When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon
Published by Albert Whitman Teen, 2013
First US Edition!
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.
Why I Read This:
I read another book published by the same company earlier and really liked it. This one had cover appeal and the story sounded like something I'd like.
When I first picked up my copy of When Loves Comes to Town, I expected something like a sweet romance mixed with some heavier personal drama. Whoa! I was completely taken aback by some of the things in this book. If you are looking for a sweet romance akin to something in the "chick flick" type genre, that is not what you are going to get here. But...you are going to get something much, much, much better than that.
The story opens with Neil around his 18th birthday. His friends take him out to a bar and joke around with him that he still doesn't have a girlfriend and of course Neil comes up with snarky comebacks about how awesome he is and how he sleeps around and all that. Secretly, though, Neil is questioning his sexuality. He's just figuring it out and starting to realise that this isn't just a phase.
And secretly, Neil is very scared to share this secret with anybody. The book was written 25 years ago and is set in a very fundamentalist town in Ireland. The gay community there is very new and homophobia is a big deal. But one day Neil lets loose to one of his friends. She takes him to a gay bar that her brother goes to sometimes and from there a lot of crazy things happen.
I've never read any book like this before. I don't read a lot of GBLT fiction (though I really should start reading at least a little more, especially after this book!). So partially this book is unique to me in the subject matter, but also because of the setting and when it was written. It has a much different perspective than the GBLT books I have read.
Then there is the writing style. It flows so amazingly well with the tone of the book that I wonder how this author could have flown past our radar over here in North America. The fact that we had to wait 25 years to read this story just astounds me!
I loved Neil. Even though he was such a flawed person he was also a person that was growing and learning how to live in the world under these homophobic conditions. He also did so many things that meant a lot to the people around him.
Much to my surprise, even though the book as a whole I wouldn't label as a sweet romance, there were some pretty sweet moments between Neil and his love interests. The ending was so sweet, even though there was some bittersweetness to it as well.
Overall, I hightly recommend this book. Originally I had this one marked a 4/5 but after having the chance to digest more of the story since reading it, I am changing my rating to a 5/5. The writing is just about perfect, the story has real meaning behind it, and the characters made me care so much about them. I read the book in a weekend. Really, more like a day. I could not put it down. (And this is just about one of the longest reviews I've ever written which really says a lot about how much there is to the book.)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Albert Whitman Teen via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.