Unrequited by James Bennett
Unrequited is a dark story of love, betrayal, and attempting to define one’s self in a crumbling postmodern world. Written in the first person, the narrator, Aaron Edgeway, leads us through his experiences of living with his drunken, abusive father in a dilapidated, old house. When he and Alex, his best friend, attend a rich man’s fabulous party, it is clear that Alex wants more than friendship, he loves Aaron deeply and will do anything to have him. But Aaron is lured into the rich man’s bed for a three way, only to realize that he is being videotaped, and finds himself the victim of a blackmail plot. Alex helps him resolve this situation, hoping that Aaron will return his love, but before he can bring this about, Aaron literally stumbles into Victor, and the two become star-crossed lovers. Alex, however, becomes determined to show Aaron that Victor is not all that he seems. What follows is a series of events that will keep you up late at night turning the pages.
I had a love/hate relationship with this story. On the one hand, it is a compelling story with intelligent plot turns that kept me guessing throughout. The story unfolds in layers, and with each layer the pressure-cooker atmosphere builds strength. The characters seem real and fragile, and it was impossible not to sympathize with them.
On the other hand, Bennett has a flair for melodrama, making his character overreact to almost every situation. But the main problem I had was Bennett’s propensity to overwrite. The prose kept calling attention to itself, rather than the story. I had the impression that Bennett was trying to impress me with his heavy, clever prose. There were times when I was impressed. He handles many intimate scenes with style and grace.
Writing style aside, Bennett kept me anxiously turning the pages to find out what would happen next while making me reflect upon my own teenaged years of fumbling love affairs and desperate retaliations. All in all, I found it a worthwhile read, although I would not recommend this story to anyone who demands that a love story have a “Happily Ever After” ending.