If you’re looking for a sweet romance, high-school or otherwise, with rather angelic people finding happiness and overcoming the hardships faced against those who oppose their love, Fifteen Hundred Miles From The Sun is a fantastic option for you.
Julian Luna is a 12th-grade soccer player who’s, let’s see here, vegetarian yet knows where to find a decent meal, he’s from the humid and rather judgmental Corpus Christi, Texas, and he’s currently in the closet with who he likes. He knows who he is but is in a world so harsh on deviants, especially his snooty, strict and aggressive father, that he’s worried even his devoted friends and loving big sister would leave him if he confessed his sexuality to them. He has a scary assumption his father knows of his sexuality. Why else would he be trying to aggressively suggest going out, having coffee with a girl and doing some man-boy activities. Yet Julian, or Jules as he likes to go by, hopes maybe one day the father he has had some good times with, like their love of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, will one day overtake the one who slaps over any suggestion he is a gentle and kind kid.
Julian has an anonymous Twitter account that lets him see and comment on all the gay material the world around him never lets him explore. And he ends up earning a friendship with another kid who comments on the network named Mat from California. Eventually, their texting becomes video chatting, and they know neither boy is being catfished. Then, I suppose the happiness of having a close gay friend for the first time makes Jules get a little careless and wakes up to find he drunk tweeted about his sexuality during last night’s party. Meeting Mat and an accidental outing end up reshaping all of Jules’s plans, or at least speeds them up. Will he be able to handle it all?
Some people even familiar with today’s tech might think it’s implausible and silly for people to fall in love over social media and video chats, but they likely don’t understand how for some non-heterosexual folks, it can be very hard to find romance, especially in a place where being different is frowned upon, so sometimes when there’s someone out there who’s kind, compassionate and into you, even if they are miles and miles away, you fall in love and declare a relationship.
If you’re looking for an exciting book, look elsewhere. Even if counting the days down until the possibility of meeting or being reunited with your lover is a concept that keeps you glued to your books, this one happily takes its time. It took a while to read. But I enjoyed being a part of Jules’s life enough that I wasn’t in a hurry to finish.
I’m sorry to say I’m not a vegetarian and will only become one if meat options somehow end up nearly extinct and we need to replenish the population. (But I am in favour of strict laws against animal torture, pain and cruelty. I want them to live the best life and have a painless passing. I know, rough stance.) My point is, Jules is, as I said, a vegetarian and I enjoyed the descriptions of all the food, both Mexican and Vietnamese, that he has out for us. Jonny Garza Villa actually writes a lot like Michael Barakiva, who has also published a gay teenage romance story with a fair bit of Armenian food fresh out of the pot. Maybe there’s something to the stereotype of gays like me and cooking. Reading Fifteen Hundred Miles From The Sun, you might feel like you’re fifteen hundred hours from your next meal and should go find something scrumptious to munch down.
My favourite part of this book, however, apart from the really heartwarming relationship between Jules and Mat, is its very strong take on the microaggressions that make people, not just homosexuals but everybody, ashamed of themselves. I’ve lived through this; Jules grew up in an environment that made him think there was a serious problem with him, that he was different from all the others and there’s no way for him to become normal and safe. And because he sees his sexuality as a problem, he’s unable to properly stand up for himself when taunted about it. But he eventually realizes that it is not anything to be ashamed of and he should be proud of who he is, and when he does, the taunts just aren’t as affecting. That is something people should be reminded of when they’re faced with someone from a mob who tries to bring them down.
Fifteen Hundred Miles From The Sun is the sort of gay romance novel I like; honest about real-life horrors, fears about the attention being different from the norm can be, tremendously cute, stamped with a cultural identity of its own, and a tiny bit excited to be suggestive.
If you like this, I’d try One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva and I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
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