Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara is out on shelves today! We received a review copy through netgalley. 

Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret. As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out.

Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara is a critical addition to the Gay YA literary world. The book grabs you by the hand and takes you through the romantic ups and downs of the main character, Brendan, and his first love, Mark. Throughout the book, Brendan is going through his senior year in high school; contemplating what college to go to, participating in musical productions, and competing in tennis tournaments-all while struggling to keep their relationship a secret, even from his closest friends.

Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara (Bold Stokes Books, out on shelves today 10/14!)

Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara (Bold Stokes Books, out on shelves today 10/14!)

The story starts with Brendan seeing a musical with his closest friends, which he could not be in because of other conflicts. He’s happy with life and enjoying his senior year and loving his friends. The banter between Brendan and his friends is witty and endearing and the feelings of love and happiness are palpable. And at this point, Brendan has not yet come out to his friends, even his closest friend, Kara, and is shy when someone mentions that girls are always surrounding him, as most of his friends are girls, and generally avoids topics of dating.

Brendan meets Mark at a party and the attraction is instant. Brendan frequently thinks about Mark after the party and when they meet with other friends, he often tries to steal a few moments alone with him. He often wonders if Mark is flirting on purpose or just being friendly. They grow close and, after some difficulty, confess mutual attraction. Mark states that their relationship would need to remain a secret because he is unsure about what this relationship means for him, as he has dated girls before but no boys, but he has an overwhelming attraction to Brendan and wants to engage in the relationship.

Mark struggles with himself and spends a lot of time worrying about who will find out and when and what he will say when they do find out. Brendan is not in any hurry to announce their relationship to the world but he wishes to at least be able to share it with his closest friend. However, he does not resent Mark for his reservations. As this book is written in first person from Brendan’s point of view, we don’t directly know what is going on in Mark’s mind but his feelings and anxieties are clearly communicated.

One thing that is wonderful about this book is that the amount of love and care that Brendan gives to Mark throughout the book comes through clearly. The reader is able to share Brendan’s feelings along with him as they grow and change. From the first beginnings of attraction and the feeling of having butterflies in his stomach whenever the one he adores is near, Brendan’s heart shines through.

Another wonderful thing that shines through this book is the sense of friendship that Brendan has with his friends: there is a warm and glowing feeling of comfort and companionship between them and Brendan. The reader can feel relaxed and at ease as if they are indeed included in this tight-knit group. It is easy to share their experiences, not only in love but also the trials of senior year of high school.

This was a wonderful book and a privilege to read. I will most likely reread it in the future and recommend it highly to anyone interested in this genre. There is no empty filler and anything that needs to be explained, is explained without being too expository. The characters personalities come through clearly and everyone’s feelings come across most often through dialogue and interaction. The book flows seamlessly throughout and is a very pleasurable read.

Rae Glenn loves reading so much that it has become a physical need. Supporting the LGBT youth has become as important to her as breathing. It is only natural for these to come together. You can find her @LovelyRedMuffin