“It’s like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and motherfucking cheerleaders.”
In a word: Read the thing. I loved this. So many feelings, so many laughs. The only reason I was really interested in this book was because I’m a fan of the author’s Teen Wolf fanfiction (just a note: this book was never fanfiction, it’s a completely original story) and her writing style. Also the blurb was hilarious. Totally worth it. Mike Tate’s girlfriend has just informed him that he’s gay (and he wouldn’t believe her, except that he feels it’s actually a little bit true), and that seems to be the catalyst that turns his junior year of high school from ‘business as usual’ to ‘scary and a bit insane’. I enjoyed reading about Mike’s personal journey and how he interacts with everything and everyone that happens in his life (though even by the end I was confused by whether or not Mike identifies as gay or bi, it seems to go back and forth a bit). There is a romance in the story, between Mike and another boy he’s known for forever, but there’s also major focus on Mike coming to terms with his sexuality and his relationships with his large (and hilariously entertaining) group of friends. I really, really liked this book, even though I’m not the target audience, and I definitely recommend it.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Couple: Mike Tate is in junior year of high school and has just been informed by his girlfriend-who-wasn’t-really-his-girlfriend that he is, in fact, gay. Or, at least, a lot more gay than he always thought he was (by the end of the story Mike can’t seem to decide whether or not he’s gay or bi, but the bottom line is that he’s definitely not straight). Mike’s classmate and nemesis, Rook Wallace, actually is totally gay and has a huge crush on Mike, though Mike doesn’t know that at first. Mike actually spends a lot of the first half of the book referring to Wallace as the Anti-Christ, and is generally half-expecting him to try and destroy him in some fashion. These two have a history; they’ve known each other since they were kids and they live on the same street. We get to know Mike fairly well, since this is technically his story. We know he’s a typical teenage boy, albeit one going through a sexuality crisis, and that he does well in school and is very much into music and a little into sports. He’s also a good big brother to his much younger sister and a good friend, though he can be a bit of a dick at times. On the flip side, we don’t get to know all that much about Wallace. The romance is really only part of the story, and Wallace is only one of a fairly large group of characters in Mike’s world. But I came to like him. For all of Mike’s complaining about Wallace and his mixed feelings about him, it’s a bit obvious to the reader that Wallace is actually crushing on Mike and that he’s a pretty good guy. He did used to beat Mike up, though, so it’s not as if Mike’s worries are totally baseless. Wallace also seems like he has his shit together re: being gay more than Mike has, though we do come to find out that that’s not entirely true. Mike and Wallace’s relationship has a few twists and turns before it finally settles into something stable, though they are teenagers so that’s not totally unexpected. I enjoyed reading about Mike and Wallace trying to figure things out with each other, even if a lot of their problems came from Mike being a complete bonehead. In the end it was cute, and sweet, and it did make me laugh.
The Friends: One of the first elements of the story we are introduced to is Mike’s group of friends. Mike’s had different levels of friendship with this same group of people he’s known for years, and they are all fairly entertaining characters and I ended up pretty fond of (nearly) all of them. Mike’s best friend and unofficial brother is Cam Scott, and they’ve been friends since diapers. Cam is insane, and that about sums up his whole character. He’s forever thinking up stupid ideas and actually following through on most of them (usually dragging Mike along with him). The fact that most of those ideas land him in the hospital does nothing to deter him. Cam is really weird, and he’s also pretty funny, and a very good friend when it comes down to the wire. Mike’s other best friend is Meckles, and it takes nearly the whole book before we learn whether that’s his actual name or a nickname or what. Meckles is pretty amusing, and definitely the most anxious one of the group. Meckles’ twin sister Deanna (also referred to as Girl Meckles) is also part of the group and is dating Cam. Deanna is a lot more confident and animated than her brother, and also less likely than him (and Cam and Mike) to do dumb stunts. Lisa was Mike’s sort-of-girlfriend, but is now just his friend (and also interested in one of the drama nerds at school). She’s the one who started Mike on his journey of sexuality discovery by breaking up with him and letting him know that he was more interested in boys than in her. I found her to be a bit too bossy at times, but she is a good friend to Mike and I did end up liking her, even if she did move more to the background later on in the story. Jason is somewhat of a newcomer to the group, and there wasn’t really much to him. He doesn’t actually seem to do much, but he’s a good guy. Omar rounds up the original friend group, and he comes off as someone that Mike is pretty close to and can rely on. He’s the calm, level-headed one of the group, and I quite liked him. His reaction to Mike coming out really surprised me and made me dislike him quite a bit, and we never really did get much closure from it, so I was mostly left disappointed at him. Mike also makes a new friend to add to the group in the story, Wallace’s 14-year-old brother Serge Wallace. Serge is a freshman at the school and a bit emo and a bit bullied. Mike’s known Serge for years, but they’ve never actually spent any time together. Then Mike saves Serge from bullies and decides to take him under his wing, so to speak. I think it originally started out as a way to piss off Rook (this was before Mike found out about Wallace’s feelings), but Mike does genuinely come to like Serge like a little brother (and not, as Wallace initially thought, as a boyfriend).
