Superhero by Eli Easton
Published by Harmony Ink on July 25 2013
Reviews & Stuff:
“Dreaming Big” — About writing “Superhero”, a guest post on Madison Parker’s blog
“Soft Pitch” — A ficlet for the Day of Silence starring Owen and Jordy from “Superhero”
The Inspiration for Superhero — guest blog on James Erich’s blog
5 star review for the audiobook version from openskyebookreviews.com — “I highly recommend this to any fan of the GFY/friends-to-lovers theme, don’t be dissuaded by the age, it’s just as hot as you’d want it to be!”
5 star review from Madison Parker: “I loved every minute of this emotionally charged story. One of Harmony Ink’s best titles to date!”
5 star review from Hearts On Fire. “It’s such an interesting coming of age story and I highly recommend it.”
5 stars from The Novel Approach – “Superhero is the perfect summer coming-of-age read”
5 star review from Two Men Are Better Than One — “Such a beautiful coming of age story with a perfect blend of emotional and sexual awakening. Happy, sad, warm, funny, special…”
5 star review from Live Your Life By The Book — “This is a book that just pushed all the right buttons for me. I loved the writing style. It is filled with humor and real emotion.”
5 star review Top 2 Bottom Reviews — “The writing is fluent and evocative. I was swept away, unable to stop reading until I reached the end. Ms. Easton is an excellent writer.”
Review on Insight Out! blog — “It’s light reading, not overwrought, and I think it would make a great all-age tale for anyone interested in youth M/M fiction.”
4 star Review on Gay List Book Reviews — “There will be laughter and tears as you read. When it’s done you will feel a sigh of satisfaction for that beautiful moment when you finish a good book.”
4 star review on Boys in our Books — “I was smitten and entertained and my heart felt warm fuzzies.”
4 stars Bachelor & Bombshell Reviews — “I know this might not be some people’s cup of tea because of the fact that it is a YA/NA (young adult/new adult) read, but that shouldn’t deter you from picking up this book and reading it right now.”
4 Stars Baba Booklikes — “Extremely likable main characters, a good storyline and engaging writing that provided plenty of entertaining, thoughtful and witty dialogue made this an all-around winner.”
4.5 stars for the audiobook version from Prism Book Alliance –“While there are plenty of narrators I adore; many of them would not work for a first person YA title. Tristan was perfect. I will be listening to another title narrated by him in the near future.”
4.5 stars for the audiobook from The Novel Approach — “I’m giving the audio version a 4.5 Star rating and am highly recommending Superhero as a good listen. It’s the kind of story I wouldn’t mind letting any teenager I know listen to, or read, for that matter.”
4.5 stars Meli Mel’s Book Reviews — “This may have been a short book, but it was absolutely awesome. I connected to the characters very well. I loved the positive message in this book. I loved all of those heartwarming moments as well.”
It’s not easy for a talented, gay, young artist like Jordan Carson to grow up in Jefferson, Wisconsin. But Jordan was lucky. In second grade he became bffs with Owen Nelson, a big, beautiful blond boy who became a champion wrestler in middle school and high school. No one messes with Owen, or with his best friend. Their friendship survives Jordan coming out—first to Owen and then at school. Unfortunately, Jordan’s worst enemy may be himself. Because he can’t seem to help the fact that he is head-over-heels in love with a hopeless cause—his best, straight, friend, Owen.
Owen loves wrestling and he has a unique talent for it. It will pay his way to college and give him a life to be envied. All he has to do is be the person everyone expects him to be. He bucks popular opinion by keeping Jordan as his wingman even after he comes out. He and Jordan, they’re like Sam and Frodo, two peas in a pod. Owen won’t let anything take Jordan away. But he never counted on Jordan running away to find a life of his own. Owen will have to face the nature of their relationship if he’s to win Jordan back.
This story follows Jordan and Owen’s relationship from second grade to college.
