The Long Way Home, by ZA Maxfield
TW: death of a pet, discussion of abduction and murder of children, ableism, homophobia, domestic violence, abduction, violence (attempted murder/torture, murder)
So if you follow me on GR, you may have noticed I did a lot of status updates while reading this one. That's what happens when I'm bored, unfortunately. I had several issues with this book, so let's get the good out of the way first.
I liked the idea of this book much better than its execution. I liked Kevin and Connor for the most part. They were far from perfect characters and they both had issues to work through. I liked that the author explored what happens when someone first becomes psychic and how they adapt or don't adapt to that. And even though it was super obvious who the villain was the second he walked onto the page, up to then, it was an interesting case that connected to Connor's past somehow. Of course, if Kevin had just once shaken this man's hand, he would've figured it out who the perp was way sooner and the book could've been 50 pages shorter.
Which leads me to my first issue. I'm going to limit myself to my three biggest issues, and from this point on, it's safe to say that spoilers abound.
1) The editing, or complete lack thereof
This is just sloppy. There are incomplete sentences. There are missing words, and not just the inconsequential article or preposition here or there, but important words that denote action or emotion or even who is supposed to be speaking. The scenes jump around. One minute, Kevin is sitting down to eat breakfast. There's a couple of lines of dialogue, then Kevin is getting up to wash his dirty dishes. Um... when did he eat? In another scene, Connor is waiting for an ambulance for Kevin. There's a line about how he didn't want to let go of Kevin's hand. Note that this line comes immediately after Connor had been to the door. I had to go back and reread the previous two pages in that scene. There is no mention of Connor ever taking Kevin's hand prior to that line. These are just a few examples, and that's just the first 25% of the book.
On top of that, the book gets repetitive fast. Connor wakes up and goes for a run. Kevin makes breakfast. Connor comes back. They eat. They shower. (They do a lot of showering in this book. It's an obsession of theirs. I'm blaming the drought on them.) Connor takes Kevin to a crime scene, then they go back to his place and Kevin does his psychic thing and something goes wrong. Lather, rinse, repeat. As such, the plot just sort of plods along and feels like it never really gets anywhere. They keep saying they need to hurry up and catch the killer, but it takes Kevin several days to through all the evidence boxes this way.
There's also this weird thing where Connor is constantly said to have just "turned gay" despite it being revealed very early on that he was in a same-sex relationship in high school and having all kinds of "normal" sex with this person. But he's suddenly new to it and never slept with another guy before. Um... how so? And while I won't categorize this as insta-sex or insta-love - they don't have sex or fall in love upon first seeing other - the love does come on very suddenly and out of nowhere. There is no chemistry at all between the leads, and I can't tell if this comes back to the editing issues or if it's a case of too much telling and not enough showing. I just didn't feel it, and I started skipping their sex scenes (nearly all of which happen in the shower) about halfway through. (I also would not recommend zip tying someone to a shower head unless you've got the money to pay for the repairs when that shower head inevitably gets yanked from the wall. Just don't do it. There are plenty other, safer, less expensive things you can zip tie someone to. IJS. The shoes are a good idea though. Less slippery that way.)
And for those of you who hate "baby" - Kevin calls Connor "pretty baby." Repeatedly. Yuck.
2) BDSM-extra-lite vs domestic violence
This one is confusing because I have no idea what the author is trying to do here or why certain scenes are included or written the way they are.
First of all, yes, Kevin, you need a safe word. If someone tells you that you don't need a safe word, you should run the other direction.
Second of all, we know that Kevin is seeing into Connor's dreams and knows what Andrew meant to Connor. He also knows that Connor was in a relationship with a woman named Cheryl. Kevin has expressed nothing but support of Connor's situation. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he decides to complain about Connor "always" talking about Andrew and Cheryl and how he doesn't want to hear about the other people in Connor's life. After he slaps Connor. Who then slaps him back. And instead of discussing this, they go back to talking as if nothing happened. It was a very strange, disjointed scene, and I'm not sure why it was even included. Was it an attempt to get some conflict into the text? Was it supposed to be hot?
