I just read it again. The second time in no way diminished the effect. Who is this guy? He’s one part Salinger, one part Maupin and the goddamn Wizard of Oz! And I’m not just saying that because he’s actually humble enough to read all his reviews. Now, I don’t know John personally, but from reading his Tales from Foster High, I have no doubt that somewhere in the beautifully crafted tear-jerkers, he’s injected little parts of himself for everyone to read. I’m convinced he has Kyle’s brains, Brad’s heart, Jennifer’s spunk and Robbie’s humour. Which makes him, of course, the best person to tell the story of the lives of gay teens in Foster, Texas.
This book, number four in the series, picks up shortly after it left off at the end of Raise Your Glass, with lead characters Kyle and Brad, fumbling their way through first love under the scrutiny of people who abhor their life choices, still chaffing from the last small victory that allowed Brad to resume his place on the baseball team. While things are still tough for the teen lovers, things may be starting to get better. And cue ominous background music as that sentiment gets shot to shit.
This is the first of the Foster High tales that is actually in full novel format, and what a novel it is. Goode takes us through the troubling journey of Kyle and Brad, narrated alternately by both characters, and spreads the net further over their friends and family, introducing new characters, expanding on the old ones, all in perfect prose to make your eyes water for days. If you’re not crying about how goddamn cute those boys are, then you are weeping incoherently at the tragic turn of events the story takes.
This book also introduces a new character named Robbie, a local boutique owner, who, from Mr Goode’s own lips, is to be a main feature in an upcoming novel. His feminine descriptions and rapier wit are an awesome addition to the crew, and at times had me laughing uncontrollably:
“And show me something to make him look cute,” she said, turning back to him.
“That he already is,” Robbie said, heading toward a rack of blouses. “You look through here and see if you can find something that doesn’t make you look like a total bitch.” He gave her a small grin. “I’d suggest something that covers your face.”
“I hope you die in a fire,” she said, pushing him out of the way.
I can’t be the only one who slightly fell in love with Robbie at this point? The story also goes onto reveal a significant link between Robbie and former sports star and equipment store owner, Tyler Parker, which, though touched upon in this book, will be further autopsied in the next book.
As we take a break from Foster High for Winter break, things start to unravel for the kids, in the worst possible way and what begins as a prank to exact revenge, ultimately ends in tragedy. I will say no more, you have to read it (with a box of Kleenex if you have any sense at all) to believe it.
It’s in the face of this tragedy that we see Kyle turn into a freakin’ gay rights activist and commandeer the day for his own, as from mousey no-one, the kid becomes a superhero.
Trust me when I say, this is not a book to be missed, and I whole heartedly recommend consuming page after page of this wonder, and hell, read it again when you’re done. There really are no more words to express how I loved this book, so I’m paying it forward. Go, read, enjoy.
John Goode’s latest book, Taking Chances was released on August 7th and is available to buy from the good folks at Dreamspinner Press, where you can find all the Tales from Foster High. I’ll be back later in the week to review this latest instalment to the series, and John himself has agreed to a little interview, so you can hear about Foster straight from his own lips.