Thursday, February 7, 2013

When Love Comes to Town, by Tom Lennon

Barnes & Noble

The year is 1990, and in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Neil Byrne plays rugby, keeps up with the in-crowd at his school, and is just a regular guy. 

A guy who's gay. 

It's a secret he keeps from the wider world as he explores the city at night and struggles to figure out how to reveal his real self--and to whom.

First published in Ireland in 1993 and compared to
The Catcher in the Rye by critics, Tom Lennon's When Loves Comes to Town is told with honesty, humor, and originality. 

I recently re-read my one-star review of a previous coming-out novel. In it, I mentioned that maybe I just didn't "get it" because I am neither gay nor guy. That is clearly not the case here; it's exactly the kind of book I had hoped to read last time.

Though this book was first published twenty years ago--and the stigma surrounding homosexuality has lessened since then--I never felt like I was reading an "old" story. Yeah, it's easier to meet people on-line or within established gay communities, but I imagine that coming out is still difficult.

Take, for instance, Neil. An 18-year-old Catholic boy in Ireland, he has always known that he was gay. But knowing and being are two completely separate states of mind. On the outside, Neil is an excellent student and star rugby player. He's happy and quick with a smile. He has a nice group of friends, nice parents, a nice house, and nice brothers and sisters. It's all very...nice.

But on the inside? Not that you can blame him. This poor kid can't talk to anyone about who he really is.

I loved reading about Neil's journey as he discovered more about himself, opened up to his friends and family, and tested the waters of the teeny-tiny gay community in Dublin. There's no fairy tale ending, and I ugly cried during the last chapter, but you get the sense that things will work out for Neil. I do think that the ending was a little abrupt, which is why I am only giving it four stars.

I highly recommend this book for fans of David Levithan and John Green.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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