Third of all, during one of Kevin's endless discussions about how Connor is so new to this and Kevin wants to give him space to figure it all out by going home to Wyoming when the case is over, Connor comes up and punches him in the face, then takes off. This is never discussed between them. Connor has a brief thought about getting anger management classes, but this is never mentioned again. Kevin doesn't even think to make this a condition of returning to Connor's home. Then again, it's also not a condition for Kevin leaving Connor's home. Instead, Kevin has this lovely little conversation with James, a former friends-with-benefits. Kevin is the first speaker; James is the second:
"Right. So what if one day, just for the hell of it or because I get really, really mad I hauled off and kicked [my dog] across the room? What do you think she'd do then?"
"She'd wait a while and come back and lick your hand, because she's a dog. And you will love her all the more for it and it will make you a better person."
First, James is a veterinarian. He needs to have his license taken away. Second, you just compared Kevin to a dog. Third, are you trying to say that an abused person should go back to their abuser because love is blind and conquers all, and it helps the abuser be a better person? Are you serious? Kevin, you have terrible friends.
Immediately after this heartfelt scene of warm and cozies, Connor shows up unannounced to take Kevin home (ahhhh, how romantic!) and proceeds to wonder if he should whip Kevin into submission for ignoring him for so many months. Um... please work out your domestic violence issues before getting back into your BDSM-extra-lite lifestyle, guys. Please! These are very non-mixey things.
I'm just really baffled what the author's intentions here were. If it was to highlight that there is a difference between BDSM and domestic abuse, she gets no points for it because the DV is barely addressed and in no way resolved.
I put these in my status updates on GR as I was reading:
Connor had started the rumor that his friend has post- traumatic-stress disorder so no one would think he brought a crackhead to a family outing. He'd giving just the right touch of rolled eyes and made an allusion to the World Trade Center attack of September eleventh.
And this one:
"It's the eye and the psychic thing. Don't get me wrong, Quinn. I'm trying to work through it here, but I think I speak for all of us when I say... Ew."
I don't even know where to start with these. PTSD is a very real mental illness that afflicts people every day. You do NOT get to eye roll at them, and you certainly do not get to use the victims of 9/11 as an excuse for Kevin acting strangely. You know what else would've explained Kevin's behavior, been perfectly honest, not revealed any secrets about his psychic abilities and NOT been disrespectful to the victims of 9/11 and those who suffer PTSD? Saying something like, "Kevin was in a car accident a few years ago and sometimes still has symptoms." That's all you had to say, Connor. What grown person EYE ROLLS at people with PTSD? WTF? And "crackhead"? Can we not?
As for that second lovely quote, that is said by a detective who is presented as someone who is FRIENDLY and SUPPORTIVE of Kevin. I'm at a loss for words for how harmful and foul that is, but I'll try. First, in a strictly professional capacity, you don't say "ew" to people you work with and who are consulting on cases. (I won't even get into the Fed who slanders Kevin for being both gay and a "freak" psychic, because I will start seeing red). You don't say "ew" to people with a physical disability, like a dead eye, or a missing limb, or facial paralysis or in whatever fashion they're being "othered" - YOU JUST DO NOT DO THAT. And you certainly can't expect for me to root for that character and the MC to become besties because she's able to get over her gross out factor to shake his hand. It was this line, and many, many others besides, that convinced me all these characters are based on twelve-year olds.
4) I know I said top three, but I realized I had one more thing that bugged me that I need to address, and it was Himself, Kevin's dad. After Kevin's accident and his mother's death (which are unrelated but happened around the same time), Kevin's dad said something extremely homophobic to his son and blamed him for his mother's death because he's gay. Kevin then rightly decided to cut ties. SIX YEARS LATER, at the time this book is taking place, Connor convinces Kevin to go to family dinner for Christmas Eve with Himself. During this dinner, they reconcile, which is nice and all, don't get me wrong. I think both sets of parents respond fairly well here to their sons' relationship. However, while Himself was berating Kevin for having the gall to believe what Himself said, it's never once brought up that Himself also had plenty of time to approach Kevin and apologize for his deplorable behavior. No, instead, the narrative almost seemed to be placing the blame on Kevin for how long it was between his mom's funeral and he and his father's reconciliation. Screw that.
For the sake of the word count, I will stop now. I still can't figure out a rating for this one, so I'm leaving it unrated.