The Side Characters: Mike’s group of friends, plus Wallace, really make up most of the side character roles, but there are other characters that pop in and out that also help to make the story as engaging as it is. First there’s Mike’s family: his single mother, and six-year-old sister Rosie. Mike’s mother is a very hands-off kind of parent, and I’m still not sure how to feel about that. Mike and Rosie are still generally in one piece so whatever, I guess (though I’m not really impressed with the way Mike’s mother and grandmother outed him to the whole family without his permission, not cool). Also Rosie was adorable, and her relationship and interactions with Mike were also adorable. I love that kid. Next there’s family-adjacent, Cam’s older brother Zack Scott who is 26 years old and the ‘responsible adult’ of the group. And by ‘responsible’ I mean not at all because his main function in the story seems to be providing weed and alcohol to minors and not much else. Though I think Mike thinks he’s hot. There are also a few randoms from school that Mike interacts with that become sort of friends, like Lenny, Mo, and Dotty, who join him on the homecoming committee. They’re pretty entertaining at times, but there were also times where I was annoyed by them. And Dotty has a crush on Meckles, which was actually pretty funny to watch play out, even if it was at Meckles’ expense. The last major side character is J. J. Scalzetti, he’s the main reason why Lisa came to the conclusion that Mike was gay because he and Mike made out, while drunk, at Cam’s end of summer party. I didn’t like J. J., his personality drove me absolutely up the wall. He’s gay, though I’m not sure if he’s out, and he goes to a different high school so we don’t actually see a lot of him. He’s also snobby and a dick (the aggravating kind, not the funny kind) and I will be forever thankful that there never developed a love triangle between him, Mike, and Wallace (Mike doesn’t like him either, just his face).
The Sex: This is a YA book so I really wasn’t expecting any sex scenes. Or if there were any that they’d all be fade to black or very vague. Nope! There is one sex scene in this book, between Mike and Wallace. They go on their first date to the movies and they don’t even make it all the way through before they’re back in Wallace’s car with mutual handjobs. It’s not very explicit, and it’s not at all vague, but it’s definitely there. It’s a quick scene, and there aren’t that many feelings in the mix (not that I would expect that many, I guess, not at that point in their relationship and personal journeys), but it fits well in the story. (*Note: these two characters are underage; I think 16 years old.)
The Writing: I thought this book was hilarious and I loved it. There’s a lot of downtime in terms of plot speed, but I didn’t have a problem with it because it was still entertaining to read. Honestly, there could’ve been nothing big going on plot wise and I still would’ve had a good time reading about Mike and his friends and their antics, and Mike and his relationship with Wallace. There were some parts of the story where the characters annoyed me, but that’s not a fault of the writing, it’s because those characters were actually being annoying. Even Mike has his moments. And I really did like watching the relationship progress between Mike and Wallace, those two were cute together (when they finally got their shit together anyway). I do wish we would’ve gotten to see more of Mike and Wallace as a couple, happy together after they spent most of the book fumbling around and screwing up. I was pleasantly surprised that this book had so much swearing in it, you don’t tend to see a lot of that in YA books. Swearing is a thing that teenagers do. A lot. No sense in pretending it doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of underage drinking and recreational drug use too, but there isn’t as much talk about sex (which was refreshing because it’s usually the other way around). Anyway, the writing was great, the characters were engaging and hilarious, and if there was ever a sequel for this I would love to see more of Mike and Wallace being dorks in love together.
[Whatever. Or how junior year became totally F$@KED was published August 2, 2016, by Roaring Brook Press; it is available both in print and as an ebook]