If I was going to describe this book in one word, it would be gritty. From the small, Louisiana town that’s rotting away, to the four brothers trying to make it on their own, and the struggling cast of characters, this is not a pleasant slice of life to immerse yourself in, even if for a few hours. That being said, I did need to know what happened that I ended up reading this book in one sitting and completely lost track of time. I got entirely sucked in to Simon’s story.From the impression I got reading the summary for this story, I thought the majority of this book would be about how Simon dealt with being ostracized in his town due to his relationship with Stephen. While that certainly plays a part in the story, there’s a lot more than just that. Simon, in short, has a pretty crappy life. Paul, the oldest brother, is one of the most frustrating characters I’ve ever read. He’s abusive, controlling, and hypocritical. Luke, Simon’s other older brother, might agree with Simon but refuses to speak up. Simon’s job is awful, he’s the only one who seems to make any real effort to make their household run, his boyfriend was sent away by his parents, and he’s constantly having to pick up other people’s pieces. Basically, I would not want his life.Simon is probably the only reason I was able to continue reading this book–I think otherwise it might have been just too depressing for me, but I felt for Simon as a character. His struggles really shine through the page and he just can’t seem to fit in anywhere. It’s not until he really has the opportunity to care for himself first that he makes any real progress, and by that time I was rooting for him for so long that any little improvement in his life seemed like a huge accomplishment worth celebration.Final Impression: This isn’t an easy or fun book by any means, but it’s a good one. It’s gritty and very dark at times, but is also intelligent and has a few really great characters. It’s not really as much about Simon being as outcast as it is his life in general, and I think this focus makes for a really well-done, if depressing, book. 4/5 stars.