Reviewed by David T. Valentin
The Long Run
By James Acker
Narrated by Lee Osorio and Max Meyers
LGBTQ+ YA Romance
When I tell you that The Long Run had instantly become one of, if not my most favorite books of this year, it is the simplest way I can sum up the beautiful whirlwind of queer joy I felt reading this book from start to finish.
Sebastian is not only known as the track captain of his high school team, but the star athlete of his high school. Sebastian, or more commonly known as “Bash the Flash,” nicknamed by his asshole of a best friend, Matty, has it all. Bash has good looks, charm and a bit of a roughness around the edges. Despite having it all, Bash just doesn’t know what he wants. Until his life takes an unexpected turn when he becomes best friends with the “Italian Yeti.”
Sandro Miceli nicknamed the “Italian Yeti” for his thick body hair covering from head to toe, has his entire summer ruined after he is left in a leg cast after falling asleep on his roof and rolling off his two-floor house. And after walking everywhere after his neglectful family insists he walk everywhere and being stuck in a boot after the cast is off, the rest of his summer vacation is officially over.
Both teenagers’ lives change when Sandro encounters Bash on the way to the big, yearly beer Olympics. Bash offers the guy a ride after feeling bad that he has to walk everywhere. But both their worlds are linked together when the two share an unexpected kiss at the end of the night.
What makes this book so authentic is that it doesn’t set coming out or forced coming out stories at the center of the story. What really drives this book forward is not only mourning the friendships we lose along the way of becoming our true selves, but the grace we have in making mistakes along the way.
As Bash and Sandro’s friendship evolves from friendship to best friends, to a couple, they do a great job at being there for each other, showing up as their best selves. And while the private moments between Bash and Sandro had me smiling from ear to ear every second of every chapter, The Long Run reminds us we also have to show up as our best selves for not only ourselves but others when it is most hard to do so. The Long Run questions who we choose to be to the people whose opinions we know don’t really matter. Author James Acker takes the idea a step forward and asks readers, if we know who we are on the inside, why do we still perform for the people whose opinions don’t matter?
Rather than laying that question all on the individual—Bash and Sandro—and having those mistakes be wholly solved by the characters in traditional YA conflict fashion, The Long Run understands the intricacies of growing up in a complicated and sometimes unforgiving world to those who seek to be kind, empathetic and open. The Long Run not only reminds us that we don’t have to make that journey ourselves, but that not everyone deserves to be intimate with that journey. In the end, those who wish to be on that journey with us will make the effort to do so.
At the end of the day, The Long Run really is about not only choosing the people around you who will push you to be a better person but is also about becoming a better person and sharing those pieces of yourself to the right people along the way. Those who want better for you will be attracted to that authenticity. And as for those who aren’t attracted to that authenticity? They’ll just fade to the background of our lives until they’re nothing more than a chapter we’d rather not look back on.
There is so much more to be said about The Long Run and the queer joy the novel filled me with, but I suppose that’s the best way to put it: pure, queer joy that’ll have you laughing, sobbing and smiling all at the same time from beginning to end. Seriously, toward the end I kept taking breaks because I just didn’t want the book to end, and even after I’ve finished reading it a week later, I not only am still thinking about how amazing the book was, but I already want to reread it again and again and again and again. Not only that, but the narrators really bring The Long Run to life in a way I’ve never seen before even with the best narrators.
If there’s one queer book you have to read this year, it’s The Long Run by James Acker!