The Dangerous Art of Blending In was a book that I really wanted to read when it was published in 2018 but I couldn’t find anywhere in the UK selling it for a decent price. I managed to pick up a copy in 2019 but by then I was way too distracted by 2019 releases, so this one has just been sitting on my rainbow bookshelves waiting to be read. I picked it up this month and I’m glad I finally got to it.
The story follows seventeen year old Greek-American Evan Panos who survives by blending in and living off the radar. Between his abusive, strict and religious mother, his workaholic father who does nothing to stop his mother’s abuse and his best friend Henry’s sudden attractiveness, Evan is beginning to become overwhelmed. Evan funnels his stresses through his art pouring his loneliness and hardships into journals that chronicle his pain and abuse.
After being separated all summer while Evan was at Bible Camp (where he may or may not of kissed another boy) Henry and Evan are reunited but its not as happy as it should be. Evan like likes Henry, Henry seems to like Evan but as Evan’s abuse at home begins to escalate he begins to sabotage his own happiness with Henry. Evan has to find his voice and be brave if he is to ever escape and be happy.
This is one of those books that stirs literally every emotion possible while reading. I was sad, angry, happy, scared and worried all at the same time and it kept me hooked. I became so invested in Evan that I needed to know he was going to be okay at all times. I was internally urging him not to go home every day to receive more physical and mental abuse at the hands of his mother but I know it’s not as easy at it seems. Considering how serious and sad the subject of the book was it was surprisingly easy to read.
It hurt even more that abuse in this book is justified by religious means can and it is pretty much swept under the carpet. It seems that Evan’s mother gets away with dishing out so much abuse and though the author could have made her be punished for what she did I think he kept it more in the realm of sad, sad reality. I think the story wants to focus on Evan and his journey to escape and thrive.
This own voices book was mad even sadder by reading the author’s note. A lot of the book is taken from Angelo Surmelis’ own childhood growing up in a strict religious immigrant family where abuse and homophobia ran riot. Angelo managed to escape and although our story here has a bittersweet ending it provides hope that things can and do get better.
The romance is slow building, realistic and tender. I was rooting for the two of them the whole time and often wanted to bang their heads together when they were not realising just how special the thing they have together was.
There are of course trigger warnings for homophobia, bullying and mental and physical abuse but if you are able to withstand that then I definitely recommend The Art of Blending in.