While in the middle of arguing for the right to go to prom with his boyfriend, Luis gets hit on the head and get knocked back into 1985–literally. As he and the younger version of his favorite teacher try to find a way back home for him, Luis takes it upon himself to become friends with the doomed, gay Chaz Wilson. In Luis’ time, Chaz is dead, having been found at the bottom of a cliff. Luis thinks that if he could just get Chaz his first gay kiss, things might change.
Why this book?: i was doing research into the LGBTQ+ stories that my local library has. I found this one and it seemed relatively short. I personally never heard of it and decided to give reading it ago, especially because it sounded … interesting?
This entire review contains talk of extreme homophobia and talk of hate crimes towards queer people. Please do not read if these will bother you.
Wow … There’s a lot I can say about this book, and not all of them good. I struggled for a while with this book to really get into it. I don’t generally read contemporary books, but I’m trying to read more books outside my comfort zone and this one seemed like a good idea. It was short, I usually see contemporaries as quick reads, and since my library owned it, I could keep it out for as long as I needed or return it on a whim. And, to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes to begin with. The premise of the story seemed ill-advised at best, and extremely dangerous at worst. I honestly expected to return it before I was halfway through with it, but my stubbornness won out.
Mostly because it was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t take my eyes away as Luis dug himself a deeper and deeper grave.
Now, I could care less if a protagonist is likable or not. I personally find flawed protagonists interesting and more realistic, because no one is perfect. But usually, if a character isn’t likable, you still want to make them compelling. You still want something about this character to draw people in. With Luis, I guess, that attribute that drew people in would be his predilection for making obnoxiously bad ideas. Every time Luis went forward to do something, I found myself cringing and looking away, mostly because his decisions were either wildly uninformed, stupidly selfish, or he just didn’t sit back for five seconds to think through what he was doing.
That leads into my biggest problem with this book: Luis’ plan to give Chaz his first (gay) kiss. In an extremely homophobic school, where a bigoted bully is constantly breathing down both of their necks, watching for anything that would give him the excuse to hate crime Luis and Chaz. I’m not even exaggerating here. This isn’t even going into the fact that the bully (Gordo) is Luis’ father in the future. But back to Luis and Chaz. Luis is dedicated, absolutely, 100% set, on getting Chaz to accept his queerness and give him his first kiss. And while that’s sweet and charming, it’s also extremely tone-deaf. Luis is trying to help Chaz, but all he is doing at this point is painting a giant target on his and Chaz’s backs. The school is religious and extremely homophobic, so if someone even thinks they’re doing something slightly queer, they get kicked out. Luis gets spoken to multiple times about being too girly and his fashion choices, among many other things, but he drags Chaz, who is just trying to make it to graduation, into this whole thing.
This next part talks explicitly about events within the book, so if you don’t want to be spoilered, feel free to skip. But also I think this information needs to be included.
In the end, they do get hate-crimed. They get attacked. In Luis’ future, Chaz gets killed, but apparently Luis being there allows Chaz to escape, which doesn’t make sense since Chaz wouldn’t have been anywhere near where they were attacked if Luis wasn’t there. This entire event pisses me off because it simply wouldn’t have happened if Luis wasn’t there. There’s no context that allows us to understand why Chaz would be there alone in the other timeline when he is killed, but in this one, Luis is there like a hero to take most of the heat while Chaz is able to run and find help.
The rest of the story just wraps up this final event in the way you’d expect–the people who attacked them got suspended, but so did Luis and Chaz. There’s a whole nother addition of a student/teacher relationship that is shoved in oddly that I can’t even begin to unravel, and then Luis gets knocked on the head again (actually this time he’s hit by a car) and is sent right back to 2022 as if nothing happened.
But then apparently it turns out he changed the future and he gets everything he wanted and Chaz is alive and happy with a husband and apparently his mom (who was a student there in 1985) and the teacher who helped him actually remember Luis and what he did during their time and that Chaz never died (what happened there is never explained).
This is why I hate time travel as a plot device.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
I will say that there were parts I genuinely enjoyed. I loved Luis’ personality and how outspoken he was and supportive. He was shamelessly selfish and conceited, which I honestly found to be an interesting part because, as I mentioned before, no protagonist has to be likeable or redeemable. The writing was simple and enjoyable, and the other characters were diverse and entertaining and I loved the focus on Latine people.
However, the majority of the book was one giant train wreck. I couldn’t get past the fact that Luis just decided to throw himself into Chaz’s life and put him in genuine danger. Luis didn’t really seem able to realize that his actions were dangerous for that time and that he could have legitimately gotten someone killed. He was only concerned with getting Chaz a kiss (with him.)
I’m fine with irredeemable protagonists. But please make them make sense.
Would I Recommend?
I find it hard to find anything within this book worth recommending. The main plot point can be super triggering, and that’s not even going into the religious aspect or the student/teacher relationship that I mentioned briefly. I appreciate what the author was trying to do, but this ain’t it.
Published: January 4th, 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Page Count: 352
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Synopsis: via Goodreads
All Luis Gonzalez wants is to go to prom with his boyfriend, something his “progressive” high school still doesn’t allow. Not after what happened with Chaz Wilson. But that was ages ago, when Luis’s parents were in high school; it would never happen today, right? He’s determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve (while also not risking his chance to be prom king, just saying…).
When a hit on the head knocks him back in time to 1985 and he meets the doomed young Chaz himself, Luis concocts a new plan—he’s going to give this guy his first real kiss. Though it turns out a conservative school in the ’80s isn’t the safest place to be a gay kid. Especially with homophobes running the campus, including Gordo (aka Luis’s estranged father). Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse—and hoping he makes it back to present day at all.
In a story that’s fresh, intersectional, and wickedly funny, David Valdes introduces a big-mouthed, big-hearted, queer character that readers won’t soon forget.
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