It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.
Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.
Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.
Recent Historical (1980s), M/M, LGBT+
287 e-book pages
April 10-12, 2016
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Take a couple of steps back. A few more. Maybe more than that. To 1986.
I won’t get into my own teenaged angst…that’s a whole ‘nother thing best left in the 80’s and early 90’s.
But, the 80s as a whole? The music, the neon fashions, the shoulder pads, boomboxes and Walkmans, cassette tapes on which I’d record Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 trying hard to stop and start recording to skip commercial breaks, the total failure of New Coke, and Reebok high-tops. Overall, it was a good time with mostly good memories. When I was a kid, we had 50s Dress-up Spirit Day. Now I hear they do 80s Dress-up Sprit Day. And…fuck, that makes me feel old.
The 80’s nostalgia and cliquishness of adolescents are about where my ability to relate to this story ends. I stayed in one school district my entire public school life (lucky me, being a military brat). I lived in a large city of suburban sprawl. But, with family in small towns, I know on the periphery what that can be like.
Trailer Trash takes us back to that time, to a small town divided by the Haves and Have-Nots. Nate winds up in small-town Wyoming with his father after his parents divorce, moving there from Austin, Texas. This is not ideal for him, starting all over in a new town with new people for his senior year. His first friend is Cody, who he meets just before the school year starts.
Cody is from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s dealt with bullying, snubbing, ostracizing from his peers since forever for being dirt poor. He doesn’t want to risk a 180 from his new friend, so he keeps the fact that he lives in the worst part of a run-down trailer park a secret for as long as he can. Even tries to give him a few ‘outs’ to help Nate’s street cred.
Nate just wants a real friend. REAL being the operative word in the land of everyone else’s fakery.
I loved the semi-slow-burn and the realness between Nate and Cody. Cody knows who he is…Nate, not so much. Feelings and emotions are hard to deal with sometimes as an adult, even harder as a teen without the tools of a lot of life experience. He’s just starting to realize his feelings for Cody run deeper than just being buds. There are a few false starts and misunderstandings to navigate — but they do this in ways that felt so imperfectly authentic.
Add to their own angst of figuring out what they mean to each other, there’s town gossip, rampant homophobia, ignorance, and elitist prejudice — and trying to look beyond all that to a future that shines brighter than the small town can offer.
In a nutshell, I loved this. I haven’t had the best track record with Marie Sexton’s books — but this was stunning. Partly for a little trip down memory lane, partly for an against-the-odds rich-boy/poor-boy romance, partly for addressing the early stages of the AIDS epidemic with care, and partly because of the perseverance, hope, and bravery of these characters. There’s a lot here to love.
This review also posted on GoodReads.