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A Better Place Kindle Edition
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|Length: 362 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"A Better Place" definitely is dramatic. Various tragedies befall both characters, including rape, "straight therapy," death of a family member, and the deaths of two other boys that plays a part of the story at the end. While some people found this to be too overdramatic and unrealistic, I actually enjoyed watching Casper and Brendan overcome this series of misfortunes. However, the one thing I would have liked to see was more character growth. After going through all these things, I would think Casper and Brendan would change in some way. It felt like Roeder was giving the message that true love can overcome anything, and indeed Casper and Brendan's love is unwavering once they become a couple, but it would have been nice to see them grow as humans over the course of the novel. Another problem I must address was at the beginning of the novel, when Brendan's infatuation for Casper's cuteness suddenly becomes love. The development of feelings felt way too quick, and then because nothing in their relationship ever sours (including a moment of near infidelity late in the book which is squashed WAY too quickly), their relationship doesn't seem to change much either. Essentially, change and growth could have really done these characters well.
One other complaint was that the boys who appear later in the novel, Ethan and Nathan are almost copies of Brendan and Casper, which didn't bother me too much as I read the story, but is just pretty unrealistic in of itself.
Still, I quite like Casper. The beginning scenes with him dealing with his abusive brother and absent father really made me feel for him. Roeder did a great job with his scenes. And as dramatic as some of the scenes were, I responded to the drama in sections like the Cloverdale Center.
After reading two of Roeder's other novels, I found this one didn't have the same focus on love/sex and the push-and-pull of teenage hormones. And the repetitive nature that plagues some of his sections weren't as prevalent here. I definitely felt the drama and extremity of the plot actually helped the writing. So even though I wasn't engaged as much as I was by "The Nudo Twins," I do prefer this novel to "Disastrous Dates & Dream Boys," and in spite of the pretty basic writing style (which I just believe is Roeder's style), "A Better Place" offers more writing strength than his other works I've read thus far.
Brendan is the most popular kid at high school, quarterback of the football team, handsome and friendly, for a very wealthy family that allow him to have a nice car and all the last fashion available, Brendan is even more fascinating since he seems unaware of his good looks and fortune. Brendan has also a secret, but not really something that is causing him trouble: he is gay, and in his openness and yes, lucky youth, he has already realized it and decided it's fine. Sure, Brendan is aware he cannot come out at school that it's not easy, but more or less, he is fine.
Not the same for Casper; he is the poorest kid at school, and even worst, he is abused at home; his older brother has more than once abused him and he is still doing that. Most night Casper sleeps under the open sky to avoid being alone in the same room with his brother. In his young mind, Casper associates being gay with being abused, and so, when Brendan makes a move with him, Casper is scared to death.
But as I said, Brendan is such a nice boy that Casper in the end is able to trust him; their newfound happiness is destroyed by Brendan's family and but the dramatic decision they take on their son's fate. Again Brendan will prove to be strong and with a self-consciousness that is rare in such a young man; he will maintain the promise he did to Casper to protect him, whatever it will take.
I preferred the first part of the story, until Brendan and Casper are trying to find their path in life alone; I found the last part, when Brendan and Casper go to live with Ethan and Nathan (from Someone Is Watching) a little too similar to what I guess is Ethan and Nathan's own story, almost a repetition. All in all, I think that, even if Casper is cuter and the one who needs more protection, even from the reader point of view, I think the best character was Brendan, I most of all loved how he is so open with his feelings and ready to love despite all the trouble it implies.