Saturday, August 23, 2014

ARC Review: The Before Now and After Then - Peter Monn


The book started by ticking all the boxes in my checklist to like a book - intriguing title, intriguing cover, interesting shelves, and above all, an interesting premise.
(Blurb from Goodreads)
Danny Goldstein has always lived in the shadow of his identical, twin brother Sam. But when a hurricane of events forces him into the spotlight, he starts to realize that the only thing he’s truly afraid of is himself. With the help of his costume changing friend Cher, a famous gay uncle with a mysterious past of his own, two aging punk rocker parents and Rusty, the boy who will become his something to live for, Danny begins to realize that the music of the heart is truly the soundtrack for living.
Danny Goldstein is broken after his twin dies on a night that was a tragedy among tragedies. Sam was the fighter. Danny walked in his shadow - Sam was his safe house. Their room reflected Sam from its furnishings. “Just an outline of the picture, giving some definition but not really filled with any kind of personality”. Even before Danny told him he was gay, Sam already knew. Like only a twin knows. So when he dies, “broken” isn’t a dramatic word. The first few chapters also strengthened my belief that I was going to love this book.

As you can guess from my phrasing of the introductory paragraph, that didn’t happen.

The book starts with a paragraph from a made up book that I wished would exist so I can read it.

(I can’t include the entire paragraph for obvious reasons.)

But this sentence is enough to describe all the characters here – Danny, Cher (GOD CHER DESERVES HER OWN FUCKING BOOK), Rusty, Alex (author of the famous Suburban Wasteland which I want to read) – all of them. As I am introduced to the characters, (Cher just jumps off the page like an effing page can’t hold her back), I start falling for this book. Danny sounds scared and lost, Cher hides all her insecurities under the fandom of her namesake, purple hair, and a ton of “I’ll maim you” attitude, brave Rusty with his fears, and Alex sounds like the cool, gay, honorary uncle. I liked them all and the direction in which the plot was taking me. (I like depressing premises if you didn’t already catch that).

And then

There was so much cheesiness and an overload of soppy dialogues; I kept wincing all throughout the middle. There was a lot of moons, and flowers and one-week anniversaries. I mean they’re gay, not girly girls right? Major stereotype revision happens here - so I guess I should be happy.
(This was my moment of revelation actually. Since my LGBT knowledge is limited to reel life, I thought gay men can be manly – LIKE FREAKING MATT BOMER AND WENTWORTH MILLER – and here Danny and Rusty was slathering me with cheese.) If all this happened in a straight book I would not forgive it, so same applies here.

And then life started to get complicated like it couldn’t bear to see Danny happy and then my cousins were very amused at my “Oh God” expressions and gasps.
So, that’s speaking plot-wise.

The writing pleased me (I am deliberately not including the cheese pizza slices), but it didn’t unbalance me or anything. And the coming-out phase happens at the very beginning of the book, so thankfully the whole story was not about accepting his gay-ness (ok, it is, but not outright). But this is a romance when all is said and done (which is not what I thought it would be) and romances don’t inspire me that much, so -
VERDICT: 3.5 stars.

Cher deserves pompoms though. I loved her.
Ooh, I just remembered why the talk of cassettes and B-sides gave me deja-vu. See Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. 

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