Monday, September 3, 2018

Kat's Review: Calling Calling Calling Me

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on September 27th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Calling Calling Calling Me by Natasha Washington
Publisher: Natasha Washington (September 4, 2018)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- Queer, M/M (New Adult)

Patrick Mahoney has one goal in mind: get out of his native Fresno and find freedom in the rainbow and glitter-painted streets of San Francisco. As a college freshman, he’s sure he’ll finally have the chance to be himself, away from the judgmental eyes of his conservative hometown.

Josh Dirda’s never wanted to be tied down before, preferring the emotional ease of the one night stand. But when Patrick moves into the apartment that Josh shares with three friends, Josh is pulled in by Patrick’s sly wit and quietly creative spirit. As Patrick’s self-appointed tour guide, Josh can be Patrick’s introduction to the city he loves. But after a drunken Halloween hook-up crosses lines, Patrick and Josh must reckon with their true feelings—and decide whether they can let go of the ghosts from their pasts that haunt them.

Where to Buy*:
Kindle | NOOK | Kobo
More Info:

Content note for the book: Contains a conversation where one person makes derogatory comments about trans folks.

Kat's Review:

I will own that I tend to stay away from New Adult romance. Much like my high school experience, I lived through college, making several bad decisions, some lasting friends, some good memories, and I have absolutely no desire to go back there. I have earned my salt and pepper hair. One of the reasons NA is less palatable to me is that the characters always seems so much younger than college-age. They can be whiny and not good at using their words (lest we forget the “down there” debacle of FSoG).

So color me surprised that I really enjoyed Calling Calling Calling Me. I liked Patrick, 18 and newly in San Francisco, having liberated himself from the oppressive conservatism of Fresno, and I liked Josh, 21, an SF native who does some shitty things. We come to understand why Josh makes the choices he does, and his is a sympathetic situation. But it didn’t change the fact that some of his messes were self-inflicted. And to be honest, maybe I saw a little of myself in Josh - always wanting to be accommodating, wanting to make people happy. (Well, I mean, I was like that in college. I’m a lot more comfortable with pissing people off these days, haha.)

Natasha Washington has several strengths in her debut. Her characters are real people, with real faults. And her universe is full of well-developed folks: other roommates at the apartment, Patrick’s new classmates and friends, Josh’s brother and family. Even San Francisco rises from the fog to become its own character, important to both Patrick and Josh in different ways. The city represents freedom to Patrick, who dreamed for so long about finding his people, while to Josh, it can seem like a prison, full of memories and pain.

Another of her strengths is dialogue. She is good both at the language and the tempo of how people communicate. There were plenty of times I literally laughed out loud at the banter between several different characters. It’s not just enjoyable between Patrick and Josh, but between any combination of characters, each of whom also have their own voices and perspectives. I felt the only misstep was Taneisha, a Black classmate and friend of Patrick’s, whose voice and personality veered close to stereotypes. But sometimes people conform to stereotypes, so it was on the fence, and I (whose skin snow-blinds people even in summer) don’t feel qualified to judge it.

Washington also does a really great job of creating a realistic and authentic college experience. There were several scenes that took me back to my early 20s and felt like they could have sprung from my own memories. She captures the excitement and the fear of Patrick moving away for the first time - the hope that he’ll find a place where he’s accepted for who he is, the dread of returning to the oppressive atmosphere of his childhood neighborhood, yet still the homesickness for his family.

I was still really deep in the closet when I went off to college (it was a conservative, religious college, which gives you some idea), but when I went to grad school, I finally found people who I was comfortable being out around, people who didn’t judge me. And it was amazing, but it also threw into sharper relief the uncomfortable feeling of having to fit back into a small box around my conservative friends and family. Patrick has a few hard conversations with his family throughout the book, and I identified with that, too, though I wish our experiences weren’t so different.

Josh, too, has issues with his family, with his friends, with his past experiences and choices. He has a lot of deep-seated fear, too, but for very different reasons from Patrick. Even though he fucks up a few times, his desire to change, to be better, is endearing. His upbringing is a lot more open and liberal than Patrick’s, but this too shows that even with what some would consider an ideal childhood, people can still have traumatic and problematic experiences.

The final strength of Washington I’ll mention is her realistic universe. I’ve mentioned this above, but this time, I’m referring to the diversity of people she’s written into her story. There are plenty of queer folks, but different flavors of queer: pansexual, gay, non-binary. Older folks who aren’t creepy.  Josh and his family are Jewish, a religion not often portrayed in romance, and that was refreshing, too.

Basically, Washington has created an awesome, authentic universe filled with people you actually would want to hang out with, and people who seem a little familiar, because you’d swear you’d met them already. With all the shit that’s happening in the U.S. and really everywhere, Calling Calling Calling Me offers an optimistic retreat, where being different is ok, and people keep trying to do better.


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Source: eARC from tour host

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Thanks for the review, Kat! 


Until Next Time,

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