So. Many. Feels. The Dangerous Art of Blending In is the #ownvoices telling of Evan Panos a seventeen-year-old Greek American living under the specter of horrific family abuse complicated by the fact that he is gay and fears what will happen if the world, or more specifically, his mother finds out. Yeah, you are going to ugly cry. Accept it as the gift that it is.
This book was well written. I stopped and reread in a couple of places because the phrasing was so beautiful and touching. The plot and conflict were character based which I love but can feel a bit meandering. The Dangerous Art of Blending In was fast paced. It was made up of intense emotional beats so when I try to summarize "what happened" in my head, the plot is a bit hard to pin down. I'm okay with that. The characterization was well done. It is easy to become fully invested in them. In the back of my mind, I was trying to come up with a plan to get Evan out of his home situation the entire time I was reading. Actually, the back of my mind is still doing that.
In some ways, Evan remains a mystery even to himself throughout the book. This seems deliberate. So much of how he identifies himself (Greek, Christian, straight, perfect son) are merely costumes that he has been forced to put on to survive. The things that he loves, such as art, writing, and Henry are the very things that put him most in danger. The more he learns who he is the more he risks become a target. That he still dreams is amazing. That he survives and does become his true self is a miracle.
This is an #ownvoices book, so the rep for Greek Americans, abuse survivors, and being gay are legit. Evan does have sex which made me realize that I haven't read many YA LGBTQIA books where the MC do have sex and even fewer where the sex is a positive experience. I was especially touched be the "morning after" scene. I was going to say that the sex isn't graphic. But then I wonder if I would have felt the need to say that with a straight couple in a YA book and if I don't there why would I here? On the other hand, the scene is very delicately and masterfully handled, and that deserves kudos.
This isn't a happy book. The abuse is described in graphic but not sensationalist detail and was hard to read. I spent a good portion of the book in tears. And yet it is also hopeful? How does that even work? I internally pulled for Even from the first page to the last. However bad his situation becomes hope is never out of reach. This book isn't cynical and is all the better for that. This book is recommended for readers looking for a hard-hitting emotional journey.
Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.