First match of the wrestling season, sophomore year. Boo-yah. Owen had asked me to sit with Emily, show her the ropes. I was really thrilled about that, not, but I couldn’t say no. Now that we were in high school, and Owen was such a fucking star, the home matches were a zoo—all the bleachers packed and people crowding the gym doors. It could be a little intimidating. I’d told Emily in email that it was customary to dress as ridiculously as possible. I, myself, always wore three gold streaks across each cheek, a gold school shirt and special gold Converse tennies. I also had gold glitter bouncy balls on a headband which I let Emily wear since she was not yet equipped with the appropriate amount of team spirit.
We stopped to say hello to Owen’s mom and dad and about ten of his cousins. His mom hugged me and then hugged Emily, which made me a little annoyed since I’d been around forever and she’d only been around a few months but, whatever.
We squeezed into a space on the third bleacher.
“Is it safe sitting this close?” she asked, worriedly.
“It’s not like there’s a ball that can hit you,” I said. “Though you might get flung with some sweat if you’re really having a bad day.”
“Oh.” She looked vaguely disgusted.
“I’m kidding, Emily.”
The team came out. As usual, Owen was announced last of the sophomores. When he came out the crowd went nuts. We stood up and screamed with everyone else.
She grabbed my arm and leaned in. “Damn! He’s really popular,” she said, her eyes wide.
I looked at her in disbelief. “Emily, do you have any idea who you’re dating?”
She looked a little dazed and didn’t answer.
The first round of bouts was never that exciting since they were between the lower-ranked athletes. But Emily watched the boys trying to out dominate each other with a kind of mute fascination. I couldn’t see Owen very well—he was sitting down—so I idly looked over the other athletes on the floor.
Emily whispered in my ear. “So which of the Altoona wrestlers do you think is the hottest?”
I choked on my coke, causing several people in our vicinity to give me the hairy eyeball. She pounded my back.
“What did you say?” I finally gasped.
She rolled her eyes.. “Please! Like I don’t know. Did you know that I actually liked you first? And I asked Owen about you and he was all, like, ‘well, er, um, er, I don’t think you’re his type.’” Her imitation of a bashful Owen was priceless. I had to laugh.
“Are you serious? You liked me first?”
“Oh, yeah. I had a big crush on you all last year. You’re totally cute, and jocks aren’t normally my thing. But, ya know, it’s kind of hard to argue with that.”
She pointed to where Owen was now standing on the sidelines. Our high school singlets were gold and scooped low in the back. Owen’s back was broad and strong, sculpted with muscle. It veed to a tight waist and a luscious bubble butt, thighs thick and round with muscles and shapely calves. Add shoulder-length blond hair and blue eyes and I seriously could not imagine anything on Earth more perfect.
“Fuck, yeah,” I said breathily. It just came out. I looked at her to see if she’d be pissed or shocked, but she just snorted in amusement.
“Sheesh, Jordan. Thank God he’s not gay, that’s all I can say. But hey, it’s totally cool with me that you are. I think it’s awesome to have a gay friend. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”
She really did seem fine with it, which was kind of perplexing. The only person who knew I was gay was Owen, but I worried a lot about what other people would think when they found out.
Then again, Emily could afford to be generous. She got Owen.
“Number seven,” I said, nudging her arm. Across the gym floor, in a white singlet, number seven was strutting back and forth wearing his head protector. He wasn’t huge like some of the guys, just muscled and tight. You could count his six-pack through the lycra. He had sandy blond hair that stuck out from around his head gear. Maybe I’d draw him into our next issue. I could picture him as a Silver Surfer type only a real California surfer dude. My fingers itches for a pencil and paper.
“He’s totally hot,” Emily agreed. She looked him over and her eyes grew wide. I knew what she was staring at. Even from across the arena, you could make out the size and shape of his package. “Christ, that’s obscene.”
“Clearly, this is your first wrestling match,” I said dryly.
“But… why don’t they wear something underneath?”
“Owen says it’s a macho thing. Guys who wear straps or cups are considered lame. I guess it’s like gladiator mentality. Burb, fart, sweat, let it all hang out.”
