I fear I am too exhausted right now so I won’t be long but – can I say something without sounding weird? With very rare exceptions, I’d rather not postpone writing my reviews, because I often find that it gives an edge on both my feelings and my reflection that I don’t particularly like. So let’s quickly outline what made Sutphin Boulevard a great novel in my opinion :
1) I don’t know why that is, but I’ve rarely read any contemporary fictions in which the main characters are teachers, and when I did, their worries and slices of lives were never as relatable as Michael’s – and Nunzio’s, and David’s – were. Seriously, I’ve been nodding along constantly, and wow, that feels good. Even if our experiences are different – because the school systems between our two countries diverge – it was so damn refreshing to read about our love for this job even when we want nothing to do with that fucking pile of papers to rate, the way we often crush ourselves under the weight of impossible expectations, when everything feels worthless and useless and then – there’s this little smile on our students’ faces that remind us that we wouldn’t do anything else in the world because this, this is everything.
2) I really appreciated how addiction was handled, never brushed off nor used to make an offensive statement of ‘Love heals all’. I’ve personally never experienced alcohol or drug addiction, but Santino Hassell tackled this issue with the respect and the complexity it needed in my opinion.
3) The chemistry between Michael and Nunzio was off. the. charts, and I’ve rooted for them almost instantly. As usual I didn’t read the blurb, didn’t reread reviews prior to starting therefore I wasn’t sure where the story would go after that threesome in the first ten pages – meaning, I had no clue it would be a best-friends to lover trope, and damn, it was handled perfectly.
4) For once, NYC wasn’t treated like that weirdass white bubble that some authors falsely picture, and I loved that : Michael is Puerto-Rican, I think Nunzio is from Italian descent (please correct me if I’m wrong?), and we get to see Michael’s family dynamics on page, which I really appreciated. By the way, I cannot wait to get to Raymond’s story – he’s Michael’s brother, I gathered bisexual? and absolutely interesting^^ (view spoiler)
5) Sutphin Boulevard is well-written, and the dialogue always engaging and sometimes funny.
All in all, even if the issues at hand were sometimes heavy, I never felt like they weighed the story in a bad way, on the contrary. They gave it an authenticity many romance novels lack. Now, perhaps do not take my word on it, because many readers were unsettled by the angst. I wasn’t. I didn’t find it that angsty, to be honest. More I read, more I realize that what annoys me very much – and makes me rage – isn’t ‘angst’ (putting quotations marks because I don’t really think that’s what it is) but rather, stupid and useless drama that isn’t explainable and makes no sense (‘I can’t date you because I’ve made a promise one time 10 years ago that I would never date a redhead’ – don’t laugh, sometimes it does feel that stupid and nonsensical, ugh). Real issues as depression, addictions, and so on, have nothing to do with that shit. This said, I strongly advise you to take a look at the trigger warnings listed below.
I have one thing I want to talk about, though, that I don’t want hidden under a spoiler tag : never, ever, make a rape joke. That’s not funny. That’s offensive. I want to smack you. You just don’t.
TW – (highlight to see the spoiler) alcohol addiction, drug addiction, panic attacks, death of a parent, anxiety, sexual assault, homomisia, suicidal ideation ; the MCs have unprotected sex ; the last sex scene… [well, I am never comfortable with reading a sex-scene when one of the characters starts asleep. I could handle it here, because Nunzio woke up, but, yeah. When a relationship is on pause, nah.