Title: Off Campus (Bend of Break, Book 1)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Published: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Tom Worthington is excited to be back at school. After his father was arrested and he lost everything, he thought he would never be able to finish his degree. But now he stands outside the door of his room in Perkins House, an off campus residence, knowing it’s a possibility. Yes, he was only barely able to pay the first semester’s tuition and he’ll only be able to pay the next if he keeps his spending to a minimum and returns to Boston to drive a taxi every weekend. But right now he’s just excited to have a bed and can’t wait to fall into it and sleep.
He discovers a hitch in that plan as soon as he opens the door. His room is a double and his roommate was obviously not expecting him (as evidenced by his co-opting the second bed as a makeshift sofa). When his roommate, Reese, appears in the door moments later, his suspicion is confirmed. Tom wonders how someone as young as Reese ended up in Perkins house, but for the moment he really just wants to get some sleep. Reese is determined to see him gone, though, and is very open about the fact that he is gay. That’s not enough to scare Tom off, though, and it quickly becomes clear that the two of them living together is going to be a boundary-pushing experience for them both. But will they be able to push past their respective walls to reveal both of their hidden truths? And once things are out in the open, what more might be lurking there for them to learn about each other and themselves?
I had a hard time putting this one down. From the very beginning, I was easily intrigued by Tom and Reese, and I was indeed impatient to see where things were headed. Amy Jo Cousins has demonstrated a real skill in character development here. Even the secondary characters–Cash, Steph, the other Perkins House residents, and even Jack–have a level of easy and realistic complexity that helps bring this world to life.
The overall subject matter here is colored by angst. Both Tom and Reese are dealing with some heavy stuff from their past and only gets intensified as they are thrown into the same living space. But the book manages to stay a bit on the lighter side (we can probably thank Cash for some of that). Aside from the fact that I felt like Tom’s issues really dragged on in a bit too much (and found it slightly frustrating) the overall story was not too overshadowed by that aspect of things.
I recommend this one. I’m looking forward to the second installment to see what happens to Jack. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see him redeem himself a bit, too.