I was beginning to think this genre had passed its peak so this was a great surprise. I loved Mark. Even at his most angry bunny state, I identified with his aimlessness and sense of alienation. I loved that he was an unreliable narrator and that the people around him were not all the one dimensional bad guys he had built them up to be in his mind.
The romance between the 18 year old displaced Australian, Mark, and 21 year old serious American student, Deacon, slowly builds from casual to breathtakingly romantic. There is a mutual exploration of light kink along the way in some genuinely sexy love scenes. Their affair is set against the painful/illuminating journey that Mark is taking to fit in to his well-meaning stepfather's old college fraternity.
Despite all the pressure Mark stays true to himself throughout. And Deacon is a solid boyfriend whose own need to be... well, needed, makes him the perfect foil for the mercurial Mark. Deacon's own back story was less enthralling but still handled touchingly. The dialogue is natural and funny and the ending was perfect. I had a big smile on my face when I read the last few lines.
I loved that Mark came from Bundaberg. I lived there for a few years. It's a great place. Although I think the author took a little artistic licence with the surfing scene there. It's not exactly gnarly! lol.