Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

Bad Boy by Elliot Wake
Release Date -  December 6, 2016
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 256 pages
My Rating - 4.5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.
Anyone who has read my reviews of Elliot Wake's previous novels will not be surprised to learn that I enjoyed his latest. This author once again delivers up a novel that flirts with darkness, offers up unforgettable characters, and boasts some of the best character development I've had the pleasure of reading.

The writing within these pages is the kind that seems tailor made for the story it is telling. Elliot Wake has found his voice and his niche. The writing only improves with each subsequent novel and Bad Boy is no exception. It is his best novel yet and one that showcases his talent, and unflinching commitment to tell the story exactly how it needs to be told.

Ren is a complex character. One whose darkness is chased by light. Ren feels deeply and there is a goodness within him, but he's also very scarred from his experiences. There are many layers to this character, and part of what makes this book so engrossing is getting to unravel those layers. Getting to know Ren is what made this story for me, and my only complaint is that we did not get more time with him. This novel could have easily been longer and I would have welcomed it.

This novel is felt deeply as you're reading it. You cannot help but feel the passion, and emotion behind the work. It is immediately evident that Mr Wake has left a piece of himself within this story. There is something so visceral about Ren's journey that it easily resonates with any reader. It is all heart, soul, and guts and that makes for a emotional read.

There is an insight within these pages into what it means to transition and what it means to be trans. I feel that I have a better understanding of what someone who transitions experiences, and how they might feel before, during, and after the process. It is something so vital to their well being and this novel demands that this truth be recognized and felt. It is a case of life and death for them and that is made evidently clear within these pages. It offers up a realistic look at all the ups and downs a trans person could experience. It lets you see every struggle, every triumph and everything in between. It rips out your heart and asks you to feel what Ren is feeling and it nearly impossible not to.

Like many of the previous novels written by Elliot Wake, this one has gender at its core. The reader is meant to question what gender really is. What determines gender, and how we view it is the crux of Ren's story. Also at its heart is feminism and misogyny. It also comments on toxic masculinity. This novel offers a viewpoint of a character who has been treated as both female and male by people and the commentary on this is fascinating and worth discussing.

The romance in this is almost secondary. It is there though, and it is done in the typical Elliot Wake fashion of having two broken people be exactly right for each other. Sometimes your darkness meshes with someone else's and creates a beautiful connection. There is always a light in these stories, and in this case it is the connections being built. It is allowing someone to see the messy parts of yourself, and seeing their flaws in return. It stresses the importance of not just seeing them but accepting them as well.

Novels that encourage empathy are even more vital in today's society. Bad Boy is just one of the many novels written by Mr Wake that accomplish opening minds. They are thought-provoking for those stepping outside their viewpoint, and a vital mirror for those who find themselves within these pages. Bad Boy offers a poignant look at what it is like be trans but it also gives trans people a chance to see themselves as a protagonist of a romance story , and mystery one as well, and  that is perhaps the most important part of this story.

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