Thursday, November 15, 2012

Books for Writers: If I Told You So

    Let me predicate this by saying it's been many years since I was a teenager, so I'm likely lacking clear memories of the operatic nature of the age — epic highs and apple-bottomed lows, soaring heights followed by days sitting in a corner writing dark poetry. Even as you watch everyone else to puzzle out the right way to be, it feels like all the eyes are on you: judging harshly. It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and she tends to be a no-show until the early 20s (often later these days).
     If I Told You So is the story of a plucky lad in such a state. His name is Sean Jackson and he, to borrow a phrase from David Sedaris, likes guys. This would be hard enough in a Romney-Santorum America, but Sean has the additional misfortune of growing up in a small town where the only out "alternative lifestyle" he knows about belongs to the Fabulous Renee, owner of the local ice-cream shop. Threatened with a summer of landscaping with his estranged father, Sean gets a job at the ice-cream shop where he meets a new best friend and encounters something that feels a lot like love courtesy of his hunky (and a couple of years older) manager Jay.

    If I Told You So is author Timothy Woodward's debut novel. He has a quick and clean writing style and gives Sean a clear voice and identity from page one. You can't help but pull for the protagonist through most of the book, with the exception being his one-too-many rides on the I-don't-like-you-because-you-speak-unfortunate-truths train with his friend, Becky.
Author Tim Woodward reads from his novel last week at SNHU.
    The story covers one hot American summer but feels a bit too big for the space allowed. It's a good sign that I wanted to see more of the Jay-Sean relationship. It's engaging, but their time together is too sparse to make it easy to see the evolution of the easy intimacy they develop. There's also a sex scene, likely edited down for the YA audience, that's nearly vague to the point of genderless. If I was a gay teen picking up this book for a chance to see a cool character I could identify with, I'd want a few more hints about how to, you know, do it. Again, it's a testament to what is there that I wanted more.
     To Mr. Woodward, I say, "More like this." I look forward to the day your publisher gives you more room to run.

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