The Dangerous Art Of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis (315 pages)
Overview: Evan Panos has a lot to hide at his small town Illinois high school. He only wears long sleeved shirts to cover the bruises on his body, though the cuts on his face are harder to hide. And he's gay, something that wouldn't go over well at school or with his deeply religious, first generation immigrant, Greek parents. Evan must learn that sometimes under the radar isn't the place to live while he grapples with his situation and wonders who could help him. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 I love Evan. He made a wonderful main character, mostly for his sincerity that just oozes from all his words, thoughts, feelings, and drawings. He makes the reader understand and sympathize with his choices at every turn. His voice is also wrung with a heartbreaking resignation that ebbs and flows with his rises and falls throughout the book.
His family is interesting and stunningly real as well. His mother shows the dangers of the cycle of abuse, something Evan constantly fears falling into. She has taken her religion to an extreme that causes her to target and beat her son, making up lies to cover his battered body. His father is an extremely compelling character. You can feel the way he aches for Evan and wants to stop his wife's abusive behavior, but he's at the same loss Evan is. They both feel there is nothing left to do, but they have an understanding filled with so much intangible love that it's truly heartbreaking.
I also have to applaud Surmelis for his other supporting characters who also feel staggeringly real. From the archetypes to the word choices, he brought the citizens of the tiny town to life.
Plot: 5 I could not put this book down! There are so many questions that Surmelis strings through the book. The will they-won't they romance, the predicament of how Evan will escape his abusive family, and the fear of whether he will be found out before he's ready. Even though this book isn't loud or flashy, it has a quiet energy that builds without you noticing till it ends.
Writing: 5 I love Surmelis's style. He makes the words melt off the page and into your mind so that you are less reading about Evan's story and more living it right there with him. He balances difficult subjects like coming out and parental abuse perfectly, giving them the right balance so that they feel earthshakingly real.
I also enjoyed the Greek aspects of this story and the immigrant narrative. I used to go to a Greek school, so even though I'm not Greek myself, I recognized many aspects of the culture. This story with defiently make you crave donuts and koulourakia!