Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Review: Something Like Winter by Jay Bell
Something Like Winter is a companion novel to Something Like Summer which I reviewed here. It takes the story and turns it around so that we see everything from the point of view of Tim, rather than Ben. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about this at first for two reasons really: firstly because I hadn't been so keen on Tim as a character and I was worried I wouldn't like to be in his head; and secondly because I was worried that it would focus too much on scenes which feature in the first book and therefore lack originality. As it is, I needn't have worried because this turned out to be rather a special book indeed and I ended up enjoying it more than I did the first book.
Tim is moving to Texas from Kansas and he can't wait to get to a new school. A bitchy, conniving ex-girlfriend had made the last few months hell for Tim and he was so relieved to put that all in the past and have a fresh start. Being charming, good looking and personable, it isn't long before Tim is in with the 'it crowd' at school and he's fairly happy balancing school and hiding the fact that he is more attracted to boys than he is girls. Then along comes openly gay Ben Bentley who literally knocks him off his feet and life is never the same again for Tim.
In my review of the first book, I said I enjoyed the first part more than the second. In this book, however, it was the other way around. I actually found the book a little slow to get into, possibly because I was reading about things which happen in detail in book 1. In Something Like Summer, I thought the author had done a pretty good job in showing the reader how lonely and conflicted Tim is, even if he came across as rather self-obsessed. With this book, Tim isn't that different in terms of how I saw him previously, so I didn't feel like learned anything new in the first part of the book except to perhaps soften a little my initial thoughts that Tim was an arrogant ass. In fact, I'm pleased that the author didn't try to change Tim or make it seem that Tim was just misunderstood by Ben because it's important to this book that we see a Tim who knows he messed up at this point in his life and seeks to address his bad behaviour later in life. The section which takes place over the year Tim and Ben are first together is shorter here than the first book, and I was glad about that because it's when we move onto the next part that the book really took off for me.
I absolutely loved the rest of the book which takes place over the next 12 or so years. In this section the gaps from the first book are filled. We see Tim's struggles in College to stay in the closet, and his longing for some kind of relationship. We see him meeting Eric and the fatherly relationship he has with the much older man and this section brought tears to my eyes. We see Tim trying to form a relationship with a man who uses and manipulates him. We see Tim growing, facing up to his past, behaving badly at times, but also showing us a side we didn't see much of in book one - that of a man who loves deeply and sacrificially at times. A good man. A man who deserves Ben's love at the end of the book. My main complaint about the first book was that I didn't like Tim or the way he tried to muscle in on Ben and Jase's relationship. This book showed me a man I could and did like. He wasn't perfect - who is? - but I was happier with the HEA.
I was also happy that we get much more in terms of background on Tim which helped me to understand his actions. His relationship with his parents, with other gay men and his grandma gave me a a much more rounded view of Tim which made me wish for happiness in his life. The sections later in life, where he attempts to win Ben back, made more sense to me then. In the first book, it almost seemed that Tim was being vindictive in wanting Ben to split with Jase, but there's so much more going on in Tim's head and I was glad that this book allowed me to see that.
Since reading and reviewing Something Like Summer, I've become a huge fan of this author. There's something special about the way that he writes characters and imbues them with true emotion which reaches out to me as a reader. This book was no exception. For those of you who have read Something Like Summer, this is an absolute must read. If you haven't read that first book, then I urge you to read it, and then you can read this one too! Grade: Excellent.
Buy this book HERE.