Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Zero Knot by K.Z. Snow

The Zero Knot by K.Z. Snow
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, M/M, GLBT
Length: 220 pages



Eighteen-year-old Jess Bonner is casting off pretense—and, with it, some friends from his past who aren’t particularly trustworthy. In just a few months he’ll be starting college, and it’s time for him to admit the truth: he’s gay, not bi, and only one of his old friends holds any kind of real interest for him. When Dylan Finch, aka Mig, follows his lead and puts some distance between himself and the old crowd, he and Jess give in to a mutual attraction that’s been building for years.

But navigating a fledgling relationship isn’t easy for beginners, and forces they can’t seem to control keep tripping them up: sexual appetite, personal insecurities, fear of discovery, and more. They need clarity. They need courage. Just as they’re on the verge of finding both, a vindictive act of jealousy sends one of them to jail. All their hard-won victories are in danger of falling to dust. And the only way to save what they have is to recognize it for what it is… and fight for its integrity.

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Part of growing up is figuring out who you are, what you want, and what you're willing to do to get it. In The Zero Knot, KZ Snow gives us a coming of age story where three young men arrive at two different answers.

The blurb describes the story rather completely, so the question here isn't so much what happens as how it happens. It's a bumpy road for Jess and Mig; their interest in one another is blooming to love, but the call of the hormones drags them in several directions. Jess in particular is having a rough time of it; he wants Mig but the lure of casual sex is hard to resist. A sordid encounter at his Renfaire job opens his eyes to the path he's starting to tread, as do the wise words of an older friend:

“The scales will always tip in favor of what enriches your life. That's the thing you'll end up choosing.”

Mig is a more thoughtful young man from the beginning; he's concerned that what Jess wants may not be the same as what he wants and is willing to spare himself the heartbreak while Jess grows up a bit more. Sometimes Jess calls him Mig, sometimes Dylan, his given name, and it's a pretty good symbol of how mature Jess is capable of being at the moment.

Sometimes it's not much – a heavy frotting session in the driveway of the untrustworthy friend's house isn't exactly discreet. Other times, it's admirable, such as how he looks for the solution to the legal problems.

The secondary characters don't come off so well: Tomby the Meddlesome Female at least has an unique method of meddling and the beginnings of a conscience. Any growth displayed by Brandon, the fourth of the formerly close knit group, is backwards, towards spoiled brathood. All sets of parents, who hover in the background, have their own maturity issues to work through, with varying success. The one totally bright spot is irritating kid brother Jared, all intrusive, perceptive, and with the absolutely best lines.

KZ Snow lets the young people flounder with skillful and imaginative writing; we can see them growing up, sometimes one sentence at a time. Some of their adventures are a bit stomach churning, particularly the casual acceptance of drugs, but feel like real youth happening. How much one enjoys the story may depend on how accepting one is of adolescent angst, it could be entertaining or just aggravating. I hovered on the edge of wanting to slap everyone at one point or another. The vindictive act that sends Mig to jail was wanton cruelty, and I did spend part of that sequence trying to puzzle out the time line and did it match the way the justice system is supposed to work, which it didn't really.

A zero knot, as Tomby tells the young men, has no beginning or end, it can be distorted, but remains an unbroken loop unless it's completely destroyed, and as Jess finds, sometimes its other name is love. Jess and Dylan end well on their way to forging an unbreakable loop. 4 marbles

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