I have mixed feelings about Locker Room. The premise honestly works for me as I adore angst driven men –it’s a weakness of mine- but the ending really disappoints me. I know not all readers will feel the same but I personally feel cheated. The book also tends to exaggerate and the emotions are wild and outrageous, always the depths of despair and the height of happiness. That doesn’t bother me as I like Lane’s writing and the story works regardless but not all readers may appreciate the exaggeration. I also don’t think this the best Lane’s done and the writing especially misses some of the polish and effortlessness of earlier titles. It’s worth reading though if you’re a fan or like angsty men as it certainly delivers on that score.
The plot follows third person narrator Xander as he meets and falls in love with Christian. Xander is a poor boy with a drug addicted mother who’s struggling to raise himself without a warm place to sleep, enough food, or any hope for a future. Then he meets Chris, a young boy with a seemingly perfect family and affinity for basketball. Together the two are inseparable from day one and they go on to play basketball together in high school, college, and finally the pros. Yet hiding their personal relationship is taking a heavy toll on them both and they just may crack under the pressure.
The story beings with a glimpse into the future as Chris and Xander are playing together in the NBA. Then the next chapter starts in the past when the two first meet. Told entirely from Xander’s perspective the story is surprisingly affective. I really enjoy reading about angst driven and emotional men so the depth of emotion and tortured soul on display didn’t bother me. In fact I ate it up entirely. The writing makes it believable and brings out that emotion so you can indulge and live the roller coaster of emotion with the characters. And boy is it an up and down journey.
The two boys fall in love almost immediately and there is never any internal debate, doubt, or worry. They are together forever and they never forget it. It’s a nice change and though it may seem overly sweet to some readers I found there is enough external conflict and tension to keep my attention. The pressure to stay hidden and closeted makes sense against the backdrop of Xander’s life and his needs. He and Chris both need basketball, or so they think, to the degree that they can’t think of ever doing anything to jeopardize that. It takes some suspension of disbelief, especially later on when both players are so talented and revered that I find it hard to believe they never flexed their star power to get their way.
Instead they let events happen around them that damage their relationship and each man individually. This is emotional and often exaggerated. Xander and Chris repeatedly throw up under emotional stress and this happens a lot. I can see why some readers may find this too much so be sure you’re the type of reader that likes to invest that much. They’re complicated men though and well developed. They react differently and have matching strengths and weaknesses. It’s nice to see Chris also develop some vulnerability as Xander’s perspective of him is rather skewed.
The supporting cast is nice but totally superfluous. Almost everyone the boys encounter is very supportive and accepting with the exception of one typically homophobic coach. There are several women in the book but I’m not sure why they were added. They’re pleasant enough additions to the nuclear group but beyond Chris’ sister Penny they don’t make much sense or add anything significant to the story or character development. However the external pressure really is enough and I have no problems not adding more to the already burdened characters.
The writing is engaging and immediately captures your attention. The only issues I have are the repeated and numerous parenthetical additions. These give necessarily information yet they remind me each time that I’m reading a story and pull me out of the experience. The frequency of these thankfully drops off as the story progresses but they bug me each time. There has to be a better way to incorporate that information. Additionally the prose sometimes feels not as polished and sophisticated as other works by this author. That’s not to say the writing is bad but it doesn’t have the same flawless, effortless feeling I usually get from Lane’s work.
Overall I really enjoyed reading Locker Room, even though I hate the non-ending. I realize why the author had to end it this way but I still hate it. Yet I still would recommend this story easily to those fellow angst lovers. It’s exaggerated so if that’s not your thing you may not like this but otherwise it’s a very pleasant way to pass the time with a great couple you can’t help but root for.