On The Right Track
Title : On The Right Track
Author : Sam Kadence
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary, YA
Length : 184 pages (e-book)
Published : August 15, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
Ryunoski “Ru” Nakimura knows all about the trappings of fame. Expelled from a boy band for coming out as gay, he still wants to continue his career in music. Too bad his ex finds nothing better to do than exploit their relationship in the press, so Ru leaves California behind to lie low in Minnesota for a while.
Adam Corbin attends a Minnesota high school and wants to coast through as a typical student. He’s friends with an openly gay student, Bas Axelrod, but while Adam plays football, he also stays away from much socializing. Blending in and not outing himself has been easy because he’s never really been seriously interested in any of the guys he’s encountered.
When Adam meets Ru in a library, Adam begins to think he’s found that special young man who might make it worthwhile to just be himself. And for Ru, Adam looks like someone he might trade his fame for, if they could be together. Ru and Adam will both come to realize that courage and love must go hand in hand if they are to have a future.
I have been reading quite a few young adult books lately and I admit I had to sit back and think about my teen years and how my own child, who is a teen, sees the world. In some ways it is very different but some things are the same. Everything is larger than life, every new experience is as if you are the first to have ever experienced it, fear of being who you are and if you will be accepted, finding that place where you fit in, experiencing love.
On the Right Track takes us into that world but also adds to it a young man who has not had a “normal” childhood, practically no childhood at all. Ryunoski Nakimura is seventeen and has recently gone from being on top of the world as part of a very popular boy band, Vocal Growth, to being scandalized when he was outed by his boyfriend, Kris, whom he had trusted. Being “released” from his contract with the band and ending up the focus of some very negative publicity has taken its toll on him. Although his father had prepared him for stardom from a very young age with music lessons and private tutoring, Ru has been on his own for a while now. His father had abandoned him when, at eleven years old, Ru told his father that he was gay. As he grows and strives to become a bigger star than even his father had imagined, he still has no family support. His mother is more interested in jetsetting with her new boyfriend than being there for Ru. He had thought Kris had loved him but realized it was just his fame that he loved.
Tommy, Ru’s best friend and fellow band member, convinces him to spend some time out of the limelight at Tommy’s apartment in Minnesota. Ru is depressed and has not been able to write any songs since Kris’s betrayal. One afternoon, Ru goes to a local library on a small college campus. This campus is next to a high school that also shares the library. While reading in a quiet area of the library, Ru notices a young man with pale blonde hair and large dark brown eyes has come to work at a computer in his area. He is drawn to him and they share shy glances. When the young man leaves to go to the circulation desk, Ru leaves his name and phone number in the young man’s folder. He is hopeful that maybe he will call.
Adam Corbin is a junior in high school. He is sixteen, athletic, shy and just trying to fit in and stay unnoticed until he can graduate. Adam is also gay. He decided it is safer to not come out after seeing one of his friends, Sebastian Axelrod, or “Bas” as everyone calls him, severely beaten in one of the school bathrooms. Adam found him and called for help. Sebastian is openly gay and has had to take a lot of abuse for just being himself. Adam remains friends with Bas but keeps a certain amount of distance for fear of what could happen to him.
After Tommy sets things in motion with a text to Adam from Ru’s phone, the young men agree to meet for dinner. Ru decides not to tell Adam who he is for fear he will turn Ru away.
The connection is quick and emotions intense and very reminiscent of how it feels to fall in love for the first time. Adam is innocent and has never had a date or even been kissed. Until now there has never been anyone that has held his interest. He is also pretty level-headed for his age and lets Ru know that he is not ready to move quickly. Ru is more experienced and sometimes behaves as if he is much older; though there are times his reactions to situations and his insecurities remind us that he is still just seventeen. Adams parents are very strict with his internet access and by not having access to this we are led to believe that Adam has never seen or heard of Vocal Growth. Ru wants to tell Adam who he is, but he keeps waiting for the right time. He is enjoying being with someone who likes him for himself, not his fame. Adam is also not sharing this new relationship with anyone for fear he will be outed at school and face the repercussions like his friend, Bas, did.
Adams parents are those parents that, when we were teens, we wish we had. They love Adam unconditionally; they are accepting that he is gay and willing to compromise with Adam on the limits of his and Ru’s relationship. Adam has an open and honest relationship with his parents and the communication makes it work.
When a situation leads to Adam being outed on a social media network, he and Ru must make some decisions regarding their relationship and how they want the world to see them and what it means to stand up for yourself.
I enjoyed On the Right Track very much. It addresses bullying, friendship, first love, what society puts children through every day and how hard it is to deal with it, especially if you have people telling you that there is something wrong with you and, in Sebastian’s case, taking it to a physical level of violence. There really is a minimal amount of angst and a mix of supportive and non supportive characters surrounding the main characters. Real life might not always work out like it did for Ru and Adam, but I enjoyed feeling like it could and sharing the hopefulness of youth.
Rated 4 stars by Deb