Book Review by Jude: Abroad by Liz Jacobs
Nick Melnikov has finally done it — he’s come out.
To himself. To his sister. And to Dex, who listens, hears him, and understands. To Dex, who leads him on a sensual journey and shows him all that they could be, if Nick could only find the courage. It’s one thing to let yourself be open thousands of miles away from your family, but exchange student Nick is uncomfortably aware that his time with Dex is running out. Who will he be when he goes home again?
Dex Cartwell is as happy with Nick as he’s ever been, but he can’t ignore the shadow of Nick’s inevitable departure from London, back to his life in Michigan. Is it worth it for Dex to expose his heart to another doomed relationship with a predetermined expiration date? What does Dex really want for the beginning of the next chapter in his life, post-graduation?
Dex wants to turn to his best friend in the struggle to find a way forward, but Izzy Jones has her own problems. She’s got one friend in love with her, and when she turns to another for help things get twice as complicated. Izzy never wanted complicated, but life just keeps getting in the way — and sweeping her off her feet.
Then Nick’s mom and sister come for a visit, and he is forced to decide between living his truth and protecting himself from fear and change. It’s going to take a lot of courage and a few leaps in the dark if Nick, Dex, and Izzy are to find a way to live and love on their own terms.
Brain Mill Press | Amazon | Goodreads
Release Date: January 2nd
5 Stars like WHOA.
I won’t lie, this book will be impossible ignore without referencing the first book, since Abroad is a duology. I was lucky enough to get the first half for 99 cents when the second came out. I thought I’d read the first, see how I felt and then consider the second.
I bought this book two chapters into the first. It’s that good.
Jacobs balances so many threads in these books it’s dizzying. What’s more, she does it with envious skill. I’ll say off the bat: the writing is lovely. Jacobs has a turn of phrase and a very clear prose style that I enjoyed throughout. Her dialogue in particular is fantastic. For days, I could hear the voices of the characters in my head, living with me. This is a book that lingers.
Nick’s journey in this story is a beautiful one and also a really difficult one. It’s amazing to watch him growing into himself, to have that sexual awakening with Dex, so get to experience what being someone’s boyfriend is like. Although he’s still hesitant in many ways with their friends, there’s something about getting to experience him rooted in Dex, which is a connection that he lacked in the first book, that made him a new person in my eyes.
Dex, to me, is in so many ways an utterly self-assured character. I’m not sure that’s the right way to describe him, because he has many doubts about many things throughout the book. But he’s grounded in a particular and special way only few are. I think that this made him and Nick a wonderful pair, but also served to make his storyline throughout the book more nuanced. Jacobs made Dex so human, so complicated, so lovely.
Izzy took me by surprise in this book: she stole my heart. I enjoyed her in the first, but her moment in this book really spoke to a story that I don’t see often in this genre, and one that I long to see more often. Her coming of age here – coming out as bisexual, figuring out that she’s bisexual, and realizing she’s fallen for her close friend Alex – is about as complex as it gets. Jacobs set a huge bar with this story. Izzy really struggles with what these things mean for her identity, and what they mean for others; what relationships she needs to repair, and how to really let herself listen to her voice, her story, and her heart.
There is honestly so much that is really carefully and thoughtfully done in this book. Jacobs doesn’t shy from Dex and Nick discussing race and their differences. They both spend time here learning — how to speak, how to listen, how to be patient. I’ve never read a book in this genre that tackles these conversations so head on.
If you like books with friends as family, I would definitely recommend this one. I will warn, the first section of this book finds that family a bit fractured; watching them come back together after several things have affected their dynamic (I don’t want to spoil everything) was so satisfying. This is a story about the three main narrators, yes, but also about a group of friends, in their early twenties, at a crossroads in their lives. They’re on the cusp of graduation, at a tipping point, and it shows.
I love Nick’s coming out story for two reasons: his relationship with his sister throughout the books was a highlight for me. When he does come out to her, I was holding my breath through the whole scene. Jacobs created a lovely scene with the perfect amount of tension and sweetness. Although his mother didn’t take the news well when he came out to her (and jeez, dear sweet Nick, why then? LOL. Poor thing) I appreciated the way Jacobs handled that aspect of the story.
This story is sensual and heartbreaking, uplifting and funny, with utterly human characters you will fall in love with, even through their many missteps and mistakes. I very highly recommend this book.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.
Genre: Contemporary Publisher: Brain Mill Press Review Tag: coming of age Tag: Part of a series Abroad Liz Jacobs The Hellum & Neal series
Jude Sierra View All →
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for Queer Books Unbound. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.
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