Book Reviews

You Can't Tell by Looking by Russell J. Sanders at Harmony Ink Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / New Adult / Romance
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 08-October-2018

Book Blurb

When Gabe Dillon starts the year at a new school, one young man captures and holds all his attention. Kerem Uzun is the senior class president. He’s friendly, popular, the son of doctors, of Turkish descent, and Muslim. 


Soon Gabe’s curiosity about Kerem extends to Kerem’s religious practices. He’s fascinated by the culture, philosophy, and rituals of Islam, but one thing worries him: many practitioners of the religion are outraged by proud gay men like Gabe. Kerem’s cousin, Timur, an orphan who was raised alongside Kerem as a brother, is one of them. And he isn’t the only one standing in the way of their budding relationship.


Gabe knows he can’t choose who he falls in love with, and he’s in love with Kerem. But is Kerem even attracted to men? Will he go against his fundamentalist cousin for a chance to be with Gabe? With so many forces trying hard to tear it down, building a romance will mean a struggle.


Book Review

Hypocrisy and bigotry are too often the automatic response to those who are different these days, so a novel that deals with how we react to them is definitely topical. In this specific case, Kerem is a Muslim of Turkish descent, his parents are doctors, he is the senior class president, friendly, and popular. There is no doubt that he fits into American culture – the question this book asks comes from a different angle: how does Gabe, a privileged white boy, react to encountering a different religion when he is attracted to Kerem and how does he deal with his own issues?

There is a difference between being devout and being extremist, and all too often, that is forgotten in how we treat those of different faiths. Everyone knows how to react to extremists – or thinks they do – but encountering someone closer to your own culture complicates the situation. In that sense, this book offers an interesting look at the white Christian response – and the result is not always complimentary!

Gabe and Kerem are young men trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into society, and how to deal with their sexuality. Kerem approaches this from a Muslim perspective, Gabe from a Christian point of view, and both discover as many issues as they find support from their respective faiths. Their story is more about how they deal with their differences than about what causes them or whether they correctly or realistically depict Islam – Kerem’s family and how they see the world (except for one “wayward” cousin) show one possible situation among many and it may not be what you have experienced or read about. It was different from what I have seen before, and I found it interesting to explore those differences and my own reaction to them as I read.

If you like stories that explore cultural and religious differences and people’s reactions to them, if you want to watch two young men struggle with managing the expectations their families have versus what they themselves would like to happen, and if you’re looking for a read that might just make you think about your own prejudices and preconceived notions about "how things should be”, then you will probably like this novel.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Harmony Ink Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 200 pages/67543 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 02-October-2018
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $14.99 bundle
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