A moving middle-grade debut for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t belong.
Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.
M/M young romance, middle-grade fiction
Brian has always been anxious and socially challenged. But things get even worse when he and his little brother are put into foster care. Brian’s anxiety becomes worse, his family seems to be falling apart and his father is on the run.
There are some serious issues explored in this book. Although it’s rated at a middle-grade level, it would probably interested many YA readers. The issues are explored in a way that is detailed enough to be clear and gentle enough to be caring.
Brian is a lovely character. He loves his little brother and is very protective of him during the move into foster care. Of course, he’s confused about his father leaving the family behind and he’s hurt by his mother’s suicide attempt. Like I said, some heavy issues!
The other main character in the book is Ezra. Ezra is a great character; he is quite intriguing. He’s the kind of guy we all know, friendly with everyone, and seems to be comfortable with himself. Except, the thing is, behind the smile Ezra is working a lot out. One of the key things he’s trying to understand is the way he feels about Brian.
Sexual Identity is explored in this book but well within the context of a middle-grader’s experience. Chad Lucas writes Ezra exceptionally well – exploring his feelings, his fear of labeling himself, and the way he wonders how his friends will feel. Lucas also writes with finesse about micro-aggressions and homophobic statements that young people will often use simply because it’s part of their vocabulary or because it’s an accepted part of their senses of humor. The way that Lucas addresses this will really enable readers to have a serious look at their own language without feeling threatened or called out.
I also really enjoyed the progression of their friendship and the fact that they came to no life-changing conclusions regarding one another. This was a refreshing and well-written story.
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) Character attempts suicide by prescription medication, a character finds his mother after she has attempted suicide, father abandons the family to hide from law enforcement, characters run away from a foster home, a character lives with severe and challenges anxiety disorder, character’s parent is involved in illegal activity and is arrested.
I received an ARC of Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas from Amulet Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.