Release Day Review: Abroad, by Liz Jacobs

 About the Book

Cover: Abroad by Liz JacobsNick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

The Finer Details

Publication Date:  June 27, 2017
Publisher:  Brain Mill Press
Cover Artist:  Megan J. Smith / Ampersand Book Covers
Arc:  Series:  Abroad, book 1
Length:  Novel, 372 e-book pages
POV:  3rd Person, Limited Omniscient
Tense:  Past
Pairing:  Male/Male
Identity:  Gay 
Age Range(s): 18-21
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult
Tropes & Tags: closeted, ensemble cast, fish out of water, found family, opposites attract
Setting/Locale: London, England

Advance Review Copy generously provided by Brain Mill Press.


Thoughts from the Back Porch

Rating

4.5 Stars

Rating Info

Ratings stick closely to the GoodReads standards. Occasionally I’ll make note of half-star ratings and will typically round up on GoodReads reviews and other sites where I may cross-post.
Stars Goodreads  What this means to me
5 AMAZING This totally knocked my socks off, and I might end up a crazed fan (from a respectable distance).
4 Really Liked This was truly enjoyable, and I’d recommend it.
3 Liked It was good, and I’m glad I read it, but I may have had some issues.
2 It was okay I finished it & kept hoping for improvement. I definitely had issues.
1 Didn't like I read the whole thing but....
1 DNF Didn't like I read past 50% (at least) before giving up.
0 DNF No Rating I couldn't even make it to 50%, but I still feel the need to share my thoughts.

Review

Lemme just say in a few words that I FREAKING LOVED THIS and HOT DAMN for a debut novel from Liz Jacobs.

Of course, I gots more to say on this matter though.

Just seeing the words New Adult makes me cringe just a little bit, y’all. It does that because, in my head, it means there’s potential to dig up all sorts of emotional business that I’ve gladly overcome with loads of time and hard lessons learned. I’m not eager to go back, even in fiction — even though I admit I probably have more good memories than bad of my ole college days.

And, Boy O Boy did this story do that. Sort of mostly. And it scratched at a few scars that I thought were long since healed over. But, it did it in the best ways possible.

Abroad reminded me of so many of the good times that surrounded the bad like big fluffy clouds. That even though I was angsting like hell, I had the most amazing people around me…who saw me through, even if they didn’t know all my innermost turmoil. That I was exactly where I needed to be, having the experiences I needed to have, even if my parents and I didn’t see eye to eye and even if I continued to take unsure steps into adulthood.

That time, man. College. Yeah, sure, it’s higher education and all that, preparation for adulting in the big, bad job market. Or whatever.

It’s so much more. Right? It’s popping bubbles — the big one you’re raised in that isn’t nearly as translucent as you thought. The bubbles of expectations, yours and the ones others have for you. It’s trying new things that were never available in that bubble of home-n-hearth you left behind. It’s absorbing and trying on new ideas, new experiences, new points of view — some that fit and ultimately shape who you’re meant to be, and some that…well, at least they were worth consideration if only to learn a few lessons and broaden your scope of the world.

That time of new adulthood and college is a bubble of its own, though. And, if you’re lucky, you find yourself surrounded by others who hold you up and help you pop some of those bubbles, stretch your mind in ways the professors never will. Become your family, the ones who get IT, what you’re going through so many miles away from home. If you’re even MORE lucky, those folks are still around in some capacity twenty-something years later…even if it is semi-regular Christmas cards or Facebook statuses. They knew you then, and they were your people.

Gah!

Alrighty. So Abroad is all of that. And Liz nailed it.

It’s also SO MUCH MORE. I’m tagging this ‘fish out of water’  because Nick. Not because he’s an American studying abroad in London for a few terms. There is that, with him comparing and contrasting the differences between the USA and UK. But because, even though he’d immigrated to the US from Russia when he was a child, it seemed like he was still, nearly ten years later, comparing and contrasting America and Russia, being Jewish and what that meant in both places and to him. Gaining new perspectives on navigating his sexuality. Feeling, always, the odd one out and learning that’s not exactly the case.

The people who essentially adopt Nick into their circle are there for him before he even realizes it, accepting, loving, and safe — as well as in their own way, broadening his views of how the world works (or ought to). And that’s what college and this time in life should be.

Dex is AMAZING, y’all. He’s exactly what Nick needs. He’s kinda broody and moody and gives off the vibes that he knows precisely who he is and what he wants. But, getting in his head, learning that he’s mostly just as unsure as everyone else, nervous around Nick, pining for what he wants, made him even more endearing and human in the best of ways.

I wasn’t prepared to have several interspersed chapters in Izzy’s head. And I’m struggling. Izzy is somewhat the ringleader of this group of friends. She’s responsible for bringing Nick into the fold, and she’s Dex’s BFF. She’s lovely AND I LOVED HER. But… And I wonder if this is a thing that’s sort of common in the world of YA/NA lit. It’s not something I often encounter in romance, and when I do, it’s usually with some heavy criticism. Because I’m certain I only want the perspectives of one or both of the love interests. So Izzy snuck up on me in a big, loud way. Make no mistake, I want her story, all of it, every gritty glittery detail because…well, I’m not getting into that right now. I’m just not wholly convinced I needed her here, except what we could glean from Nick & Dex. I’m not convinced her POV helped to drive their story forward. I’m not gonna dig my heels in and say she shouldn’t have had room in this book, just that the ensemble POV hasn’t quite won me over. Again…I loved her, and I want loads more of her, but I want her to have her own spotlight. She deserves it.

And also, I feel it my civic duty to report that this book comes to an end without an end. Wee bit of a cliffhanger, y’all. I’m okay knowing these folks are all on the right track, they’re gonna get there I’m certain of it. But fuckin’ hell, man…the wait might kill me. LIZ!

I can easily set those two little things aside to say that this book is important. Every bit of it, from owning and cherishing one’s heritage, coming into adulthood, exploring and coming to terms with sexuality, finding the identity that’s meant to be and being comfortable in our skin. I wish I’d had this book about twenty-five years ago.

Abroad has exactly the depth of emotion, the depth of thinking and introspection that I expected, and some that took me by surprise. The prose, all beautiful and masterfully crafted, has moments of utter gorgeousness that have earned Liz Jacobs a firm stake in this authoring biz. I can’t wait for more.


Purchase Links

Brain Mill Press | Amazon US
Add the book to your goodreads shelf.


About The Author:

Author Photo: Liz JacobsLiz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee.  All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.

She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.

She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.

Connect:

Website |  Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads


Check out the Exclusive Excerpt from Abroad!

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