Audiobook Review: Starting with the Unexpected by Andi Van

Zachary Blaise is having a weird week—even by his standards. Though he's gay, the radio personality has been dumped via text by a girl named Marian—and he's never even met her. On top of that, he's developed a massive crush on Marcus, the new waiter at his favorite diner. His best friend thinks the whole thing is hilarious.

Marcus’s week hasn’t been his best either. He's been betrayed by those closest to him, and although he isn't the guilty party, Marcus is the one getting harassed.

Impossibly, things are about to get even weirder. Marian has secrets, and those secrets are going to make some serious ripples in Zach's life. When he discovers that the girl called Marian is actually the man named Marcus, Zach stumbles down a rabbit hole of abusive ex-boyfriends, psychotic relatives, and revelations from his own past. If he can survive the chaos, the journey might prove worth the effort.

Narrator: Jonathan David
Listening Length: 4 hours and 51 minutes

Firstly I’d like to talk about the Cotton Candy Blue hair that Zach has. I need to speak about this because it was a major distraction for me during the entire book. I love people who have quirky ways of expressing themselves. I find it immensely sexy for people to be completely different. From macabre tattoos and clothes, to the more benign rainbow hair, I love it all. I admire people who can take that risk and completely work it. Confident in the knowledge that they give no fucks about what anyone says, and look amazing while saying Fuck you Society. I love it.

The author’s choice to give Zach cotton-candy blue hair. Not sexy, not an amazing leap in self expression. That colour doesn’t look good on anyone except grandmothers who can no longer hide that their hair is white, and decide to get their hair dyed Platinum which is actually cotton-candy blue. So this was what I had to fight the entire time I was listening to this book. The image of Zach with grandma hair and ridiculously pale skin that looked even more washed out with the crappy choice of hair dye. Just no.

Phew I’m glad I could get that out. I’m sorry (#notsorry) if this offends but I just couldn’t take it. I needed to purge. Thank you for allowing me to.

Getting on with the show. While I didn’t love the narrator for this audio version, he passed. I can be a bit picky, because as previously mentioned on this blog, my hearing is shite and certain pitches are either difficult to hear, or attack some sort of trigger in my brain and sound like, to others, fingernails on a chalkboard (strangely enough, this sound is also difficult for me to hear, and even when I do, it does nothing to me. The crinkly sound a plastic/foil bag sounds when someone is trying to discreetly open it, now that will send me into a murderous rage, but I digress). This narrator was close to irritating my ears, through no fault of his. This is just a quirk of mine, and I did need frequent breaks for this particular pitch. He was otherwise clear, concise and had a decent range. I can see why he was chosen for this story, and I think others will enjoy it.

The plot was fine enough. I enjoyed how this started, and the direction it was going. I liked that Zach wanted to be Marcus’ friend first. I enjoyed their time together, and the easy way Marcus was accepted into Zach’s life. Other than external drama, there was very little in the way of angst for this couple, which I appreciated.

I enjoyed Zach’s personality (too bad about his hair) and his relationship with those around him. I liked the comedic relief, and the strange things that happened to Zach on any given day. I would have liked to get to know Marcus a little more. It was almost there with the character development but there was something missing from Marcus that I needed from him.

The external drama; I’m still on the fence about it. On the one hand, it certainly pushed the story along, but I’m not sure it was necessary. I thought that there was enough weight for the story to not have as much drama as it did. The supporting characters were all very solid, and I enjoyed the interactions everyone had, from Marcus meeting Zach’s Dad, to Zach’s mother claiming all of Zach’s friends as her own, and Zach and Jordan’s strange friendship, I thought they were all very strong and added greatly to this novel.

So Zach’s hair, and the external drama aside, I did enjoy this story, and would recommend it for a light fluffy read, with a hint of serious adult content. *Spoiler alert* Triggers include stalking, violence, and destruction of property.

Check out on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

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