I owe a huge apology to this wonderful book that I had promised I would review ‘soon’ but as usual my ‘soon’ turned into ‘late af’
I read The Dangerous Art of Blending In on the 1st of this month and today it’s the 19th.
Someone give me a pat on the back.
This had been a highly anticipated read of mine and it truly passed my expectations with flying colours. This book totally messed up my heart and brain and I probably filled a whole bucket with my tears. And it was only after finishing did I find out that this book is semi-autobiographical a.k.a loosely based off the author’s life.
Cue more tears.
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR: Anxiety, domestic abuse, bullying, emotional abuse, homophobia
Official Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.
To start off this was a rather heavy book that dealt with many topics and in the end my heart was torn to pieces. It wasn’t that the ending was sad or very shocking, I just caught up with all the emotions in the end and it took me quite some time to comprehend it and get over my shock. So, yes please read the trigger warnings, this book is not for everyone.
My review will include very mild spoilers, all of which will be revealed shortly within the first few chapters of the book, so please read ahead.
Evan is a simple boy with a passion for art. He is broken and jagged on the edges but still manages to be a cute and lost little cinnamon roll. People see him as clumsy because that’s the excuse he gives whenever anyone spots his cuts and bruises. Evan’s main source of release is his notebook journals where he records every event in his life, especially the abusive ones along with graphic paintings and drawings. His family expects him to be a perfect ‘Greek Boy’ and thanks to the constant berating and pressure from his family he has a pretty low self-esteem. He always tried to act normal and not let anyone know of his dark life and I feel this was something that made the character more relatable because almost all of us are constantly trying to fit in and ‘act normal’ instead of trying to be ourselves.
Evan Panos’s family is Catholic and of Greek origin and pretty messed up too with a psychotic mother and a sorry excuse for a father. His father has good intentions at heart and tries to help Evan out while compensating for his wife but it’s just not enough, he always keeps protecting the mother who is definitely not sound in the mind. Evan’s father is definitely not an innocent bystander to his wife’s crazy antics and experiments on her son like performing religious rituals to ward off the devil. Evan’s mother truly seems to believe that her child is a devil or at the very least possessed by a devil.
She hates her son and is always threatening and abusing him and using the holy church ans her son’s innate evilness to justify every act. Evan’s father is the only adult who could have helped him out during all the physical and emotional abuse but he chose to remain silent and side with his wife. I’ve seen this pattern recently wherein one parent is depicted as the ‘bad parent’ and the other one is shown as a silent bystander which makes many people pity the latter parent or even sympathize with him/her but I feel that anyone who stays silent during acts of bad parenting, especially in this book acts of violence, should be seen in an equally bad light as of the ‘bad parent’. These scenes of abuse are vividly described and are pretty heart breaking to read about.
Evan has grown up in a toxic house, a toxic family and knows no normal. He doesn’t know what an actual family is, that a family can actually live without physically or verbally abusing each other every day, that family members actually love each other. If that doesn’t shatter you I don’t know what will. He doesn’t know much about real friends either.
Evan only has a couple of friends, one of them being Jeremy the footballer whom I had first, like Evan deemed stupid but good at heart but he really is kind of an asshole. I feel that Jeremy just wants to take it easy and fit in the clique of being a jock and not let the good part of his character show.
And now, the highlight of this story, Henry Kimball, Evan’s best friend whom he has recently developed a massive crush on. Henry is an adorable boy who likes playing Tennis and biking and spending all his time with Evan(we can spot the gay from miles away.) He is such a supportive and kind character, one of the main and only source of light in Evan’s dark life. He can lighten up any situation and make Evan smile no matter what. These two are just perfect for each other.
The only thing that I felt was somehow missing was a slight background on why Evan’s mother is the psychopath she is. Was she always like this from birth or did something happen to her during her pregnancy? I’m very curious and I feel that this aspect would have given her character more depth.
I am absolutely in love with the plot of this book. The story is told in a beautiful way with a very gripping writing style although the book on a whole is somewhat slow paced. The scenes were descriptive but not overly descriptive and I like how Evan’s mother wasn’t portrayed as totally evil but somewhat misguided(still hate her though). I don’t know how it managed to be so sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
All in all if you aren’t sensitive and not affected by the above mentioned triggers definitely pick up this book after ensuring you have a lifetime stock of tissues or else you might flood your house and NOBODY WANTS YOUR BOOKS TO DROWN!
We gotta take the necessary precautions.