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on July 6, 2012
After the very long ride to read this book, I feel like worn out, an hole was forming in my heart and the author suddenly filled it in a rush, so strongly that it let me hurting. This novel is good... disturbingly good. John Parker is an eighteen years old straight teenager who decides to give himself up for sex to his best friend Nathan; Nathan is gay and in love with John, and John is thinking he can be Nathan's sex toy, while at the same time having a girlfriend and some other heterosexual adventures on the side. While with all the women he is the dominant lover, with Nathan he is always the submissive; strange as it's, John is able to have sex with a man only if that man is Nathan, and only if Nathan is in command.

At first the author, through John's own words, let you have an imagine of John that is not exactly good; he seemed quite conceited, convinced he is like a God gift for girls and guys, sex on legs like he said of himself. I didn't like much John, especially since, even if he is always very nice with Nathan, he was also cheating on him with his girlfriend Mary, and cheating Mary with Nathan, but above all he was cheating both of them with other non-important flings. And while at the beginning John was only having sex with women other than with Nathan, then he starts also with other boys, and then he starts doing "dirty" things with these boys once he understands Nathan is not up to the same game he is. Again I approached this side of John in a negative way, I was thinking how unfair he was with Nathan, how stupid and selfish he was... but then I started to see something different, John was trying to degrade himself, he was trying to find a way to prove he was no good, that he wasn't indeed that God gift everyone was thinking, Nathan first in line. He had to prove to Nathan he was not worthy of his love, not for him but for Nathan's good. He was so in love with Nathan, that he was ready to destroy himself for him.

There is "consensual" rape on the page and non consensual sex behind the page; this novel is not pretty and cute as it could seem at first, it's dark and disturbing, and as I said, I was addicted to it like Nathan was addicted to John, but a hole was in my heart, a scaring hole from the fear I was having these two guys weren't destined to an happily ever after. But don't worry, the author managed also to scare away that thought like he managed to put it there. It will not be easy for Nathan and John, and I don't think the end of the novel is the end of their trouble, but at least they have a beginning. We will see where it will lead them, and I hope the author will share with us that.
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on December 31, 2012
this book intrigued me with its title, its reviews, and the blurb. I bought it and read it in 4 days; I didn't want it to end so I stretched out reading it, thats how unique and fast-moving a book it is. John's voice is so real and honest, it's scary. There are a few times where it sounds a bit naive or unrealistic in how he responds to certain situations, and there is a bit of a poor proofreading job, but otherwise I was completely captivated and in love with John, and understood perfectly why Nathan could love him to death, and John's vanity and arrogance is ultimately a bit of a facade masking his true feelings, which at times he doesn't expect or understand. I happen to love coming-of-age stories, but this is beyond beautiful at times, I couldn't get enough of either of the main characters and hated when other characters took them away from each other, that's how perfect I felt John and Nathan were for each other.

Lastly, the book can be read very easily, once you read the last few pages, as a Christian allegory of mystic love; hence the second-half of the title.
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on April 22, 2015
I was totally NOT expecting that ending. This was the craziest, most unique book I've ever read. Once I started it I just kept compulsively turning page after page until I got to the very last one.

The story was shockingly graphic. The main character so twisted. I literally had no idea what kind of story I was reading. Would it turn out to be romance, thriller, horror?

It was highly erotic, dark in places, and mysterious in its ultimate purpose. I was never so glad to see an ending like this one. I was sure that the ending was either going to make or break the story for me.

The only thing I have left to say is...

Luke Hartwell, I love you for writing this story.
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on August 17, 2013
This is a love story. A love story that starts when both main characters are only 13. One thinks he's straight, the other knows he's gay. But they both love each other more than anyone else on earth.

It takes five years for them to realize that what they have is a love to be envied. They complete each other. They find each other beautiful. They protect each other. They share everything that is meaningful in life.

And it is an extraordinarily well-written story. Believable, and the voices of the characters ring true. This fateful five years of these boys' lives include molestation and a fundamentalist church There's some great discussion of the Bible - how it became "the word of God" 1200 years after the books and letters that make up the Bible were written, and then rewritten with the Protestant Reformation, and how the love between men is an important part of the narrative - all this discovered by two sixteen-year-olds as they come to terms with their hate-driven church.

And this book also has the ultimate happily-ever-after as the two boys dedicated themselves to each other, for life, forsaking all others.

