This month’s Backlist Book of the Month is The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, a gay YA hybrid novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, whose work also includes the hiiiighly acclaimed gay YA We Are the Ants. Here are three reasons this one’s a Must Read:
- FEEEEEEELINGS. You like feeling things, don’t you? Sadness and pain and sympathy or maybe empathy but also friendship feelings and caring and that spark of discovering someone new? I’m not gonna pretend this book won’t crush you, but…come on. Isn’t that what books are for, really?
- The art. As I mentioned, this book is a hybrid – the main character is a comic artist, and the actual art in the book was done by illustrator Christine Larsen. The comic panels add so much to the work, not just because they’re beautifully done, and not just because they encompass so many emotions, but because they allow you to get that much further into Andrew’s head and the swirl of emotions that come with it.
- The universality. You might not be gay, or have lost your family, or be in the hospital, or have a friend who’s dying, but this isn’t just about those things individually – it’s everything that comes with survivor’s guilt, with your life turning upside-down, with considering a new future when you know it won’t look anything like you thought it would. It’s finding beauty in ugly places and strength through your weakest times. And I’m pretty sure we can all relate to that.
Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.
Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.
Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.
But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.
But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.