A Little Bit Country
By Brian D. Kennedy
Narrated by Mark Sanderlin & Andrew Gibson
LGBTQ+ YA Romance
If you’re looking for a book with some fun, subversive tropes, character driven and adorably cute, A Little Bit Country is the book for you as two very different characters collide and try to make it work not for the sake of anyone else but for yourself and what makes you happy.
A Little Bit Country follows an aspiring gay country singer, Emmette the city boy who moves down to Jackson Hallow to work in a parody of Dollywood named Wanda World for the fictional famous country singer Wanda Jean. Alongside Emmette’s story is Luke’s story, a closeted country boy who just wants to be himself but struggles to out of fear of being rejected and isolated from his family and the few friends he opens up to.
When Emmette and Luke meet, immediately sparks fly and the two are head over heels. But as Emmette learns of Luke’s grandmother, the infamous pale rose Verna who stole Wanda Jean’s husband years ago, and discovers a journal with country songs Wanda Jean may have plagiarized from Verna, they find themselves uncovering a secret of Wanda Jean that teaches them a few lessons about truth and love.
While the plot of A Little Bit Country is nothing super special, the Queer spin on the sort of “theatre kid” and “jock” falling in love was a refreshing one I’d like to see more of in YA stories. As many older Queer stories position the closeted jock as dumb, almost oppressed by his environment and almost himbo like, Luke is very contemplative, very caring and is sweet whether he’s pretending to be straight or if he’s hanging with Emmette.
So many older Queer stories seem to objectify the jock trope, seeing it as a conquest and a trophy rather than two people falling in love. The jock type is often a sort of bad boy, a bit of an asshole and a bit stand-offish. Of course, a lot of such sentiment is Queer people falling in love with their straight friend and then trying to live out that fantasy through stories.
But here In A Little Bit Country they don’t particularly make Luke’s unwillingness to come out as something that needs to be pushed on for the sake of his and Emmette’s relationship. Emmette, while only once dealing with Luke being a dick while he’s trying to come off as straight, is always putting Luke’s safety first, figuring out how to make their relationship work the way they choose and not forcing Luke to do it in some conventional way.
In a way, Luke’s story is very much about coming into oneself—learning to love yourself, to accept yourself and not feel shame—rather than coming out. And even when Luke is beating himself up over not wanting to come out, it’s never out of shame or hate towards himself, but more so out of the safety for himself.
A Little Bit Country is a refreshing, adorable romance between two people who, on the outside are very different, but on the inside see eye to eye. And while Emmette and Luke might not have the same approach to things, they always end up at the same conclusion—wanting to be happy without compromising yourself for the comfort of others. And that’s why, in the end, their relationship works.