Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble (review copy) - Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his at high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real heart-pounding relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York, that certainty begins to flicker. Don't Let Me Go captures the giddiness of first love, whilst also presenting a timely discourse about bullying, bigotry and hate that is rife in schools today. From Amazon UK
I was recommended this book for LGBTQ YA Month by both Sarah of Saz101 and YA author Brigid Kemmerer. Don't Let Me Go was already on my radar, but with such enthusiasm about the book from both ladies, I knew this was definitely a book I needed to read. I am so glad I listened. Don't Let Me Go is a powerful, heartwrenching, and completely beautiful.
Nate and Adam have been together a little under a year. Having gone through coming out, vicious homophobic attacks and the psychological after effects together, they couldn't be stronger. But when Adam moves from Texas to New York for a job in theater after graduation, their relationship is put under strain. Nate is finding it incredibly difficult being from the guy he loves, the guy who has been his rock. Adam's absence is almost like a physical pain to Nate, and he is all he can think about. Adam, however, doesn't seem to be having as much trouble, partying most nights, getting on well - too well? - with his roommate.
The story of Don't Let Me Go starts on the day Adam leaves for New York, but there are a series of flashbacks that cover their whole history together and we get to see the whole eight months of their relationship before Adam leaves; the day they met, when they first admit their feelings for each other, coming out, and so on. Their's has not been an easy relationship, not because of each other, but because of others. One of the great things about this book is how Trumble refuses to shy away from the terrible things gay people can go through. The homophobic abuse they are subjected to is awful, but the homophobic attacks - actual physical attacks - are absolutely sickening. I cannot tell you how disgusted and angry I was reading what they both had to go through. It broke my heart, and more than once my eyes filled with tears. It's a harsh reality that some gay people face, and Trumble is brutally honest with it. She forces you to face and think about difficult topics. These things happen, she seems to be saying, as she grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags your head out of the sand, if it was ever there. Don't Let Me Go just screams of truth more than any other LGBTQ YA novel I've read so far; this isn't just an LGBTQ romance, this is LGBTQ life, and shines a light onto the darkness gay people have to suffer, not just showing the highs and lows of a gay relationship.
But this is also a YA romance as well as an LGBTQ YA novel. Notice I said YA romance and not YA gay romance. The love between Nate and Adam is just epic; it's big and passionate, and just pours off the page! So much so, that you can quite easily forget that they're gay, that they're both male; they're just a teenage couple who have fallen in love for the first time, and are experiencing the highs and lows of their first relationship. It's not written in a way as if Trumble is saying "hey, gay people can have relationships just like yours!", but it just feels so universal anyway. What they feel for each other is love, pure and simple, and I was empathising and sympathising all the way through. Again, Trumble shows the truth of love, truth that goes beyond sexuality and gender, truth - love - that just is.
Nate and Adam are a very passionate couple, and have sex in the novel more times than I can count, and it's quite steamy. There are a few moments where the sex is on the page, but they deal with emotions during the moment rather than actual actions, and other than those times, the couple has sex off the page. It's never graphic nor gratuitous, each time it is to further the plot. At no point is it ever mentioned exactly what they're doing, but at times things are alluded to through dialogue, mostly. Despite the actions that are alluded to, again, it's universal; in my review of Sprout by Dale Peck, I said how I was surprised when the couple had sex because there had been no same-sex couple sex in the previous books I've read for the month, with Don't Let Me Go, I barely even noticed, and that's because this feels simply like a YA romance as opposed to a YA gay romance. It goes back to what I've already said; the sex in Don't Let Me Go, like the love, just feels universal. Nate and Adam have so much chemistry, they sizzle, and at times there is so much sexual tension, it could be cut with a knife. So it's no surprise that Don't Let Me Go is not only beautiful for it's huge romance, it's also pretty damn hot too!
I haven't included any quotes in this review, because there are so many passages in this book that I would love to highlight, I'd pretty much just be copying out the whole book. This book moved me and hurt my heart more than I could ever tell you. It's as beautiful as it is disturbing, and will completely blow you away. I finished the book with tears in my eyes, not because of how it ended, but because I was just so happy, so grateful that this book exists and I had the honour of reading it, and wanted to give Trumble the biggest hug. Trumble is a brave, brave lady dealing so brilliantly with topics we shy away from, and I can't possibly thank her enough for writing this story. Don't Let Me Go has made my top three favourite books of all time, and I can't recommend this incredible novel enough. Trumble is most definitely one to watch.
ETA: Since writing my review, I have discovered from J.H. Trumble that Don't Let Me Go is actually published as an adult novel. As it's set in high school, I'm still including it in LGBTQ YA Month. It feels very much like YA covering mature content, and Nate does turn 18 in this novel, so you could consider it New Adult, I think.
Thank you to J.H. Trumble for the review copy.
Published: 16th February 2012
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J.H. Trumble's Website