At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
When Ozzie’s longtime boyfriend, Tommy, literally disappears from the world, Ozzie (literally) feels like the universe is shrinking. As his world gets smaller each day, Ozzie spirals into depression and bounces from therapist to therapist. He still has his best friends but he feels a distance from them ever since the universe started shrinking. When he begins a new relationship with classmate, Calvin, his mental health issues extend to sexual health issues and Ozzie feels more confused than ever. Even though Ozzie can be completely obnoxious (rude to his parents, impatient with his friends, etc.), readers will be rooting for Ozzie to make his peace with Tommy and the universe and embrace the life he’s been given.
The use of metaphor in this book (as with his previous book, We Are the Ants), is off the charts perfection. The feeling of the universe shrinking is such an interesting and accurate way to describe the way you feel when your heart is completely broken. A former student posted on Facebook about his breakup with his boyfriend and described his devastation and need for distraction. I had just finished this book and knew it was the perfect book for him to read; I was happy to be able to recommend it to him. Shaun David Hutchinson’s books are also excellent books to recommend for anyone dealing with anxiety and depression or suicidal thoughts. He just really gets mental illness and is gifted to be able to write about it so well. Also, SDH totally rocks the sexual diversity in this book. So many queer characters but no story lines about their sexuality. I LOVE that.
On a fun note, I love a book set in a bookstore. Ozzie has a part-time job and the local indie bookstore; here’s his description of the place, “The bookstore itself was cozy but not crowded, with posters of classic novels framed and hung on the walls. And it was filled with that wonderful book smell that anyone who’s ever been near a book will recognize. It’s more than the smell of paper; it’s the smell of the high seas and adventure and far-off worlds. It’s the smell of a billion billion words, each a portal to somewhere new” (48). Happy sigh. I had to chuckle at Hutchinson’s nod to his previous publication when Ozzie is interrupted by a customer looking for “some YA book about ants and aliens that I’d never heard of.” Well played, Mr. Hutchinson.