A Harmony Ink Press Title
Transitions: Book One
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor's life. He's had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
Winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Tenth (tie): Best Gay Debut
Start At the Beginning
TAYLOR ANDREWS glanced toward the door and noticed a young man, shoulders hunched, waiting outside the classroom. As he continued to stare, the newcomer took a deep breath, threw back his shoulders, and lifted his head before he stepped into Mrs. Wagner’s homeroom. He walked with purpose toward the front of the classroom and handed the teacher a sheet of paper without saying a word.
After a brief moment of studying the paper, Mrs. Wagner smiled at the young man before turning to the students filling the desks of her classroom. “Class, this is Jackson Kern. It’s his first day here, and I need a volunteer to help him get acclimated.”
Taylor looked at the new guy and felt his face heat. He grabbed his ever-present sketchpad from his backpack, his desire to capture this stranger’s likeness overwhelming. The guy was… well, gorgeous. Taylor’s hands flew over the paper as he took in Jackson Kern’s beautiful well-sculpted face, rich chocolate-brown eyes, and dark, thick hair. He had a toned body, maybe a swimmer? God, what he wouldn’t give to….
“I’ll show him around, Mrs. Wagner,” Becca Monroe offered brightly, interrupting Taylor’s wayward thoughts.
“Thank you, Becca,” Mrs. Wagner said with a smile before turning to the newest addition to the class. “Jackson, please take a seat. Becca will walk with you and show you the building and where your classes will be. If you have any questions, just ask her.”
“Yes, ma’am, thank you,” the new kid replied. Taylor noted how polite Jackson was, unlike most of the guys in his tenth-grade class.
Jackson parked his tall, lanky body in the seat next to Becca and started talking. Taylor watched as Becca’s eyes roamed over Jackson’s frame, and she licked her lips. He could tell she was already on the prowl. She was a pretty enough girl, if you liked them. Long reddish-brown hair, big green eyes, and a big… ego. She was hot and she knew it. She was also the kind of girl who was only out for one thing. Herself. She was junior varsity head cheerleader, something his best friend, Benny Peters, always had a lot of fun commenting on. She’d dated the captains of most of the sports teams, always switching to a new guy at the beginning of the season.
“Damn lucky girl,” Taylor muttered. If he hadn’t been enjoying the sight of the new boy, he’d have volunteered for guide duty. Oh, the things he wanted to show him… not that he had any experience; he’d never even kissed another boy. He worked hard at trying not to look at other guys. The thought of being outed in high school scared him, so much so that he’d sometimes have panic attacks when he thought about it—clammy skin, problems breathing, feeling faint. He hated those, really hated not being in control. It always made him feel weak and needy.
The bell rang, startling Taylor out of his reverie, and the students moved like cattle, heading off to their next class. Taylor scowled when he saw Becca take the new guy by the arm and lead him from the classroom. As they passed he heard Jackson ask, “Do you know who I talk to about the baseball team?”
“What position do you play, Jackson?” Becca asked excitedly, ignoring Jackson’s question.
“I’m a pitcher.”
Taylor could hear the excitement in Becca’s voice, and he knew the reason. Baseball tryouts would be in the next week or two, and she needed a new ball-playing boyfriend since her ex, Cody Daniels, graduated. It was as if she’d won the freaking lottery. Jackson was hot and he played sports. For Becca that was definitely the best of both worlds.
Taylor chuckled. Oh, how he’d love to be that boy’s catcher. But damn, Becca was probably going to be all over that anyway. Not that he’d ever have a shot with someone like Jackson. According to Benny, he wasn’t bad-looking. Benny often said he was jealous of Taylor’s curly blond hair, which he himself despised. Besides, Taylor thought, Benny’s straight. What does he know? Jackson was probably three inches taller than Taylor’s five foot eight, but it wasn’t his height that bothered him as much as the extra weight. He was no one special, and someone like Jackson Kern would never give him the time of day. That’s just how things went.
Over the next week, Taylor would see Jackson throughout the school. Other than homeroom they didn’t have any classes together, but he noticed him in the hallway or heading to the gym. Taylor’s heart fluttered every time he caught a glimpse of Jackson. He loved the way his lip curled when he was amused or the way he arched an eyebrow when he seemed to be curious about something. The thing that struck him most, though, was the fact that Jackson was so poised and confident when he was with a group. People hung on his every word. It almost seemed like he was holding court. People just tended to gravitate to Jackson. His rich baritone voice had a soothing, hypnotic effect on Taylor from a distance. He couldn’t help but wonder what it did to the people Jackson was actually talking with. He watched Jackson in the school’s weight room one afternoon and stood transfixed as the muscles in Jackson’s chest and arms strained with every repetition. Taylor began to sweat and unconsciously licked his lips as he watched Jackson working his leg muscles. His pulse raced when Jackson pulled off his shirt, the dusting of dark hair across the expanse of his chest matted from sweat. Taylor swore he could smell Jackson’s scent, musky but sweet. He wanted to get closer but knew it would seem weird, so he reluctantly tore himself away and went back to class.
