Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Publisher: Saddle Road Press
Release Date: 9/15/2016
Genre(s): M/M Bisexual, M/M Coming Out, M/M YA/NA, M/M Historical
Page Count: 376
Heat Level: 4.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Jendi Reiter’s debut novel offers a backstage look at the glamour and tragedy of 1990s New York City through the eyes of Julian Selkirk, an aspiring fashion photographer. Coming of age during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Julian worships beauty and romance, however fleeting, as substitutes for the religion that rejected him. His spiritual crisis is one that too many gay youth still face today. This genre-bending novel couples the ambitious political analysis of literary fiction with the pleasures of an unconventional love story. Vivid social realism, enriched by unforgettable characters, eroticism, and wit, make Two Natures a satisfying read of the highest sort.
3.5 stars- The story and writing were great
Two Natures is a coming of age novel set in New York City that gives a stark, honest look into the LGBT scene in the 1990s. The main character is an aspiring fashion photographer so there is a lot of background glimpses into the fashion magazine and design world. The story is told in a first person point of view, solely from the main character Julian’s perspective.
Overall the story is interesting and poignant. The author’s examination of the AIDS epidemic in the urban environment and the LGBT community during the 1990s is what drew me to the title originally. My mother is in healthcare academia and participated in a lot of work, research, and initiatives centered on HIV during the same time period. Her colleagues and our family friends were personally affected, and I was interested to see how the author addressed the topic. I think the author did an excellent job humanizing what positive patients and their friends and family faced before there was a significant medical breakthrough to manage the virus. I also like when the author wove in the aspects of equal rights and the bigotry the LGBT community dealt with during this time. The bulk of these substantial insights into Julian and the secondary characters’ and how they were affected by the world around them are in the latter half of the book. Unfortunately, I felt less drawn to the first part of the story. I think this is largely due to the characters, especially Julian. I found his attitude and judgment on those around him difficult to handle. His critical personality wars with an almost apathetic approach to life at the start. While this gives the author a lot of room to develop his character as the years pass, it makes it exceedingly hard to connect to the story.
The pacing of the narrative is steady, but my lack of investment in the characters caused it to drag at times. The author writes beautifully. However, the artful prose, descriptions, and attention to detail occasionally works against the pacing. I like how we see glimpses of Julian’s true feelings throughout the novel and it becomes more cemented as he faced difficult and sometimes sorrowful situations. His growth as a character is undeniable. However, I wish I hadn’t felt so distanced from the characters at the start so those emotional moments were more powerful. In my opinion, this coming of age story plays out like a docu-drama. I felt like a viewer stuck on the outside rather than immersed in the emotion and journey. Regardless, the author does a fantastic job tackling difficult subjects and giving an unflinching portrayal of Julian and what he and his friends faced gay men in NYC during the 1990s. I think fans of coming of age stories will enjoy Two Natures, but readers looking for a story focused on romance and a relationship may be disappointed.