A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. .........Flash forward twenty years.Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.
Living in 1970s New York, high school jock Craig McKenna introduces himself to academically-geared theater nerd Travis Puckett their senior year at a boy's boarding school. Craig wants to enlist Travis's help with a essay writing assignment. A friendship develops between them, which later blossoms into a romance, catching them both off-guard. Travis has suspected his true orientation for some time but is hesitant to admit it aloud. Craig is completely stunned at the intensity of his feelings for Travis, having always dated women previously. Still, the heart wants what it wants so they both decide to roll with it and see where it goes.
They try to keep it on the DL for awhile, but people still seem to suspect, as Travis gets a heavy amount of gay-bashing, at least until burly built Craig steps in to shut down the bullies. After the school year wraps, the guys decide to get an apartment together for the summer, allowing them some serious quality time before they start their college lives. The summer ends too quick though, and after a tearful parting the two start their separate paths. They try the long distance thing for a bit, writing and calling when they can but eventually drift apart.
Twenty years pass. Travis is now a history professor at University of Southern California, where he got his degree. Craig, after earning a law degree from Harvard is now a highly respected lawyer still living in New York who uses his professional clout to advocate for gay rights. It's during this time that the reader gets a look into Craig's work and experiences during the growing AIDS / HIV epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, and the heightened atmosphere of fear mixed with the realization of the need for awareness & education. Craig loses several close friends to the disease, amping his advocacy drive even more. He never stops thinking of Travis all these years but figures the past is the past and there's no way to go back. Little does he know that Travis hasn't forgotten him either, but instead has recently become inspired to find Craig and reconnect. Can Travis hope for even an ember of interest still burning in his first love?
This is the second of Kluger's books I've picked up, having just stumbled across it in a local bookstore recently. A couple years back I read his historical fiction epistolary novel Last Days of Summer and loved it so much that Kluger's name went on my mental automatic buy list ... but I never found any more of his stuff til now! Similar to that last novel, this one has a theme of baseball history, and looking at a few other of Kluger's books I've since discovered online (the synopses anyway) it seems to be a common thread between ALL his books.
I can't say the plot to this novel sucked me in quite as much as Last Days Of Summer but I still definitely enjoyed it! Travis and Craig did make a cute couple, though in their early years Travis could seem a little clingy at times (guess we're all guilty of it sometimes, though :-) ). It took me a little longer to get invested in this storyline but my interest shot up quite a bit once the story got into Craig's activism work. Some of the scenes described there are incredibly moving and sometimes heartbreaking! I also liked that little side story with Gordo and AJ -- their banter back and forth as their relationship grew was sweet without being grossly syrupy.
Final verdict -- Kluger still an auto-buy for me, his stories are just too fun...and I'm not even the biggest follower of baseball!