Published by Penguin Random House Australia on February 12th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
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Seventeen-year-old Evan doesn’t know where he fits in. He loves his family, but is terrorised by his abusive mother and confused by his father's silence. He has friends, but one of them - Henry - has become distractingly attractive, and seems interested in being more than just a friend.
Oh, and yes, Evan kissed a boy this summer.
As things with Henry heat up and the violence escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has always survived by being silent.
Trigger Warnings: emotional abuse, physical abuse, bullying
The Dangerous Art of Blending In is, on paper, my cup of tea. It’s an #ownvoices book, with some heavy and emotional themes, and I thought that I would love it more than I actually did. I enjoyed the story and themes but I couldn’t really engage with it as much as I wanted to and was a little irked and distracted by some of the dialogue in the book.
The novel is a coming out story that follows Evan, who comes from a strict Greek family, and has endured physical and emotional abuse from his mother since he was five. While appearing to others as a devoted mother and wife and upholding the image of a perfect Greek family, his mother treats Evan as if he’s wicked and believes that she can beat the evil out of him. His father has never really stepped in to stop the abuse properly and instead seems to try to placate everyone. He’s stuck between the world of his strict mother at home and the world at school where he can’t reveal anything about himself. On top of that, Evan has feelings for his best friend, Henry, but has been hiding his true feelings because of how his mother and peers would react. It’s an emotional story about being who you are and leaving behind the bad.
I really enjoyed how the themes were explored in this book and thought that it was a really successful story. Having said that, I felt a bit detached from it and I don’t know whether it was the writing or the fact that I didn’t want to be engaged because of the hurt that Evan was going through. Evan also isolates himself from those around him a bit, and my detachment from the emotion of the story could have been due to that. I liked how unflinchingly honest the story was in terms of the domestic violence in the novel and how nobody would come to Henry’s rescue even though they knew about what was happening. It was really confronting at times but I also understood Henry’s actions and why he was so hesitant to trust others and have them help him.
The aspect of the book that I wasn’t a huge fan of were the relationships between the characters. I didn’t think any of the characters really had any chemistry with one another and I didn’t get any feelings of friendship or romance. Their interactions seemed a little bit rehearsed and fake and I didn’t really like the dialogue between the characters. The text speak was another thing that I couldn’t get over because it was hard to read and written in a way that was extremely 2004. Little details like this kind of ruined the story for me and it was hard for me to focus on any of the friendship and romance elements because of this. I didn’t mind the dialogue and the interactions between Evan and his family members, as confronting as some of them were, but the friendships in the book were a throwaway for me.
Which brings me to the romance. I loved Evan and Henry as individuals but they had no chemistry together. I wasn’t a big fan of how it developed throughout the story and wish it had been executed a little bit better given that it was part of the coming out story. However, what I did enjoy was how great the coming out aspect of it was, despite this lack of chemistry in the romance. I enjoyed how much confidence Evan took from seeing his friend come out about his sexuality and how it pushed him to think more about himself in a positive light. Evan was such a sweetheart and I love him dearly.
The Dangerous Art of Blending In was a really enjoyable (though that’s not the correct word since it was such a heavy and emotional book) story and I loved the coming out and self-love aspects of the novel. I had some problems getting into the writing and dialogue but overall, it’s well worth the read.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia for providing a review copy of the book.
The Dangerous Art of Blending In was released on 12th February by Penguin Australia and is now available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.
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