A Better Place is the story of two boys from two completely different worlds struggling to find themselves amongst a whirlwind of confusion. Will the strength they find in each other be enough to overcome the hatred and abuse of others? The unlikely pair struggle through friendship and heartbreaks, betrayal and hardships, to find the deepest desire of their hearts. Casper, the poorest boy in school, goes through life as the "invisible boy", and Brendan, the captain of the high school varsity football team, has it all; muscles, money, fame, and popularity. So, when Brendan takes an interest in Casper, their friendship goes in a direction that no one would have ever guessed. The two boys share nothing on the surface, but underlying each boy's reputation lies a yearning to be free, a yearning to find a better place.
Mark A. Roeder has written and published some two dozen novels in his Gay Youth Chronicles, a continuing series not only for gay youth, but readers of all ages and sexual orientations. Since the age of fifteen, Roeder has been turning out articles, columns, and novels, but for the last several years has dedicated his life to writing heart-warming stories about gay youth. He currently resides in Bloomington, Indiana. Information on his current and upcoming books can be found at markroeder.com.
Now I do not think this is a bad book and I would recommend to others, especially if you get it on sale. Roeder's writing style is in need of a serious editor. He was all over the place and at times it was hard to follow or muster up the energy to follow. I know that sounds harsh and I do not mean for it to be. The tale of Casper and Brendan is a sweet coming of age story but the intense drama experienced by both characters was a bit unrealistic and a bit contrived. The story could have used some editing. I am not doubting that some of the horrific things that occurred in the story occur, but all at the same time. Towards the end of the book we are introduced to two more principle characters, Nathan and Ethan, with their baggage and lo and behold it was hard for this reader to relate to any of them...perhaps the tornado. Just kidding...though I am not giving this tale a rave review, I do see where and what Roeder was trying to do...but I think there was way too much. The book could have been broken into a series which would have allowed for more insight into the real life drama's presented. Of course, this is just my take...
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to A Better Place again? Why?
No. It was a good story, but once you know what's happening, it's kind of pointless to go through it again.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Casper. The author did a good job describing him and I felt like I understood his character best.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What didn’t you like about Andy Babinski’s performance?
For some reason he only gives 1 character a distinct voice, everyone else is the same. Why even put for the effort for one character?
Any additional comments?
Do you know what hate watching is? It is when you find a television show that you hate, and you know you hate it, but you still continue to watch it. Usually it's because the show is over the top, ridiculous, and filled with unbelievable characters and situations. And though you hate this show, you watch it because it gives you something to focus your anger and hatred on and helps relieve stress because you have something to direct all the day's built up negative feelings. It's quite cathartic.
I spent a little over 5 hours hate-listening to this book. This audiobook is actually about 10 and a half hours, but I listened to it on 2x speed. Listening to the whole audiobook, I realized that if the author employed a decent editor, he would have easily cut this book in half and made it vastly better, but up to a point, because this story is plagued with one dimensional characters and an "everything but the kitchen sink" plot that induces many eye rolls.
The author gives us 2 main characters (Casper and Brendan) for the first 3/4 of the book and then inexplicably gives us 2 more main characters (Nathan & Ethan) in the last quarter of the book. I qualify these as main characters because the author uses 1st person narration and hops from character to character to tell the story. Usually a writer would do this to give us a feeling of personal insight to a character, to really let us know how each character feels, and to get in their psyche without feeling like you're making assumptions the way a 3rd person narration can do. When you use multiple first person narratives in one book, I feel that each character should be distinct and have their own personality. However, the author does not accomplish this well. Each character is exactly the same in terms of thoughts, worries, and action justification. Other than the names and description of their bodies (“rugged,” “bronzed,” “muscular,” etc), and maybe a couple hobbies, they are essentially all the same character.
Additionally, the believability of this story is low. The characters in this story are both the unluckiest AND the luckiest set of people I have ever read in a novel. They are unlucky in that the characters are subjected to discrimination, rejection from family, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, incestual sexual abuse, abandonment, torture, confinement, prostitution, parental neglect, life-threatening circumstances, suicide, homelessness, and even a random and inexplicable instance of magic premonitions that pretty much come out of left field toward the end of the story. Oh, and there’s even a natural disaster that happens too! I feel like this is just way too much to include in one story, and after all is said and done, I wonder how the author can feel that he has any story left to tell (apparently this is just 1 book of a series!).
