I've been on a spat of reading about sports guys recently. It was sort of accidental and started with Amy Lane's The Locker Room. (More on that in another post). Then I read Tigers and Devils, and that was one of those books that I probably would have loved even more than I did had I read it before all the hype had built it up to a place I think no book can ever actually achieve.
Then I read a review for What There Is and was intrigued enough to buy it on spec, since now I had the sports guy bug. It's short, sweet, and over. The characters are really sweet, both of them with unique quirks; the jock who can cook, and can cook well, even, and the numbers geek who loves sports. (Extra relatable for me, because most of my brothers are total intellectual nerds, but each of them has a certain kind of madness for their favorite sports team that is inexplicable to me.)
These sweet characters, Justin and Mark, are placed in an artificial relationship incubator, ie: they become roomies, sharing an apartment to live in the city close to their jobs, and conveniently, both gay. This is not a new plot, because where you think it's going? Yes. It goes there. And I give this book great props for making fun of it's own premise by fully dragging out the porn plot cliche and holding it up for all to see. Thankfully, the book itself stays on the sweet side of actual porn, and while I love a good sex scene as well as the next reader, I liked that this book made an effort to keep the love scenes actually about the love, and not all about the sex.
All in all, by the end, I felt as though I'd read a great character sketch of these two guys, and the outline for one hell of a novel. I'm sad there was no real connection for me to the characters, because they are both easy to like, and easy to root for, but I was left feeling like I couldn't wait to read the book. I know. That sounds crazy, but there it is. It is a wonderful story with wonderful characters that should have taken the time to be a novel, I think. Still, I felt good and happy at the end, so I count it a win. Just not quite a slam dunk.
The Blurb: Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn't exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.
Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.
They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.
And the link, because I do think it's worth reading.