These days I have loads of new books to read. It means I don’t get through stuff that doesn’t grab me. But it also means that I can fall in love with something I wouldn’t normally have heard about. I like my cold approach to reading: no hype, no fanfare, no reviews. But I love it most when it pays off and I get to recommend an under-the-radar book to people.
Today that book is These Things Happen by Richard Kramer. I knew nothing about it, except that the author has a television pedigree including shows like Thirtysomething so I figured it might be interesting to see what his novel was like.
It’s a multi-perspective story, something I love when it’s done well. And it’s done quite well (with some exceptions, but overall very good). It’s a New York story, which with me is a make-or-break and it falls strongly on the “make” side. Enough city-love without smothering you in its New York-y ness.
This isn’t necessarily a plot book, though lots of stuff happens. It’s not a boring character study. But the characters are so interesting that you’re along for pretty much whatever ride Kramer takes you on.
The story centers around Wesley, a smart but naive 10th grader. His parents split years ago. He lives with his mom, who’s remarried. His dad came out and is now a big-time gay rights advocate with a live-in partner, George. Wesley’s recently started living with his dad to get to know him better, and much of the book is about Wesley’s slowly blossoming relationship with George.
My favorite scenes were full of awkwardness. George wants Wesley to like him but finds himself full of manufactured good cheer while he tries to forge a sincere connection. Wesley wants more time with his dad, who is continually drawn out of every conversation by the constant braying of his cell phone.
There is also Theo, Wesley’s best friend who’s just announced he’s gay in front of the entire student body of their high school without any thought for the consequences.
Wesley and George are both strong voices in the novel. There are some weaknesses in the second half of the book when we get some new perspectives, but it’s not enough for me to change my mind about recommending it. It’s a lovely book, and more people should hear about it.
Thanks to Unbridled Books for providing me with access to an e-galley of this book.