Published by Atria on 12/06/2016
Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.
But Ren has been living a double life.
Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.
But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.
Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.
Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.
Well, I can’t say I loved this one. Actually, I’m not sure how much I liked it. I was expecting some characteristics of previous Elliot Wake (FKA Leah Raeder) novels, such as a well done thread of suspense and protagonists full of honest and compelling introspection. Yet, after finishing Bad Boy, I’m feeling unfulfilled for a few different reasons.
Firstly, I loved Ren’s insight and introspection into his transition that we get to see in his vlog entries. His character read the happiest, bravest, and most focused during these scenes. This is where Elliot shines as he engrosses you in Ren’s honesty creating a darling of a boy you want to give big hugs to.
I was largely disappointed by the use of an alternating timeline. I found the switching between the past (vlog entries) and the present jarring. Truth be told, I am normally not a fan of this type of timeline but done well, I don’t mind it. But here the structure of the present was so wildly different from the vlog entries that I could not get a handle on the writing. So many times it felt choppy and rushed and then there would be Wake’s well loved purple prose just randomly thrown as if it were an afterthought. So confusing.
I understand how/why this story fits into the Black Iris world, but I almost wish it hadn’t. The evil-doer vs. vigilante bit was so convoluted and unclear, I found it difficult to follow (this may be due to the structure referenced above) that when it finally came to a head, I was uninterested and underwhelmed. And as that storyline played out while mirroring Ren’s personal journey, it ended up portraying Ren as moody, angry, and slightly unhinged which completely contradicted the Ren in the vlog entries. I was continuously thinking “poor Ren, he’s really a mess”.
Overall this one was just okay for me. I’m not sure I would recommend it to the every day romance reader. However, Wake fans will delight in the glimpse into the transition process and insights but may find the parallel storyline out of place in comparison.