Author: J. Adams
Genre: Literary fiction / LGBTQ+ fiction
Rode by J. Adams follows the journey of a young, bisexual man named Jack as he navigates his way, trying to figure out what he wants in life. Set against the backdrop of San Francisco in the early 2000s, Rode dives into the underbelly life of the West Coast city and how one wayward man has to face his fears, his regrets, and his past. The book deals heavily with themes of loss, love, and friendship, along with discovering one’s purpose.
Literary fiction stands apart from typical genre fiction because of its emphasis on themes, and Rode no doubt is a story filled with many. Although the literary story may not have a huge climax or an outside antagonist, the stories are still rife with deep characters and plunge into their psyches. Rode is, at its heart, a character study of one man: Jack. As Jack leaves his best friend and on/off girlfriend, Skelly, behind in New Mexico and quits his firefighting job to travel to San Francisco, neither he nor the reader know what to expect. The inciting incident that generally sets the character’s journey in motion is no more than Jack needing to figure out who he is. He is his own enemy, and, therefore, the antagonistic force exists within himself. This is a striking self-versus-self narrative told mostly in close third-person point-of-view.
That said, when Jack makes poor choices, the reader wants to ask him why he is destroying his life. We almost feel like we are riding on his shoulder, forced to experience every wrong turn he makes, and are left wondering why he is choosing this path. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, such as HIV positivity, same-sex couples, sexual promiscuity, drug use, and more. At the heart of so much self-destruction is a broken soul who longs for love, and this is what hits the reader in the heart. This message is relatable on a deep level for many, even if we don’t go about searching to fill the empty void in the same manner Jack does.
Because of the mature nature of many of the themes and events, this novel may be triggering for some audiences. LGBTQ+ fiction is a contemporary and relevant genre in 2022, but it may not be for everyone. Still, J. Adams has boldly written a deep, resonating character, who, although he may frustrate the reader at times, ultimately wins the reader’s heart because he is real and understandable.
Throughout the text, there are several occurrences of punctuation issues, most notably sentences phrased as statements when they should be questions. In addition, often, two independent clauses are separated by a comma instead of a period. Otherwise, the writing itself is solid, and the content is sound.
Rode is a unique coming-of-age story that will echo deeply in the reader’s heart for the protagonist. J. Adams tells a compelling character-driven narrative with strong universal themes, using an off-beat secondary genre. Readers who enjoy complex, troubled characters having to overcome great personal strife and growing from their experiences will enjoy Rode.
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