Audiobook length: 7 hours 50 min. | Publisher: Harper Audio | Genre: YA Contemporary| Release Date: 2/11/20
Jess gave a glowing review to Fred Aceves debut, The Closest I’ve Come, making me particularly eager to pick up his sophomore novel.
After a video of 17-year-old David Espinoza getting slapped unconscious goes viral, David is too embarrassed to ever show his face around town. He’s tired of being bullied for how thin he is and spends the summer of his senior year working out to attain a physique like his favorite action movie stars. He joins a bodybuilding gym where he is slowly pulled into the insanely toxic community of professional bodybuilding and steroids.
This book was reminiscent of the reading experiences I had in high school with Chris Crutcher books. They were always about teen boys who get sucked into these new, typically more adult, worlds, and their journey to come out the other side. Watching David’s journey and how it destroys his life in unexpected ways is just fascinating.
Books don’t have genders but I think this is a particularly good book for young men because it looks at body dysmorphia, a disorder the affects mostly men and boys. I’m not sure I’ve seen another YA book that tackles this topic in quite this way. It feels particularly salient with the rise of superhero movies, where actors like Chris Pratt and Kumail Nanjiani are suddenly considered more desirable after they bulk up for a superhero movie. In the author’s note Aceves talks about his own experiences with steroid use and body dysmorphia as a teen that I think adds a layer of authenticity to the narrative.
Without getting into spoilers I will say the ending of the story felt a little too on the nose. I wish there had been a little more nuance.
Audiobook narrator Christian Barillas delivers a brilliant performance, as always. He (and Ramon de Ocampo) have narrated a large majority of Latinx books. I wish Barillas could narrate ALL of the things.
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.