Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote
Link to buy Not Just Friends
Story Rating: 4 out of 5


Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis is not prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max—given that Lewis had always assumed he was straight. Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction.

When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. But after a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends. Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.


“Not Just Friends” is a bittersweet coming-out story that might strike a familiar chord with many readers. What makes this book a slight cut above most others is the focus on realistic characters, with a light touch on the angst. Several books on this subject tend to over-do the angst almost anyone in Lewis' position might feel, often making the reader lose interest in them, but in this case it's just right. Lewis has doubts, for sure, but we aren't plunged into a well of indecisiveness in this case. He tries to deal with the situations that are dealt to him, even if his heart really isn't in it. Max is a little more or a mystery, but as the book is told from Lewis' point of view, that's as it should be.

While the overall story is rather sweet, this is not one of those plots where everything goes our hero's way. As the blurb suggests, there is a lot of other things for Lewis to overcome before he can find happiness with the one he has fallen so desperately in love with, and that adds greatly to the realism of the characters.

For all its charm, “Not Just Friends” is not a very deep book. If you identify with the characters, which many people will, you will almost certainly find this story meaningful to a degree, but it's unlikely to stick with you for very long. This is a story of one young man's personal journey to discovering one aspect of his true self, which is very good, but it is not necessarily going to give you anything in particular to think about.

Reviewed by Michael Joseph

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