After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.
Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate.
This has been sitting in my Kindle app for months, waiting for me to get off my butt and read it. I guess the stars finally aligned, because here we are.
COFFEE BOY is a New Adult novella, only about 61 pages or so, but it doesn’t feel lacking in any way. The story is tightly-written, totally engaging and touches on so many things that I can’t believe it’s actually this short.
In terms of rep, Kieran is a gay trans guy and his love interest, Seth, is bisexual. Kieran also has a close female friend who is queer. This story is a great example of why ownvoices stories are so important. They have a ring of truth to them that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Kieran being a non-passing trans dude does affect his experiences and the whole story is coloured by that, especially in the form of microaggressions he has to deal with in the workplace, particularly misgendering. However, the narrative primarily revolves around his evolving perceptions of and relationship with Seth, Kieran’s superior who is twelve years his senior and starts off as a real stick-in-the-mud kinda guy. The age gap is not taken lightly, even when the romance really kicks into gear. Seth, being the older person in the relationship, is very careful about boundaries.
The brightest spot in this whole book is Kieran’s voice. He’s a snarker, which I love. Sometimes it gets him into trouble but just as often he cuts through nonsense far more easily than those older and more reserved than him. It’s both a strength and a weakness and makes for some compelling reading because you never quite know whether his mouth is going to get him in trouble or not at any given moment. I also came to really adore Seth and, let’s be honest, anyone who can even try to remain professional around both Kieran and their disorganised (and, to Seth, attractive) boss needs some kind of medal. I also think both dudes really need a hug, but that’s just me getting maternal over fictional characters again.
Oh, and FYI there is one explicit sex scene near the end of the book. There’s a warning in my copy prior to the start of the story, but I thought I’d mention it just in case someone misses the memo otherwise.
There were a couple of iffy things that warrant a mention. There is some ableist language here and there, of the intelligence-based and sanity-based varieties. I’m also not sure how I feel about one scene where one character suddenly kisses another without consent. The kisser is intoxicated and his actions are not received well, but it’s also not really addressed as much as it probably should have been. If any of those things are an issue for you, take care if you decide to read this story.
That aside, I do think COFFEE BOY is a very well-composed and well-written story with memorable queer characters and a respectful take on age differences in romance. It’s a quick read and well worth the few dollars and time it takes to finish, and then some.