Title: The History of Us
Author Name & Publisher: Nyrae Dawn (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: June 11, 2015 – 184 pgs
Sometimes it’s not about coming out, it’s about settling in.
Eighteen-year-old Bradley Collins came out a year ago and hasn’t looked back since. Who cares if he doesn’t know any other gay people? Bradley has friends and basketball—that’s all he needs. Even if that means always sitting on the sidelines when the guys go out looking for girls.
When cute film-boy TJ tries to flirt with Bradley while his friends are doing their thing, he freaks. Yeah, he’s gay, but he’s never had the opportunity to go out with a boy before. He’s never had to worry about how his friends will react to seeing him with a guy.
Bradley accompanies TJ on a road trip to film TJ’s senior project documentary. In each city they visit, they meet with people from different walks of life, and Bradley learns there’s a whole lot more to being honest about himself than just coming out. He still has to figure out who he really is, and learn to be okay with what he discovers.
With his mum’s encouragement, Bradley accompanies his new friend TJ on a road-trip, interviewing a wide cross-section of gay men and women for TJ’s documentary and listening to diverse stories as they cross the country.
Bradley finds his own assumptions and prejudices challenged as he meets many different gay people for the first time. He begins to take an uncomfortable look at his own sexual identity, his relationships and the choices he has made.
I love the characters in this story. The complexity of Bradley’s relationships with his hetero friends and his reluctance to fully embrace his sexuality feels honest, real and very modern. TJ’s external bravado and internal conflict is equally real.
This isn’t my favourite Nyrae Dawn story. At times, this feels more like a non-fiction exploration of sexual identity and an expose of gay lives through the past forty years. It is a fascinating collection of thoughts, perspectives and possibilities. Dawn offers readers role models, ideals and cautionary tales. I would recommend it for teens discovering their own sexuality.
I’m just not sure this works as a novel, or as a romance. And maybe it doesn’t have to. Like all of Nyrae Dawn’s work, it is beautifully written and the characters are carefully crafted. The road-trip settings are fantastic and Dawn perfectly captures the spirit of being eighteen – high school is ending and life for both boys is full of exciting possibilities.
There is some slow-burn romance in this book, but even for a new adult story, there is very little sex and not much steam. Bradley comes into himself as the story progresses, not necessarily into a relationship.
I am a compulsive reader and writer who loves YA fiction.
I love nothing more than writing about young adults. There is something so fresh and fun about it. You can pretty much always find me with a book in my hand or open document in front of me.
I live in Southern California with my husband and two children.