By Jacob Cheyenne
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shy and scholarly, long-distance swimmer Ryan Zwick thinks he’s the only gay member of the college swim team. He keeps his head down in the showers, and his head in the books the rest of the time.
But when a sporty new transfer student joins the team, Ryan feels a surge of hope. Sexually inexperienced and looking for love, fellow swimmer Blake Gossens is everything Ryan wants in a boyfriend. But what is Blake’s game, exactly? And just how straight is he?
Blake seems to be more interested in Ryan’s best friend, Marissa, leaving Ryan to go back to secretly checking out his teammates in the pool. But Ryan keeps getting mysterious messages in his dating app from a stranger who seems to know a lot about him. Could this messenger be Blake? Or someone else?
When bad weather hits unexpectedly, Ryan is forced to confront his real feelings toward Blake, while opening up to the stranger by his side, eventually giving in to his wildest fantasies — and his heart.
Ryan dressed casually, but he didn’t want to love casually.
What a well-plotted and steadily paced storyline with memorable and solidly developed characters that are easy to get to know and care about. Author Jacob Cheyenne created an atmosphere in which it was easy to feel comfortable: Chippewa College is a small, close-knit campus, gay sophomore Ryan and his best friend since middle school Marissa are both studying agricultural science and have a sincere friendship, the swim team – one of the best in Minnesota – wins as a team and loses as a team, and readers get a flavor for the genuine camaraderie between teammates.
Early on in the story, readers are introduced to the swimming team’s hot new transfer student from UW-Madison, Blake, and when Coach Ken assigns him to be Ryan’s cross-training partner and the workout scenes start building, it seems that the stars may be aligning and Ryan may finally have discovered another gay man at Chippewa, especially when “MadMan57” pops up on his BroLuv app and he’s only 200 feet away! That name must be code for “Madison Man,” and “57” is Blake’s record-setting time, so it must be him, right? Blake, however, insists he’s “into girls” and “totally hetero,” a confession that appears to be true when he and Marissa start flirting and end up hooking up at a Halloween party right in front of Ryan and one of his teammates.
So is it possible that Blake is gay or bi? Or is he simply a jerk? And if “MadMan57” isn’t Blake, then who is he? Without spoiling the story, a series of events leads Ryan to find his perfect guy – and learn that Blake isn’t the cool dude he wants everyone to believe he is – and though some readers may poo-poo the “insta-love” between the two new lovebirds, the natural (albeit fast) progression of their friendship into a full-blown relationship is sweet; the sex is hot because their feelings for one another are pure, innocent, and genuine; and the first thing they did was build and nurture an honest-to-goodness friendship based on mutual interests, fun, and respect before even venturing into admitting and acting on their feelings for one another.
I typically don’t enjoy the YA genre because it can seem too contrived, unreal, and immature, but Distant Swimmer was a solid and satisfying read from start to finish. I definitely recommend it!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of Distant Swimmer.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on January 23, 2017.