Fourteen-year-old Ellen has always been "totally madly in love" with her older brother Link's best friend, James. Now she is beginning to realize that Link and James may be in love with each other. It isn't a physical relationship; Link insists he's not gay, though James is bisexual. Matters come to a head when Ellen asks if they are a couple, and they quarrel with each other. Link slams out of the room, refuses to speak to Link, and starts a relationship with a girl. James and Ellen begin a relationship of their own, which gradually becomes a sexual relationship, and with James' encouragement Ellen discovers her talent for drawing. Meanwhile, Ellen struggles to understand her brilliant, difficult, deeply confused brother. He avoids talking about any of his issues, but a crisis develops when he hands in all his exam papers blank, and reveals that he has dropped out of a math program for gifted students to study the piano instead. Link excels in "the art of evasive language and behavior," but he and their parents must learn what Ellen is trying to practice, the art of exploring and articulating what is in their hearts. The cover illustration, a Keith Haring-like drawing of two linked figures with a third standing with outstretched arms between them and a heart over their heads, is particularly apt for this tale of shifting relationships between an offbeat threesome. Set in the private school world of Manhattan, the controversial issues raised here about sex and sexual identity makes this more appropriate for sophisticated older teens, though there is nothing explicit. Freymann-Weyr, the acclaimed author of When I Was Older, has produced a beautifully crafted and often witty tale ofemotional discovery and self-discovery, as Ellen struggles to understand the "unwritten social laws" that govern the behavior of those around her. Recommended for senior high school students. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
This coming of age novel features an unusual love triangle theme. When Ellen starts private high school, she becomes aware that her older brother, Link, and his friend James may be in a gay relationship. Ironically, Ellen is in love with James herself but also idolizes her brother. Deemed a social misfit at her old school because she didn't establish friendships, Ellen attempts "normality" for her parents' sake. At her new school she comes to terms with the realization that Link's and James's "friendship" may be more than that. James understands he "may" be gay; Link does not. With his father's pressure, Link breaks off the long-term friendship with James but Ellen picks it up. As she edges toward a sexual relationship with James, she is aware that Link is falling apart mentally. When Link fails to complete his school exams the family situation changes. Freymann-Weyr captures the essence of coming of age and sexual awareness in this novel. Her straightforward manner on a touchy subject is impressive and has much to offer straight and gay teens. Shortfalls may be the oversights of adult characters and Ellen's nature to "play with fire" in her desire to be loved by James. 2002, Houghton Mifflin,
Nancy Garhan Attebury
For as long as she can remember, Ellen's fourteen-year-old brother, Link, has been friends with James. Their intense bond revolves around watching foreign films, reading complicated novels, and attending concerts. Ellen wants to hang out with Link and James more than with anyone else, except when they are not getting along. At those times, Link reverts to character, becoming silent, whereas James uses humor and sarcasm to try to bridge the divide. Ellen loves her brother, but she has been in love with James for years. With his impossibly good looks and his passion for everything, Ellen finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. It is not until a girl at school asks if Link and James are a couple that Ellen begins her campaign to learn who her brother really is. As she questions them both, Link refuses to talk about it, and James realizes that he does not want to be with someone who will not acknowledge their relationship. Ellen's closeness with James intensifies after his break from Link, and the unique triangle of friendship shifts to incorporate new relationships and a greater understanding of the limits of love. This intelligent look at the ambiguity of sexuality and familial relationships genuinely portrays Link's struggle with his feelings of love for James and his own father's view of homosexuality. Beyond its discussion of sexuality, this novel explores issues of self-discovery and intimacy in a sensitive manner. Free of cliché and any hidden agenda, it will appeal to readers looking for something a bit different from the traditional love story. (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; ).,
Gr 8 Up-Garrett Freymann-Weyr's novel (Houghton, 2002) about a teen's maturing understanding of friends, family, and self is brought to vivid life in Christy Carlson Romano's fast-paced reading. Fourteen-year-old Ellen has known James most of her life, as he is her older brother Lincoln's long-term best friend. Just as she realizes that she has developed a romantic crush on James, he and Linc appear to have a significant falling out. The revelation that James is gay not only plays havoc with Ellen's romantic designs-although they do manage to consummate their youthful admiration for each other with honestly drawn sexual encounters-but pits Linc into a silent war against his former bosom buddy. Ellen and her circle are moneyed New Yorkers, but their story is relevant and resonant beyond culture and class. How friendships pause and then restart, how teens let themselves peek a little at a time into their own and their families' souls are among the truths eloquently played out here, with humor as well as angst. Romano's youthful tenor fits Ellen just right, making this a bit like listening to a young friend share her observations and experiences.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this lovely and passionate story, told in the first-person present, the questions of love are repeated over, under, around, and beneath: how do parents love their children? How do friends care for one another? What do love and sex have to do with each other? Ellen is 14, and the two most important people in her life are her older brother Link, a high-school senior, and his best friend James. In a world of privilege, private schools, Manhattan locales, and summers in Maine, Ellen wrestles with her deep love for her brother and the intensity of her feelings for his best friend. Are James and Link a couple? Ellen wrestles with that, too, with what it might mean to be gay. When Link begins dating a girl, James and Ellen try to find what they are to each other without Link, Ellen sees her brother's talents, her parents' differing desires but very real concerns, and James's complex emotional life as puzzles to be solved with intensity and with desire. "A mind with its own heartbeat" is the favorite phrase of Link and Ellen's dad, and Ellen's mind beats across the tangle of feelings of all these beguiling, intelligent, and complicated folk. Breathtaking in the purity of its emotions and in its refusal to pigeonhole any of its characters, it will engage teen readers to the very last page.
"Narrator Ellen learns about love, family and 'society's unwritten rules' in this sophisticated but gentle novel." Publishers Weekly, Starred
"A tightly constructed novel about love, family, and the ambiguities of sexual identity." School Library Journal, Starred
"Freyman-Weyr writes an astonishing combination of delicacy and clarity of the genuine complexity of family (and all) relationships." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred
"Freymann-Weyr sets up a riveting love triangle. As in the author's first novel, When I Was Older, one of the standout qualities is the protagonist's fresh, vital tone." Horn Book, Starred
"The fast, clipped dialog will sweep teens into the story, as will Ellen’s immediate first-person, present-tense narrative, 'curious, careful, kind, and intense.' The family dynamics are just as compelling as the love and friendship drama, especially Ellen’s bewilderment about the unwritten laws that can make people strangers even within the family they love." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"...it will engage teen readers to the very last page." Kirkus Reviews