Friday, August 22, 2014

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

“. . . the world’s most ill-suited Romeo in pursuit of the world’s least convincing Juliet” (16) sums up this romance, and romance here does not necessarily mean fluff.

The story begins as a funny case of opposites attract: introspective, reclusive, sarcastic, clinically-depressed and prone to anxiety attacks author, Ash Winters, finds himself drawn to Darian, a flamboyant, aspiring model ,and “glitter pirate” (as dubbed by Ash) who, despite his obsession with fashion and appearances, possesses a big heart and accepting nature. A one-night stand that turns into something more sounds flimsy, but Hall makes it work with his strong story, solid writing, and well-developed characters.

Hall’s debut provides a well-rounded package while addressing mental illness. There is sharp dialogue, snarkiness, strong chemistry, and plenty of comic moments and wry humor even with the serious parts. The book is distinctly British in tone with phrasing and slang, establishing a sense of place. Darian’s prominent Essex accent especially works (readers have to “hear” the words to understand what he says and to get an idea of what he “sounds” like).

The writing is wonderful and delightful to read. Ash’s first-person voice stands out as he narrates and is fitting for a writer-- full of expressive imagery, eloquent prose, and dry humor, as he captures his experiences, especially that of depression and how it takes over everything. Even the book structure is dictated by Ash’s moment-to-moment existence (“now,” “later,” “some day”), rather than organized by tidy chapters

This novel takes a heartbreaking and thoughtful examination of depression, but it does not take the easy way out with sudden miracles or excusing Ash's bad behavior. Depression remains a huge part of Ash's life, and it will always impact his life and the people who are part of his life.

Look for Glitterland on VBPL’s Overdrive site. For more Hall, try Iron and Velvet. For more gay romance dealing with disabilities, try Heidi Cullinan’s Dirty Laundry. Country Mouse is also an opposites-attract romance featuring another abrasive Brit.

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