Nov 21, 2017

[Books] Loving Lakyn Review

As much as any creative work has a message that it hopes to impart, it was the movie Ang Araw Sa Likod Mo that proudly proclaimed itself to be an "advocacy film" in its marketing and that term really captured what it was. It had a story to tell but it was also very proud of its message and it wanted to make sure people knew that it wanted to tackle its subject seriously.

Loving Lakyn is a similar work in the sense that its also a story with a strong message empowering it. More than you're typical LGBT coming-of-age romance story, this book was also made in cooperation with The Trevor Project - LGBT crisis intervention and suicide prevention services.

I wasn't expecting an easy read given the book did intend to address suicide and other mental health concerns. But it's a book with a good cause and I wanted to see how they'd address which is quite typically a complex subject to write about. The resulting was better than I had expected and quite the strong piece when it comes to tackling suicide in a work of fiction.

Synopsis: Loving Lakyn is an LGBT romance novel written by Charlotte Reagan. Disclosure: I received a free advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the work.

The book begins with our protagonist Lakyn waking up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Of course for him it was more a failed suicide as he had seriously hoped to end things but it seems life wasn't done with him. And now it's the painful crawl back into some weak semblance of a normal life as his Uncle Ben takes him in as his parents seem overly hostile about the whole thing. Lakyn is under the close scrutiny of Uncle Ben and his family and this only adds to his anxiety.

He does his best to live by his uncle's rules - at the very least this has taken him away from his abusive parents. And as he demonstrates his ability to comply with the rules and avoid further abusive behavior, they send him off to summer camp as has always been the practice. There he is reunited with Scott, a football player from school with a questionable reputation for being not quite straight. He's totally Lakyn's type but he's also not in an emotional state for even considering getting involved with someone. And yet it seems that Scott is deliberately making an effort to spend more time with him no matter how hard he tries to push him way.

What I Liked: This was a seriously intimate take on suicide and the sort of mental state one is in once you get to that point. Add in the fact that it's told from Lakyn's perspective directly, we're also privy to all the different cloudy thoughts in his head and that's all part of setting the scene properly. His depression and his lack of a will to live is presented in scary detail down to all the different ways he tries to cope with his anxiety and the overwhelming feelings of numbness that comes with it. And I think in this regard to the book did well.

The progression of events and the way things were structured were also quite interesting. It starts out with a very heavy feeling to things as we do accompany Lakyn through his journey of recovery. He starts with no desire to cooperate and he's pretty determined to push everyone away. But in time he opens up and is reminded that the people around him have their share of struggles and burdens to bear and thus the story really starts to move forward.

What Could Be Better: The book suffers from the same challenge I encounter in many such young adult romances, especially LGBT ones. I'm talking about rather idealized circumstances curing a lot of the other problems and some pretty convenient plot moments. Lakyn comes from a rich family and an uncle who can afford to take him in, pay of his therapy and other treatment and even go through legal procedures to adopt him fully. This wasn't even a big point in the story - just a moment when Lakyn signs the paperwork and later a change of name.

Then he gets the closeted football player love interest who is ridiculously patient with his bristly demeanor. Sure he has his own secret problem to deal with and that sounds his character out a bit but in the end it's all pretty convenient that he takes an interest in Lakyn and really pushes his way into his life. Scott even comes with the super supportive straight friend Matt who goes along with Scott's interest in all this. But hey, we needed a story.

TL;DR: Loving Lakyn is a story with a lot of heart and a serious interest in presenting suicide in a realistic manner. The edges were smoothened out and we have a case where the cost of and access to treatment is not an issue but that is all really for the convenience of the story. Thus the book gets a good 3.5 self-destructive behaviors Lakyn subjects himself to out of a possible 5.

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