Leo Ware may be young, but what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova… and then was gone just as quickly.
For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny… though Will certainly tries.
But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairy tale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.
It’s no secret I am a huge fan of Roan Parrish’s Middle of Somewhere series. Parrish has a gift for creating complex characters, with handling difficult backgrounds and life situations, without making them overwrought or melodramatic.
In particular, I think one of the gifts Parrish brings to her books is the brilliant and skillful use of first person narrative. The affordances of first person narrative can often be lost in the hands of writers who aren’t incredibly skilled. Because we only have that person’s point of view, readers have to see and fill in character blind spots, the way others perceive them and situations. This is very hard to achieve. That this is pulled off so well is one of the things that draws me back to this series again and again. Parrish is able to show us the ways in which our own perceptions of ourselves and the world are skewed by personal experience and anxieties or insecurities, etc. It is through very careful character work and the interaction between the character and others that Parrish reveals so much. We get to know our protagonist more richly through their actions with others, through moments when secondary and primary characters and moments reflect back a different picture than the protagonist thinks, feels, perceived etc.
I could go on and on about this book and series, but I really want to discuss two things about Where We Left Off that grabbed my heart and interest.
First, Will is an enigma. We know this from the moment we meet him in In The Middle of Somewhere. And while Daniel perceives him as kind of a dick, I knew that I needed to know more. I wanted to untangle him, to examine where he was coming from. Parrish’s choice to use Leo’s point of view in Where We Left Off amplified that need as the book unfolded, which made the moments when we really got to know him, see his truths and insecurities and flaws and the beautiful mess it seems only Leo was able to bring out, so much more satisfying.
I have read this book three times – both out of love for it, but also because I knew I wanted to savor every tiny moment where deep character work was being done. The more I read it, the more I really fell for Leo. Because Leo’s journey was handled so well. We see his growth, his mistakes, the rounding out of a self that couldn’t have happened with all of the experiences he had – with and without Will. This book is an incredible example of a coming of age story. And Leo…such a special, special boy. Gifted with compassion and kindness and love. Shortsightedness perhaps, and the kind of romantic nature that sometimes blinded him to others needs (including his own). But his optimism and his resilience might make him my favorite character in this series.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.