Monday, June 26, 2017

Slim Chance by Jeff Erno

Can a man improve his appearance without losing everything good inside him?

Oliver has always been obese and suffered from a negative body image. He’s tried diets before, failing time after time, but he vows this time will be different. As he begins an exercise program, his confidence increases—and so does his interest in his friend and coworker Benjy. Though they bonded long ago over a love of online gaming, it takes a lot of courage for Oliver to share his new body and be intimate with another man.

A passionate romance blooms, but as Oliver nears his goal, it seems he doesn’t need Benjy—with his chronic anxiety and troubled past—now that he’s made attractive new friends at the gym. But not all relationships are equal, and Oliver realizes that Benjy, who loved and supported him when no one else did, is more than a reminder of his old life.

A pleasing appearance means nothing when it hides a lonely, empty heart, and if Oliver cannot decide what’s truly important, he’ll lose what he cherishes most.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is going to be a difficult review to write, not only due to the content, but the way it was written and the focus it held. I apologize in advance for not writing a smooth review, where I just state my overall thoughts.

There are some topics you can't write unless you've been there. I have no idea if the author struggles with their weight, but I don't think it would be possible to write a more accurate representation of the toxic inner monologue most overweight people have constantly streaming inside their minds. I can't speak for 'most,' but I can for myself and family members who struggle with this same damaging thought process. It was as if Jeff Erno was revealing a family member's mind to me.

Weight isn't just about physical size, and it takes a lot of soul-searching to 'grow up' emotionally enough to realize the world doesn't revolve around you, and all eyes aren't on you – judging you. This same thinking goes for a lot of disabilities/insecurities. People really don't care – they're going about their days, and we need to go about ours. Easier said than done.

Oliver has struggled all his life with his weight, and it's infected his entire being, especially emotionally and mentally. Slim Chance is his journey losing weight while finding love, yet most of the book is Oliver's war within himself.

To be honest, I'm not sure readers will be able to connect to Oliver, or be able to easily fall into the story if they themselves haven't experienced the problems faced by being overweight or had someone close to them deal with it. A naturally thin or fit person may become frustrated by Oliver's negative voice, unable to find enjoyment, but it would surely educate to show how the other half lives, maybe empathizing to the point bullying and 'funny' comments were no longer used. It's not funny – only small minds would think lowering a demographic of living, breathing beings is humorous.

Oliver's inner voice is difficult to listen to, page after page, and this is being said by someone who has thought some of the same things, but was able to recognize how toxic and irrational it was. There is something abusive about Oliver, not only to himself, but to everyone around him. So while I applaud the author for being beyond real in the characterization, I personally didn't like Oliver as a 'person.' It had nothing to do with his struggles, or the very real thoughts placed upon the pages, and I could identify with his struggle and the steps to losing weight and keeping it off, but I couldn't connect due to Oliver's lack of empathy, self-reflection, or the ability to see the world outside of himself.

Oliver made everything about him, and I realize the book is 'his' book, but it was a narcissistic personality, where he was placing his view of himself as the lens everyone sees him with, when that is not true. He was unable to see anything, to hear the voice of reason, or see the world with a different lens. Zero empathy. However realistic, in reality, I couldn't have held a five-minute conversation with Oliver, as his only focus was himself. Always. About everything. His view was the only view, and it was borderline abusive to those around him.

The gym bunnies – Oliver was no different, bullying himself and everyone else around him. So while I felt disgusted with the gym bunnies, knowing how demoralizing it makes a person feel – able to empathize with Oliver – Oliver didn't learn anything from it, didn't realize what he does to himself was no different, or how he was treating Benjy. Instead, he allowed vain, vapid, false confidence to be an ego boost. Mixed with his narcissistic, abusive personality, that made him weaker as a person in my eyes. None of this had anything to do with his weight, or the earned pride from losing so much and working so hard at the gym, and everything to do with a toxic personality.

While changing physically, I felt Oliver was never in a place mentally and emotionally for me to buy into the romance, and it made my heart hurt for Benjy. Oliver may have changed the outside package, but the inside was more so tainted than before, which is an accurate representation. I was relieved the author added how therapy would be sought. It was necessary.

Benjy was too sweet, with his own problems, a giver, and it hurt to read, because I recognized the precursors to abuse and the imbalance of power in the relationship. If Oliver's thinking doesn't change, if his therapy doesn't affect his outlook, I won't say the relationship is doomed – Benjy is doomed.

I connected with the story to the point I was able to make the characters 'human,' so I apologize for not just writing a review, but instead wrote about Oliver's toxic dynamic, both with himself and everyone else.

Very real. Very true-to-life. I applaud the author on creating a realistically flawed character, with spot-on emotions and mental signature, who is a representation of a vast majority of people on this planet. However, this didn't lend well to romance. Not that he and everyone else doesn't deserve it, but that Oliver still wasn't in a good place inside his own head not to take advantage and harm his partner.

*I'm not ripping the character apart – Oliver was so real, I could see him reflected in a loved one of mine, and it frustrated me because I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of such a personality. So kudos for the realism.

Possible trigger: cheating.

As I was reading, a felt a desire to have Devon voice a story. Jeff Erno, if you're reading this – and believe me, I know how annoying it is when a reader 'requests' things – if you hadn't thought about that, here is one reader who would be eager to read Devon's story. The gym bunny seemed to have something riding beneath the surface.

Jeff Erno is a gay man who writes gay-themed fiction. His stories include m/m romances, young adult themes, BDSM, paranormal & sci-fi, and mysteries. Jeff Erno grew up in rural northern-Michigan and is very much a country boy at heart. He came out as gay in his early twenties and began writing gay-themed stories in the late 1990s. Initially he wrote for his own enjoyment, then one day posted some of his work on a free amateur website. The positive feedback he received spurred him to continue. By the time he received his first publishing contract, he'd completed four novel-length stories. Many of Jeff's stories are set in his small, northern-Michigan hometown, Boyne City. He's passionate about combating teen bullying and LGBT homelessness. He loves decorating cakes, cooking, crafts, and PFLAG. And he's never written a story without a happy ending.

Connect with Jeff

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Slim Chance by Jeff Erno to read and review.

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