Rating: 5.0 stars
Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.
Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.
It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.
There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he might still have romantic feelings for his best friend.
Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?
The Otto Digmore Difference
When Mr. Hartinger offered me the ARC of the first book in a new series I was first totally dumbfounded and then completely flattered. I mean, Brent Freakin’ Hartinger?! Hell, yes I was accepting his ARC! Of course, I thought it was a Young Adult book, but hey Brent Hartinger! Boy, was I wrong. What I got was nothing short of true Gay Literature. An engrossing, excellently written, at times poignant and at times funny story of a very important time in gay men’s lives.
As a gay man there comes a time in our lives, usually in our 20’s, when our lives become defined. We are old enough and mature enough at this phase in our lives to form those first bonds of our extended families – the family we create for ourselves, not the inherited family that doesn’t necessarily get what our lives are. It is at this crucial juncture that the lifetime bonds are created with friends, oftentimes ex-boyfriends and their new mates and sometimes with completely new acquaintances. That is what this book is about. Oh, and yes, there is romance. The romance and love of a longtime friend that continues to love deeply, and that unexpected romance that comes out of the blue, like a bolt of lightning, that smacks us silly.
I turn and look out the window, but the lights are still on inside the plane, so all I see is the reflection of the First Class cabin in the clear plastic. I also see my face — the whole right side. It’s covered with scars. In some places, it looks a little bit like my face is melting. This is the other reason the businessman was staring at me. The good news is that I still have both my eyebrows. I have more scars too. They run down onto my shoulder and chest, hidden by my clothes, and also up under my hairline. Most of my hair is real, but one small part of it isn’t — it’s a hairpiece that’s woven into my actual hair. It was really expensive, and it has to be adjusted every three weeks, but it looks real. Not even my friend Russel knows about it.
When Russel opens the door to his apartment, I’m about to tell him what a great time I had at his wedding. But before I can speak, he says, “What is it? What’s wrong?” Russel has dark red hair and the lightest smattering of freckles on his nose, but right now his brow is wrinkled with concern. He sees something on my face. I go inside and take a seat. Russel and Kevin aren’t rich — Russel’s a screenwriter, a really good one, but hasn’t sold anything yet, so he makes his living as a barista. Kevin is an editor at IMDb.com. And so their apartment is pretty modest compared to mine: a saggy couch, cluttered shelves. I can’t help but notice that it smells lived in, unlike mine. It’s nice, musky, a little lemony — like two handsome men.
Greg – Fiona’s assistant:
Inside her waiting room, I find Greg, her assistant, sitting at his desk. He’s this Native guy, big and tall, with a ponytail and a Los Angeles Rams jersey. Greg is another way Fiona isn’t like most other agents, because most of their assistants all look exactly the same, in pressed white shirts flashing creepy robot smiles. “You’re here!” he says, beaming. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like a big guy like Greg should be giddy, but he usually is — today maybe even more than usual.
This was such an engrossing story that I literally couldn’t put it down. I was eager to get back to it as soon as I could whenever I had to put it down. Otto’s story, in and of itself, isn’t quite as unique as it may seem. Yes, he has a physical disfigurement due to a childhood accident when he was playing super hero and ended up burning himself, but this just means that his scars are visible on the outside instead of inside, mostly.
At an early age, Otto discovers his love for acting, for becoming that special character, wholly and completely, and bringing it to life, so he pursues his dream even with his physical scars. He ends up going to Hollywood and meeting Fiona, his agent who totally believed in him and his potential and she gets him a role in a television series, Hammered, unfortunately the series is cancelled.
As he zeroes in on a new role, a part in a major studio film, the story becomes the quintessential road trip story with Otto surrounded my those that love him, truly love him: Russel and Greg and Kevin. Can Otto look beyond his own self-centeredness, a condition that afflicts us all, and see love for what it truly is? And can he give the one man who falls in love with him that one chance? I think you’ll be really taken by this story, and a masterful story it is.
The writing is impeccable. Clean, crisp, witty, the story rolls out smoothly with no hiccups and double takes. Mr. Hartinger has a clear style that is not florid or overdone, instead it is refreshing, crisp and enticing. In a tongue in cheek manner Mr. Hartinger takes on the famous road trip story with its bits of comedy and emotion coming through at the end with the inevitable realization. Bravo.
Brent Hartinger is an author and screenwriter. He wrote the YA classic, Geography Club (2003), which was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He’s since published twelve more novels and had eight of his screenplays optioned by producers. He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. Visit him at brenthartinger.com.
I would like to thank Mr. Brent Hartinger for providing OJ He Say! with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Otto Digmore Difference
Copyright © 2017 Brent Hartinger