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Enlightened - J.P. Barnaby I will be the first to admit I don't read much within the Young Adult genre but when I won ENLIGHTENED I was intrigued by this coming of age M/M story. I don't think anything could've prepared me for the reading experience I was about to have. What I found so intelligently written was the teenage angst of an almost seventeen year old exploring his gay sexuality and romantic feeling towards his best friend. There is no over-embellishing of the drama or emotions but a very sincere story that won my heart over with the soul-deep first love blossoming between Brian McAllister and Jamie Mayfield.

The story is voiced from Brian who is an orphan living with his foster parents, the Schreiber's, in a small town in Alabama. From the sparse young adult novels I've read it is often difficult for me to connect with the adolescent protags. It was because of the life-altering discoveries Brian and Jamie made, the repercussions of being found out and the way they dealt with it all, that really made me find that connection. The struggle is a universal one; discovering who you are and want to be, only Brian is gay...in a very small and religious town. Of course not exactly the perfect setting to freely explore one's sexual self but it does such a fantastic job of becoming a platform for all those angst's, doubts and those many questions that riddles Brian and Jamie.

ENLIGHTENED delivers such a beautiful m/m coming of age story where I found the realism of the story something that resonated with me from beginning till end. It pretty much revolves around the daily life of Brian but the themes in this story infuse it with attention grabbing inner struggles. The blossoming of an intense first love, those tentative first passionate steps, the joy and fear that accompanies each new step and the ever present angst for discovery, it blended in to something so profound I yearned for Brian and Jamie to reach a happy forever together.

It didn't take long for me to be absorbed completely by the two protags and enjoy the fluent and emotive writing style from J.P. Barnaby. The author takes her time to set-up the story but at a certain point things start to happen rapidly and I almost couldn't believe what I was reading and then the story was over. Leaving me utterly shocked. J.P Barnaby provided a cliff hanger of gigantic proportions which left me at such an emotional high that I stared at those last words for a few minutes, almost not believing this is where it ended. There had to be a book two, I just knew it would not...could not end like that.

I found out that ABONDONED will hopefully be released soon so I'll say this; Go out, buy ENLIGHTENED for the heart-rendering beautiful tale it is but know that reading it is to crave book two; ABANDONED! Brian and Jamie's journey is long from over and I need to be there every step of the way! This young adult M/M story is impressive in its sincerity of the themes handled!

4.5 stars