cover image Stars in Your Eyes

Stars in Your Eyes

Kacen Callender. Forever, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5387-2603-7

National Book Award winner Callender (Felix Ever After) investigates shame and trauma in a deeply emotional queer romance that’s more rom-dram than rom-com despite its fun fake dating premise. Black, gay Mattie Cole is the silver screen’s up-and-coming boy next door, and he’s perfectly cast as the love interest for bisexual, biracial bad boy Logan Gray, “one of the most hated people in Hollywood,” in an upcoming film. After Logan publicly badmouths Mattie, the actors are asked to fake-date to counter the negative publicity. As the guys get to know each other, they expose their vulnerabilities and, of course, fall in love for real. Callender uses this setup to dig deep into their characters’ psyches: perfectionist Mattie wrestles with imposter syndrome and shame and believes he needs to prove himself worthy of love, while Logan is recovering from past sexual abuse. Both men also have strained relationships with their fathers, adding a tense subplot. The drama is tempered by the genuine love and affection that arises between the leads—at least until the phony nature of how they first got together is leaked to the press. “Isn’t it more satisfying, then?” Mattie wonders. “To see a happily ever after that has been fought for in the end.” Callender makes the answer to this question a resounding yes. Readers will be hooked. Agent: Beth Phelan, Galt & Zacker. (Oct.)