Book #45: Something Like Autumn (2013)

Something-Like-Autumn-coverauthor: Jay Bell
language: English
length: 418 pages
finished reading on: 16 November 2013

I’m still in my little gay media bubble… this was the third in the series of Jay Bell’s books named after seasons (which are totally in the wrong order). This book focuses on Jace, the third gay character from Something Like Summer and Something Like Winter, focusing on his backstory, and then rejoining the main story from the previous books in the third act when Jace meets Ben and develops a relationship.

It’s immediately a darker book, as it begins with his suicide attempt. He believes the world won’t accept him for being gay but is proved wrong as when he actually comes out he has no trouble. The morbidity doesn’t really let up, though, especially considering that I already knew how the book ended. Jace’s story is immediately more heartbreaking than the others, and just as heartbreaking was the author’s note at the end telling that the suicide-related events were semi-autobiographical.

Like the second book, it does manage to pull together some of the loose ends, plotholes and annoyances from the first book. Jace now appears as a much more rounded and insecure character – in the first book he was self-assured and with a few extra years on the other characters, more mature and forgiving – and here it’s nice to see him being an idiot teenager like the others. His motivations are much clearer. Another specific example was the inclusion of a scene about September 11, easily the creepiest in the series because it’s about a real-life disaster, but not including it would have been wrong in a story about a flight attendant.

The first two acts of the book, however, focus on a different love affair, with a man called Victor, which is generally depicted as quite one-sided, as the two characters have very different ideas of what they want out of a relationship, and they don’t match very well at all. In many ways he is Jace’s equivalent of Tim from the first story, although in many ways he isn’t at all. Victor seems to be a very intoxicating character, and wants to live outside mainstream society, without labels or limitations, as a free spirit. I didn’t trust him right from the beginning, partly because I already knew roughly how the story was going to turn out.

Sometimes the book suffers from one of the same problems as Something Like Winter, namely that it has to include many relevant scenes from the first book, plus including some of the scenes that were mentioned by Jace in the first book but not expounded upon fully, and this sometimes has the effect of the scenes becoming disjointed and thrown together. Similarly, it also cuts out a lot of the irrelevant material from the first book, which has the effect of jumping between different times in very quick succession. The love story with Ben being only in the third act was both good and bad: good because it allowed Bell to write a lot more original material in the time leading up to then, and bad because it made this time-jumping feel like it was happening even quicker.

I very much enjoyed the book, mainly because it had that engrossing quality that I’ve become used to with Bell’s writing now, and I really enjoyed getting to spend more time with the same characters. But with the almost complete downer of an ending, and I guess the finality of having read about these characters continuously for the past four weeks or so, and getting to the effective end of their stories, left me feeling emotionally at a loss. That must be the author’s skill shining through there.

I’m now wondering what to read next (I have a Neil Gaiman audiobook on the go, but maybe I’d like something to read as well as listen to). I could read another of Bell’s novels, or I could try reading other gay literature, but in my experience, it’s quite hard to find something that’s actually decent, and I’d always feel like I’m taking a risk when deciding to read anything. In terms of Bell’s other novels, they seem to be about gay characters, which is good. He’s also mentioned the last in this series, imaginatively titled Something Like Spring, which will apparently be a different story only occasionally crossing over with the same characters. The other thing I could read is the new Discworld novel, come to think of it. Whatever I read, I’ll end up posting about it here. I’m up to date on the blog now, finally, so I may not post for a week or two.

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