She blinked as if trying to clear the smut from her eyes. “God, Jordan, how can you stand it?”
“Disassociation,” I said archly. “I’ve trained myself not to think about it. I am in control at all times.”
She looked at me with an arched brow, oh really?
I coughed and looked away. “And, uh, it helps to wear long T-shirts.”
She snorted as she glanced at my lap where my long gold JEFFERSON T-shirt was doing its duty as emergency backup. I didn’t always get hard at wrestling matches anymore, but when I did, I preferred to hide it under one-hundred percent cotton.
“TMI, but… yeah, okay. I guess there are certain advantages to being a girl,” Emily said.
I looked at Owen and thought, with not a small amount of bitterness, now that’s the fucking understatement of the year, Sweetheart.
I honestly tried not to think about making out with Owen all the time. For one thing, it was pathetic, and for another thing, it was needles-in-your-eye torture. We spent so much time together, and most of the time I didn’t let my head go there. But I was crazy about him, and the fact that he was the so gorgeous didn’t help. When I was alone jerking off, I let myself imagine things. I’d spun that one kiss in the pool into so many variations I could probably claim a Guinness World Record for Most Exhausted Fantasy. I didn’t make things any easier on myself, I guess, but it was hard to resist the temptation. And now I was sitting next to Owen’s girlfriend. Good times. With every fiber of my being I wanted to hate Emily, but I had to admit she was actually pretty nice and sort of funny.
Owen had an important bout tonight. He was going up against a wrestler who was ranked third in the state in Owen’s weight class. The guy would be gunning for Owen, and if Owen lost it had the potential to knock him down in the year-end rankings. I could see that he was intensely focused as the time came closer for his match. He didn’t pace on the side lines like some wrestlers. Instead he stood still and turned inward. I could see his face and shoulders set, his fists flex. He was building himself up to the kind of tenacity he was known for. Pit bull Nelson.
They called the match and the crowd stood and cheered for both wrestlers. Owen went out immediately with his focused killer look, and in a moment they were on the mat. There was silence except for the squeak of their shoes on the gym floor when they dug in for purchase. It was so quiet, you could hear Owen and his opponent’s heavy breathing. Emily clutched at my arm, giving me a nice half round of fingernail impressions. I’d probably need a tetanus shot, but what the hell. The bout was intense. I grabbed her back.
Come on, Owen. Come on, Owen. Come on, Owen. It was my lucky mantra and I kept chanting it over and over in my head.
He had the advantage, starting on top. But after several long minutes of struggling to get the guy off his hands and knees, his opponent reversed and flipped him. Owen landed on his side and scrambled for his knees, barely avoiding going onto his back. The guy was on top of him but Owen heaved with all his strength and lifted the guy completely off the floor. When he came down he managed to slip his left arm out of the guy’s grasp, do a cutback and get out from under. A few minutes later, the guy was down and then—pinned.
The place went crazy as the ref took Owen’s wrist and held it up. Owen was still completely focused but he shook his head and managed to give the crowd a smile and a fist pump.
Emily looked at me, her jaw dropped open. Oh my God, she mouthed, in total disbelief.
I looked away and did a two finger whistle for Owen, jumped up and down and waved to him energetically. He looked right at me and gave me a grin.
That, Emily Abrams, is who you, apparently beloved by the gods, are dating. That is my hero.
We stayed in our seats while the bulk of the crowd filed out. I always waited for Owen to shower and change. As usual, he was going to spend the night at my place. Emily stayed, too, and Owen’s parents came down and stood with us.
Owen came out, damp and crazy happy.
His dad slapped him on the back. His mom hugged him. Owen hugged Emily and gave her a quick kiss. I looked away.
“Great match, son! You did great! Loved that cutback.”
“We’re so proud of you! We’ll see you after school tomorrow, alright?” His mom kissed him goodbye. Owen’s folks left.
“My mom’s going to pick me up by the sign,” Emily said.
