Chasing Death Metal Dreams
This is the first story I've read involving a transgendered character, so I can't compare it to any other books in this genre. I've been hesitant to read stories in this genre because it's one of those topics that can so easily be handled so poorly, but I trust Kaje. I know she researches meticulously and puts a lot of thought on representation when she writes, and that consideration shows here. I don't know how accurate it is, since I'm not trans, but it felt respectfully done to me.
Carlos is an angry dude when we first meet him, but if you can tough it out, I think it's worth getting to know him. Carlos is a man who does not compromise who he is. He may not be out in the homophobic and transphobic world of death metal, but he's out to those who matter to him. He's careful about who he allows into his circle, and because of living a life where too many people - including his own parents - judge him harshly for just being him, he's got something of a chip on his shoulder, understandably so. But once he chooses to let Nate into his circle, to trust him completely, he doesn't hold back. There are plenty of bumps along the way, even after that, but he slowly let's Nate see all of him, not just the physical but the emotional as well. He also doesn't allow Nate to put him up on a pedestal because he had to fight to be himself. He's quick to stop that train of thought, but he does it gently. Because he can be gentle and caring. He may have plenty of rough edges, but he has compassion too.
Nate is a sweetheart and there need to be more people like him. The thing I loved most about Nate - and there's a lot to love - is that he researched transgender on his own to better understand Carlos. Because he doesn't want to say the wrong thing or appear insensitive. Because he wants to learn more about it so he can support his boyfriend. And that's awesome. Considering that the only guy I worked up the nerve to date was completely insensitive and dismissive when I told him I'm social phobic and just needed time to get used to this dating thing, the fact that Nate is so considerate of Carlos's feelings and struggles - that spoke to me. And because I've trusted people just to have them stomp all over me, I loved him even more when he could see past his previous hurts to the man standing in front of him and trust him. That takes guts, more than I'll ever have.
Bonus points for Carlos being Mexican! We exist, y'all! Oh! OH! And Nate tried to cook him Mexican food. Including canned refried beans. Ick. I wanted to throw up and hug him all at once. And Carlos actually ate the beans. That's dedication, y'all. That's when you know it's forever. <3
This is kind of a slow-moving book. It takes its time, but I for one appreciated that. It allowed me to get over my own preconceived notions and see Carlos for who he is, but the pacing may not be up to everyone's tastes. A large part of the plot is about Carlos's death metal band and their struggles to reach fame. That was on the predictable side, and I could see all the twists and their outcomes way before they showed up.