…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
Follow the burgeoning love of two teens during the worst year of their lives. Irish-born Declan David de Quirke II is the son of two ambassadors, one Irish and one American. He is ‘out’ to his parents but to no one else. French-born Jean Isidore de Sauveterre is also the son of two ambassadors, one Catalan and one Parisian. His four half brothers have been told to cure him of his homosexuality. Both teens have lost a parent in a London car bombing.
Declan and Isidore meet at the beginning of their senior year at a private academy in the United States. Declan is immediately smitten with Isidore and becomes his knight in shining armor. Isidore wants to keep what is left of his sanity and needs Declan’s love to do it. One is beaten, one is drugged, one is nearly raped, one has been raped. They are harassed by professors and police, and have fights at school, but none of it compares to running for their lives. When the headmaster’s popular son attempts suicide and someone tries to assassinate Declan’s mother, they are thrown headlong into chaos, betrayal, conspiracy, allegations of sexual coercion, even murder. And one of them carries a secret that may get them killed
When I got an email telling me that I was being asked to review this book, one of the things that caught my eye was the author’s words. He said “The subject matter of my books is tough because I write to give the boys I advocate for hope”, then he went on explaining how this book dealt with abuse, but that I needn’t worry, since the abuse in this page was mostly off page… This, is true. It is also true that even off page, the whole story managed to break my heart into tiny pieces, and that I didn’t know if it would be put together again.
It was. But it was a long, difficult, road.
Isidore one of the sons of the Ambassador of France in The United States. At 18 years old, Isidore has suffered too much abuse on part of his half brothers, his father and his mistress. Reading what Isidore went through was extremely difficult for me. I felt angry, frustrated, sad, heartbroken, and angry again. On the outside, Isidore might seem fragile, but if you dare taking a good look at him, and see and understand what he has lived, you can only see how strong he truly is.
Having lost the only person he ever trusted, (his mother), Isidore is completely helpless against his brothers’ abuse. He’s resigned to have this life he’s living, and to the fact that no one listens to his cries of help, not even his father (who, by the way, is an asshole). All of this changes when one of the teachers in his school starts a project. What this project promotes is pairing students so they can watch each other, and if you see something wrong in your partner you should report it to the head teacher so something can be done and help him/her. This is how Isidore meets Declan.
Declan is pretty much the opposite of Isidore. He’s a happy kid, who’s also suffered the lost of someone he loved. His father. Even with the grief of losing a loved one, Declan is strong, and happy. His mother is absolutely amazing. He’s the kind of kid that everyone loves and likes. He has many friends, and is quite sociable. Declan is also a diplomat kid. His mom is the Ambassador of Ireland in the US. When Declan and Isidore get paired up, the Irish kid couldn’t be more happy. He’d already seen Isidore in the distance, and had found him beautiful. Declan is gay, and while he’s not open about it at school, he’s out to his family.
One event lead to another, and after realizing that Isidore was being abused at home, Declan speaks to his mom and they decide to take Isidore under their wing. Here’s where Isidore’s healing starts, and while it goes at an expected slow pace, it’s also fulfilling and hopeful.
Both boys are incredibly mature for their age. They manage themselves in a way that one would think them old souls. I must confess that I struggled a bit with this. I often thought that I wasn’t reading about teenagers, but men in their mid-twenties instead. However, once I thought about it in more depth, I realized that these are diplomat kids. These are kids that grew up in a completely different envionment, and were forced to grow up faster than most, given the circumstances of their families. So, in the end, their being mature, worked for me.
I loved their friendship. I also loved their relationship as a couple, but it was their friendship and their devotion to each other, the protectiveness, and the trust they had in one another what more often than not made me feel all warm inside. Declan’s patience, and love for Isidore was simply beautiful. His words of encouragement to the boy, and his showing him, constantly, how proud of him he was for finding his voice and finding his true self after all he’d been trough, was nice to read. The reassurance that he had someone by his side that would not give up on him ever, is one of the things that helped Isidore to get better.
There is an element of mystery to the book, a couple of crimes unsolved, and a couple of things that happen that have the reader wondering what the heck is going on. There is a serial abuser, or rather, several… And boy was I angery for what I read and found out.
The secondary characters were also wonderful. I loved Mike (the boys’ psychologist)… Loved him. And I loved Sorcha (Declan’s mom). She totally wins the prize for best mom in books.
A note: I normally don’t do trigger warnings in my reviews, but I feel like I must do it in this case. The book deals with lots of violence, lots of physical abuse, and rape. Even off page, this is a constant. Even off page, this is highly heartbreaking and enraging. Even off page, you, as a reader, feel the need to put down the book for a few hours before picking it up again. This is no light read. This is not a book that you sit and read in one go, because it’s too charged with too many things. This is, however, a story of hope. It’s a story about a boy that has been through so much that you wonder if he’s ever going to find himself again. It’s a story about recovery, of mind and soul, and of finding that your worth doesn’t depend on others. That others, that your past, that your experiences, don’t quite define you, even if they do bring something to who you are now.