Heres to You, Zeb Pike, Johanna Parkhurst
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA, LGBT (G), Contemporary
Length: 180 pages
“Sometimes I wonder whether I’m the only high school freshmen on the planet who actually likes school.”
At 14 Dusty Porter finds his time at school in Colorado relaxing, as it’s where he catches up on all his sleep. With his father having left the family, Dusty’s mother takes ’breaks’ from her children to go out partying and dabble in drugs. Quite often these ‘breaks’ last for weeks at a time, and as a result Dusty is left to care for and raise his young siblings; Matt who is 8 and Julia 6.
Dusty has managed to maintain a charade for several years with only his best friend, Race, knowing the truth about his home life. Dusty fears the foster system, knowing that he and his siblings would most likely be split up if social services found out about their living arrangements.
Early in the school year Julia contracts appendicitis and Dusty makes sure she is rushed to the hospital. However the charade starts to crumble as Dusty is unable to produce a parent, despite his utmost efforts to track down either one. He confesses this to Race’s mother who then reports the situation, and the three children are temporarily put in her custody until their situation can be finalised.
Luckily for the trio they have a previously unknown uncle, Jack, living in Vermont who, with his wife Beth, is both happy and willing to take them in. Despite Dusty’s objections he concedes to this move knowing that it is his only chance to keep Matt and Julia together. They move to Vermont and Dusty suddenly has time to himself, time to socialise with other teenagers and time to realise that he only has feeling towards other boys.
Despite what feels to be a loving and comforting home, Dusty grows bitter with his new situation as he starts losing control over both his siblings’ future and his own life.
The Parts I Loved
The Inner Workings of Dusty’s Mind
Dusty taking care of Matt and Julie is normal in his life. While his parents have been off not being parents, Dusty has more or less raised his siblings. While he does realise that they are lacking in things such as computers, sports and everything else you need money for, he believes he has done a fairly good job.
Dusty behaves as a realistic and typical 14 year old boy. With this massive change in his life he sees his control over his life slipping and these feelings are replicated as bitterness towards Jack and Beth. He is confused and sees himself as all his siblings need, being frustrated that others cannot see it. Upon arriving in Vermont he suddenly has less responsibility, but does not want to lose it as he does not trust Jack and Beth to care for Matt and Julie.
I truly enjoy Dusty’s portrayal in this book, as while he is a teenager who has gone above and beyond to care for his siblings, he is unable to allow himself to be cared for. The confusion and doubt plaguing his mind is beautifully portrayed and keeps readers intrigued as to how he will react to his siblings no longer needing him as much. The ending leaves you satisfied as he overcomes this hurdle and begins to feel as part of a proper family, no longer wishing to return to his previous life.
Jack and Beth
I have an enormous amount of respect for a couple who will take in three unknown children, even though they are related. This pair are highly supportive of the children and truly want what’s best for them. This does lead to conflict with Dusty, as already discussed, but their love and devotion eventually wins him over, showing their dedication.
There are many people out in the world who are foster parents and their work often goes overlooked. Of course, like with any other part of society, there are bad seeds but luckily these are few and far between. This book just helped me truly appreciate the work these parents do for children who, due to a variety of circumstances, cannot be properly cared for by their own parents.
He’s Gay, But he’s Everyday
Dusty is gay and does come out in this story but it’s not at the forefront. A realistic side story has the discovery of his sexuality and confessing his feelings to his crush. Luckily Dusty finds someone who reciprocates these feelings in Emmitt, albeit someone who is confused and afraid like Dusty himself.
Without the move to Vermont and learning that he can receive support from his aunt and uncle Dusty would have never had the chance to properly examine this facet of his life. It is a factor that leads him to become closer to Jack and Beth by learning that they accept him as gay.
What I truly loved about Dusty and Emmitt’s portrayal here is that they are not the typical YA gay couple. They are both relatively ‘normal’ teenagers who happen to like each other. It is really good to see a gay couple not portrayed with their sexuality being the most important thing about them, but instead the fact they are gay is just an extension of their personality.
The Slightly Annoying Part
I really wanted this book to be longer, but unfortunately it is simply a short, sweet story. Not that this is a bad thing though, the book is absolutely amazing, but it just leaves you with a feeling of wanting more. I truly hope this author keeps on writing and perhaps there is room for a sequel, but I highly doubt this.
Here’s to You, Zeb Pike is a wonderfully amazing book that has left me feeling incredibly satisfied and hungry for more. The story of Dusty and this tale of major change in his life is incredible to read. You will truly understand the confusion, bitterness and love that occurs within the mind of a 14 year old boy that accompanies such drastic change in one’s life. I heartily recommend this story to all fans of YA LGBT books.
“I guess that will have to be a mountain for another day.”
This book was given to me by Harmony Ink in return for my honest thoughts.