Saturday, February 10, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

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Title: The Dangerous Art of Blending In
Author: Angelo Surmelis
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQIA+
Pages: 336
Pub Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Book Source: Publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars



**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs. 
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This book triggered the shit out of me. It made me angry. It made me sad. I am so torn on how I feel about this book. Even now, after sitting on it for a day, I am still torn. Upon finishing the book, I rated it 4 stars. I had to take a step back and really think about the book OVERALL, and I lowered my rating to 3. Part of the problem is that I enjoyed the fact that the ending wasn't expected (for me).

Where to start? I guess we can go with the dislikes:

 The relationship between Evan and Henry. It wasn't a great “romance”... not even a good one. While reading the book the romantic aspect was basically throw-away for me. In a nutshell: Evan comes from an abusive home. Evan is questioning his sexuality. He is pretty sure he's gay, but coming from an extremely religious family has him feeling guilt and shame. He's suicidal and depressed. He feels isolated and alone. He has friends, but they don't know the truth. Turns out, Evan's BFF Henry is also gay. Henry likes Evan, Evan likes Henry. (Although, Evan should've really learned to like himself first.) Evan basically falls into Henry as a way to escape his abusive mother and shitty life. If there was a reason to actually like Henry, I might be able to understand this, but this is not the case. Henry is controlling, forceful, and extremely moody (to the point where it could be violent and scary).

• The story honestly had no conclusion. I get it; things aren't always wrapped up in a nice little bow with a clear conclusion. But this? Nothing. Evan goes through all of this abuse at the hands of his mother—while his father sits back and lets it happen, might I add—and you'd expect some retribution by the end, right? Maybe the father stands up for Evan. Maybe they leave her. Maybe the priest that reads Evan's journals DETAILING the abuse goes to the damn POLICE?! Maybe Evan gets better mentally. Maybe he heals. Maybe THEN he gets into a relationship. Nope. Nah. Didn't happen. Wanna know what happened? Evan's passive father decided to help him get an apartment when he was of age to get away from his mother. So, he had to go through years of abuse only to have his father make excuses for his gross mother and shoo him away to his own place instead of actually taking care of his son.

Likes:

• I am very glad to see an author spotlighting the fact that women can be abusive too. A mother can abuse her child. A wife can abuse her husband. And this woman does both. She tells Evan she wishes he was never born, that he is disgusting, ugly, evil, and worthless. She also tells him how to dress, calls him homophobic slurs, and reduces him to nothing. She takes mental abuse to a whole new level, and a huge part of this is due to her religious zealotry. Not only does she abuse him with words, but physically as well. She punches, slaps, scratches, smashes his head into walls, rips out his hair, and even burns him with hot liquid at one point. She is absolutely fucking insane. I was disgusted and horrified by the things she did to him AND her husband, because she was abusive to him as well, though to a lesser degree. Most people underestimate the fact that women can abuse people too! Sad as it may have been, this author spotlighted it well.

• I enjoyed that Evan questioned his religion. I hate religion. I was happy to see that Evan recognized that GOD WAS NOT THERE FOR HIM. Praying won't do SHIT for you. Know why? God is not real.

• As much as I think the ending was bullshit, I also appreciate the fact that it was unconventional. Most would go with a HEA, but this author did not.

Overall, this book had me shook. I appreciated about half of the book, but I disliked just as much. I am stuck in the middle, on the fence, if you will. The book is emotionally moving and hits on some very tough subject matter. I appreciate that, I just wish it had been executed better. And I also wish that Henry didn't exist. Ew.
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