Book Reviews, Nell Iris' Christmas

Christmasvaganza: Friday Review


This is the last holiday themed review for this Christmasvaganza. But…it’s the wrong day, you say. I know, I know. I went rogue this last Christmasvaganza week, and switched places with the review and the Flash Fiction story that would normally be posted today. That little story takes place on New Year’s Eve, so I thought I’d post it on…you guessed it…New Year’s Eve 😀

Instead, I give you one of my all time favorite reads. Holiday or otherwise.


christmas kitschSometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.


I’m like a big sea creature, and no place is the sea.

There’s something about the way Amy Lane uses language that speaks to me. She takes simplistic, boring everyday words and crafts them into magic with a power to reduce me into a blubbering mess on the couch, desperately clinging to the box of Kleenex. She writes feelings that I feel in my heart and stomach. She takes ordinary people and transforms them into super heroes. Because sometimes super heroes don’t wear a cape. Sometimes they’re the ones seeing you for who you really are, or the ones being there for you when you really, really need it.

Like Oliver and his family are for Rusty when he gets thrown out of the house when his parents catches him kissing his boyfriend on the day before Thanksgiving. Like Rusty’s friend Rex who starts out as an annoying roommate at college but ends up being a part of Rusty’s chosen family. Like Rusty himself, offering his big heart to someone you’d least expect.

I love this book. Rusty is a fabulous character; he’s a young man who doesn’t really know who he is until he meets Oliver. He thinks he’s nothing but a dumb jock who has to do what his parents say and that’s how he ends up at a fancy college where he doesn’t belong. Where he struggles every day until one day he goes to bed on a Friday and doesn’t wake up until Monday from Oliver screaming at him over Skype.

Which—by the way—is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I’ve ever read. Period.

Oliver is a fabulous character who realizes long before Rusty, that Rusty’s most likely gay. He fights tooth and nail for their relationship and when Rusty is overwhelmed with life and circumstances, Oliver is right there. Holding him up.

I love the scene when Rusty admits to himself—and Oliver—that he’s gay.

“I’m pretty sure I’m gay.”
“Me too, pendejo.”
“And even if I’m not gay, you know what?”
“I’m pretty sure I’m Oliver-sexual.”

I mean. Awwwwwwww. Died.

This book is full of lovely moments that makes my heart break in my chest of both happiness and sorrow, and that’s just the way I love my books. After being tossed out on his ass, Rusty moves into a crappy apartment that he makes habitable with the help of Oliver’s family. He doesn’t have a lot. He sleeps on an air mattress and has mismatched furniture and in general it’s not great. But he finds the silver lining.

I woke up in the morning groggy, cold and hungry, but I was damned grateful for the milk in the fridge and the cereal in the cupboards. Oh, and for the toilet paper in the bathroom, too.


A perfect day for me will always start with tiny dogs and a warm house in the winter, and coffee, and people glad to see me when I wake up.

This last quote is perfection and is how I fell about life. Except I’m allergic to dogs, and I live in Malaysia so I prefer a cool house over a warm, and I don’t drink coffee, but tea. But the sentiment hits me right in the heart. Who needs big, grandiose gestures when it’s the little things that makes life worth living?

This book is fantastic. I loved it when I first read it back in 2015 and I loved it even more when I re-read it now. Read this book. Buy this book. You won’t be sorry. This book is 10 stars, but since someone…ehum…decided on a five star rating system, I give it five stars. Or Christmas trees, since this is Christmasvaganza after all.



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