Taylor was envious of Jackson’s build. He studied his own body in the mirror and sighed. He was plump. That was the only way to describe it. There was no muscle definition. He tried to maintain his weight but couldn’t resist pizza. He’d tried to work out with Benny, who seemed obsessed with his body, but it just wasn’t for him. Taylor sighed heavily. He was so far out of Jackson Kern’s league, he’d never have a shot with someone like him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the view.
TAYLOR glanced over at Benny, comfortably stretched out on the sofa, thumbing through Taylor’s latest sketches. At six foot one and weighing in at nearly 215 pounds, Benny had always been one of Taylor’s favorite sketch subjects. His eyes were the coolest brown color with small flecks of gold in them. His sandy hair was always cut short, but not like a buzz cut, which Taylor had to admit was his favorite kind of haircut.
Benny had always stood up for Taylor and it was that fact which made Benny the only one Taylor had come out to. No matter what else happened between the two, Taylor was sure Benny would always be there for him.
“Benny, what would you say if I told you I was crushing?” Taylor asked, sitting up on his bed and tossing a rolled-up pair of socks into the laundry basket.
Benny met Taylor’s eyes as he laid the sketches across his chest. “I’d say who this time? Already over… what was his name? Mason? Dixon? Something southern.”
“His name was Caleb,” Taylor groaned, rolling his eyes. “And he was a jerk. Remember how he humiliated and made Toby cry when he came into the locker room and found Caleb throwing his clothes into the shower?”
“Yeah, I remember. I was the one who got him something to wear for the rest of the day. I can’t stand bullies,” Benny snarled. “So who has your undies in a bunch this time?
“I’m talking about the new guy, Jackson Kern. There’s just something about him. He’s… I dunno, different. He’s not loud or annoying. He seems really laid-back. And he’s totally hot. He just seems… perfect.” Taylor sighed wistfully. “I can’t imagine him ever doing a mean thing to anyone.”
Benny tried to suppress a snort. “And how long is this one going to last? A month? Two tops. You go through crushes faster than I go through underwear.”
“When you change them twice a year that’s not too difficult,” Taylor snickered.
Taylor was surprised when Benny hit him with a pillow, and the fight was on. He grabbed the other pillow and swung at Benny, who dodged and laughed. For such a big guy, Benny was surprisingly agile. They smacked each other around, laughing all the while, until Taylor cried uncle.
After they were exhausted, Benny turned to him and said with a sympathetic smile, “Taylor, talk to the guy. Pretty much the worst that could happen is he’s not interested.”
Taylor stared glumly up at the ceiling, his thoughts turning once more to Jackson. “No, the worst that could happen is he’s a homophobic asshat who wants to kick the crap out of me.”
“Yeah,” Benny observed thoughtfully, “but at least he’d touch you. That’s more than you’ve ever gotten before.” He gave Taylor a gleeful grin, as if waiting for the comment to sink in fully.
And as soon as it did, Taylor lunged at Benny, and the fight was back on. Once Benny succeeded in pinning Taylor, his expression turned serious as he said, “Look, just be cool. Don’t obsess. If you want to impress him, show him the pictures you drew of him. You’re really good at doing these.”
Taylor’s cheeks heated. He could never show his work to Jackson. He didn’t think they were good enough to share with anyone other than Benny. He’d been puttering around with drawing for years. He had several sketchpads full of various things that caught his eye. He loved to do drawings of nature scenes, people, and animals. He’d done several of Trip, his Siberian husky, before the poor dog died that still brought tears when Taylor looked at them. It was just a hobby, though. His father always told him he needed a real career and constantly reminded him that art wouldn’t amount to anything in the real world. He shook his head sadly. No, there was no way Jackson would ever see his work.
STANDING by the bleachers near the dugout, Taylor couldn’t help but wonder why he was there. Baseball tryouts held no interest for him. In fact, he’d always found the game kind of stupid, yet here he was. His gaze landed on Jackson Kern. Yeah, that was something he really wanted, to see Jackson play the game.
