Review: That Doesn't Belong Here by Dan Ackerman

That Doesn't Belong Here begins when Levi and his friend Emily discover an impossible creature in an abandoned pick up. The thing is wounded, frightened and the two friends cannot leave him to the mercy of rubberneckers and tourists. This novel explores what it means to be a person, as the creature, Kato, begins to display not mere intelligence or friendliness but what can only be explained as humanity. The question of who we are allowed to love arises for Levi and Kato, as they are not just crossing the boundaries of gender or sexuality, but of species.

Well that was an odd little story with an equally odd cover, but it was still quite the charming gem if I do say so myself.

Levi and his bff Emily, happen to find and rescue a sea creature one day while out on the beach. Injured, they help provide a safe place for this mysterious being to heal, and what unfolds is a slow friendship into something more.

For me, where this story excels at is Kato. Perhaps because there is a language barrier, he is seemingly innocent and sweet, and as he’s exposed to Levi and Emily’s world, his wonder, confusion, and interest in everything is what makes this so enjoyable. What’s particularly beguiling is that Kato has no artifice. The world to him is quite straightforward, and it was humbling to see how the messy nuances of being human often get in the way of the truth. As he learns English and more about the lives of his friends, Kato makes known his attraction to Levi. What evolves is Levi’s awakening and realizing who he is and how he defines himself, and it’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

Of course, there’s a bit of plot drama that involves Kato being discovered, and this I didn’t enjoy as much. However, I liked how this takes the metaphor of a mystical being who’s obviously not like everyone else and aptly shows that just because one is different, that doesn’t mean their feelings and their right to live, love, and be free is not valid. The emphasis to not judge or label, to fight for what you want, rings very strongly here.

Overall, I obviously loved the endearing vulnerable character that is Kato and how he changes several lives he comes into contact with, ultimately, with the potential to do more. This excelled at all the awkward and sweet that is NA with a dash of sexy thrown in. As a warning, this kinda ends abruptly in my opinion, albeit, with a hopeful, strong HFN. I only wish that there was an epilogue or a satisfactory conclusion that solidified my belief that Levi and Kato were successful at being truly together despite their many differences.

Thank you to the author/publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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