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The Unwanted

TITLE: The Unwanted

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Ricker
PUBLISHER: Bold Strokes Books
YEAR: March 2014
PAGE/WORD COUNT: 264 pages
GENRE: M/M YA Urban Romantic Fantasy
HEAT LEVEL: Sweet, Sex behind closed doors
RATING: 5 out of 5

REVIEW: I don’t read YA novels. My teenage children keep pushing them on me, and I keep trying to stir up an interest in them, but they just fall flat for me. When I was their age, I read the Dragonriders of Pern, the Dune saga, the Chronicles of Amber, and the like. I still love those stories, and they’re hard to live up to, I’ll admit. So when I realized that the book I’d agreed to read and review was a YA urban fantasy, it took me a while to summon the will to read it.

To think of those wasted weeks I spent procrastinating, when I could have been enjoying one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Although, really, how was I to know that the story of a 16 year old boy who discovers that his dead mother is in fact a very lively Amazon warrior princess, and that he is foretold by prophecy to be the savior of the people who never wanted him in the first place would be anything but pretentious, tedious, and dull? It shouldn’t work, but it does.

In his second novel, Jeffrey Ricker gives us a wonderful modern fable (in the sense of incorporating elements of myth and legend, rather than a moral tale with animal characters) that has all the snide sarcasm and blushing fumbles toward first love that one would expect from a nerdy teenage boy. Jamie is absolutely authentic, and as unlikely an epic hero as one could find. But when the goddess Athena herself tells him he’s destined for greatness, what’s a boy to do?

The characters are vibrant and engaging, the plot entirely believable within a fantasy universe, and the pacing struck a good balance between narrative and action. If this is the beginning of Ricker’s career, I’m looking forward to his growth as a writer.

While I would not call this a romance, there is a romantic element to the story. For those among you who care about such things, be aware that the main character, Jamie, is gay, and the romance is between him and another boy. I mention this because there is no hint in the blurb that the hero is gay. It shouldn’t matter, but I’d hate to see bad reviews put out there simply because someone was caught with their prejudice showing and feels cheated out of eight dollars. We are shown some sweet kisses, and there is the suggestion that more happens behind closed doors, but there is no graphic sex in this book.

I received a copy for reviewing purposes, and I’m grateful that I was lured out of my genre for this.