Contemporary · diverse characters · general fiction · lgbtqia content · mental health · substance abuse

REVIEW: On Chocorua by Robin Reardon

The Official Description: A mountain. A blizzard. A young man new to hiking and to love, making mistakes in both.
First year of college. A great time to re-invent yourself. Nathan Bartlett takes the opportunity very seriously—maybe a little too seriously. And he makes mistakes.

His mistakes? Falling for a straight guy who reminds him of his beloved older brother. Getting too invested in the substance abuse disorders of two other students. And climbing a mountain in a snowstorm for all the wrong reasons.

But he also develops friendships that will be his for life. He faces his inner demons and comes up with a plan. And he realizes that answers to important questions are seldom waiting on the surface but must be worked for, or struggled for, or suffered for—and sometimes all three.

Nathan is a trailblazer on his own journey. His success will be measured not by how well he follows someone else’s path, but by whether he can forge his own. This first book in a series of three novels gets Nathan started on a journey that will teach him about himself, about life, and about love.

Walk with him.

Just the facts: Coming of age, substance abuse, loss in the family

A heavy-hitting story… Nathan is coming out, learning about his family, finding his place in the world.  – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit:  At the beginning of this book, it’s clear that Nathan has been through a loss. He’s on a hike that’s important to him for a few reasons. His life has changed… maybe he’s learned some things, maybe he’s just getting to know himself. After the introduction to Nathan, his story unfolds through his own present perspective and some flashbacks to his past.

This is not a gay romance novel, don’t go in expecting that. This is a novel about growing up, coming out and the losses we face when we are young.

There’s a fair amount going on in this story. I think first and foremost, it’s about life. It’s about all the things that can happen in life… some of them great, some of them devastating. Now, Nathan has had more than his fair share of major events in his life. His parents were killed in an accident when he was very young and he was raised by his grandmother… and his older brother Neil.

Nathan idolizes his brother… possibly without even knowing he does. Neil is the measure to which Nathan unconsciously compares all the males in his life. I found that quite endearing, and sad in a way. Clearly, Nathan was longing for a father figure… and yes, Neil was a father figure, but he was also a young man trying to live his life.

There are a few supporting characters of note in this story. Alden enters Nathan’s life once he is in College. They meet in an acting class and become friends. For Nathan, it’s an exploration of being gay. He isn’t sure how to make the first move, or if he should… and I really enjoyed the way Reardon wrote his character. Nathan’s thoughts reminded me of my own youth… the intensity and confusion and joy that comes with meeting people for the first time. Reardon did a great job of capturing the feel of Nathan’s youth. For his part, Alden is an interesting fellow. He’s a bit difficult for Nathan to read at first, it becomes clear later why… and Alden remains a bit of a mystery throughout the novel. But, Nathan learns from him even if it may be because he’s hurt by the relationship.

Daniel is another interesting supporting character. He meets Nathan where they both work int he College cafeteria. It’s unclear whether he’s interested in Nathan as a potential partner… or as a friend. However, Nathan seems to see Daniel as a “Neil replacement”. Again, Nathan is searching for that father figure he didn’t have while he was growing up.

There are interesting explorations of substance abuse and addiction in this novel. Some of it may be difficult for people to read but I felt it was very authentic. One of my best friends was an addict and some of the patterns and behaviors felt very familiar to me.

In short, this first novel in a series that looks as though it’s going to be really great. Just one story in and I already feel as though I’m invested in Nathan and his life. Looking forward to reading the next book!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Description of abusive hazing at fraternity (off-page), minor character is dealing with addiction, supporting character relapses, homophobia, characters have deceased parents, description of frostbite, description of being lost on a hike.

Links: Goodreads // The Author //

I received an ARC of On Chocorua by Robin Reardon from Victory Editing via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

ratings legend

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