Title: Kings of Ruin
Author: Sam Cameron
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Source: Bold Strokes Books/NetGalley
Genre: YA, LGBT, Adventure, Contemporary, Supernatural, Science Fiction
Page Count: 193
Rating: [4/5 stars]
Danny Kelly cares only for rock ‘n’ roll and fast cars. Too bad he’s stuck in the capital of country music and he’s banned from driving until he turns twenty-one. Plus he likes other boys, a secret that he’s vowed to keep until he graduates high school. When his stepdad’s new truck roars off on its own, Danny discovers a secret that is endangering cars and drivers across America. It almost kills Danny, too, until he’s saved by seventeen-year-old Kevin Clark. Kevin’s gay, handsome, and confident, but working with his dad’s secret government organization has left him lonely. It’s going to take a weekend of car chases, fiery explosions, and country-western singing to save the citizens of Nashville from certain death—but can Danny protect his heart and secrets as well? (summary from goodreads)
KINGS OF RUIN is a compelling mix of contemporary and the supernatural. I sat down to read a few chapters and before I knew it I’d finished the whole book. I was that into the story and the characters.
Danny and Kevin are teenagers with one big thing in common: they each lost someone they loved in a car crash. Otherwise, they have some differences. Danny won’t admit that he’s gay, and has a girlfriend to keep up appearances. He doesn’t know the truth about how his father and brother died. Kevin is proudly out but single because of his job — he and his father are part of a team from the Department of Transportation who hunt down Ruins all over the U.S. Kevin’s mother died in a crash caused by the Ruins. Think of Ruins as malevolent spirits that take over cars because they like killing people and creating chaos.
The characters were one of my favorite parts of the book. Aside from Danny and Kevin, there’s the rest of the Ruin hunting team, and I got the feeling they all had interesting back stories of their own. In particular, I liked Mrs. Morris, and the way Danny thought about her when she fills in for his physics teacher: “She was easily the most beautiful woman Danny had ever seen. If it weren’t for the whole gay thing, he might have fallen a little bit in love with her right then and there (p. 17, ARC).”
Some of the other characters that shined were 2KEWEL, FIREBUG, and CHOPR. I don’t know if they would appreciate being described as cute, but they were! The author infused personality into the toy cars and helicopter, and they were an important part of the story even though they couldn’t talk.
I had fun reading KINGS OF RUIN, and I hope there will be another book to continue Danny and Kevin’s story. As you can probably guess, a spark pops up between the two boys. I liked how meeting Kevin made Danny re-evaluate keeping his sexuality a secret. And, although both boys are gay, KINGS OF RUIN isn’t a coming out story. It’s just part of who they are.
I only wish the book had been longer. I thought there could have been more explanation about the Ruins, as I had some questions about them (how does the government know about them? what happens to Ruins after they’re zapped? etc.), and I would also have liked to see some more romance between Danny and Kevin. However, the hints of romance in the book were realistic, and I was happy that they didn’t fall instantly in love and ride off into the sunset together.
KINGS OF RUIN is a well-written YA book full of adventure. I’d recommend it for guys, because there’s a lot of car talk and both main characters are guys, but I think anyone would enjoy it.
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