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Strings Attached (Tales from Ballena Beach) Paperback – March 9, 2010
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Book Description: Closeted teenager Jeremy is sent to live with wealthy relatives after his mother enters rehab. Struggling to fit into the posh world of Ballena Beach, Jeremy joins the high school swim team, dates a popular girl, and begins to think he may have landed in paradise—until his great aunt Katharine starts to dictate his every move … and a late-night phone call insinuates that his father’s accidental death was not so accidental after all.
As Jeremy grows accustomed to the veneer of a fabulous life, so grows his need for answers—as well as the danger of immeasurable harm. Weaving together a murder mystery, sexual ambiguity, and characters with hidden identities and agendas , Nick Nolan offers readers a deliciously witty page-turner about the “puppet” who wishes only to be a real boy. Strings Attached is also a surprisingly heartfelt story about coming-of-age and coming out—not necessarily in that order.
A Q&A with Author Nick Nolan
Question: Tell us more about 17-year-old Jeremy Tyler, and how you created your lead character?
Nick Nolan: I set out to create someone with a dazzling character arc; someone that people--gay or straight--could relate to and root for. And I've always loved the sort of conflict that arises with a "fish out of water" storyline--watching how someone adapts to a cataclysmic life change is fascinating. And one's teen years are inherently cataclysmic, so poor Jeremy is nearly overwhelmed. He goes from being poor and fatherless and hopeless to rich and fabulous and sought-after--but still miserable because he isn't being himself. I believe that he's a protagonist that most people will sympathize with.
Question: Strings Attached touches on themes of betrayal, greed, wealth, lust, beauty, love, and temptation. That is a lot for a young man to deal with. Would you explain how you weave these into the plot?
Nick Nolan: Lust is desire mixed with obsession, and many of the characters in this story can't separate the two--sometimes to their great detriment. Each of these elements is related: those in possession of beauty and wealth can tempt those without to lust and temptation and greed, but seldom to love. These are all tied-up inside the human experience of "wanting." In the book, Jeremy's father tells him--in a dream--that one needs to be selfish with respect to what one needs, but to pursue judiciously that which one wants--it's a paradox that few ever take the time to understand.
Question: Your book is a loose reinvention of the classic Pinocchio story. Would you tell us a little more about your connection with the Pinocchio tale, and your decision to work it into your story? Who is struggling with 'strings attached'?
Nick Nolan: Pinocchio is a great tale, which is why everyone remembers it; I think it reflects the pan-human desire to become a better version of ourselves--the wish to become our ideal. So I studied the original story, written by Carlo Collodi many years before that famous cartoon movie. His book seems like a fairy tale, but scholars will tell you that it is steeped in social commentary--and so is my book. Jeremy really is a puppet of the adults around him--with the exception of Arthur, who plays the Blue Fairy; Arthur anticipates his every need, and at the end of the book when we find-out his true identity we learn how important his contact with Jeremy truly is. I have a villain who echoes the original antagonist in Collodi's book, and I've made more plausible that wishing on a star business--I draw a parallel between that and the old Greek and Roman belief that the constellations were the gods, to whom they prayed for protection and guidance. And finally, there is a very believable twist on the original puppet's nose-growing; something similar happens when Jeremy lies...but that's a bit graphic for this interview.
Suffice to say that the Pinocchio parallels are there, but the similarities are subtle--and the story stands on its own without revealing them. And as for who is struggling with "strings attached"... at first one thinks that these bind Jeremy only, and then it becomes clear later on that everyone, except Arthur, in the story struggles against them, because every major theme in the story--beauty, wealth, love, betrayal, lust, greed and temptation--has consequences, or "strings," attached to it.
Question: Nick, who is your target audience? Who would enjoy reading your book?
Nick Nolan: Initially my target audience was youngish gay men, but I've been pleasantly surprised that the appeal of Strings Attached crosses boundaries of age and gender and sexual preference... probably because it's a coming-of-age story; this particular genre endures because those years are burned into every adult's psyche. And who doesn't relate to struggle, and misfortune, and learning to stand up for yourself? Enjoying a good read has little to do with how old you are or whom you sleep with--everyone loves a page-turner when the hero stands victorious at the end.(This author Q&A is adapted from an author interview conducted by Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor of Reader Views, and is republished with permission.)
WINNER: ForeWord Magazine 2006 Book of the Year for Gay/Lesbian Fiction, 1st Place
Top customer reviews
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I liked Jeremy's trip through adolescence guilt and opportunity, and his mother's total crummy attitude. I was moved and touched by a number of Jeremy's dreams, interactions with peers and guardians, and his ultimate decision to do what is in his best interests. The character of Arthur is the one who seems to hold the book together, but I will let you find out if that's true. He's a bit too good to be true, but he is, and you will like him.
There's some sex in this book, and the only disconcerting thing regarding that paucity is that I thought a big sex scene should have occurred before the denouement, but the author still pulled it off. (Nick Nolan's cliff notes at the end of the book are fascinating). This book gets five stars and not four because the characters are so well developed. I am looking forward to the next two in the series, and keeping my fingers crossed.
The premise is never heavy-handed and even where one notices it, the reader is never hit over the head with it by Nolan making the hint too obvious. The story has such a natural progression and I was caught up into what was going to happen to the characters immediately especially to Jeremy.
Lessons are to be learned here like: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, such as the first impression Jeremy has of the rich life he's thrown into by his circumstances. (At first, he thinks he's hit the jackpot.) And, those we originally think we can put our trust in, often have their own ulterior motives for only seeming to have our best interests at heart. Likewise, those who we think have failed us the most, might love us dearly, but never learned how to show it. But, the best lesson that Jeremy had to learn to become a "real" man was that in spite of the fact that his life up to this point has given him no indications that he could or should trust anyone, to grow up we have to eventually learn to throw caution to the wind and hand over our trust to at least a few good people.
In the final analysis, the criteria for judging any book as a good one was met in the end by the fact that I approached the end of the book by dragging my feet finishing it, because I simply wasn't ready to say goodbye to Jeremy Tyler so fast. Like many others who have reviewed this book, I too am hoping for a sequel.
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Mystery, coming of age, discovering oneself, learning who to trust, scoundrels, murders, tension,...Read more