The characters in the story are also incredibly lucky. For a story that is set in rural parts of the US in the early 80s, the characters are accepted for their sexuality way more than I would think they should have been, considering their levels of fear and anxiety of being outed. The characters are lucky in love, too. They fall in love at first sight and become inseparable. However, the characters are so one-dimensional I do not understand how they could have ever fallen in love with each other, let alone have their love withstand the events that occurred in the story. But then again, the characters are young, and as I mentioned above, they are essentially all the same character with different names. So they're enough alike to have fallen in love. Maybe that's the secret to everlasting love and happiness: one dimensionality. The first two main characters are also lucky being that they are able to survive 6 weeks traveling on foot as run aways with little money. The story actually glosses over this stretch of time and a narrator just tells the reader, "yep, it's been 6 weeks and we've been walking every day until night heading north, then we would sleep on the cold ground until the next morning; occasionally we'd do odd jobs for a little bit of money." (That's not a direct quote, though it probably isn't too far off). Gay youth homelessness is actually a pretty big and unacknowledged issue, and the author completely bypassed an opportunity to tell a better story. Instead we catch up with the characters after 6 weeks just in time to see one prostitute himself, and they eventually wind up in a gay commune farm where they meet the other two characters in his book.
As I mentioned above, a decent editor could have cut this story in half, and at least a quarter of that would have been due to redundant storytelling. Because the chapters of the story alternate between characters, combined with the fact that throughout most of the book the characters are in nearly every scene together, we get so much redundancy. For example, the narrator (Casper) will give a first person account of a scene. This scene will have Casper and Brendan together. Casper will talk about his hopes and fears and feelings while explaining everything that happens in the scene. Then the next chapter will be Brendan's narration, and he'll start by recapping the previous scene he had with Casper, what Casper said to him (though we just READ IT from Casper's POV) and then give us his own thoughts and feelings, WHICH ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN CASPER'S. That's one of the biggest things I cannot overlook in this story. The point that so many characters are able to say so little. It's a waste of time. Thank you Audible for 2x speed on your iPhone App.
I know this review may be a little harsh, but I do not think it is undeserving. Mark A Roeder states on his website that he is the author of "more than 30 novels." With this many books under his belt, and the fact that this book has a publication date of 2011 (so it must be one of his more recent creations), I worry what this early novels read like, unless Mr. Roeder is sacrificing quality for quantity. There is more that I could point out from this story, but if you are not yet convinced based on what I have said thus far, then you probably want to hate-listen to it, too. :)
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What could Mark A. Roeder have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
I bought this audiobook after listening to the sample that was provided. After listening to the first hour, I was turned off by the narration.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
The narrator was dry, not emotionally involved. I was having difficulty his dry disposition. I do apologize but I would request a refund if possible.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
I did like the sample, it sounded like if I was able to tolerate the whole story it might have a good plot at some point. But, it was so dry, or just read dry that I couldn't get through it.
Any additional comments?
What a story. I finished this in record time. I was sneaking a listen every chance I had. Spent this Saturday with the tv off...on the edge of my seat...listening to this story. Not sure if the story continues but I will definitely be looking to see..... what a great time I had. I couldn't believe the emotion this brought out..... was that a tear? Geez.
A well constructed story of love in the 80's, rejection and torture, acceptance and friendship.
I didn't even finish! I hate when I don't finish a book..but man... this was just soooo boring.. I keep falling asleep. Roeder is not a good narrator at all. I wish audible would replace the narrator to Crisden to really bring the characters to life. I really think it could turn this book around. Right now... No way.. So bored. I hope I can finish one day and re-review.. Right now... No.. this is just bad...
1 of 4 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book overall. The characters came from different backgrounds but mesh together well. Their developing love story is genuine and heartfelt. As the book progresses you find yourself unable to hit the "stop" button, always wondering whats going to happen next. I really wish there was a sequel available.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book written by Mark A. Roeder or narrated by Andy Babinski?
I would after listening to this book, the narrater was ok but sounded to simular and could have differentiated more between characters
What was one of the most memorable moments of A Better Place?
There are a few parts in the book that tackle some very hard hitting subjects and these (spoilers) I clearly remember but may be a bit much for some younger readers.
Was A Better Place worth the listening time?
I enjoyed taking the journey with the characters but did feel that later Lin the book some characters where very similar I had to rewind to check who's point of view we were listening to.