Jackson took the center thingy… the mound or whatever it’s called. Taylor had spent a good deal of time reading about baseball. He figured he should know something about it, just in case Jackson ever spoke to him. Still, he was having a hard time wrapping his head around all the rules and terms. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try, though. He pulled out his sketchbook and did a few rough outlines, wanting to fill them out later. Jackson threw a few pitches to the catcher, loosening up. Mitch Daniels, Cody’s younger brother, stepped up and tapped his bat on the ground. Jackson brought his arms up near his chest, struck a pose, and shook his head slightly. After a moment he leaned back and threw the ball. It went straight across the plate at blinding speed. Mitch swung at it and missed completely. When Jackson finished the inning, allowing no hits, he marched back to the dugout; the coach’s jaw fell open as he rushed out to meet Jackson.
“Kid, what’s your name?”
“Jackson, sir. My friends call me Jax.”
“Well, Jax, if you can throw like that with consistency, you’re gonna be our ace. I can tell,” the coach said, practically drooling over the young prospect.
Taylor thought he saw Jackson… Jax blush. By the end of the tryouts, not one person had hit anything Jackson threw. When the coach told him he had a spot, Jackson smiled so big and wide, Taylor was sure his heart would stop. Then Becca came running over and threw her arms around the team’s new pitcher. Taylor turned in disgust and started shuffling away, pausing to take a last look at Jackson. He was all hot and sweaty, and it looked really, really good on him. Taylor knew that’s what he was going to be thinking about when he went to bed.
TAYLOR found himself drawn to watch the practices. He kept trying to tell himself it was stupid, and he knew it was, but he really enjoyed watching Jackson. He’d been going to watch practice every day for two weeks when he saw Jackson turn in his direction. For just a second he thought, more like hoped, that Jackson was looking at him. His eyes locked on Jackson, and his mouth went dry, wishing that he’d come over to him, put his arms around him, whisper in his ear… but then the guy turned and walked over to the rest of the team, clearing the field for the next inning. Taylor’s heart sank, realizing it was all wishful thinking on his part.
“COME on, Taylor, crack a book. I came over to study, not to watch you stare at the ceiling,” Benny huffed, pushing a pile of laundry off the chair and parking himself at the desk. “And would it kill you to clean up a little bit? This place is a sty, man.”
Taylor never even registered the reproach in Benny’s voice. All he could think about was Jackson.
“Benny, I’m going nuts. I know it’s never gonna go anywhere, but I can’t stop going to see him,” Taylor groaned.
Benny stared at him, eyes wide. “Wow, never saw you this bad before. You’d always crush for a few weeks and then see some new hottie that made you forget the old one. Maybe you really do have it bad for this guy,” Benny muttered.
Swinging his legs over, Taylor sat on the edge of the bed, grinning with excitement. “You’ve got no idea. Yesterday morning I saw him with a smear of toothpaste in the corner of his mouth. I swear it was one of the hottest things I’d ever seen, and I just wanted to lick it off.”
Benny’s lips tightened into a grimace. “Toothpaste is hot? God, you’re so weird, Taylor. I hope you won’t be upset if I don’t admit to knowing you when we’re in public.”
Taylor smirked, remembering everything with vivid detail. “It was hot! If it wasn’t for the fact that Becca rubbed it off for him, which really pissed me off, by the way, I’d have stared at it all day.”
“So he and Becca are together?” Benny asked, putting the book down and finally turning to face Taylor.
“Yeah, I guess. She’s always hanging on him and hugging him. It’s totally disgusting,” Taylor sneered.
“Because it’s what you want to be doing?” Benny wondered aloud, keeping his voice low.
“Maybe.” Taylor sighed. “Either way, this just reinforces my dislike of public displays of affection.”
“So when are you gonna finally talk to him? How hard can it really be?” Benny asked patiently.
Taylor could see the look of pity on his friend’s face, but he snapped, “Well, you get a girl to notice you and then come back and give me some pointers, okay?”
Taylor knew it wasn’t fair. Benny was all about his schoolwork. His parents were always so strict about everything, and the schoolwork had to come first.
Benny quirked an eyebrow and stared at Taylor condescendingly. “I don’t need a girl to notice me, Tay. I’m not the one who needs validation. Maybe you should just join the monks. I’m sure then you’ll get plenty of hot action,” Benny chuckled as he opened his math book. There was going to be a stupid quiz tomorrow, which, naturally, Benny was going to ace. He always aced them. Benny’s grades were important to him. As it stood Benny had a near-perfect GPA and would likely be valedictorian as a senior.
