Zach Mitchell is stuck in a rut. His college boyfriend left him ten years ago, but Zach still lives in the same apartment, drives the same car, and feeds his ex-boyfriend’s ungrateful cat. His Denver business, A to Z Video Rental, is struggling. He has annoying customers, eccentric neighbors, and an unfulfilling romance with his landlord, Tom.
A combat boot-wearing punk with an attitude, Angelo Green was raised in foster homes and has been on his own since he was sixteen; he has never learned to trust or to love. He doesn’t do relationships, so when Angelo takes a job at A to Z Video, he decides Zach is strictly off-limits.
Despite their differences, Zach and Angelo quickly become friends, and when Zach’s break-up with Tom puts his business on the line, it’s Angelo who comes up with a solution. Together with Jared and Matt, their friends from Coda, Colorado, Zach and Angelo will find a way to save A to Z, but will they be able to save each other too?
Seeing both sides of the story as Angelo and Zach find their ways past old trauma, current ennui, and the general difficulties of staying in business and forming a couple worked well here -- the absolutely Rashomon quality made for some really intense reactions from me. The voices were absolutely distinct, their perceptions totally opposite.
Angelo was my favorite, he's a lot more self-aware, a lot smarter, and when he's working against his own best interests, he can acknowledge that and try to do something different. Most of his life he's been on the outside looking in on love, and when he might be welcomed in -- he knows where his panic is coming from. The descriptions of his fears as the little bird that flutters in his chest gives the fear a name and a way to let go of it.
A good hard smack upside the head was long overdue for Zach -- he's been sleepwalking through his life. He messed up his early love with his selfishness, he's drifted into a business he doesn't understand or care about, and how he's stayed open all these years is a miracle, and he's oblivious to what's going on around him. I was looking around for a two by four to give him that smack!
Teaming up with Angelo probably kept Zach from wandering into the side of a bus out of sheer inattention! The beauty of it that while Zach gradually becomes a thinking, considerate person, Angelo never pushes him, but lets Zach find out for himself, except where Angelo has to say something to defend his own heart.
Very nice cast of supporting characters; Zach's ex-lover needs a kick for abandoning the cat. The story arc regarding Angelo's mother was believable and the author gets cookies for not going for anything too huge. The setting was another plus for me -- Arvada is two suburbs over from me and I kept thinking of where the store is actually located, so a kind of local fun there, same with the festival in Lyons. Using the festival to let the characters intersect with Jared and Matt was a nice touch -- they could go back for Mabon.
This story engaged me deeply, you can tell if I'm starting to think up things for the characters' future -- my one big problem was wondering how Zach managed to survive before Angelo came along and dialed his brain back on. 4 marbles