This Rainbow Thursday, I'm reviewing an adult literary novel from Kensington books that caught my attention. Hope you enjoy it! Kensington publishes a decent amount of LGBTQ fiction, and a lot of it is at least good for mature teens. Some, however, is more adult (like the Erotica - scratch that, especially the Erotica).
Author: Lee Houck
A book about a gay hustler living in New York. Immediately a premise that sticks in your mind as being important. Something that can be done really really well. Also something that can be overdone. When I first read Trouble Boy by Tom Dolby, I remember the newness of this idea. It's something that I have come to realize is not that new. Appealing, yes, but nothing new. New York and gay sexual awakening are practically one and the same in our culture today. That being said, I thought Yield was a strong literary novel, but will be a hard sell for people that aren't into that type of reading.
* Warning * This book does mention sex quite a bit, and is something I would recommend only for older (like 15 and up) teens, or adults.
Being a hustler is Simon's job. He really works for a hospital by organizing medical records, but hustling is how he pays his bills. The sex is meaningless. Empty. He goes into his dark place while the deed is being done, and is left with a funny story to relate with his friends, and cash in his pocket. A string of gay bashings are going around the city, and his friend Louis - a former Calvin Klein underwear model - is one of the ones hit up. Now he has a roommate.
An annoying roommate. His hustling gig has brought in some interesting characters. The reliable Mr. Bartlett, a few kinks and many a closeted father or politician. And Aiden. The amazingly cute guy across the street. The guy that decides, for a night, he needs someone. Simon is in heaven. Aiden has manners and is very homey, and he can't help but be attractive. If only Simon could hold on to a guy for more than a few weeks.
Yield is a novel that upsets my stomach, and not in a bad way. It was really gritty and intense, and I can understand the appeal to readers of a darker design. There were some problems, but overall I felt they were more personal preference kinds of problems (overall - not all the time).
Simon is a protagonist of the classic type that is featured in novels portraying the darker side of sexuality. He is emotionally distant, especially with normally emotional activities, and he has a tendency to go into darker territory. Which isn't bad. I've loved a lot of great books that are incredibly dark, but Simon just has a hard time meshing with the reader. On one hand, I loved how he looked at the world with this twisted sense of beauty. Some of his descriptions are just so understandable. Yet there is always that extreme level of disillusion he gives the reader. Either his world is too real or not real enough, and it's odd. Where in some books a character that is emotionally distant allows you to see the full effects of things, Simon's hustling isn't really anything that matters, which is concerning. I would have accepted ANYTHING, had it been discussed a little more than it was.
Secondary characters are much better at getting the story across, in my opinion. Louis was tortured and complex - I loved watching his fall from grace as a model, and felt the emotional level of that was handled much better than Simon's hustling. Their friends Farmer and Jaron - a nerd and a cutter/anorexic, respectively - were also really interesting, though they weren't around much throughout the novel. I loved Farmer because he was a little ray of sunshine in the novel, and it desperately needed one. Aiden was also the same way, and the reader will thank the reading gods that he appears to help Simon become a little less depressed and whiny.
The writing style was literary, and was very stark yet beautiful. Not the most compelling literary fiction for me, but it was compelling enough to have me slogging through some of the slower parts. I loved the symbolism and the feel of gritty New York. The characters were well written, and I liked the idea of the plot - even if some of the scenes just totally didn't make sense to me.
Yield was a mixed bag. I loved the concept, a lot of the side characters, and a lot of the insights and descriptions inside, but it felt like the execution was easily muddled and clunky in places. Literary does not mean 'impossible to understand', and I think authors like Houck are great, but fail to realize that they will capture more readers by having the main events being easy to analyze, and having the subtler things be the complex part of the writing. Of course, that is just my opinion. I also felt the darkness was a little overwrought and made it harder to get into. If you like literary fiction, especially of the LGBTQ variety, this will be a nice one to pick up, but it won't make many new fans out of reluctant literary readers. Which isn't bad, but it just doesn't have the sparkle or the insight that books like Trouble Boy can reach.
Cover Comments: I like it, as it matches the book, but looking at it for a long time is depressing. (Again, like the book)
Rating: 3.0 stars
Copy: Received from Craig at Kensington (Thanks, Craig!)