He and Benny had been the best of friends since kindergarten. Taylor knew Benny would do almost anything for him, even if it included telling him things about himself he really didn’t want to hear, especially when it was the truth. Taylor knew he was a chicken, but he also knew unrequited love would be better than being humiliated in front of or by Jackson.
That was pretty damn sweet. I wish I had been like these boys in High School. Very good and sure of what they wanted. Through that want they learned more about themselves and became better people. That desire to make the person you love proud and to be worthy of their admiration. Even if they don’t love you, you want them to be happy. Very romantic and pure. I really enjoyed the day-to-day growth of these guys. Very cute characters. I loved Taylor’s best friend Benny. He was smart, funny and loyal. All around good guy who was always there for Taylor. It’s a sweet coming of age story about two boys finding their way to each other.
Whit rates it 4 Stars. Read the full review at: http://liveyourlifebuythebook.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/pitch/
Two years is a long time for a die hard fan to wait for a sequel to a much-loved book. Two years is an even longer time if you are the author trying to get the sequel into the hands of those sometimes rabid fans. Some fans might give up. Some authors might chuck the laptop out a window. This was a unique case though. Those fans, not only didn’t they give up, they supported the author, encouraged her regularly on Goodreads and Facebook. The author in question, she kept in touch with the fans and gave frequent updates regarding her triumphs and frustrations while dealing with the M/M publishing world. Thankfully for all involved, The Cost of Loving, the eagerly anticipated sequel to Wade Kelly’s first novel When Love is Not Enough has finally made it through the muck and mire and red tape to arrive on your e-reader or bookshelf. It was well worth the wait. You will not be disappointed.
**Please note, When Love is Not Enough and The Cost of Loving are best read in order. This review will contain spoilers for When Love is Not Enough**
The Cost of Loving picks up at the moment When Love is Not Enough left off. With Matt and Darian enduring the most potent attraction to one another that either one of them has ever felt. It is just after thy have buried Jamie, Matt’s best friend and Darien’s fiancé. Matt (with whom Jamie had long been secretly in love) and Darian had just met at the funeral because before his suicide, Jamie had lead two separate lives, ensuring the two most important men in his life never met. Matt learns through reading Jamie’s journals that they were kept apart because Jamie knew they were perfect for each other. Jamie thought that if Matt met Darian, Jamie would lose each of them to the other.
Before Jamie’s death, Darian had lived with Jamie and his father, Dan. Darian has a history of drug addiction and cutting and has overcome both with professional help and the love of Jamie and Dan. After the funeral, Darian stays with Matt for a couple of weeks. The two seem sexually obsessed with each other. Dan points out and the two men begin to realize that it may not be healthy for them to be together the way they are before they both process their own grief over Jamie’s death.
Dan kind of takes over Darian’s life, and makes him move back into Dan’s house. Dan had been Darian’s guardian, but Darian is now 21 years old and is still letting Dan treat him like a child. Darian misses Matt desperately. Dan won’t allow the two to see each other at all. He monitors Darian’s cell phone and computer. When Matt does sneak a visit, Dan takes all of Darien’s electronics away so he can’t communicate with the outside world. He also strips Darian’s bedroom of all photos of Matt, most of which were placed there by Jamie before his death.
It is not clear if Dan is motivated by love or grief. I believe it is an indefinable combination of the two that changes balance daily. Regardless of his intentions, Dan is hurting Darian more than Jamie ever did. Darian is so guilt ridden he can’t function. He is seeing Jamie all the time. His hallucination of Jamie is saying awful, hateful things to him about Darian’s character and about Matt’s inability to ever really love Darian. Darian begins to cut again and to use drugs. He rarely goes to see his counselor and when he does, he won’t say much. The counselor (evidently with Darian’s permission) tells Dan about their sessions and Dan hammers away at Darian at home about needing to open up to the counselor.
Matt, meanwhile, is living with the consequences of his very public coming out in front of his church at the end of When Love is Not Enough. His best friend is dead. His church family won’t speak to him or are openly hostile. He eventually loses his job when his homosexuality comes out at work. His family’s reaction runs the gamut from happy (younger sister) to hatred and violence (younger brother) to disbelief and horrible hate-filled words on the part of his parents. Now, I am not one to quickly forgive. I don’t get easily offended, but if you piss me off, I tend to hold a grudge. The words that Matt’s father spoke to him in anger could never be taken back. If I were Matt, I don’t know that I would have been able to forgive him. Here is where Wade Kelly artfully illustrates one of the high costs of loving another man. Matt’s willingness to endure what his parents and brother say and do are costly and a painful blow to any man’s pride. But his family and Darian are important enough to Matt that he is willing to take those blows and continue to love.
