Run for It All, by Carolyn LeVine Topol
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: September 22, 2016
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
When fifteen-year-old David Martin is forced to go live with his dad and his dad’s partner in Connecticut, he dreads leaving his comfortable New York City life with his two moms, especially because his dad hasn’t exactly been there for him over the years.
But with both of his moms off on a year-long job in Europe, he’s got no choice. Another thing he doesn’t have a choice about? His growing attraction to other boys. To help him deal with it all, David takes up running, first with his dad’s partner, and then with his new crush and captain of the track team, the openly gay Kevin Ringer.
After David and Kevin are attacked in the locker room following a meet, David must come to terms with his own insecurities as he navigates the ups and downs of first love, gets to know his dad in a whole new light, and tries to create a life for himself far from the world he once knew.
Ooh boy where do I start with this hot mess of a book?
Let me just start this review by telling you all that I REALLY love well done YA/New Adult novels, but this was just a straight up disaster. The only part about this book I liked was the running, and that is something that other reviewers didn’t like so I don’t know what to tell you. I really wanted to love this book and I did not.
This book started off pretty slow because for the first 15% David was literally just talking to or about his parents. Topol squeezed in so much parental drama before we even get to know David, who is the main character of the book. At this point I was asking myself, do I even want to know this kid? Not really, but there I was reading about him for another 85% wondering when it would stop.
David calls Robert his sperm doner and didn’t really care about him, but then suddenly he expected a lot from the guy. He wanted to be super close and hang out all of the time, etc., but he didn’t really make an effort either? This, of course, turned into a big dramatic issue through the rest of the book, and did nothing to further the plot (unless this was the plot?).
What I really would have liked is if the drama between David and his dad grew gradually and was dealt with throughout the book instead of it suddenly happening at the beginning. I still don’t really understand why Topol even had David live with his dads, other then the one dad was the running coach. Except a mom could coach the team? Maybe the author can’t or won’t write women?
After David went to school he, naturally, instantly met and romantically bonded with another boy at running try outs. This was strange because the author had made a big deal about Kevin being confused about his sexuality for a hot minute:
“[David] had felt lost for two years. It had begun the moment his friends had started talking about the tits on all the girls in their classes and David knew he wasn’t nearly as interested in the growing tops of the girls as he was in glancing at some of the guys in the locker room after the gym.”
Is it believable that David has two sets of gay parents and is confused if he is gay? Yes, if the author did a better job of writing it. However, I really, really have a hard time believing that this kid suddenly got over his confusion to date a boy. It also did not help that it was really out of the blue when Kevin asks him out, because I was expecting more buildup. There was way too much telling and not enough showing, which made everything in this book not very believable.
For example: In the middle of trying to establish David as part of the running team, Topol has Kevin ask him out. Then she writes about their first date as a throwaway sentence in a conversation instead of writing scenes about it. Why make the first date a thing if you aren’t going to write about it?
All of this and we haven’t even gotten to the drama between David and Kevin, who literally just started dating (excuse me: at this point they are Facebook official!). They were dating for a hot minute when they became exclusive, which is fair enough because high schoolers don’t make sense to me, but then bam they are beaten up for being gay. I am so, so tired of the gay bashing trope being something that is used at will in books like this.
Do people not realize how serious this behavior is? To have someone beat the crap out of a teenage boy for being gay as a random plot point so you can add drama is abhorrent. Is this what we want to tell teenagers who are thinking about coming out? Don’t bother because you’ll get beaten up basically immediately and everyone will hate you?
This could go on, but I don’t want to rehash the rest of the book because it was even more drama and stilted writing. I do feel that this book had a lot of missed potential. Instead of making this a well-developed book about coming out Topol got stuck in this very odd idea of both homosexuality and teenagers, and it made everything sigh-worthy.
It was akin to when you hear people claim that female characters are hard to write and you have to point out that you just write women as individuals who have different genitals. The same approach applies to queer people, or people of color for that matter. Just write them as people and then add their sexuality as something that shapes their character/personality/whatever. This is a problem that just decimated the whole book for me.
Here are some examples of quotes that show what I am talking about. All of these occurred within the first 2% of the book and were not the only examples of this.
“All his parents had agreed his biological father, Robert Martin, who donated sperm for the cause of gay parenthood, would take a back seat to his mothers.”
“David had read all sorts of articles about gay boys being too close to their mothers and wondered if that was the reason he suddenly felt so isolated.”
These quotes serve two purposes: they show the awkward language and style of the book, and also the weird way the author writes about sexuality. All I could think was oh boy this book is going to be painful.
I can’t imagine how it must be for a young queer kid to read this and think this is what it is supposed to be like. I know that YA novels are something that a lot of authors are doing right now, and that a lot of adults read them, but I really believe that they shouldn’t forget that youths are going to be reading this to try to connect to a character or the story. On that count, and many others, this book failed.
Born in Brooklyn, Carolyn LeVine Topol grew up just outside New York City. Three passions dominated her life; reading, writing, and theater. Having always dreamed of writing her own version of The Great American Novel, it took her many years to discover her most heartfelt stories took their form in the creation of LGBT romances. Sharing her writing with a small circle of friends, Carolyn received advice, encouragement and joy from their feedback.
While leading a busy life teaching pre-adolescents, Carolyn relishes the quiet wee hours of the morning. After a daily early morning run which gets her creative juices flowing, Carolyn loses herself in writing of the loves, passions, and adventures driving her characters. With the backing of a supportive husband and her young adult children, Carolyn continues to explore the fabulous world of LGBT romance with the philosophy, “Every person deserves a happy ending.”
Find Carolyn online here!
You can purchase Run For It All from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.