Title: Bottled Up Secret
Author: Brian McNamara
Release Date: October 14th 2014
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Gay Romance
Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret. As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out.
Brian McNamara based the plot of Bottled Up Secret on his own high school experiences and I think, because of this, the confusion, adoration and sadness felt by Brendan are emotions we can believe.
Bottled Up Secret is perhaps not the best gay novel I have read but it is aimed perfectly at a young adult audience. Do not read this story if you are expecting graphic sexual scenes, because Brian McNamara avoids these. I think this is an excellent decision on his part. Mark and Brendan are experiencing their first homosexual kisses and intimate moments and we share in the tenderness of this, rather than it being merely lust.
The mix of personalities in the story are intriguing and I think at times Brendan’s friendships overshadow his relationship with Mark. Yet it also reminds us that Bottled Up Secret is a coming of age story, as much as it is a romance. Brendan is fully recognizing his sexuality and admitting it to his friends and family. This is important because he no longer feels he has to play parts to suit each occasion and instead he can truly be himself.
Mark is a difficult character because of the way he does not appear totally committed to his relationship with Brendan and at times his actions made me frustrated. He admits that he has had a long-term girlfriend and that before meeting Brendan he has never been attracted to someone of his own gender. I think this message makes the book more accessible to young adult readers who may be confused about their sexual orientation and if my sons are ever in this position I would quite happily give them Bottled Up Secret to read.
One big thing that really bothered me about the story was the amount of stereotypes the author uses. I would like to think that Brian McNamara does this in a tongue in cheek fashion, but every time something of this kind was said I felt disappointed.
“I figured having almost exclusively female or gay friends and being an active musical theater performer would be enough for anyone to at least suspect.”
Bottled Up Secret is clearly a novel with an agenda and I think Brian McNamara clearly delivers the simple message that love is strong enough to break through all barriers.
Brian McNamara’s book is one I would recommend adding to a TBR pile, particularly for anyone who is a fan of this genre.