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The Making Of Us (Checking Him Out) Paperback – June 20, 2017
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About the Author
Debbie McGowan is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction that celebrates life, love and relationships in all their diversity. Since the publication in 2004 of her debut novel, Champagne-based on a stage show co-written and co-produced with her husband-she has published a further thirty-five works (twenty novels, fifteen short stories and novellas). She is the author of two ongoing series: Hiding Behind The Couch (a literary 'soap opera' centring on the lives of nine long-term friends) and Checking Him Out (LGBTQ romance). Debbie has been a finalist in both the Rainbow Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2016, she won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) for her novel, When Skies Have Fallen: a British historical romance spanning twenty-three years, from the end of WWII to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Through her independent publishing company, Debbie gives voices to other authors whose work would be deemed unprofitable by mainstream publishing houses.
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Top customer reviews
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This is the story of two of my favorite characters and I've been dying to read it. Someone reviewed it and said there was "nothing new"... did they read the same book? It combines the struggles of the greater LGBT community with the plight of being overweight. There's a bit of "tell", but you can tell it comes from a place of love and care, so we willingly forgive as the message is so desperately needed and welcome.
I've always had a soft spot for Jesse and Leigh, well, they are a delightful character.
I'm not bisexual (Jesse) nor can I claim to be non-binary (Leigh) even though I find sexes and genders overrated at best, but the story of love and the relationship is so universal that I found myself relating with Jesse (story's told through his eyes) in ways I never though possible. Great writing Ms McGowan.
Jesse is entirely likable. He’s not perfect, and he has lots of things he’s dealing with: His size, for one thing, and his developing feelings for Leigh and new understanding of himself. Through a series of sometimes funny, sometimes mortifying, sometimes enraging events, Jesse’s standing up for himself results in an unexpected situation with Pride (the campus LGBT+ group). Watching him fumble his way through it is quite a ride.
Fortunately, Jesse’s friends have his back. After reading the other books, it was utterly fascinating for me to read Noah from a peer’s point of view. I admit I didn’t care for him before, but I had new appreciation for him after this book. Matty, as always, is a delight. Once again, it was interesting seeing him through a friend’s eyes.
Then there’s Leigh. I can’t say enough good things about Leigh. It’s not hard to see why Jesse’s smitten so quickly; I think I would be too. Leigh is one of the most wonderful characters. The relationship between Jesse and Leigh is natural, sweet, and not full of drama or discord. They fit together perfectly, and it’s with Leigh’s love and support that Jesse is able to come out of his shell. This is not because Leigh “rescues” him in any sense. It’s simply the confidence he has knowing Leigh adores him and his friends have his back.
Jesse’s feelings about his body and his weight are an important part of the story. Yes, there are other books about fat characters, but one thing really stood out to me. This is not a Jesse-learns-to-manage-his-weight book. Nor is it really a Fat Pride and Acceptance book. There’s a very little bit of both, but they aren’t the heart of the story. This is much more about who Jesse is becoming as a whole person. Much of what he describes will resonate with anyone who has been through similar issues.
Unlike the rest of the series (except for the novella), there is not much in the way of descriptive, on-page sex. The sensuality is understated, and it fits perfectly with the tone of the story and the characters. Jesse isn’t body-confident, and it would’ve felt to me exploitive and inappropriate to have it be too graphic. There’s a lovely scene of Jesse “taking care of business” in the shower which has this nice feel of being completely G-rated. Even though Jesse’s a fictional character, I had the sense it would’ve been embarrassing for him to know readers could “see” what he was doing. It sets the tone for later on, where there is such a sweet tenderness to his lovemaking with Leigh. The understated quality feels like letting us have a glimpse while still respecting the privacy of their intimate acts.
To me, that’s the hallmark of great storytelling. Everything in this fits together just right in this book. It’s about friendship, love, and who “our people” really are when it comes down to it. Is it a bit of an unusual romance? Yes. But I hope that readers will give it a chance, even if it’s different from the sexy guy-on-guy story fans have come to expect in this series.
For more-to-love characters, good social themes, and a love story sweeter than ice cream, this gets 5 stars.