Title: Without Sin
Author: J. Tomas
Publisher: Originally Published by Torquere Press (April 2009)
Characters: Jacob Smithson, Avery Dendritch
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: YA/Contemporary Romance
Sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson has a temper. He’s picked on because he likes boys, and fighting gets him kicked out of public school. As a last resort, his parents place him in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Boarding School for Boys.
At his first mass at St. Thomas he sees Avery Dendritch, a senior who serves as altar boy during the service. When they meet, the attraction between them is hard to deny. The two become fast friends, and as the school year progresses, their friendship deepens until Jacob feels he’s found a place where he belongs.
But the other students gossip about their growing relationship. Avery can ignore them; Jacob can’t. As the rumors and slurs start up again, can he curb his temper, or will his fighting get him expelled from St. Thomas, too?
J. Tomas captures perfectly all the angst, urgency, and desperation of what it means to be a teenager in love in Without Sin, the unreservedly romantic story of two boys who struggle with every bit of the conviction of their youthful dreams, their honest passion, and the inspiration of first love to find a place for themselves within the walls of St. Thomas Aquinas School for Boys.
Falling in love for sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson and seventeen-year-old Avery Dendritch was the easy part of their story. The hard part for them was finding a way to contain the enormity of that love, to keep those feelings between themselves when all they want is for the rest of the world to disappear so they can be together. Under the watchful eyes of the Catholic Church, as well as the prejudice and taunting from fellow students, the boys steal furtive kisses, incidental touches, and secret smiles at every opportunity, knowing that to be caught would mean to be separated forever, yet knowing, without hesitation, that the risk is worth it.
This is a story of perseverance, of walking away when you want nothing more than to stay and fight, and fighting when you know you should walk away because it means you’ve just endangered the very thing you’ve tried so hard to protect. Jacob and Avery are confronted with this conflict a number of times, until it builds to a pivotal moment for the boys that will test their commitment to a love that, with the innocence of youth backing their passion and resolve, will last forever.
J. Tomas (J.M. Snyder’s Young Adult penname) chose to write this novella in the present tense, which I thought worked perfectly for this particular story, though I understand it might be an acquired taste for some. As the reader, witnessing events as they unfolded gave me the opportunity to feel as though I was experiencing the story as more than a bystander—I felt like a participant in the events as they happened, which seemed a bit voyeuristic at times, but also lent an intimacy to the narrative—the intensity of emotion, the fear of Jacob and Avery being caught when they chanced to steal a moment together, the frustration at not being able to live openly and honestly was something that I felt right along with the characters. The sense of urgency and desperation in their relationship occurred within a very short time frame, and the present tense stylistic choice seemed only to magnify it all.
Believing in forever is easy when your whole life waits before you, unrehearsed, unscripted, endless with possibilities and chances to be taken, which worked into the ideal ending and made me wish that J.M. Snyder might consider bringing these characters back someday as adults, if for nothing more than to allow me to see if forever truly did last.
Reviewed By: Lisa