Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.
When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.
Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake.
But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?
Thoughts and Themes: After having enjoyed two of Phil Stamper’s books when I saw this middle-grade book of his on Netgalley I knew I had to read it. I love that there are options for LGBTQ+ youth now because when I was in middle school I remember there were 3 books I read on repeat. I remember being in middle school and knowing something was different about me but not having the terminology or knowing girls could be queer, and books only had gay males in them.
I like that this book isn’t all happy for our main character regardless of the support that he does have from family and friends. I like that we see the reality of what it can be for someone to be queer in a small town. I also really like that we get a glimpse of how Jake’s online world is 100% accepting in the way he had hoped it would be. I think it was great to see that nowhere is 100% safe for LGBTQ+ people and how we navigate spaces that we might not be safe in.
Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the talk that Brett has with Jake about anxiety. I love how he brings up reading books to figure out his sexuality and how much that helped him. I really liked how they talk about Brett going to therapy to help with his anxiety and how it just is a regular conversation between two friends.
Characters: In this book, you meet several characters through their interactions with our main character, Jake. You get to meet his parents, his best friend, and the guy he is crushing on, Brett. I really enjoyed all of the characters you get to meet throughout this book and Jake’s relationships with everyone.
I loved the relationship between Brett and Jake and how innocent their relationship is. I also really enjoyed how Jake just accepts that Brett isn’t out and understands what being out could mean for him. I like that he just takes Brett’s lead and while it does confuse him at times he does listen to others.
I also liked how Jake has many supportive people in his life, like his best friend and his parents. I loved seeing how supportive Jake’s parents are and I liked that Jake felt comfortable enough to tell his dad that he outed him before he was ready.
Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the perspective of our main character, Jake. I really enjoyed getting the chance to read this story from his perspective because the main character read his age. I liked getting to be in Jake’s head and see how he feels about everything. I also thought it was great to see how the reaction to having a crush and what it is like to be his age and be out.
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained by playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University.
When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write.
Years later, Phil is now the bestselling author of The Gravity of Us, As Far As You’ll Take Me, and other queer books for kids and teens. He works in author development for a major book publisher in New York City, where he lives with his husband and their dog. Golden Boys, the first book in his upcoming young adult rom-com duology, comes out in February 2022. Small Town Pride, his debut middle grade novel, publishes in Summer 2022.