“I’ll meet you back at my place,” I offered. I figured they needed some alone time, and I liked seeing the two of them together about as much as I liked slamming my finger in my locker.
“No, I’ll walk with you,” Owen insisted. “Come on. Let’s go out and wait for Emily’s mom.” He slung one arm around my shoulder and one around hers. Great.
It would have made too big a deal out of it to refuse, so I went along. We walked out to the big high school sign, me in my long Constantine like trench coat and Owen in his letter jacket. I felt stupid.
Emily’s mom wasn’t there yet and we waited in the cold. I wanted to give them some privacy, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it since there was really nothing around the sign except for parking lots. I wandered over and hopped up on the cement foot of the sign. I took out my iPod and messed around.
When I looked up, Owen was kissing Emily. They were front-to-front, hugging tight and it was a serious, French kiss. Deep inside me there was a sharp pain that radiated outwards and throbbed in my head and my heart.
Yeah, so I knew he was dating Emily and that we’d never be like that. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a mother fucker.
I stared back down at my iPod, my eyes hot, until a car pulled up. I blinked furiously. I heard Emily yell, “Goodnight, Jordan!”
“Night!” I called out, not looking up. They drove off and I hopped down and started walking towards my house, fast. I didn’t wait for Owen.
He caught up to me. “Man! Was that a great match or what?” He was bouncing on pure adrenaline like always after he wrestled. He jumped up and down on his toes.
“You did good,” I said tightly.
Owen grinned. “Hey, it means a lot to me that you and Emily get along, you know?”
I shrugged. I wouldn’t look at him.
“You do like her, right?” He put his arm around my shoulder. I scooted out from under it, not wanting him to touch me. But I pretended I just wanted to veer around a fire hydrant that was coming up.
“I’m glad you’re not dating Jennifer Conners or anyone like her.” It wasn’t the best answer, but it was all I had.
Jennifer was head cheerleader for the wrestling squad and a gorgeous bitch on wheels. The fact that Owen had ended up dating nerdy Emily Stern and not someone like Jennifer had everyone in our school baffled. Well, maybe everyone but me.
“And?” Owen prompted, lightly punching my arm.
“And… you picked a good one, I guess.” I shrugged as if it didn’t matter, but it cost me. I was still feeling really hurt.
The fire hydrant was long gone, and I had no excuse to pull away when Owen came closer and put his arm around my shoulder. He pulled me in with a concerned look. “Hey, you know you’re my best friend and you always will be, right?”
“That’s not the way it works, Owen. Someday, when you meet a girl you’re really crazy about, she’s going to expect to be your best friend.”
“Well, she won’t be. You will,” Owen insisted firmly, as if he just didn’t get it. “No girl is ever going to mean as much to me as you do, Jordan.”
As much as I knew that was a pipe-dream, his words, and his arm around my shoulder, did make me feel better. The hurt in my chest loosened its grip and began to fade. I never could stay mad at him for long.
“You’re a dork,” I said.
“If I’m a dork than you’re a bigger dork for being friends with me.”
“It doesn’t work that way. It’s not like people exude a dork ray or something. Well, sometimes you do, but I’m immune.”
“Oh, I see. You do know that you’re the king of dorks and that this conversation is absurd.”
“No,” I insisted. “It’s physically impossible to be both a dork and gay. It’s like saying you’re color blind and blind. The universe will only allow so much disadvantage in any one given life form.”
Owen laughed. “You are so full of shit. You have been, and are, both a dork and gay, and frequently are in the same sentence.” He squeezed my shoulder but didn’t let go. He seemed content to walk like that all the way to my house. It was like he knew I needed him to show that he still cared about me.
I was too tall to do it anymore, but so what. I leaned my head down against his shoulder. I’d deal with the crooked neck later.
“Whatever,” I said, the final thrust in any argument.
Owen seemed to understand and stopped talking.
“Superhero” has been accepted for publication by Harmony Ink (the YA line of Dreamspinner Press) and will be published Jul 25, 2013.