Go Your Own Way by Zane Riley (May 5, 2015); 326 pages. Available from Interlude Press here.
I just flew through Go Your Own Way, and boy, are my arms tired.
JK, you guys, my arms aren’t tired at all. I could easily fly through another book about these characters. This is the first book in a series (…of two? …of more? I don’t know yet!), and when I got to the last page, I was unhappy to read “The End” and then an announcement that the story would continue in the next book. THAT book, which I have been calling Go Your Own Way 2 in my head but is really called With or Without You, will be released on July 21, 2016. Even though that’s less than a month away, I’m feeling anxious to get my hands on it so the story can continue.
Go Your Own Way is two stories, intertwined. The chapters oscillate between points of view: there is Will Osborne, a “good kid” struggling to drag his too-obviously-gay self through a hoary and hostile public school, when in comes the “hood” (do the kids today still say that?) Lennox McAvoy fresh from reform school, a sort-of classic Bad Boy with whom Will is assigned to work on a year-long literature project. Soon, Lennox has him in his Sex Crosshairs and sets up a relentless effort at seduction. It’s all very effective, except that he’s crude, situationally tone deaf, and sometimes mean as a wet cat caught in a corner. OK, well, it’s still pretty effective. Will soon discovers that Lennox is more than just a jerk: parents dead, he’s been dumped by a cold grandfather in an unlockable motel room where he bars the door with a steamer trunk and scrounges an existence from pilfered fruit and well-read books, while in the parking lot outside, racist (you’ll see) homophobes throw glass bottles at his door and threaten him with violence.
Despite Lennox’s rough and oversexed nature, Will falls. And then Will’s father lands in the hospital in a coma, so Will is left worrying with his stepmother (who’s kind, who’s a nurse, and who’s hanging onto Will with all her remaining strength) while his father persistently deteriorates.
It’s the story of two boys who have lost parents (both Lennox’s mother and father have died; Will’s mother died when he was younger and his father appears to be about to die). But while Will’s father (before he landed in the coma) and stepmother are both caring and supportive, Lennox’s grandparents take neglect to the edge of hate (it probably doesn’t help that they are white and Lennox’s mother was Black, making him “not quite/not white” (as Homi Bhabha wrote) and the object of the white grandparents’ scorn). So it’s the story of socio-economic privilege learning to trust and care for/about someone without (without home, safety, nutritious food, a caring and present family…), and also the story of someone without learning to trust and care for/about someone so privileged. It’s also the story of the very different ways privilege can affect our experience of difference—being a middle-class, white, gay boy is radically different from being a poor, parent-less, gay boy of color.
But this is me being preachy; the novel doesn’t preach like this. Instead, it tells a really great story, part love story (and that is also the story of how to reach across a flaming divide of privilege and difference) and part tale of danger and rescue (I mean that both ways: how to rescue someone you love and how to rescue yourself—both are dangerous).
As Will falls deeper, it turns out Lennox is also really smart (a math ace), and kind of lovely when you peel off the stinking jerk skin he wears for protection.
Go Your Own Way is suspenseful without literal ghosts (though the memory of dead parents haunts this, and there are ghouls in the motel parking lot who haunt and threaten Lennox); it’s emotionally engrossing without the over-high drama of a pantomime. It exercises every nerve I’ve got, keeps me teetering and balancing on edge, worrying, hoping for some safety and peace. It makes me want the story to continue (and, yay, it’s about to do so!), even though my damn proverbial arms are tired.
The sequel, With or Without You, is available for pre-order from Interlude Press here. It will be released on July 21, 2016.