Wes & Toren by J.M. Colail
It’s not so easy being young, gay, and in love for the first time at the average high school. Senior Toren Grey cares more about his family and his grades than what brand of clothes he wears. He agrees with the majority consensus that he’s a nerd. So he’s quite surprised when resident bad boy Wesley Carroll speaks to him in the hall, stirring feelings that Toren has to hide.
Disconcerted by Wes’s free and easy ways, Toren can’t deny the attraction between them. As he relaxes and gets to know Wes better, he finds there’s more to the sexy rebel than his public image. Before long the young men are exploring new territory and falling in love, but life just isn’t that simple. After they graduate, obstacles block their relationship at every turn: Wes working versus Toren in college, the virulent disapproval of parents, and everyday trials faced by any struggling young couple. Wes and Toren have to believe in each other … and never doubt that their love can conquer all.
This high school, coming of age story is sweet, satisfying, and slightly emotional. Those who enjoy a touch of classic yaoi characterizations with very clear top/bottom delineations will enjoy this young adult story more than those who prefer non-traditional pairings. The story is lovely with some interesting characters and since I am a fan of angsty men written well, Toren came off as adorable versus being annoying as some readers will undoubtedly find. There is nothing earth shattering, unique, or even all that exciting about this particular offering – it is a solid, character driven story relying on development rather than drama and depth of relationship over fast action.
The various relationships in the story are well drawn from Toren’s close friendship with his younger sister (a refreshing, delightful imp) and the support of his mother to the classic tragedy of Wes’ family and their inability to accept his sexuality. Wes and Toren get together early on with a minimum of fuss and no drama. There is a slight twinge of fear occasionally about their sexuality but overall both men encounter only love and acceptance for their choice with the notable exception of Wes’ parents. However there are always a number of friends and other family members willing to support Wes and Toren and Wes certainly stands up for the couple while Toren lacks the emotional and mental strength to do so.
Toren is not a weak character but he is the very traditional uke. He cries frequently and gets upset easily. He tends to be very emotional, but his saving grace is that he also snaps out of the crying almost instantly. His love for Wes is deep, strong, and true, which provides the backbone to their relationship. Wes is willing to fight while Toren keeps the house and relationship moving. Very classic and traditional roles, yet Toren is not a female character made male. He certainly has some characteristics of that but there is enough contrast and texture that Toren is undoubtedly male as well.
While some readers will really enjoy the yaoi pairing set in young men just coming of age, others may be frustrated by the slow pace. Very little actually happens in the story as Wes and Toren live their lives, go to school, hold jobs, love each other, celebrate holidays, and so on. The story is filled with small details of their life mixed in with increasing explicit sex scenes. These scenes are somewhat awkward and read slightly clinical but are sweet for the emotion and tenderness that is always present amid the teenage hormones. There is no big dramatic scene, no horrible accident, no gay bashing, and no great angst. Instead there is acceptance, love, and a slow maturity to the two young men that will endear many readers who enjoy classic romance.
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