Friday, May 13, 2022

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING, which is why you should read it


Ballantine Books
$27.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Danny Scudd is absolutely fine. He always dreamed of escaping the small-town life of his parents’ fish-and-chip shop, moving to London, and becoming a journalist. And, after five years in the city, his career isn’t exactly awful, and his relationship with pretentious Tobbs isn’t exactly unfulfilling. Certainly his limited-edition Dolly Parton vinyls and many (maybe too many) house plants are hitting the spot. But his world is flipped upside down when a visit to the local clinic reveals that Tobbs might not have been exactly faithful. In fact, Tobbs claims they were never operating under the “heteronormative paradigm” of monogamy to begin with. Oh, and Danny’s flatmates are unceremoniously evicting him because they want to start a family. It’s all going quite well.

Newly single and with nowhere to live, Danny is forced to move in with his best friend, Jacob, a flamboyant nonbinary artist whom he’s known since childhood, and their eccentric group of friends living in an East London “commune.” What follows is a colorful voyage of discovery through modern queer life, dating, work, and lots of therapy—all places Danny has always been too afraid to fully explore. Upon realizing just how little he knows about himself and his sexuality, he careens from one questionable decision (and man) to another, relying on his inscrutable new therapist and housemates to help him face the demons he’s spent his entire life trying to repress. Is he really fine, after all?


My Review
: It's far from my first time for...well, almost anything. Yet this British tale of being a twentysomething soul whose entire world turns upside down, whose every point of trust in his relationships is called into question because he wasn't having the same relationship with others they were having with him, just called to me.

Danny is our PoV character, a young man who's daring to think his life is going well and he's among the people who understand and love him. It's a heady place to be. So, this being a story, we know it's not the way things will stay. First, Tobbs (his long-term love) brings home an STD. So there goes that whole monogamy fantasy...and his love says some self-serving things about it being heteronormative and I cringed so hard I looked like I was trying out for the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I've used that line, though I hasten to say not to excuse my transmission of an STD! Just...well, Author Fry, you scored a point with me by holding the Ouch Oculus up to my face.

Thank goodness, given this, that Danny doesn't live with that knob Tobbs. Laura and her husband seem...nice. Do please note I said "husband" and extrapolate from there that there is procreative activity taking place. We who have paid attention in sex-ed classes (or just had families) will be unsurprised to learn that Danny's rent payments are less desirable than the space he's taking up when the inevitable pregnancy occurs...just as his relationship with that knob Tobbs is over.

Danny's in therapy...terrible anxiety issues...and that completely won me over. Nina, Danny's therapist, is brilliant (in the UK sense) and comedy gold. She's not a comedy therapist, the kind you read in older books who either bumbles or is sibylline. She's commonsensical, not here for self-pity, and deeply committed to Danny learning to manage his issues. Her solidity and warmth were equaled by the obligatory wild BFF: Jacob. They are enby (non-binary), ace (asexual), and so utterly FABULOUS that I think they should have a book of their own.

Hint, hint.

The things that happen in Danny's world, in hindrance that proves to be help, are all relatable. The voice the story's told in makes the project of reading it a pleasure, and the laughter it evokes is frequently tinged with sad recognition as well as joyful anticipation. Given that Author Fry, in an interview with, says he was inspired to write this story in part by television sitcoms, it's no surprise that he's already got an adaptation in the works from Aussie production company Moonriver as it expands its UK footprint.

This debut novel is a delight from giddy-up to whoa. I'd've kept this review back until my June Pride Month cavalcade of Queerness but I just couldn't...I want you to go get one and read it now.

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