Title: Ben Raphael’s All Star Virgins
Author: K.Z. Snow
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Length: Novella (124 pages)
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press, Dreamspinner Press (September 25th, 2014)
Heat Level: Low
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4 Hearts
Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Jake McCullough and his friends Rider, Brody, Carlton, and Tim are the invisible boys of Ben Raphael Academy, an exclusive co-ed prep school. Brody decides they need “mystique” to garner attention. “Nobody has more mystique than a desirable virgin,” he declares. Thus is born Ben Raphael’s All-Star Virgin Order or BRAVO.
The boys polish their appearances. Brody launches a subtle but canny publicity campaign. Soon, the boys are being noticed. But they’re emotionally fragile. Two have succumbed to a seductive female teacher. Jake and Rider, roommates and best friends who are attracted to one another, fear the stigma of being gay.
It takes an unspeakable tragedy to make the BRAVO boys realize what’s important in life, and that “virginity” has more than one meaning.
Review: Friendship is tough to navigate at any age, but what about when you’re still growing into who you are and who you want to be? At the youthful age of sixteen, to these boys, away at school, their friends are their family. As close as they are, even families have their secrets, and as we know, secrets always come out. For Brody, Tim, Carlton, Rider and Jake, life is about to change, in a big way.
Though we don’t get a deep insight into all of the characters we get a basic idea of who they are via their interactions. Mr. Ringleader, Brody, has big plans to get them noticed by “the girls”. While the five boys follow through with these plans, there are other forces at work, things going on ‘behind the scenes’ if you will, much like what occurs in real life.
The story delves deepest into Jake and Rider, who give us their tale of young teens discovering and accepting their sexuality individually, as well as their feelings for one another, unbeknownst to the rest of their circle. I loved their friendship and watching it blossom into love. I enjoyed being privy to Jake’s thoughts, and having a front row seat to his and Rider’s self-discoveries. As they navigate young adulthood, things come to light that affect them all, and they way things are handled brings about drastic repercussions for not just the two of them, but for all of their friends, which causes them to lose the biggest virginity of all – loss of the innocence of youth.
There are very serious and controversial (and somewhat taboo) issues at hand here. And KZ Snow does not shy away from these. She has given us a very well written novella with believable characters and a strong storyline. If you’re looking for something light and sweet, this is not your book. However, if you are looking for compelling characters, a coming of age story, and an author willing to tackle the hard issues, look no further.
Though not a lengthy book, it does pack a punch. When the dust (and possibly a tear or two) settles, you’ve got a great coming of age story with love, friendship and a happy for now ending that works perfectly for those with the rest of their lives ahead of them.