At nineteen, college freshman Mace Danner works as an escort, hiring himself out to customers who want a submissive they can dominate. Having no carnal urges himself, the sexual side of his job leaves him cold, but he sees the pain inflicted on him by his clients as punishment for causing his brother’s death when he was in high school. Pain is not enough, however, to wash away his guilt, and Mace starts binge drinking in an effort to escape his remorse.
The dorm’s resident advisor, Dex Hammel, sees Mace spiraling out of control and strives to help him. Despite the mutual attraction between them, Mace is disturbed that he still feels no sexual desire for anyone. Even with Dex’s support, Mace’s self-destructive behavior escalates, leading to a situation that endangers his life.
Why I picked this book up:
When I was searching through the LGBT section on NetGalley, the synopsis really stood out to me – this was a fresh, if dark, take on most romances in YA, although I was skeptical as to whether this book would manage to do these themes of self destruction, asexuality, and healing justice.
I think the only ‘bad’ thing I possibly have to say about this book is the violent sexual scenes, but that isn’t a fault of the book or the writing, just an uncomfortable thing to have to experience, especially as the narrative is so well written you empathise so completely with Mace. I definitely felt his isolation and his confusion, as well as his want to be around loving people but at the same time pushing them away. I can’t really find a negative thing to say about this novel, aside from how downtrodden and emotional it has the potential to make you feel.
I was thrilled to read about an asexual, bi-romantic character in YA, especially where the main character discovering his sexuality is only one strand of this plot. His journey and confusion regarding how he feels alongside his personal trauma and his shady life as a submissive escort made this a book that I flew through, rooting for Mace in every chapter, hoping he would find a way to help himself and let others help him. I think this is such an important book, as it not only highlights the difference between BDSM as something that turns you on and BDSM as something you can be forced into (without any judgement cast on the first), highlighting the struggles of asexuals and the problems with a lack of information about queer sexualities for young people, and shows a healthy, helpful healing process and ways to manage mental illness.
“I believe in friendship. I believe in love.”
Overall rating: 5/5
I was given a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review.