February 1st, 2011

andrew potter

Something for Nothing by Connie Bailey

Having read the previous coming of age novel by Connie Bailey, True Blue, I knew what to expect from this one: a light and “happy” story on teens in love with a little drama but not too much. Plus a little bit of “I’m gay but I’m not sure it’s a proper thing” attitude that sometime you find in the yaoi novels, but with all a western nuance; by the way there is also the naïve attitude of one of the main characters that suddenly disappear as soon as he has the chance to “taste” the forbidden fruit.

Basically you have double the deal in this story since the teen couples are two, Alvaro “Varo” and Candelario “Cande”, the main one, but also Enrique “Kiki” and Leo, the supporting one, Alvaro’s best friends that to me stole the scene to the much ordinary and cute couple of Varo and Cande.

Varo, Kiki and Leo are attending a catholic school in the Spanish neighbourhood of Los Angeles for troubled teenagers. More or less no one in the school, from the students to the professors, are expecting anything else from the teenagers to attend school and avoid trouble, but of course both expectations are often dismissed. In a way the trio of friends are not so bad: Varo, a single mother kid who is helping at home; Kiki, the neglected son of a wealthy couple pending divorce; and Leo, already with a criminal record who is working and studying at the same time to help paying his little brother’s tuition. The strange thing is that, even if the actual relationship between Kiki and Leo will start later in the story, already from the first pages I thought they were together: from a various of little signs, they seemed to me more “bonded” than with Varo, Varo was like an external addition to their duo. When Cande enters the scene it’s obvious he will be the completion of Varo, since Kiki and Leo were already good together; I realized from the jealousy Kiki felt for Varo that indeed he was thinking at Varo sentimentally, but the jealousy was sudden and soon forgotten, and Kiki pursued Leo’s attention as soon as he realized Varo was interested in Cande.

In any case, all four of them are claiming they are “not” gay; the only one who is a little on the edge is Varo, who admits he is bisexual and he has already had boyfriends in the past. The one who is the most likely gay, Kiki, is indeed the one at the opposite: he has never had any interested in men if not for his crush on Varo. When Kiki and Leo end together, it’s a mix of consolation prize and need of companionship: Kiki is having trouble at home, he needs more attention than friends could give him and Leo is there, and free, while Varo is committed to conquer Cande. Even if the starting point of the relationship is probably convenience, their story is nice and sexy, and it felt more “real” than that of Cande and Varo, less staged: Kiki and Leo were not playing the role of the uke and seme, they were more two teenagers suddenly free to experiment without adult supervision.

Cande and Varo’s relationship instead was a little more complicated for me to understand: at first I thought Cande was this completely innocent kid who was almost scared by Varo’s sexual approach; but aside from some broken sentences, as soon as they fall in bed together, Cande seems to take the upper hand and to lead the relationship at his own pace. It’s a bit of top from the bottom attitude, but more than that I think it’s the real Cande coming out (no pun intended): with the development of the story we will understand that Cande is not exactly who he claims to be, and I think the first impression I had of him was his staged persona.

Even if there is a “thriller” subplot, it’s simple and not very dangerous: I think the author didn’t want to put too much obstacles in the way of her characters, and in the end this is more a good comedy than a drama.


Amazon: Something for Nothing
Amazon Kindle: Something for Nothing
Paperback: 214 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (June 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1615815260
ISBN-13: 978-1615815265

Reading List:

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Cover Art by Anne Cain
andrew potter

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