The Nerds Heart YA Tournament, exists to promote the very best of Young Adult literature, specifically those under the radar books that don’t quite get the same exposure as the big hitters. I have the honour of picking the first book to make it though to the final!
15-year-old Garth Rudd has been have a tough time of it recently, ever since his father died in a boating accident, a couple of years ago.
Money’s been tight ever since, and even though they have moved into a less than desirable apartment his mother still has to work two jobs just to make ends meet.
Garth, is a hard-working and decent lad, who does his best to help where he can, doing yard work at the apartment for a small reduction in their rent and working at a job he hates at the local department store, just so he doesn’t have to ask his mother for an allowance.
His mother, still reeling from her husbands fatal accident, clings to what’s left of her family, and is paranoid about something happening to her son.
So, when (before the book begins) Garth comes out to her, she panics about how others will react and the problems and trouble Garth is going to face, and so asks him to put that discussion “on hold” and then refuses to talk about it further.
It’s against this back-drop, that Uncle Mike, his fathers twin brother, breezes back in to their lives.
His father and Mike, were not close as adults, so Garth doesn’t really know him that well. Mike has a bit of a history of being irresponsible, along with a healthy disregard for the rules most people (inc Garth’s dad when he was alive), live their lives by.
But he is family, so when he arrives unexpectedly one day, they welcome into their home, where he instantly starts to do his best to help them out, doing repairs and buying groceries and the like.
Mike, soon becomes someone Garth can talk to, a link to his father, and more importantly, is fully supportive of Garth’s sexuality, fighting his corner with his mother and giving him support where he needs it.
But then, Mike proposes to help Garth make some money for his college fund, and to help his mother out.
Suddenly Garth finds himself lying to his best friend Lisa, his mother, a potential boyfriend, and himself.
We follow Garth as he works his way through how he managed to let it all happen, and how he can start pulling his real self back together. As he does so, Garth realises he needs to stop living all the lies Mike, himself and his mother have asked him to live.
I can easily see why this one has made it though to the semi-finals. Garth is a likable main character and one who is really easy to sympathise with. The adult characters aren’t simple cardboard cut-outs either. His mother has very good reasons for acting the way she does, she quite clearly hasn’t had time to come to terms with her husband’s death, and is petrified for her son. It doesn’t make her stand right, but it does make it understandable.
And Mike? Well he is quite clearly a hustler and a drifter, with little desire to settle down and live a responsible life, but despite this, he clearly wants to do his best for his brother’s family, at least for now. There’s always going to be a question about just how trustworthy he can be.
I really liked the book, and really enjoyed the story it told and the questions it asked about the lies we can all fall foul of, will I like it more than, Say the Word? Well, you’ll have to come back later and find out! 😉
Buy: In Mike we Trust by P.E. Ryan from The Book Depository.