28 June 2010

Book Review: Strings Attached

Title:  Strings Attached
Author:  Nick Nolan
Publisher:  Amazon Encore
Re-Release Date:  9 March 2010
Date Read: 23 June 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, GLBT Challenge, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
Jeremy's mother is an alcoholic, and when a bender from hell lands her in rehab, Jeremy goes to live with his exceedingly rich great-aunt. Moving from poor to posh is tough enough, but Jeremy is also struggling with his sexuality and some unanswered questions about his father's death.  It may seem a bit convoluted but Nolan weaves these stories together in such a way that they form an in-depth backdrop for a coming-of-age story.

A Bit of a Ramble
If you had asked me before reading this book if a murder-mystery cum (homo)sexual awakening cum family tragedy book would be my cup of tea, I would have laughed at you. I would have brushed off the premise as too complex, too hokey, and too dramatic.  When it comes to Nolan's Strings Attached though, I would have been wrong.  I can't quite explain how Nolan draws it all together into this surprisingly not melodramatic story, but he manages it beautifully.

Jeremy's story is the story of Pinocchio, except Jeremy wants to be a real man, meaning of course a successful, composed, attractive, straight man. While the allusions to Pinocchio weave throughout the book, the reader is never hit over the head with them.  Instead, Nolan artfully infuses Jeremy's story with elements from the fairy tale: character names, mentions of wood (in a totally non-sexual way), place names, and of course plot lines.  Honestly I didn't even catch all of the references until I read the Author's Notes at the end.

Throughout, this is a coming-of-age story, a tale featuring a protagonist who has been controlled his entire life by his surroundings, his situation, his fear, his mother, and eventually his aunt (our very own Gepetto).  Jeremy's struggles with family, friends, and sexuality provide the necessary exigence for him to become a real man, just not in the way he expected.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was the head-hopping.  I'd be reading and suddenly I'd be inside another character's brain. Sometimes I'd have to go back a paragraph or two to figure out what was going on.  Generally speaking I don't mind multiple viewpoints in a novel, but this wasn't multiple first-person narrators; it was third-person limited omniscient jumping about among characters.  Obviously I'm not a fan of that.

Originally, Nolan wanted to write a young adult novel for gay teens, but as he was writing he found that some explicit sexual content was needed for authenticity, so he changed his focus to a more adult audience.  I would argue, however, that this is still a great book for teens, the more mature ones anyway.  While the sex is explicit, I don't think it's anything outside a normal teenager's knowledge, and it's not overly pervasive or extraneous.

Double Bound, the sequel to Strings Attached, was just released in May.  I hear Double Bound is darker than Strings Attached which for my twisted self means I'll probably enjoy it even more.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

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  1. I love that cover! So, I hope you are going to grab the sequel?

  2. I loved this review, the way you say "if you had told me that a homosexual murder mystery family tragedy would be my cup of tea.."

    too funny! great review, not enough to sell me on it, but very interesting.

  3. I'm very curious about this. The Pinocchio allusions sound especially intriguing.

  4. Thanks for the incredible review, Trisha! I am so glad you enjoyed Jeremy's story. I love your summary of the plot, and couldn't have written a better review myself. And as for the head-hopping I totally agree; we fixed this in the final edit (I believe you got an Advance Reader's Copy that was still a bit rough). I LOVE your site, by the way.
    Nick Nolan

  5. Sandy - I'm definitely going to grab the sequel!

    My Lady Empress - It really was a great read, proving that sometimes reading outside your normal milieu is a good thing. ;)

    Ana - Now that I've read the Author's Notes, I want to read it again with Pinocchio more in the forefront of my mind.

    Nick - Thanks for stopping by and for the compliments! I can't wait to read the next book. And thanks for sending me the review copy.

  6. You're so welcome, Trisha. I love it when a reader 'gets' my stories. I look forward to reading your other reviews, because I think you're 'spot on'. Please let me know your thoughts on Double Bound when you get the chance; yes, it is a 'darker' story, so if that's in your milieu I think you'll enjoy it.

  7. That cover is great.

    And it sounds like an interesting read. Good job!

  8. Nick - I don't have a copy of Double Bound yet, but I definitely plan on reading it.

    Jenners - I loved the cover too. Totally different than everything else out there.

  9. Trisha - please email me your address and I'll be happy to put a copy in the mail for you next week.

  10. Nick - I tried sending an email but it bounced back. I'll try again. And thank you so much!

  11. Okay, that cover is amazing...and I just put the book on hold at the library. You get all the blame--and the thanks!--for adding to my TBR pile. ;)


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