By Felice Stevens
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Too big. Too fat.
All his life Eric Sontag has judged himself on his size, believing love and friendship aren’t in the cards for someone like him. Tired of being alone and scared of his doctor’s warnings, he enrolls in a nutrition support group, determined to change his life. When a beautiful thin man sits next to him, he can’t believe they have anything in common, but conversation between the two soon proves first impressions aren’t always what they seem.
Corey DeSantis has always been the scrawny waif; he’s tired of struggling with his art and with life. Scarred by the disappearance and death of his drug-addicted mother, he doesn’t wish for love, believing it will bring him nothing but pain in the end. Now his only hunger in life is his desire to paint…until a health scare and his mentor force him to attend a nutrition class where he meets a man who piques his interest. One drunken kiss later, Eric is all Corey can think about.
The same, yet different.
An unlikely friendship is born with both men wanting more but afraid to listen to their well-guarded hearts. When Corey receives shocking news leaving him angry and helpless, it’s Eric he leans on, to help see him through, while a surprising career opportunity finds Eric leaning on Corey for advice. One night of explosive passion leads to a second and soon neither man can imagine a life without the other. Life is shaped by the challenges accepted and roads not taken but as Corey and Eric walk the path together, they’ll discover the most beautiful destination of all. Love.
Few authors can so successfully stir the senses like Felice Stevens, cutting deep to the heart of one’s soul and being, effortlessly exposing personal vulnerabilities, and then transposing them into redemption and triumphs.
The Shape of You is uncomfortable to read. Whether enduring the struggle through the eyes of heavyset Eric or the too-thin Corey, each faced his own set of challenging life circumstances and food was the common denominator in how they approached trying to deal with their issues.
Both main characters are kind, solid-hearted young men who have been dealt some unfortunate life circumstances, and truly deserve success and happiness. Though their situations are almost completely opposite in scope, the ill effects they’ve inevitably inflicted on their hearts, lives, and spirits parallel one another.
Stevens forces the reader to grapple with myriad emotions and cast a reflective observation on the cause-and-effect vulnerabilities that resulted from their individual histories – humiliation, fear of rejection, lack of confidence, unworthiness, defeat – in the face of battling internal struggles waged from an early age. Neither Eric nor Corey believe he deserves the goodness of the other, yet together they complete one another and find happiness in the most perfect way.
It can be palpably painful and heart-wrenching to read some of the scenes, especially the anguish that consumes Eric when he stumbles or becomes engulfed by despairing thoughts. Thank goodness there’s Corey.
Without calling out spoilers, Stevens weaves their steadily-paced journey into an exploration of acceptance, perspective, forgiveness, family, and genuine, devoted love. There is something so pure and authentic, so real, about Eric and Corey, and the reader can’t help but be affected by their story.
The HEA culminates the healing power of love in a pleasantly scripted scene – sentimental, tender and touching, and simply beautiful. And the most gratifying consequence is that it’s clearly framed through the lens of love.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Shape of You.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on July 10, 2017.