Johanna Parkhurst’s sophomore novel, Thanks a Lot, John LeClair, is not something I would typically pick up. When the book’s publicist reached out to me, I almost responded with a “no, thanks”, because I don’t usually like books that are really heavy on sports. But something about it spoke to me, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop.
(From Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Emmitt LaPoint has secretly been writing letters to his hockey idol, John LeClair, for years. So it’s probably only fitting that Emmitt’s small Vermont town seems desperate to make him the next LeClair. After all, Emmitt is about to lead his high school hockey team to the state championship, he has a near-perfect GPA, and he’s liked by almost everyone.
But even golden boys have problems, and Emmitt has more than his share. His father’s back in town to breathe down his neck. He’s happily dating his coach’s nephew, Dusty, but almost nobody knows he’s gay—and that secret is getting harder and harder to keep.
When Emmitt discovers Dusty is keeping secrets of his own, he’s forced to decide exactly what kind of golden boy he wants to be.
Thanks a Lot, John LeClair is a brilliant young adult novel. It is about a young gay couple, Emmitt and Dusty, who have to deal with a lot of issues that come along with being teenagers as well as being gay teenagers. I really like that it was set in a small town, but one that is generally accepting of homosexuality (much more than my large hometown). They still have to deal with prejudice, but there is a huge support group, which I enjoyed seeing. The relationship between Emmitt and Dusty is adorable, and it was refreshing to see a gay relationship that is a bit more secure and established (most I’ve read are in the beginning stages). I thought all the characters were wonderfully dimensional and memorable. I am looking forward to seeing them again in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike (which is technically the prequel to this one, but I didn’t know about it until I was halfway through).
The writing itself was great! It didn’t seem generic, but it was definitely suited to the genre. I especially loved the letters Emmitt wrote to John LeClair (his hockey idol) at different ages, (intentional) spelling errors and all. I like when writing is good enough for me to notice it, but not so lyrical or bogged down with imagery and big words that it overshadows the story. Parkhurst struck a great balance, and I would definitely read her writing again.
Ironically, what I loved most about this book was the hockey aspect. It was fun to see the games described (but not in an overly-passionate, annoying way – my hockey-obsessed sister could learn a thing or two from this book). But really, what impacted me most was how Emmitt’s homosexuality played into his hockey career, and how his teammates and those around him reacted to it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I liked the direction it went it. Even if it was a tad over the top.
Is it obvious I liked this book? Because it should be. This was so close to being a five-star book for me. There isn’t really anything I can pinpoint that I didn’t like about it, but it wasn’t quite there for me. I still highly recommend this book! If you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, you will love this one!
Thanks a Lot, John LeClair will be released by Harmony Ink Press on December 15. You can get your copy here.
Thank you to the author and publisher for providing this book in exchange for my unbiased review!