Review: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

all the wrong placesReviewed by Janell

You guys! An asexual Muslim single father meets a semi-pro skater dude, and there are no throbbing cocks, and it was strange yet magical and I totally enjoyed it. A male/male romance without sex, does it even count?

Brennan just had his third girlfriend cheat on him, and he’s starting to think that he needs help in the sex department. There’s a sex shop down the street from the skateboard shop where he works, so he stops in. Zafir works behind the counter, and he asks Brennan increasingly personal and awkward questions, leading up to the big one: might Brennan be asexual?

Brennan spends a lot of time thinking about it. He researches online and asks Zafir a lot of questions. He realizes that, while he has enjoyed sex with his girlfriends, he’s never initiated it or chased it. He’s personally not interested. No wonder all the high school girls thought he was such a great cuddler.

Zafir has already gone through the process of categorizing himself. He got a girl pregnant in high school mainly because he was rebelling against his strict parents. He’s been parenting on his own since he was seventeen. Zafir explains to Brennan that labels are what other people use to help them make sense of the world, but for what it’s worth, he identifies as asexual, yet biromantic. He’s dated men and women, and now he’s just trying to be a good dad.

Brennan and Zafir start hanging out a lot, first because they have something in common, then because they’re friends. Brennan even teaches Zafir’s son how to skateboard. Zafir occasionally mentions going to mosque, or keeping a halal diet, but he also admits that he’s not a perfectly strict Muslim and he hopes that Allah will understand. Brennan responds with mild curiosity, but basically it’s a non-issue. Which is cool.

Now you’re wondering how this can be a romance if it’s just two guys hanging out together, right? Eventually, they kiss. Brennan thinks that it could be weird to kiss a guy, because he’s never been attracted to men, but it’s not weird because it’s Zafir and he likes Zafir. Is that realistic? Who knows? Brennan asks himself almost any question the reader could think of, so it feels thoughtful. It made me wonder, if sex was off the table, how many people would feel romantic towards their best friend?

Basically, this was a sweet, interesting book. The relationship progressed and I believed it. There’s even a dark moment near the end of the book, and a lot of soul-searching by both characters. Plus a happy ending that was adorable. I was really happy for both characters.

This book is part of a series about a small town in the Puget Sound area (hey, that’s my area!). I think other books tangentially relate to a fictional tv show being filmed in the town, and that show sounds bonkers fun, so I might need to track them down.

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

All the Wrong Places
by Ann Gallagher
Release Date: June 13, 2016
Publisher: Riptide

Comments

  1. I can’t quite get my head around what that sort of relationship would be like. So in love and kissy but that’s it? No passion? Can you form a romantic bond without sex?

    • Shelly Browne says:

      I wouldn’t think you could. I assume a no sex relationship would be based more on history together, like if a partner was injured or otherwise physically unable but only after their relationship is already there. You know what I mean?

      • Yeah, and I guess there’s tons of reasons people stop getting it on, but that initial passion cements you together. Hard to imagine such a close relationship without sex. I might pick up an asexual book to try to understand this better as it’s a whole new area of romance I just don’t get.

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