I’ve had Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble sitting on my shelf for a long time, and I finally got around to reading it. My life has been a little busy lately, so I’ve had plenty of time to digest this book between the time I finished reading it and when I sat down to write this review.
Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, honest, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.
But when Adam graduates and takes an Off-Broadway job in New York—at Nate’s insistence—that certainty begins to flicker. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it is the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.
Don’t Let Me Go is essentially a coming-of-age story about young love, coming out of the closet, and challenging the systems and people who don’t share your beliefs. The story focuses on Nate Schaper, who is facing a long-distance relationship with his boyfriend Adam. It’s the first time these two have been separated, and it isn’t easy for them. They struggle with neediness, jealousy, miscommunications, and the conflicting desires to be together but also forge their own identities and have their own experiences.
To cope with Adam’s absence, Nate starts a blog. I thought this would be a more central aspect of the story, but all it really does is stir up some controversy with conservative protesters and introduce a gay classmate, Luke. There are less than a dozen blog posts in the entire book, and all of them are the length of the average Facebook status. It’s not much of a blog.
The real consequence of starting this blogging project is that Nate connects with another gay teen. At first this helps to soothe Nate’s angst over Adam’s physical absence, but later their connection becomes more complicated. Luke, while sweet and adorable, seemed so passive and hapless that he was almost pathetic. It was like reading a stereotype of an emerging twink — his nervous earnestness, dorky interests, bug phobia, and even bladder control problems. Luke eventually stands up for himself in a very quiet, dignified way, but it was difficult to root for him because he displayed weakness and naiveté at every turn.
If you’re squicked by infidelity in books, Don’t Let Me Go will definitely make you uncomfortable. It’s not easy to be faithful when you’re a teenager, angry and confused, and the boys do a lot of hooking up in this novel. I’m not one to let fictional infidelity bother me, but what did get to me was watching the Nate try to have a relationship with someone to whom he was so ill-matched. It was like watching a slow-motion train wreck, and it just broke my heart.
The book’s emotional climax — a bitter argument between Nate and Adam — was also difficult to read. It was too poetic, almost to the point of being melodramatic. No one spouts Shakespearean-quality comebacks during a heated, emotional argument.
Nevertheless, Don’t Let Me Go is an unflinching portrayal of a gay teen experience. Nate and his friends find support in unexpected places, endure physical and emotional abuse, and are forced to make some tough decisions. Trumble is frank about the boys’ sex lives. The intimate scenes are not graphic or particularly detailed, but the fact is that these teenagers are having sex and the sky does not fall. That was something I really appreciated about this book. That’s the main reason why I would recommend this book to lovers of New Adult fiction — it’s honest about the lives and attitudes of today’s youth.