Review: Treble Maker by Annabeth Albert

treble makerReviewed by Janell

I one-clicked this based on a Twitter description: goth/punk guy plus religious conservative guy plus reality show for a cappella groups. That’s conflict and forbidden love and reality tv, what could be better? But it kind of didn’t work for me.

Lucas is from a small religious college. Both of his parents are professors, and his father wrote a book called The Gay Question, which “theorizes that the religious right’s main issue with homosexuality isn’t the same-sex attraction but rather the standard gay lifestyle.” In other words, Lucas can be gay, as long as he is chaste and celibate until he brings home a nice young man and gets married.

Cole, meanwhile, was rejected by his only family and moved to LA once he finished high school. He’s tough, cool, confident in his singing abilities, and doesn’t mind using or offering sex for favors. He’s also pierced, tattooed, and wears eyeliner.

Lucas comes off as big and clumsy in his first introduction, falling as he tries to learn a dance number for the show. He’s never graceful. He’s not fat, but he’s solid. He blushes. He barely speaks in complete sentences around Cole, instead uttering, “Um,” “Oh,” “Uh,” and “Yeah” in response to Cody’s questions. Cody describes Lucas as a puppy who’d been yelled at for the first time, and also as a scared baby lion.

You know what? I was not attracted to Lucas at all. He felt weak to me, and puppies and baby lions are not sexy. With all that going on outside, his inner monologue is practically all sex. Everything makes him think of sex. Rough sex, kinky sex, forbidden sex. I didn’t like being inside his head in the beginning because of his one-track mind.

I also had a disconnect with Lucas’s “kink.” I don’t know if it’s related to his repression or just how he is, but his fantasies are all about submission. He practically wants to be forced to have sex. The first time Lucas sees Cody naked (they share a hotel room, naturally), he lets Cody talk him into getting naked, too. It felt like such a blurry line to me. Lucas supposedly had boundaries, things that he wasn’t supposed to do. But he let Cody talk him into doing them, because it was sort of a game, and that way he was less responsible for his actions? It fell into a dubious consent gray area for me. Lucas was willing, but based on his non-words and hesitant actions, it would be hard for Cole to really know that Lucas was willing. Like, if Cole wasn’t a “kink whisperer,” and wasn’t correct in identifying that Lucas wanted to be pushed, then he should have just backed off based upon Lucas’s signals.

Here’s where I get sidetracked by virginity. I think Lucas was raised religiously, but I don’t recall him mentioning religion or God. He doesn’t think about his soul or sinning, but he thinks about his school’s Honor Code and his parents’ reputations. So, in a sense, he was saving himself because other people told him to, not because he felt spiritually obligated to.

Then, when he and Cole start touching bodies, it made me realize how arbitrary the concept of virginity is. It really is a construct applicable only to women because it can be proven (kind of, with the hymen) or disproven (by pregnancy). Like, a penis can touch or go in anywhere on the body except in that one hole and she’s still, technically, a virgin. (This gives me Bill Clinton indictment flashbacks, how about you?) So since men lack that particular hole, does the old-fashioned idea of virginity even apply? Lucas’s changing boundaries didn’t really get into whether he felt he was still obeying the Honor Code when Cole’s penis was between his thighs, you know?

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot was decent enough, although the reality show really took a back seat to Cole’s and Lucas’s mutual masturbation sessions. And the relationship was tricky for me, because the focus was mostly on the sexual situations, and those situations were manipulative (but in a kinky game way! really!). I believed in the ending, because Lucas grew a spine and started speaking in strong sentences. But I didn’t really enjoy the journey.

Rating: C+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Treble Maker
by Annabeth Albert
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Kensington

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