A cross between Veronica Mars and Donald Strachey.
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT
No. of pages: 208
In an unsafe world, death and danger stalk gay teens, Roger Cook and Steve Koemer.
Roger Cook is in the middle of his senior year when Kyle Davis, the most picked on kid in his high school commits suicide. Roger agrees to write an article on Kyle for the school newspaper. As he gathers information, Roger realizes the dead boy was gay and may have been murdered. Gay himself, Roger wants to find out the truth, but this leads him to danger and the possibility of love. Roger opens himself to even greater risk while trying to make those around him safe.
A real case of don’t judge the book by its cover – I nearly dismissed this title because of the crappy PhotoShopped dust jacket, but I’m glad the blurb intrigued me enough to overlook that failing and settle in for a cozy afternoon reading.
The main thing that attracted me to ‘Safe’ was that the protagonist, Roger, is on the school newspaper. YA – check; a blogger, reviewer or school newspaper – check; and a GLBT theme – check!
An issue I had with the narrative was that there was something clinical about this novel. For a high school student struggling with his sexual identity, Roger seemed very together. At one moment he was purporting to never tell anyone about being gay, and then he blurts it out to someone with little emotion or anxiety… it felt very unrealistic to me. (I began to wonder if Roger wasn’t a little bipolar)
Additionally, I had major problems stemming from the background and emotional motivations of Roger, pertaining his sexual orientation and coming out. It’s obviously connected to the point above about the inconsistent tone of the narrative. But these were the worst aspects I had with ‘Safe’ and even these are more nit picking than irreconcilable flaws.
The relationships and character development is second to none, even though it felt all wrong for a High School setting – they all seemed so much more mature, like this should have taken place on a University Campus. Especially with Roger being so cool calm and collected in some of his keystone events in the coming out process and places we find him in. Though I can see why Mark Zubro included them, in trying to shed a light on the shadier aspects of homosexual culture.
I really appreciated the statement this novel made, I just wish Zubro had either moved the landscape to an older demographic, or omitted the more difficult parts of Rogers culture to something more common and appropriate to teens. Ignoring that, ‘Safe’ is very enjoyable – think Veronica Mars.
The mystery and sleuthing was paced so well, I really felt like I was there with Roger tracking down clues, following leads. Even though I had nothing much in common with Roger, Zubro had me caring about him and eager find out the truth about Kyle, not an easy task.
On issues of bullying and making new personal relationships in the throes of being outed in an educational setting, this novel really bangs it on the head. And I’m not ashamed to admit, it gave me strength to know that all types of people are bullied in some form or another and it’s how we rise above it that defines us.
I read the entire book in a day, average-ish rating, but leaves you with a warm hug…
Overall feeling: I barely put the book down.
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