When an ill-fated visit Darian pays to Matt at work leads to Darian’s hospitalization, the depths to which his mental stability has sunk are made obvious. Darian is placed in a rehab facility and Matt is forbidden to visit him. Dan and the therapist both believe that Matt & Darian’s relationship is based on grief avoidance and sex but that they have no real feelings for each other. The many ways that Matt & Darian prove them wrong are painfully high costs of loving another man. They are also spoilers, so you won’t read about them here!
A lot of novels tackle difficult subjects. Some are brave enough to take on one or two. In The High Cost of Loving, Wade Kelly is ballsy enough to battle beaucoup painful topics and leave you smiling after all the crying is finished. Any writer who can pack homophobia, self-injuring, drug addiction, depression, dysfunctional parenting, “religion” (the quotes are mine, not hers), guilt and grief (I am probably forgetting some) into one emotionally moving yet satisfying-on-a-gut-level novel has huge cajones and the keyboard to back it up with. Vigorously, firmly recommended.
Ugh. Pitch is a good example of exactly the kind of book I hate. I am so disappointed, and even more so because the beginning was so promising. It was very angsty but I liked the fact that I couldn't tell what was going to happen and that it was focused on Taylor's friendship with Benny rather than just romance. Jackson initially seemed like an intriguing character, but as soon as he became more central to the plot, it all just started to fall apart. Taylor and Jackson's relationship was completely unrealistic and all the potential there was just wasted on cheap cliches and disgustingly romantic sap. There was very little substance to it aside from their history of unrequited love. That wasn't even the worst of it though, what really butchered the book for me was Taylor's character development. I really wish authors would stop making their protagonists do the most idiotic things in some misguided attempt at noble self-sacrifice. Or at the very least, they should give them a real, compelling reason for their actions. Parkinson really failed in that regard and Taylor's actions in the book are an insult to actual victims of domestic abuse. I refuse to believe that anyone in the real world would make the choices that Taylor makes. That really made his character unrelatable and hateful to me and I just can't root for a character like that. I finished the book but it was more of a chore than a pleasure. To end on a positive note, Benny was cute though. I think I'd rather have read a book about him and Addy.
I will preface this review by stating that I am not really a fan of young adult fiction. It's not a genre that really grabs me, probably because my own young adult days were equivalent to a horror movie where no matter how far you run, you just can't get away. However, I knew from the moment I heard that Will Parkinson was releasing his book, that I would read it. He's an incredible man and a beautiful writer so I knew that I would enjoy this story.
Taylor is a typically average high school boy, or so he thinks. He's a little plump, he's so-so at schoolwork, he loves to draw and is really good at it, and he's hiding in the closet. When the new boy, Jackson, joins his sophomore homeroom, Taylor is instantly struck by how good-looking and confident the other boy is. Taylor's best friend, Benny, figures the crush will die out like they all do and is surprised when it continues, even as far as Taylor attending baseball games. In an aside, I completely fell in love with Benny. Everyone should have a best friend like that! Taylor spends the whole year falling in love with Jackson even though it seems Jackson is hooked up with a cheerleader. (GAWD images of high school nightmares)
Taylor and Benny volunteer to spend the summer as counselors at a camp for abused children. I will admit here that some of the story became a little too pat, as in the boy who never opened up at camp all of a sudden did the day he met Taylor and Benny, but it worked for this storyline and I could understand why the author wrote it this way. Both Taylor and Benny came home from camp re-evaluating themselves and what they might want to do in the future. Then it was back to school in the eleventh grade.
Unfortunately, Taylor is outed by the treacherous actions of a date he never should have gone on. Luckily, life goes along fairly well with not too many hassles at school. Benny is always by his side, supporting him and they've made plans to go to college together. Junior prom comes and, finally, a conversation with Jackson reveals a huge betrayal on both of their parts. Life is wonderful for Taylor and Jackson as they begin to date and spend time together. Unfortunately, a blast from both of their pasts shows up and it takes both of them, along with Benny, to see that love can conquer all.
This was a refreshing change for me to read. I'm sorry, Mr. Parkinson, it won't make me a huge lover of YA, but it does make me a huge lover of your work. This is a sweet story with some adult angst that is dealt with in a positive way. I look forward to reading more by this author.
NOTE: This book was provided by Harmony Ink Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
Hola, la traducción es penosa, no se si el problema es de tipo tipográfico o el traductor no tiene ni idea de la lengua castellana. Por favor corríjanlo, ese libro no se puede vender así.
Un saludo, Oscar
lDo not buy this book, it is so childish, not interesting.
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