Bad Boy, by Elliot Wake
Publisher: Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.
But Ren has been living a double life.
Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.
But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.
Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.
Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.
Enemies to Lovers
Reference to Previous Suicide Attempt
You know those books that you open up and immediately know that it’s going to take care of you? Those books where plot hooks are dangling everywhere, characters are coming out the woodwork, and you know that the author isn’t going to forget to tie up a single one by the last page?
This is one of those books.
I first read Elliot Wake when he wrote Black Iris. He set an impossibly high standard with that book. It introduced me to a completely different kind of psychological thriller in fiction that I hadn’t come across before. The characters were visceral. The writing was intense. I barely blinked until I came to the end of it.
And I think Elliot met that standard with his writing of Bad Boy.
I took a little bit longer with this one, though not by much. It’s impossible to put down one of Elliot Wake’s really good books and just… forget you haven’t finished them.
This was an incredibly satisfying follow-on from Black Iris, in that the characters of Blythe, Laney and Armin all showed up for reprises. I also found that I liked Ellis in this ensemble cast more than I did when reading her last year in Cam Girl. Even Frankie, from the same novel, is mentioned as the new love interest’s sister, really keeping it in the family.
But, first and foremost, this story is about Ren Grant. He is a trans man who has found acceptance within the vigilante group called Black Iris, though he has found a complete lack of support in his previous best friend Ingrid and his family– most particularly his mum, who told his two young sisters that he succeeded when he attempted suicide before transition.
This book deals with equally heavy things as do all of Elliot’s books. Among them: rape, suicidal ideation, as well as attempted suicide. It deals with gaslighting, and it doesn’t shy away from any of the above. At no point is Elliot’s depiction of any of the above gratuitous. Just like Elliot doesn’t waste a single character he’s written into this world, every word in this book is absolutely needed for the story being told. But there were times when I had to put it down for a moment, if only because it had gotten a bit too real. But that’s why I read these books, so I couldn’t possibly mark it down for giving me exactly what I wanted.
ELLIOT WAKE (formerly known as Leah Raeder) is a transgender author of four novels: Unteachable, Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy. Aside from reading his brains out, Elliot enjoys video games, weightlifting, and perfecting his dapper style. He lives with his partner in Chicago.