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by Josh Aterovis
P.D. Publishing, March 2008
224 pages
ISBN: 1933720344

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Two weeks after Seth Connelly enrolls in his new high school on Marylandís Eastern Shore, he is brutally slain. The narrator, Killian Kendall, comes upon the crime scene in time to be himself stabbed. The police think it is a mugging gone wrong. Killian is convinced it is a hate crime. For Seth was openly gay in a super-conservative town. More, given the killerís reaction to him when he appears on the scene, Killian thinks it is someone from his own circle of acquaintances. When the police apparently do nothing, he takes it upon himself to try to identify the murderer.

Much of the novel, however, is taken up with Killianís own problems. Because of Sethís honesty about his sexuality, Killian finally accepts the truth about his own. Unfortunately, he comes from a household with an image-conscious state attorney as head. Thrown out by his abusive father, Killian is taken in by Sethís father, Adam. The latter has come to terms with the fact that he too is gay. Under his wise tutelage, Killian begins navigating the tricky waters of being "other" in a society that offers few lifelines to young teens who differ from the crowd.

Whereas earlier he thought he was alone in his high school, now Killian finds himself falling for and having to decide which of two very different teenagers he wants to go steady with. He momentarily agrees to let the girl who has been after him for years be his cover, only to find that "having a beard" creates more problems. He has to learn how to deal with homophobic bullies. And he takes on a new role, becoming a surrogate older brother for Adamís straight younger son, plotting with Kane how to get him out of the tense atmosphere created by his bitter and acrimonious mother.

Many tears are shed along the way. Killian at one point says, "I was weeping for Seth. I was weeping for Matthew Shepard. I was weeping for all those whoíd been killed, or had killed themselves, because of something they had no control over. In my mind, they were both the same. Society had killed the suicide victims just as surely as it had killed Matthew Shepard Ė and now, I knew somewhere deep within, Seth. I was also weeping for myself." The title, however, refers explicitly to a flower, a promise of yearly renewal, and only implicitly to the sadness that assaults the characters.

After many pages during which Killian (as well as his largely offstage mother) readjust to their new life as individuals in their own right away from the brutalizing father, the mystery returns in a rush. A strange figure clad in a Batman costume flits on the outskirts of a Halloween party; Killian is certain he is the murderer. (The party itself is one of the few implausible moments in the novel, held as it is in the home of a super-conservative family with the parents nowhere in sight.) Another murder occurs before the mystery careens to its melodramatic and fiery finish in the same location.

The novel easily appeals to adults. But it is ideal for teenagers. Though its language may startle anyone who has not kept up with young adult literature, it is mild compared to the actual speech of teens today. Killian realistically swings through the myriad of emotions that any 16-year-old would. Adamís advice is conservative, especially concerning the sexual side of the gay experience. He recommends caution and abstinence till one can commit. (The author does not mention that, as I write, only in Massachusetts can American gays debate whether to engage in premarital sex or not.)

I suspect teen readers will enjoy the authorís play with names. Adam was married to Eve; he is now living with Steve! His sons are Seth and Kane. (Abel does not show up.) Yet other elements that probably appeal to teenagers are the confusing and hormone-driven scenes in the high school, the importance of the automobile and the cell phone to our protagonist, and, among the many characters, the presence of a psychic aunt.

In short, the novel is an ideal gift for a gay teenager who has outgrown the Hardy boys. I wish it or something similar had been available when I was growing up. Surprising as the fact may be, this is one of only four gay mysteries for teenage readers that I have found. First appearing in 2001, the changes for this new edition are mostly stylistic. The author has learned much about his craft during the intervening years but has kept his absorbing storyline intact.

Reviewed by Drewey Wayne Gunn, May 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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