The story is beautiful, and beautifully written. It is sexy and hopeful and passionate and loving. Do yourself a favor. Read it.
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on December 7, 2012
This book continually surprised and fascinated me. The voice of the protagonist is very strong and distinct. The sexuality is extremely frank and sometimes disturbing, just like in real life. Certainly not a conventional romance. Forces you at many points to reconsider your preconceptions about the characters. Highly recommended.
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on July 20, 2014
John Parker is pretty much one of the most arrogant characters I’ve ever come across in a novel. And yet, this arrogant attitude is actually part of what I enjoyed most about Atom Heart John Beloved because for a less self-assured character, I can’t see how to the plot would have progressed along the same lines. However, if you really need a character you can sympathise with and root for, Atom Heart John Beloved is not it. There are moments when he is vulnerable and open, but there are many more moments when his own self-obsession overrides respect for other people’s feelings.

Plot-wise, Atom Heart John Beloved is also pretty confrontational - there are a lot of things that John did that I myself would never have considered, and his rationale is pretty hard to understand in almost every scenario, however in some ways it also feels like he is closer to a real person because of the mistakes he makes.

Although I would be reluctant to call Atom Heart John Beloved a romance in the traditional sense of the word, it’s a romance that nevertheless runs in an undercurrent through the whole story. The ending may not be the typical happily ever after either, but there’s a definite sense of unpredictability of it that perfectly reflects the less-than-usual plot and characters.

Confrontational, shocking and yet unexpectedly absorbing, Atom Heart John Beloved is a book that’s difficult to describe, often uncomfortable to read and yet really rather memorable.
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on May 26, 2013
This is not a book for the faint-hearted or the easily-offended. John's relationships with Nathan and Brian are often difficult to read about, but hard to forget. There's so much going on here: sex, lust, religion, self-loathing, racism that it's overwhelming at times. The parts that really stood out to me were those with John dealing with his Latino heritage in relation to his white friends. It's a fascinating book.
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on June 3, 2013
I read this book about six weeks ago and felt the need to let it sit with me awhile before writing my review. I just wasn't sure what to rate it or even what to say about it. Ultimately I think that's the sign of a well written piece of fiction--it left me thinking... and thinking...

I'm settling on a 4-star rating for this book because I found the subject matter to be very disturbing. The actions of more than one character were twisted, and there were many characters that I just didn't like. Including the narrator, John, who was pretty messed up emotionally for most of the novel. Did he straighten his act out? Yes, but it was a long road in finding his place of peace. Also, there just wasn't enough of Nathan, his best friend, love interest, and only truly decent person in the whole book. I really wanted to know what Nathan thought about everything--did he even know what was going on with John? It would have been more interesting and effective if Nathan did know the crazy stuff that was happening and had some insight and influence concerning it.

Overall, this book is worth reading, but you have to be ready to go to some dark places. I think the most disturbing thing about it all is that the author said he grew up in a small town like the one he writes about here, with the small town religious perspective he explores. That makes me wonder if the disturbing stuff he writes about is from personal experience. I certainly hope not. I hope the whole story is purely fiction with no basis in fact. It would be very said otherwise.

An aside: The cover photo is absolutely beautiful, and the book's title is brilliant and memorable. Kudos for that.
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on August 14, 2014
This book will stir your desires and will leave you heaving chapter after chapter. Immerse yourself in it. Don't fight it. Each page, each chapter is sensual...each page, each chapter oozes elements that will tickle you and remind you that we are, in our truest form, animals. Desire coming from within will remind you that you are alive!
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on November 16, 2012
John, the narrator of this story is not likable. He is selfish and downright arrogant at times. But he is young, a bit lost and I fell in love with him in no time. His voice is unique and powerful with its engaging and straightforward, even humorous logic. John's story is twisted, interesting, very believable in the middle of complicated, tough circumstances. The author deals with the difficult themes (incest, rape, abuse, cheating and in the middle of it all the hypocrisy of church) through John's eyes with such frankness that it's heartbreaking and illuminating at the same time.

Throughout the story John explores his sexuality. But although there are plenty of sex scenes, they aren't there just for the sake of sex. In fact most of those scenes are about something else altogether. Close to the end of the book there is a beautiful scene that has stayed with me even though I've finished reading the book a week ago. In that emotional scene sex turns into confession and absolution. And when I think back now, it seems that for me the book was mostly about unconditional love.

Atom Heart John Beloved is also a story about growing up. It's a story about friendship and love between two boys, John and Nathan. It's a story about how these two boys discover the true colors of the world around them. Some of those colors are dark and murky, but some are bright and clear. It has a healthy amount of doubt in it, but a large portion of hope too. It's a story of surviving.

Don't approach this book thinking that it's a romance, but don't let the dark themes scare you away either. I'm truly happy I found it and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

I also love the mystic title Atom Heart John Beloved that only makes sense after one has read the book. Thank you, Luke Hartwell.
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