Safe, Mark Zubro
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: YA, LGBT (G), Jock + Nerd
Length: 208 pages
Purchase At: amazon.com
***Please note: Safe is not listed as a YA novel by it’s publisher; however, in this reviewer’s opinion, it is suitable for an audience 15+.***
“Roger, did you hear the news?”
Yes, Josh actually reviewed this. I normally avoid Jock + Nerd books like the plague; they have never been my cup of tea, so to say. Safe had a good blurb (below) that got me interested and I can say, after the fact, that I’m glad I took the risk with it. The following review sums up exactly why this is my favourite surprise of the year (thus far.)
In an unsafe world, death and danger stalk gay teens, Roger Cook and Steve Koemer.
Roger Cook is in the middle of his senior year when Kyle Davis, the most picked on kid in his high school commits suicide. Roger agrees to write an article on Kyle for the school newspaper. As he gathers information, Roger realizes the dead boy was gay and may have been murdered. Gay himself, Roger wants to find out the truth, but this leads him to danger and the possibility of love. Roger opens himself to even greater risk while trying to make those around him safe.
The investigation into why Kyle Davis is dead is thoroughly interesting and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire 208 pages of this gripping narrative. It takes great skill to invest this level of thought into a mystery novel, and I can only applaud the author for an excellently thought through narrative.
One particular item that stood out for me in Safe was Roger’s coming out to his family and friends, especially the family. The town in which this is set is a bit backwards, full of the conservative elements of California. The first reaction of most is that Roger can’t possibly be gay – after all, he is an athlete – but his staunch defence of this aspect of his genetic makeup is exemplary, and convinces many that it doesn’t make him any less of a man.
Roger isn’t the champion of gay teens, he is just as scared of coming out, like anyone else has ever been, and dreams of it all being the cakewalk every gay teen wanted it to be. But he does provide a great example of how not conforming to everyone else’s desires can lead to a much more fulfilling and enjoyable life.
I did not want to pick up this book because of that cover. I’m glad that I did in the end, but it needs to be pointed out that the cover is, for lack of a better word, heinous. The effect is to drag the book down, and I hypothesise that many have not read it due to this factor.
The ending will not be ruined by what I have to say, but to give some context the story is nice and neatly tied up at the end of the last chapter. What follows is three (YES, THREE) epilogues that seem to have been inserted just to say THERE’S A HEA!!!! three times…
In my opinion the story had enough of a HEA ending at the conclusion of the regular story, and these epilogues were unnecessary.
A gripping narrative and intriguing main character is what makes, in my eyes, Safe a surprisingly good novel. If it wasn’t for the cover and over-thought ending this book would have been 5 stars. I would definitely recommend this and am now eager to see more of what Mark Zubro has to offer.
“He finally just started bawling in front of the whole crowd then gasped out, “We killed him.”