Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling by Michael Murphy

Title : Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling                             Word Count :71997         Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb :Aaron and Josh come from extraordinarily different backgrounds in small town America. Aaron is the only child of a fundamentalist preacher who fears and condemns the ways of the world outside their community. Josh is a jock who can only seem to express the feelings Aaron stirs in him by tormenting Aaron about how he looks and dresses. But one day, Josh’s world is turned upside down by a simple sentence spoken by Aaron, and he decides to get closer to Aaron.

Aaron assumes it is a new form of torture, but Josh persists: first a ride home, then talking with Aaron while he does his afternoon farm chores. Then Josh persuades Aaron’s father to let him participate in a scholastic event out of town one weekend. Josh pays a huge price for Aaron to attend, but that one weekend persuades Aaron to get free of his parents and attend college.

College doesn’t solve all their problems, though. Josh is horrified when a senior on campus seduces Aaron. He can’t believe Aaron has always been gay and he missed it—and missed getting to be Aaron’s first. But when Aaron finds out his boyfriend isn’t faithful, things go from tense to worse.

My Review : It is certainly a shame when something as simple as a shower is a luxury for a teenager.  Aaron grew up without all the simple amenities due to him living in an Amish community. He was constantly bullied and teased for being different. Although his body was physically imposing, he was seen as a backwards hick, regardless of the fact that he was smarter than most of the people in his school. Not only did Aaron get humiliated by the jocks at school,  he also had to put up with  his father belittling , verbally and physically abusing him.

 All the years of torment have finally taking its toll on Aaron. More and more each day he wishes he had a regular teenage life. He wants to be able to afford the privilege of getting out of his closed off town to go to college. Anything really, just as long as he is out from  under his father’s thumb and doesn’t have to take over the leadership of his community that is stifling. Aaron realizes that he has same sex tendencies and he tries to bury these feelings deep down within himself. He wants more out of life than being a farmer.

One day he gets the courage to speak up against his main tormentor who is a popular jock  named Josh.Josh acknowledges and apologizes to Aaron for all the hurt and pain he has caused him over the years. He tries really hard to get to know Aaron, but Aaron is weary and suspicious of his motives. Once Josh starts getting some insight in the type of life that is forced on Aaron he feels a sense of empathy and he is truly confused at how a teenager can function without all the simple modern technologies that everyday kids take for granted. As they grow closer, Josh exposes Aaron to his way of life and introduces him to television shows such as Glee and gives him a makeover. It is a real eye-opener for Aaron to see gay relationships flourishing in the outside world. Josh realizes how sweet of a person and how truly innocent Aaron seems to be. 

The physical abuse gets really bad for Aaron at home and when Josh gets a glimpse of what was done to him, he gets the authorities involved.  Josh’ parents pushes Aaron to become an emancipated minor and live with them. Josh and Aaron’s bond becomes stronger and Josh motivates and pushes Aaron to his full potential in all aspects of his life. Aaron grows to be a more rounded teenager and a far greater student.

Before you know it, Josh and Aaron both start college where they share a dorm room. This is where it gets a bit dicey for me, they are still hiding the fact that they are both gay and that they really like each other. I thought this stretched on a little too long. Up to this point there is still no sex and it’s about 85% through the book already. Some unnecessary drama is thrown in and Josh and Aaron are mad at each other  and distant. After seeing Aaron with another man, Josh bites the bullet and tells Aaron how much he is in love with him. Aaron is still doubting his position in the world, because there is still so much he doesn’t understand about social situations.

When they go on Christmas break , this is where they finally clear up their misunderstandings and explore the sexual side of their relationship. The sex in this book was very minimal and definitely not overt, so I had to be reading through the lines. I am a fan of Michael Murphy and the content was interesting,  I am just disappointed in the lack of sex. This gets my ratings of 3- it was ok, give it a try.