By Mark Summers
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
“I’m not sure I’ve ever loved anyone, but if love means feeling like the Earth is going to eat you whole at the thought of never seeing them again, if love means feeling unable to be yourself without the one you love, then maybe that’s what I’m starting to feel for you.” “I don’t want to mend you. I just want to be there for you while you do it yourself.” Noah is 23 years old and a big brother. That’s probably how he would describe himself, since no job is as important as being a big brother to Jimmy, all while struggling with the depression and anxiety he’s learned to control the best he can. He’s lived in the same small town his entire life, kept away both from danger and pleasure, and everything else the world has to offer. Daniel is a 30 year-old third-grade teacher with a secret. Apparently perfect, damage and addiction hide behind his fabricated front. He’s troubled, he’s mean, he’s controlling and dominant. And most importantly, he’s straight. He doesn’t love anything besides his job, and his human interactions consist of using people to satisfy his needs. When life brings Noah and Daniel together, a peculiar arrangement is formed, pushing both men to new limits. Will Noah learn to step out of his comfort zone and take control of his life? Will Daniel defeat his demons? The characters in this book are flawed and troubled, but they do their best as they try to figure out their lives, learning about addiction, lust, and love, and falling for each other in the process.
Wow. When I started reading this book – the first one I’ve read by author Mark Summers – I wasn’t sure what I thought. I kept reading, though, and was definitely rewarded for my decision. My curiosity was piqued because I couldn’t quite figure out the backstory on Noah, how old he was, why he had such a close and hands-on relationship (almost parental in nature) with his younger brother, and who he was as a person, aside from what I sensed was a lonely life. Next we’re introduced to Daniel. Summers certainly does a stellar job of portraying this guy as a multi-faced, complicated, demonized character who is just plain mean and domineering, and it only continued to generate more questions in my mind the farther along I read. Daniel admits he’s a bad person, and his list of vices – as well as his personality traits – are not pretty, even though he’s a third grade teacher who is much loved by his students, especially Noah’s younger brother Jimmy, aka Orange.
Without sharing too much about the storyline itself, it’s Summers’ firm grasp of characterization and different slant on storytelling that makes this book work for me. Just when the reader can’t imagine stomaching another second of Daniel, the emotional floodgates come crashing open and he confesses all to Noah…and holy sh*t, I never saw ANY of that coming, but boy!, did it ever frame things and change my attitude about Daniel.
Addicted is not a happy tale by any stretch of the imagination, but I honestly believe hope and redemption are elements consistently simmering just under the surface throughout the entire book, and both eventually emerge in full bloom, not only for Noah and Daniel, but for Noah’s dysfunctional immediate family. What started out as a sad, dark and almost depressing story, sobered up into a warm, accepting and gratifying conclusion laced with hope and salvation, and one of the most unique ending chapters I’ve ever read.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on December 7, 2016.