Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton
Acquired how: ebook ARC via Netgalley
I requested an ARC of this one, because the idea of a gay romance set in the rural 80s intrigued me.
Mine was not the MTV 80s, either. I was young in the 80s, and I lived in Australia, which back then was very different from America – but I did live in a town in the middle of nowhere and I do remember the fear bred by the AIDS crisis. It was very real. In fact, for a long time it seemed like all gay fiction could talk about was the AIDS crisis. I used to get frustrated at how depressing it all was for me, as a young queer person, to only be able to find stories about people dying.
Now, it often seems like the AIDS crisis has all but been forgotten. Magazines claim young people today have the sexual freedom people had before everyone was afraid sex would kill you, and antiretrovirals mean that people with HIV can live longer than ever. Finally, I’m more willing to look back at that period of time, and read fiction that recalls being young and afraid.
To be honest, I can’t extricate my reaction to this book from that. I will admit that I am incapable of being fully objective here.
There are some problems with Sexton’s book – none of the prices quoted for groceries in the review copy really make sense. But the grinding feeling of poverty and never feeling like you will dig your way out of it is quite true to life. The fear Cody and Nate have, of being trapped in a town with nothing but a bowling alley and a lot of dirt, was ably evoked. I believed Sexton’s setting because it felt right.
The relationship also made emotional sense. The characters were poised on the cusp of adulthood and starting to try to make adult choices, but not just ready to let go of childhood attachments yet. The struggle between being afraid of what you want and what it says about you, and going after things without quite considering the consequences, seemed believably teenage. I could see why Cody and Nate were drawn to each other, and how desperation intensified their feelings. They go from feeling like they don’t fit in with anyone, to an ‘us against the world’ mentality. The setbacks in their relationship made sense, as did the steps they finally took to overcome them.
Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and I think a lot of others would too. I’m not going to get into a habit of reading romances about teenagers in the future (so much drama), but in terms of relationship progression, and evoking an era I’m starting to want to look back on, this was satisfying for me.