2.5 - 3 stars
I recently added "Party-Pooping" to my handle, and as I finish this book and rate it, I certainly feel as if I've lived up to the descriptor. Sorry, buddies! This book just didn't blow me away. If anything, it probably rated no higher than a 2.75 for me, but I decided to be generous and rate upward because it had been interesting.
One of the positive aspects of the book was Curt. This book was in his first person POV, and it was an interesting one: 1) He thought and sounded like an ordinary guy. 2) He did not sound like a typical fiction main character. 3) He was a character in shades of gray. I felt sorry for Curt and appreciated his POV. He was what his experience and his life made him to be. It was unlike my own, and it was a refreshing change from the squeaky clean protagonists and fake toughs that you frequently come across in the genre fiction I normally read. His voice sounded authentic. I liked how he was shown to have some standards, and how he cared enough about his younger brother to want better for him; yet, despite the revelations at the end of the book, he doesn't do a 180 degree change due to his circumstances - and I appreciated that.
The twist in the story...kind of fell flat for me. I was kind of expecting it before 50%, especially with all these hints that the author was dropping about something not being right. Since Curt continued to ignore those hints, I did as well which was why the twist was both expected and unexpected for me. I wanted to feel impressed and go, "Wow, this story just went in a direction that I didn't expect!", but while it gave me a pause and had me paying just a bit more attention to what I was reading, I didn't feel that wow factor because I had a feeling something like this might happen. On the other hand, I thought that the author did a pretty good job in muddying the waters. Like Curt, when they first started planning this, I did buy into Wayne's and Lenny's acts.
This is not a romance. There is no HEA. I was satisfied with the ending although I was half-expecting a more tragic end. The ending was somewhat sweet and hopeful in its way, and showed just what sort of strength Curt did have. I think that the best category for this book would be dark erotic. There was rape and violence, not for "purpose of titillation" (cough,cough) but rather to show how rape and violence were used as a means of having power and control over others. There was a lot of cant and non-PC terms thrown about, but it fit with the setting and the background of the main character.
This story felt part like the author's rants about the injustices of this society, and part like Curt's exploration and discovery of himself: his sexuality, his wants, and his needs. The second is a story I don't mind reading, but I don't really like to hear the author's agenda when I read. While the author did not quite sound as if he was ranting, he did come close at time or two. It was cleverly done via Curt's POV, which I could accept given his background and history, but at one point, the things that Curt was ranting about just did not seem like something he would say.
This book was fairly well-written, but the author had a tendency to use exclamation points in order to indicate to the reader that something exciting was happening. It seemed silly and irritating to me. The beginning of the story when Curt, Wayne and Lenny have their "interview" seemed a bit contrived. It didn't make much sense to me, and I was not able to buy into it.
I tried to like this book since my buddies seemed to rave over it, but I'm afraid I simply could not connect with it: not with Curt or with the story. It didn't engage my emotions. I could only appreciate it as I would appreciate abstract art - from a distance as I tried to convince myself that such and such were the reasons why I should like it more than I did.
Of course, I don't count reactions from readers who expected a BDSM story or that it was really a how-to book (and I really did get a couple of those). It's thoughtful reactions like this that help me grow as a writer.