If you follow my blog over at Insight Out! then you’ll be more than painfully aware of my deep and all encompassing respect for this author. If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll know him best from his Tales of Foster High series, or the fantasy frolics of his Lords of Arcadia series. You’ll probably have been, like me, so in awe of his exceptional penmanship during these critically-acclaimed collections that you might have missed a little something along the way. You might not have been looking when in August 2012, John Goode gave the world a glimpse into something inside himself that no one could have anticipated.
Peter thought Shane was done for when the virus ravaged his body. He had no hope that the drugs would take hold quite the way they did. But they worked, and before either of them could really realize the wonder of the pharmaceuticals, Shane was fighting fit, returned to his lover as he had been when they’d fallen in love back in College. But fate was never a friend of Peter’s, leaving him speechless when his now healthy lover is taken from him prematurely in a car wreck. The only thing Peter has left is the last voicemail message on his lover’s phone, listened to ad infinitum to seal off the huge hole in his chest left by his deceased lover. But one night, when lost in a haze of liquor and loneliness, Peter calls the voicemail of Shane’s phone, only to have the man pick up on the other end. What follows is a tale of fate, and the uncompromising bitch that wears its face.
It’s hard to express words when confronted with prose like this. It’s an assault to the senses leaving you feeling drained and depleted. It’s a lifetime of tears and the intense need for Ben, Jerry and a duvet so fluffy it staves away the demons. Damn this man is good. When I ask people if they’ve read this novella, most draw a blank. Fans of m/m romance novels, like me, missed the word on the street that the master of teen angst had penned another bittersweet masterpiece. But Peter is no teenage boy, and this is not high school. This is Mayberry as told by Hamlet with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future all tripping him up along the way. This is why I love to read.
Peter is not essentially a loveable character, he is a human with a weight on his back so heavy he can barely stand. His destructive behaviour is at once both irritating and so quintessential to the human condition that buried under the artful writing, he is every person I have ever known who has faced the death of a loved one. He is everyone. That’s where the books normality ends and John Goode’s particular brand of creativity takes flight. One self destructive phone call is all it takes for Peter’s world to both unravel and come flying back into focus. When a dead person picks up the phone, where else could this story go but straight for the jugular? When you read the author’s words, you know that what is coming is not going to make you feel safe and warm and familiar. He’s going to affront the senses with a word bomb that will detonate right inside your flimsy chest cavity. That’s what he does. Years of writing have lead him to this point, and he never fails to impress.
The story is replete with subtle nuances that gently imply an ending, a cast of supporting characters that are ominous and yet the voice you should hear when in an irrational state. You are now leaving Foster High, travel safely. This book sees John Goode turn from the calculating awesome of Kyle, and sees the author grow up on the page. John Goode lost his innocence at Foster High or somewhere in the nine realms, but this story has no place for innocence. It’s a fantasy tale of the damaging implications of dying right alongside a loved one. It’s both metaphysical and metaphorical, and it deserves to be heard. So listen, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to hear every single word that Goode has to say, again and again and again.
Last Dance with Mary Jane will not give you a happy ending as such. Don’t expect the long awaited kiss, the drive into the sunset hand in hand while strings flair and tears fall. Some people don’t like the lack of happy endings. I love to mourn the end when it is all it can be, just another paving stone on the road alone. John Goode has ruined me for other authors, and thus here it comes. Five stars for the man who made me cry, yet again, like no one else can. You should read this book, read it with an open mind, but because it’s different. Because it’s adult doesn’t mean it’s any less inspiring or wonderful than his other books. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. It shows range and a skill so unfathomable that I defy you not to be moved by the uncharacteristically atypical author, every bit deserving of the praise he receives.