You First by J.C. Lillis
LGBT Contemporary PNR
May 23rd, 2019 – Self-Published
You First by J.C. Lillis is not exactly a genre Romance in my opinion because it doesn’t exactly have the typical HEA. But I still really enjoyed and recommend this book but I always want readers to know what they’re getting into! The blurb uses the word bittersweet and I think there isn’t a more perfect word to describe both the romance and the book.
Levon Ludlow is a D-level Super, which means he has pretty low-level superpowers, and his are that he can talk to animals, and understand what they are saying as well. However, because they are so low-level, he can only talk to pests like roaches and chipmunks, and very occasionally, certain deer. He meets Jay Jantzen when they’re both young and Jay is also a D-level Super with the power to move water, but only up to 32 ounces. Those particular details amused me to no end. The book almost completely ignores other Supers. I love that so much because it’s set in this world where there are obviously A-level Supers who can do amazing things…but we don’t see that at all. The story is completely focused on these two.
The book is told in Levon’s POV and alternating timelines – Then and Now. Now is 13 years into their relationship, and they’ve been living together in a house they rent. Then goes through specific times in their relationship in the past. Lillis did such a good job of showing both of these character’s personalities, even though we’re only in Levon’s head. Levon has so many anxieties and just doesn’t want anything to change. He’s happy with Jay, and how things are. He doesn’t want to try to improve his powers, and wants to just…remain doing fun animal tricks for kids. The heartbreak of this novel is watching Lev try to hold his life, and his relationship, together when he realizes that Jay maybe wants things to change. Jay has improved his powers and can fly and do other Super things now and has an opportunity to move for a new job.
“You don’t want to hold him here. It’s not fair to him.” She reaches up and strokes the bird. “He’s been a star from the start, I could always tell, but now the world knows too. You know what happens when you try to keep a star in a beat-up old box?”
I fold my arms. “I’m the old box in this analogy?”
Her gaze shifts to the window and yeah, okay, I get it: I’m the box.”
What I found so relatable about this book is that it treats both paths – of wanting to change and grow, and of wanting to stay home and help his community – as equal. I find that many books focus on changing and growing as the main point and what you should be striving for. Levon struggles with this and with people in his life telling him that he’s holding Jay back from his promising future.
There’s a side love story that surprised me and gave me chills when they got the HEA within the book and that delighted me to no end. But the main couple of Jay and Levon…did not exactly have an HEA, they had a very iffy HFN. I would consider this fiction with romantic elements for that reason but I truly enjoyed this book. I’d love to read more in this world or even more about these characters. I will definitely be checking for more books from J.C. Lillis!
Content Notes: anxiety
Grade: A –