Not Broken, Just Bent
Title : Not Broken, Just Bent
Author : Mia Kerick
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary, YA
Length : 180 pages (e-book)
Published : November 14, 2013
Rating : ★★★★★
Braving the start of high school, longtime childhood friends Benjamin Wells and Timmy Norton quickly realize they are entering a whole new world colored by their family responsibilities. Ben is trying to please his strict father; Timmy is taking care of his younger sisters. While their easy camaraderie is still comfortable, Ben notices Timmy growing distant and evasive, but Ben has his own problems. It’s easier to let concerns about Timmy’s home life slide, especially when Timmy changes directions and starts to get a little too close. Ben doesn’t know how to handle the new feelings Timmy’s desire for love inspires, and his continuing denial wounds Timmy deeply.
But what Timmy perceives as Ben’s greatest betrayal is yet to come, and the fallout threatens to break them apart forever. Over the next four years, the push and pull between them and the outside world twists and tears at Ben and Timmy, and they are haunted by fear and regret. However, sometimes what seems broken is just a little bent, and if they can find forgiveness within themselves, Ben and Timmy may be able to move forward together.
“He came over one night for dinner when we were eight years or so, after I’d found him playing on the swing set behind the trailer park a ways down the road, and he just kept on coming back.”
When Ben Wells first spots Timmy Norton on that swing set for the first time, they form an immediate bond and it sees the start of a wonderful friendship. Ben lives with his father, his mother having left them before he was even a year old. His father may be a little strict but it’s obvious he loves his son. He accepts Tim’s presence in Ben’s life right from the start, including him as part of their little family despite Tim’s family being regarded as ‘trailer trash’. Ben’s father knows that Timmy’s home life is less than ideal, although he is unaware as to the extent of how bad it is. As the boys’ birthdays are only a couple of weeks apart, it had become tradition for them to celebrate them together with Ben’s father. Tim’s mother, stepfather and three little sisters all live at the local trailer park. Timmy has been physically and mentally abused by his stepfather, Larry, for years. Tim’s mother rarely leaves her room and both parents abuse alcohol and drugs. Ben, being a young teenager and not knowing what to do about the abuse he suspects his friends is subjected to, chooses to take Tim’s word at face value that everything is fine and he can handle it. It’s a tendency Ben has for shying away from things he finds too difficult to deal with, such as the dawning realisation that his feelings for Timmy go deeper than friendship.
The summer before their junior year in high school, Timmy and Benny are working at their job at the local gas station. After work, they head home to Ben’s for the night, as per their usual routine. This time, however, they decide to crash in a nest of blankets on floor in front of the TV in Ben’s bedroom instead of in the bunk beds. When Tim asks Ben if they could move closer together, Ben’s immediate reaction is to freak out from his increasing suspicion about his real feelings for his best friend and he uses the marks on Tim’s back as a distraction from his body’s demands. When he asks Tim about them, Tim tells him that it’s fine, he can handle what his stepfather dishes out to him, because it’s better than his mother or sisters getting it instead. Ben takes his best friend’s hand in his as they fall asleep together. And that’s how they continue every time after that.
In the summer before their senior year, the two best friends decide to go camping together for a weekend. Just the two of them. And it’s there that their friendship takes another step, although Ben is still unwilling to inspect either his feeling for Timmy or his sexuality too closely. Then, in the fall of their senior year, Ben takes Tim to visit his grandma. When Timmy goes to kiss Ben, Benny shies away even though there’s nothing he wants more than to kiss Timmy. He can see the hurt mixed in with the affection in his best friend’s eyes, but he doesn’t yet feel ready to accept that he’s gay and very possibly in love with his best friend. “I hoped I could accept the nameless feeling and own it before it was too late.”
Just Broken, Not Bent is wonderful coming of age YA story told from the POV of the eighteen year Ben. I really liked the ‘voice’ right from the start. It felt very authentic without being overdone to the point of irritating and remained consistently true throughout the whole book. The character development and unfolding of the story is wonderful and layered. I felt everything along with not only Ben, but also Timmy; the love they had for each other right from the start, their changing feelings for each other as they got older, the heartache caused by Ben’s mistakes and the inevitable consequence of decisions made, as well as the hope when they re-unite. I deeply felt every one of those things the characters went through. It was all so realistically and believably portrayed – the good and the bad. Because there are consequences to actions, life isn’t always sunshine and roses, and some people do go through bad times. But they also have joy and fun and there can be happiness at the end of the rainbow.
I really loved this book. I loved the characters, loved their relationship and loved the realistic way they were drawn. I even loved that some of it made me cry. The slow realisation of Ben, both that he was gay and that he was in love with Timmy, was sweet and made my heart ache for Timmy at the same time. The bond and affection those two always had with each other is so very endearing, the time hinted at in the prologue notwithstanding. I so loved these boys and really, really wanted them to have their happy. Not Broken, Just Bent was my first book by Mia Kerick. It certainly won’t be my last!
Rated 5 stars by BookSmitten