ABROAD: Book One by Liz Jacobs
Series: Abroad Duology
Publisher: Brain Mill Press
Release Date (Print & Ebook): June 27th wide release; early access June 17th
Length (Print & Ebook): ~100K words; 372 pages
Subgenre: NA; LGBTQIA
All buy links or pre-order links:
Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?
Quotes from the author about the book:
ABROAD is a story of struggle, love, identity, fear, family, and friendship. It’s about finding your people. It’s a story of how our cultures can define, constrict, and, ultimately, free us. It’s a story of immigration and its fallout, of confusion and clashes and how help can come from the most unexpected places. It’s the story I have always wanted to tell, ever since I was a confused, frightened immigrant kid with no recourse but to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings or sink. In many ways, while fictionalized and quite altered, this is my story.
Teaser Excerpt #1 (short 100 – 200 words):
Nick didn’t feel better in the morning. At three am, his anxiety had been a shapeless thing, with weight and texture but part of dreams, too. A sort of terrifying unreality he had to breathe through.
At eight am, as his alarm shrieked at him to wake the fuck up, the shapeless, textured thing coalesced into something more terrifying than the nightly ghosts. If, at ten years old, he’d been aware that being unable to answer the kids on the bus who asked him why his teeth looked the way they did would someday end, at twenty, he knew better.
He wanted men. He hadn’t really wanted Lena, in all the years they’d been together. He hadn’t really wanted Ashley during sophomore year when they’d kissed in the art classroom, her hair tickling his palms where his hands had trembled on her shoulders, and later humped fruitlessly in her sunroom, sweaty and shaky and half-hard.
He wanted Dex. Of all people, of all the people he had met, he wanted him so much, his hands ached with it. Nick was past denying anything. All he knew now was the whine in his chest that told him truth frightened more than denial.
Teaser Excerpt #2 (long 200 – 400 words):
No, Izzy wasn’t drunk. She was happy. She’d needed this. She just felt…unbalanced. Not right. Something was niggling at her, but she couldn’t catch it, not without a bigger net.
Maybe it had been that stupid fight with Dex.
Maybe it had been the talk with Nick about her course.
Maybe she was just overthinking everything, which never ended well, and anyway, she never dwelled on the bad shit. Why was she even doing it now?
Maybe that was why, when she was taking a quick rest against an empty bit of wall, catching her breath, and saw a girl appear in front of her and beckon her for a dance with a tilt of her chin, Izzy went.
“What’s your name?” the girl shouted in her ear once they were bouncing up and down on the dance floor. Her breath was hot against Izzy’s skin and smelled beery.
“Izzy! Like Isabel, but, like. Shorter?”
The girl laughed and pulled back enough to catch Izzy’s eye. “I heard you the first time, love, just having a laugh.”
It should have annoyed her, and maybe it would have, had a guy done it. But somehow, it only made Izzy laugh. Flush and laugh, but luckily, she was probably pink all over from the dancing alone, so at least it wouldn’t be noticeable.
“What about you, then?” she shouted.
Izzy thought that if they hadn’t been shouting, Ruby’s voice would have been husky. It had that edge to it. She had that edge to her, anyway. She was shorter than Izzy, just enough to probably be of a height when Izzy wasn’t wearing heels. With heels on, Izzy brushed the other side of six foot, which she loved more than most people, probably. She’d once cried on her mum’s shoulder that she felt like an elephant compared to all the other girls (and, what was worse, boys) in her class, and her mum had petted her head, then said, “Isabel? Great Danes don’t produce chihuahuas.” It had been so absurd, it had actually comforted.
She liked the way she towered over Ruby, because it didn’t feel as if she should be able to. Ruby was sort of tall and lanky but had a presence about her; she felt bigger than her build. She, too, had tattoos. Seriously, was this a queer lady thing? She’d have to ask Nat later, because Nat had also already started on an arm sleeve, but Izzy had thought it was more of a Nat thing, not a lesbian thing. Ruby’s left arm was covered shoulder to midway through her forearm. Vines and sea monsters and things. It was cool. She had a lip piercing, an eyebrow piercing, and short black hair in a sort of chunky haircut where the fringe periodically fell over her darkly-lined eyes. In this light, it was impossible to tell what color they were, but regardless of anything, she was easily the coolest girl Izzy’d ever met.
Abroad is a beautifully written debut about coming of age and self-discovery. It follows a diverse group of friends in London, each working through their own struggles and identities.
Nick and Dex were both incredibly compelling characters and the slow build to this plot lent a very realistic and natural feel to their story. This is a long book with a very slow burn, which is a breath of fresh air to the new adult genre, which I often find takes an expedited physical approach to the coming-of-age plot. The romantic relationship between Nick and Dex does not take front stage. It’s building throughout the book, yes, but the primary story here are the characters each living their own lives, facing individual struggles, and the importance of friendship throughout. Liz Jacobs has put a lot of thought into building this world and these characters and I can only imagine their collective stories will grow more compelling throughout the series.
It’s important to note that this story is much more than the blurb indicates. Roughly 25-30% of the novel is narrated by a third character, Izzy, telling her story which, while it intertwines at times, is mostly separate from Nick and Dex’s. These side trips were a surprise to me, as I wasn’t expecting a female narrator or the introduction to her story of questioning and self-discovery that I’m assuming is going to be the central plot of the next book in this series.
This was a wonderful debut book by Liz Jacobs and a must-read for those who appreciate the new adult genre.
A copy of this book was provided for review on OMGReads.
Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee. All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.