Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless
Blurb: By twenty-four, Carter Stevenson has stuttered and ticced his way to debilitating shyness. Although his friends accuse him of letting his Tourette’s dictate his life, Carter moves from Los Angeles to a quiet California town. He’ll keep his head down and avoid people. He doesn’t anticipate his new neighbor, Ethan Hart, crashing into his solitude and forcing him to get out and live.
From the beginning, Ethan makes his love for Carter clear. But he fears Carter won’t see past Ethan’s damaged brain, even though it makes Ethan more attuned to his emotions than most people. For Carter, there’s a bigger issue: he’s been burned by so-called “perfect” matches, and he won’t risk his heart again.
One way or another, Ethan’s determined to show Carter they belong together. Then Ethan receives tragic news. Suddenly he must turn to Carter for strength and support. Will Carter come through when Ethan needs him most?
Review: This book… This BOOK! Good lawd, I don’t know where to start.
Who hasn’t felt like an outcast at some point in their lives? Who hasn’t wished to just pack up and move, start over, and reinvent themselves? *raises hand*
Throw in a disability to that, and it floors me just how strong Carter was in the beginning to decide that LA was too busy, too crowded, too in-his-face for him to handle in conjunction with his Tourette’s. The promise of a small town is a balm to the chaos he wanted so badly to escape, and I get it. I do. On the other hand, in the first few pages, I was already invested enough in Carter to hurt for him that solitude seemed his answer, that he’d had enough difficulty with ignorant or curious people to even want to check out of life socially.
So when Ethan bounded into Carter’s life, I smiled. I was happy. I loved the ease with which Ethan slid past Carter’s boundaries, his endless energy and open smile putting Carter at ease. It was a moment of sheer joy to read.
But by far, the character that wormed his way into my heart was Ethan. The moment he demonstrated how Carter’s tics translated to music for him (my favorite scene in the entire book), I fell in love with him. But like others, I also felt protective of him. I hated the impatient people who lost their tempers with him. I didn’t like the surly customers at the coffee shop in which he worked who couldn’t give him five more damn seconds to handle their orders. Ethan was a dichotomy to me, full of strength and absolutes, beauty and fearlessness, and yet so fragile, so easy to wound. Knowing he was solid enough in who he was to handle obstacles that would make the rest of us curl in a corner and cry didn’t stop me from wanting him to never face such hardship. I think Ethan’s best gift was being able to win people over, to love so fully and completely despite his brain injury. When that ability was challenged by a shocking revelation that shook the foundation of his beliefs about who he was and what made him that way, he sailed through with an aplomb I think few people could manage. He had every right to be bitter, but he wasn’t. He was able to say, “Despite this, I love anyway. No one can take that from me.”
All that said, I still had difficulty with was the relationship that blossomed between Carter and Ethan, but this is not a detraction from the book in any way. In fact, Carter felt in the beginning a lot of the same things I felt as I was reading. It’s because of how well Ryan Loveless handled this aspect of the story that I had difficulty. As a mother, I’m naturally protective of children. All children, not just my own. Given Ethan’s many childlike qualities, I related to him as a protector. Remembering that he was a twenty-seven year old man capable of understanding himself, his wants, and his body if not necessarily all the societal rules that go with it (such as not telling people he doesn’t know well that they make him make semen) was difficult for me. It wasn’t until a conversation between Carter and Liz, Ethan’s mother, that I began to realize how Ethan’s perspective on sex, his black and white understanding of whom he was attracted to and why, that I got it, and in a way, envied it. Ethan took a lot of the misunderstandings the rest of us deal with regarding sex out of the picture simply by being unself-conscious about it. He loved Carter, and therefore wanted to be with him in every way. The simplicity of that made him endearing, and eventually, irresistible to Carter. When Ethan began to see why Carter was different than the men he’d been with before they met, he could understand what his family and friends had told him: that sex is special and love elevates it to more than just a climax. And he simply absorbed that into his knowledge that it could be better than just physical release.
Tell me one teenager who doesn’t need to learn the same lesson.
One aspect I thought could have been more deeply explored was Elliot, Ethan’s fifteen year old brother. Particularly Elliot’s anger. The reason for it was totally believable, and had it been missing, I would have wondered why, but at the end of the story, Elliot’s anger seemed too easily dealt with. I think one frank conversation with Ethan about what his injury had taken away from the brothers in terms of their relationship wasn’t enough to sooth Elliot’s savaged nerves. Elliot handled his anger many different ways, and those fit well within the story, but I got the feeling by the end they were too easily resolved. Perhaps my perception of their resolution is off, that there would still be moments of difficulty the author just didn’t delve into, but it felt too neatly tied up.
Considering that was one small part of the overall arc of the story, it’s something that I don’t consider a major plot hole. Perhaps, if there’s a sequel, it will be more deeply considered. As a stand-alone book, it was near perfect the way it was. Well-written, impeccably researched, and compassionate in a way so few M/M books are. This one is going on my favorites shelf.