Stephanie Cortez/The Paisano
From the shores of the Corpus Christi coast to the cool Venice Beach of Los Angeles, Julián Luna, known as Jules to his friends and family, goes on a journey of acceptance and love. Being a closeted, gay teen in Texas, Julián dreams of graduating high school and escaping the red state for the welcoming blue oasis of a more accepting city: Los Angeles. Growing up in Texas, Jules has become a master of hiding his true self, but one drunken night changes the trajectory of his life. He awakes to find out that he outed himself to his followers through an accidental tweet: resulting in Mat, the cute Vietnamese LA native, sliding into his DMs and congratulating him for coming out publicly. Jules and Mat instantly become good friends, bonding over their similarities, finding comfort within each other and having the age-old argument of Whataburger versus In-N-Out. Jules also finds acceptance with his friends but finds that his abusive machista father definitely has an issue with Jules’s sexuality.
This novel is a comfort for native Texans with the references to the Gulf of Mexico, Selena and Whataburger. However, you do not have to be a Texan to love this story. Author Johnny Garza Villa, is from the Gulf Coast, lives in San Antonio and is a lover of Selena (aren’t we all). They have poured themselves into this book in a way that makes you reflect and appreciate your own journey. Some of Jules’ struggles are the same issues that Johnny went through.
The story of Jules and Mat gives you the same feelings as your first crush: the warmth that they share elicits the same butterflies that we are all accustomed to from being in the presence of that one person. Their story is not a perfect linear journey (that would be boring), but rather it is the realistic path of a person dealing with coming out to every person in their life while also managing their feelings for a person living across the country. Jules has a great support system, in the form of his friend group and older sister, to get him through the difficulties at home and his long-distance relationship with Mat. This novel is the happy ending that queer youth need and deserve, featuring diverse POC characters, which is a welcome change to the white-washed representation of the LGBT community that we are accustomed to, and you don’t have to travel fifteen hundred miles to get it.