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Retro Reading: Billy's Boy by Patricia Nell Warren


As much as I hated the first book in this trilogy, it was good that it ended on a good note, however, it does leave you wanting more.

With references made to the first two installments, this novel is set in the early 1990's and basically is a stand alone story. There are returning characters, but this focuses solely on William John and his entry into being a teenager.

William and his mother Betsy are moving from northern California to just outside of Los Angeles, where she's taken a new position. William's not too thrilled about moving since he's leaving behind what little friends he has behind, but on the first glimpse of the new house, he meets Shawn Heaster and the two become fast friends.

Betsy also becomes fast friends with Shawn's parents and the two families do a lot of activities together.

William's passion is astronomy and he takes great pride in teaching Shawn all about the universe. His only regret is that he doesn't have a real telescope, but does have a homemade one that his former helped him make.

As the two become closer, Shawn's parents become uber religious all of a sudden and they try to convert him into following their beliefs.

After a weekend camping trip, he and Shawn are almost caught when their experimentation nearly crosses the line and the Heaster's blame William for the perverse acts.

Betsy and William return home a couple of days later and hear a bunch of shouting and crashing at the Heaster's and discover that Shawn's father has been beating him.

Unable to step in, Betsy and William temporarily move in with Marian Prescott in Malibu. They feel it's a safe place for William since Shawn's father has threatened to go to the police over Betsy.

William's not too happy with Malibu and eventually meets Ana and Ziggy LaFont. Their father was friends with William's father Billy Sive.

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Eventually, William learns that Shawn was put into a hospital and escaped. He spends his time hoping that Shawn will call him letting him know that everything is all right. William hopes that he'll move in with him.

Betsy puts their house up for sale and the two permanently move in with Marian.

William questions his sexuality he begins to fall for Ana and has fantasies about bodyguard Chino. He does admit to being repulsed at Teak, Marian's maid Nancy's nephew, who comes to live with them. Teak is overweight and extremely gay in his mannerisms.

As William continues to question everything around him, he's eventually introduced to Harlan Brown. Their meeting is awkward (since he was after all "married" to Billy) and he's uncomfortable around the other staff members of the Valhalla Production Company.

Chino reminds him that everyone around him is family and family takes care of one another.

While there's a lot going on in this book, William is an interesting character since Warren has written about a teenage boy and she really gets into his mind and feelings. Plus, the book doesn't revolve around Harlan, yet he's still a little rough around the edges.

Since I wasn't a real fan of the '90's decade, Warren again does a great job in bringing the era to life once again, making this a real time capsule and reliving current events from that time in history.

The newer characters are very believable and it would have been a treat if we were able to see their progression into adulthood and possibly beyond.

There are some problems when the story veers into the astronomy stuff and I think there was too much emphasis put onto it. Yes, it's William's hobby, but it does get to be a little boring at times.

If you don't want to read the first two books, Warren does bring up some events from the other two and thankfully goes over it briefly.

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