Author: Alexis Hall
Rating: A, 4.5 Stars
What I’m Talking About:
Trapped between the madness that is perpetually roiling beneath the surface of his skin, and the guilt he feels over the burden he’s become to those who still attempt to care about him, Ash Winters can’t exactly be described as “healthy,” or “well.” But, when a spray-tanned, metallic-swathed vision on the dance floor shows him the first real spark of life he’s felt in entirely too long, Ash can’t help himself—he has to have him. At least for an hour or two. When that small taste turns into a craving for more, however, Ash will have to rethink a lot of things, and learn how to fight for what he really wants.
Ash should be almost wholly unlikeable, yet I like him a great deal all the same. It is with that ever-increasing fondness, though, that I wanted to kick him—repeatedly—as he scrambled his way through the story, launching reflexive cruelties at various undeserving targets, most especially Darian, and simply getting it wrong. Ash doesn’t believe he’s worthy of anyone’s high regard, and so is left to his preferred state of isolation over and over again as even those few who might still love him are forced to retreat to a safe distance while he tries not to fall to pieces. Ash is so dismayed when his usual tactics and expectations are utterly obliterated by Darian that he lashes out in fits of self-sabotaging elitism, only to find himself even more desperate for the warmth the other man gives him. Ash’s illness, described as “type 1 bipolar with clinical anxiety disorder,” is not presented as a reason to pity him (since he is far too unpleasant for that), but as a reason to cheer him on as he attempts to truly live.
Darian is, by contrast, entirely lovable and truly does shine like the glitter Ash compares him to. He is gaudy and seems deceptively simple at times, yet he’s light and unflinchingly honest. He approaches every situation with a kind of wonder and acceptance that Ash mistakes for naivety, which Darian most certainly is not. Darian is largely content with his portion of the world, and all the things in it, including Ash. He doesn’t play the games that govern Ash’s life, and seems to want everyone to do what makes them happy to the best of their abilities. And nothing more. He doesn’t need to save Ash, because he feels that Ash is perfectly capable of saving himself. Or even better, he believes that Ash is okay as he is, and isn’t really in need of saving.
Although I’m not familiar with the specific class-distinction geography that comprises so much of Glitterland, the premise should be universally familiar. There are “desirable” places to live and “undesirable” ones, and plenty of preconceived notions of worth that follow along the lines on the map. Ash and his friends, especially Niall, come wrapped in a cloak of privilege; Darian and his do not. But, it’s only an important distinction to those who scoff at the idea of functioning without it. It’s not that Darian doesn’t get it. He does. He’s just self aware enough not to accept it in his own life. And he believes that Ash is capable of better, too.
There is so much to think about in Glitterland, that’s it’s really better to just read it firsthand. Ash’s bipolar issues are only part of the struggle he faces, but I couldn’t help but love him more and more as his heart began to unfurl from the ruthless expectations it had been subjected to. While there are plenty of sexual moments in the story as well, which range from basic need to an almost desperate intimacy, Glitterland is much more than just that. Both Ash and Darian are fantastic characters, and Mr. Hall has made them both matter tremendously without an overdose of pity or reliance on excuses. This is a solid narrative that lives up to the hype, at least for me, and I not only wholeheartedly recommend it but I’ll be keeping my eye out this author in the future.
4.5 stars: Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)
About the Book:
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Release Date: August 26, 2013
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: LGBT, Contemporary Romance
Format(s): Paperback (248 pgs), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley