruel slurs tossed around. Homo. Queer. Faggot. Pansy. I can't be one of those things!

Nate's innocence spoke to me. All of his reactions felt natural as did Cody's and many of secondary characters, even the malevolent ones played their roles, but Nate... there is a scene where he's wrestling with the realization that he's got romantic feelings for Cody after having epically failed at het sex, he starts to cry and tries to blame it on Wyoming. Just how alone he felt in that moment was so palpable that I had a visceral reaction. Cody's no less riveting. He feels trapped in a town that's dying where everyone hates him and he feels less than all the time. He has one friend-the most popular boy in school, Logan. 

Logan does not give one flying fuck what anyone thinks and everyone is either jealous of him, wants to get with him or thinks he walks on water because of it. He needles the hell out of Cody, stink eyes Nate and generally tells it like it is to both of them in an effort to get one of them to make a move. 

The plot twist in the middle gutted me and, honestly, cast a shadow over the rest of the book but it finally brings them together. 

"I only see you."

There are some intimate moments between them but I wouldn't categorize this as sexy or erotic and, shockingly enough, I really appreciated that. I wanted the romance between them and Sexton delivered with homemade mixed tapes.

Slow dancing in candlelight.

Sweet nothings that turned me into a mushy pile of goo.

"You should know by now there's only one thing in the world I want anyway."

And planning their escape from Wyoming by using the library! Because no interwebs! *gasp* 

Trailer Trash isn't an easy read but it is hopeful. Nate and Cody are good kids who are divided by something as arbitrary as socioeconomic status and societal prejudices that shouldn't be foisted on anyone, really. All too often society dictates what is and is not acceptable for everyone and going against the grain is daunting for anyone which is part of what makes their choice to be together in the midst of an epidemic with the deck stacked against them all the more poignant. Their perseverance in the face of adversity is a message I can get behind. Things don't always go according to plan. Life throws them curveballs but how they keep working together to find solutions, finding the silver lining in even the most dire situations and not giving up on the people in their life that aren't entirely supportive of their relationship is the sort of optimism and fortitude that has advanced the LGBT cause to where it is today.

Recommended. Highly.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads.

No comments:

Post a Comment