Book Review: The Magnificent Sons (2020)

The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers, narrated by Joe Jameson

‘Is my life a picnic? Am I, you know, privileged?’
The trouble with this question, in Kia’s experience, was that people having to ask it undoubtedly were and also usually preferred to remain ignorant of that fact.

FIVE STARS FOR THESE DISASTROUS CINNAMON ROLLS

If this book isn’t on your list, I must insist you add it! I really liked Myers’ first book, The Last Romeo, but this is definitely my favourite of the two. I loved Jake. He’s definitely the heart and soul of this story. It’s so nice to get a bi mc, which is something not enough novels do.

Okay, this review gets SPOILERY from here so beware. ❤ Also, it’s just a WHOLE LOTTA THOUGHTS, so apologies if it’s ramble-y.

The story follows Jake, who’s been closeted his whole life and his little brother, Trick, who has always embraced his true self. After Trick has a coming out party that leaves Jake reeling with uncertainty, he comes out to his girlfriend and breaks off their relationship because he’s not happy and he’s never been himself. When he decides to come out to his family, none of them, including Trick, have a great reaction. In fact, Jake experiences a lot of biphobia throughout the novel which was really hard to get through. My heart ached for Jake throughout the entirety of the story. His loneliness bleeds through the pages.

‘When Mum was pregnant, I hoped someone else like me in the family would come along. Prove I wasn’t a weirdo, maybe. Then there you were, a star is born. You were like me, but nothing like me. […] This isn’t about you being gay or me being bi, not for me. No, I hated that you didn’t seem to need me. Not at all. You seemed to be doing well on your own. I felt even more of an outsider.’
‘I thought you hated me because I was camp.’

This scene is basically,

The two brothers spend the novel defining themselves by their differences, rather than their similarities, and butt heads as a result. Jake is understated, reserved, stoic and uptight; Trick is flamboyant, extroverted, chatty and seemingly the life of the party. It’s something Jake’s deeply jealous of: jealous that Trick knows who he is, jealous that everyone embraced Trick easily, jealous of his energy, jealous of how he never had to face the constraints Jake faced. On the flip side, Trick doesn’t understand why Jake can’t be happier that things were easier for him and doesn’t get why his brother harbours less than open-minded views on clothing and self-expression. Jake, for example, gets easily embarrassed by Trick, which hurts Trick on a fundamental level. And that’s honestly what’s so heartbreaking about the story. Both sides are entirely sympathetic. Jake should have been able to grow up being himself, just like Trick, but being born a decade later hasn’t erased Trick’s problems and insecurities and fears.

I really appreciate that Myers addressed biphobia and how it can often be found in people who otherwise believe themselves to be open-minded, even though those scenes were hard to get through. One of the first things Jake’s parents ask him, having never had an issue with Trick’s being gay, is why can’t Jake be ‘normal’. It’s gutting. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Jake throughout that entire scene. There’s a later bit where Jake’s straight friends accuse him of ‘lying’ to a girl he’s flirting with because he must be ‘secretly gay’. And his own brother even thinks he’s lying about being bi.

As he left the kitchen, he turned back. ‘Just ask yourselves why Trick’s life is one great big gay picnic and mine is inconvenient because you’ve run out of straight sons and don’t have a spare.

THIS SCENE. IT WRECKED ME. PROTECT JAKE AT ALL COSTS. ;_;

This book is basically a coming-of-age bro tale and I wholeheartedly recommend it. (And I went for the audiobook and the narrator is class!) ^_^

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