Book Reviews

Tales from Foster High (Tales from Foster High 1) by John Goode at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Young Adult / Romance
Reviewed by Christy Duke on 07-July-2020

Book Blurb

Kyle Stilleno is the invisible student even in his nothing high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad Graymark is the baseball star of Foster High. When they bond over their mutual damage during a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks maybe his life has changed for good. But when you’re gay and falling for the most popular boy in school, the promise of love is a fairy tale, not a reality. Isn’t it? 

 

A coming-of-age story, Tales from Foster High shows an unflinching vision of the ups and downs of teenage love and what it is like to grow up gay.

 

 

First edition published by Harmony Ink Press, August 2012.


Book Review

Several people whose opinions I respect greatly have told me time and again that I needed to read 'Tales from Foster High' by John Goode. I have, initially, been hesitant because I don't really enjoy young adult. I may not be GLBT, but my high school experience was horrific enough, thank you very much. However, knowing that the author has incorporated some of the feels that the illustrious John Hughes provided made my decision to read this easier. This book is a compilation of three stories previously published, and combines them into one book.

Kyle: History Whore
"In a social environment where being cool and liked were currency, I was a monk who had taken a vow of poverty, which then necessitated a vow of celibacy. I sidestepped conversations, ate lunch by myself, and practically ran home after school. I didn't know it, but I was broken in a way that wasn't readily evident to those around me."

Kyle is that kid in high school who never made eye contact, kept to himself, had no friends, and screwed the curve for everyone. He never knew his dad, and his mom is too busy drinking and partying to pay much attention to him. At seventeen, he knows he likes guys, but he still hasn't completely reconciled that, in his brain, as being gay. Brad is the kid everyone revered. Handsome, popular, star of the baseball team, wealthy family, and trying his hardest to get a scholarship to get out of North Texas. Brad's family life is just as dysfunctional as Kyle's, only in a different way. Brad approaches Kyle to help him study for their history mid-term, because if Brad doesn't pass, he could be kicked off the team and his chance to leave their small corner of the world.

"I don't remember the moment I knew I was broken… but I do recall when I started to understand that it might be okay. It was the moment I fell in love with the boy with the green eyes."

It doesn't take these two guys very long to realize they are far more alike on the inside than either of them believed. Both from abusive homes, both broken inside, and both falling in love with the other. When a jock at school starts bullying Kyle and fighting occurs, it makes Kyle realize that this isn't a fairy tale, he's not the princess, and Kyle had better start slaying his own dragons. Which he's on his way to doing, in an incredible scene of inner strength, when Brad steps in, outs himself, and then kisses Kyle in front of the school.

"I don't remember the moment I knew I was broken… but I do know the moment I began to feel fixed. It was the day the green-eyed boy fell in love with me."

Brad: 81 Cents
It's the next day after Brad has outed himself and wow, there's a lot going through his mind. Did he do the right thing? What was he thinking? What will he do without the cushion of his popularity? Kyle may view Brad as being perfect, but Brad knows better. He knows that no one really knows him, that he hides who he really is, and that he runs from having to deal with anything he can't solve with a smile and his reputation. But he wants to be the kind of person that Kyle is, someone Kyle can really respect.

"I had always had a ton of friends, even though they didn't really know me. I had never been disliked by a majority of people, even though they didn't like me but the image I projected. I had never been considered anything but attractive, although, if those people were to look inside me they'd know how ugly I was inside. I was stuck with no choice but to conform and hating myself for conforming. I'd been miserable for so long, I'd grown numb inside."

It takes Brad getting advice from someone he never expected to realize that the opinion of a group of people he barely tolerates means nothing. And that standing up to his dad, admitting the truth, and fighting back is one of the most liberating things he could ever do. He also realizes that standing next to Kyle is the place he wants to be, no matter what.

Brad and Kyle: Ordinance No. C-3240
So what happens now? As Kyle puts it, the teenage movies never show you what happens after. And the after, for Kyle and Brad, isn't so great. Especially for Kyle, who has devoted himself to being not noticed, now he's the center of attention, and that can grow old after only a little while. I was thrilled to see Kyle stand up for himself and not take the vicious taunts lying down. That's the hardest thing to do in high school. Brad doesn't have it much easier when three of his former "friends" hold him down and beat the crap out of him to keep him from changing out for gym class. Brad has to deal with no longer having that popular position he's had his entire life.

"But as I looked up and realized that this guy, this wonderful boy who never wanted more than to be invisible, had just gone toe to toe with the school's running back to defend my honor, I knew for a fact that everyone who had come before meant nothing compared to him. I had possessed acquaintances and lackeys, sycophants and hangers-on, in every shape and variety. In all my eighteen years I had never seen what I saw sitting on a crappy nurse's bed as he knelt next to me."

From school administration telling them they're wrong, to Brad getting kicked off the baseball team even though he's the guy that got them to state the previous year, it seems like nothing is ever going to be the same. And it's not. Not only did they both come out publicly in front of the school, but this is a small town in Texas. Not the most liberal area of the country. But when Kyle makes it his mission to fight the school board, since they have no ruling on a kid not playing sports because he's gay, well, that's when Kyle's light really begins to shine.

Brilliant. A truly phenomenal piece that took me right back to the halls of my youth, and made me remember the reality of what it was like. Normally, I would shudder in disgust and revulsion for that, but instead, this work reminded me that no matter what I might have thought, the rarefied people in my class probably had the same problems, or worse, than I did. I wanted to be best friends with Kyle and hide my little girl crush on Brad. So, for the two incredible men who demanded I read this, thank you. For John Goode, thank you, even more, for an outstanding book.

"I can't tell you the day I started to lose who I was but I can tell you the very moment I found out who I really was. It was the moment the blue-eyed boy kissed me back."

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. The first edition of this book has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 284 pages/94648 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 07-July-2020
Price $6.99 ebook
Buy Link https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/tales-from-foster-high-by-john-goode-11720-b