Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Holding On by Sarah Hadley Brook Blog Tour

Eighteen-year-old Aaron Pickard is dealing with a lot: he’s falling for his straight best friend, his mother has ended up in the hospital after a violent assault by his father, and he’s trying to decide when to come out. Tack on the stress of an upcoming prom and graduation, a part-time job, and the possibility he could lose his best friend, and he’s an emotional wreck.

Aaron’s best friend Jeff Leaton provides a soft place for him to fall when his life is thrown into chaos, literally holding him each night as they fall asleep. As Jeff helps Aaron navigate through the mess that has become his new normal, Aaron’s feelings for Jeff intensify.

Aaron’s pretty sure it’s all going to end badly, but he’s holding on to hope.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Holding On straddles the line between Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) romance. Our hero, Aaron, is 18 years old and in his final year of high school, which would have me leaning towards YA. But for a book about high school students, there is a good deal of detailed, steamy sex in this book, which tips it more into the NA category in my mind.

Aaron is dealing with a lot. He is gay and is scared to come out to his straight best friend, Jeff, who he is starting to crush on, his car is on its last legs, he is going to graduate soon and is working to save money for college, and worst of all, his home life is terrible.

When tragedy strikes Aaron's family, Jeff steps up and helps Aaron through the trauma as a good best friend would. To the reader, it is clear that Jeff would like to be more than Aaron's friend, but with his life turned upside down, Aaron can't see that.

There is a lot of heartache and angst in Holding On, but it is balanced out by the growing and changing relationship between Jeff and Aaron. This meant even with the heavy subject matter of family violence, I found this story to be a real page turner. Aaron is going through such a hard time I just wanted him to have happiness, he deserved some happy. I loved Holding On. This is the first book I've read by Sarah Hadley Brook and see she has a nice back catalogue of books that I will definitely be checking out.

3.5 Stars

I need to preface this review by stating I'm not sure how I'd classify this novel. It's listed as YA/NA. The characters may be freshly eighteen, but they are still in high school, showing high school situations (with friends/prom/at school) under adult-supervision. That, in and of itself, would make it Young Adult.

However, the sexual content was that more of an adult novel, bordering on erotica. If anyone follows my reviews or writing, you'll probably be squinting as you read this portion of the review – I had a hard time not being skeeved out by the mature nature of the virginal couple's explicit dirty talk, having to think them much older than kids worrying about prom, Mom catching them in the act, and which college they were going to attend. I felt these two focal points had a bit of an identity crisis with young adult ages and situations and very adult sexual content.

During the last 30% of the novel, my mind glossed over the how/when/where, and pretended they were already in college.

I wouldn't recommend to actual young adults, unless they are mature for their age: 16+.

On to the review...

Aaron has a bad home life, with an alcoholic father and a mother who wouldn't leave to protect herself or her children (not judging – this was a trigger-read for me, as I was in the same position as the mother, and I had a hard time reading as this would have been my end if I hadn't left). The alcoholism, abuse of many types, and violence was beyond realistic, in my 'real life' opinion, hitting very close to home for me. It definitely gives an in-depth look from both the perspective of the mother and the children.

Jeff is Aaron's best friend – Aaron's rock. Jeff becomes Aaron's support system as Aaron navigates the devastating aftermath of his home life. The portion of the novel was evocative, gut-wrenching, and painful to read. Jeff not only comforted Aaron, but the reader as well.

Their friendship is solid, as is that of the supportive side cast. There are two main threads at play in the novel – the aftermath and a friends-to-lovers storyline.

Aaron's reluctance to see the truth, while right in his face, and every single person he comes into direct contact with tries to explain it to him, and Jeff shows it rather than says it, this was beyond frustrating, how purposefully blind the author created Aaron to be. A few times, I actually didn't like Aaron, and I couldn't write it off as behavior due to grief or due to his naive, younger age. Purposefully obtuse, baiting, bratty and punishing, ungrateful to Jeff, and this showed the darker facets of Aaron's personality. The actions/reactions/conversations between Aaron and Jeff negated Aaron's inner monologue about Jeff not wanting him. At first, I devoured the angsty nature of it, but then it became too much.

Overall, I was captivated by the novel, empathizing with Aaron and Jeff, and I recommend to mature readers who won't be triggered by alcoholism/domestic violence/parental verbal and mental abuse.

Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Holding On by Sarah Hadley Brook to read and review for this tour.

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