Liam is the popular, charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous son of a former supermodel and high powered CEO. He’s got great fashion sense, developed over years with his mom on the high fashion circuit; a knack for connecting with people; and an engaging personality. The trouble is he has no qualities his controlling, reserved, angry father respects. And to make things worse, Liam continuously makes poor judgment calls that draw his father’s ire. After the final straw (caught drunk on his father’s desk with a nearly naked party date), Liam is kicked out of the house the week before his senior year. He can’t go live with his paternal grandparents in Nevada who despise him as much as his father does, so he ends up in a broken down trailer in a hick town in upstate NY with his dad’s long estranged, cross-dressing, DJ brother, Aunt Pete.
Once in Pineville, Liam decides the only way he can get his dad’s love and respect is to change himself from “Mr. Popularity” to a studious, geeky guy. The problem is that his nature comes out no matter what he does, and people are drawn to him no matter how hard he tries to make himself goofy and unpopular. The exception is his neighbor Darleen whose criticism and dislike is reminiscent of his father’s loathing diatribes. Aunt Pete and his 3 quirky best friends: Eddie, a boutique owner; Orlando, Pete’s boyfriend (and Liam’s new English teacher); and Dino, a local cop, try to make Liam feel welcome while also providing some well-meaning, if sometimes comical, support. In fact, they each provide Liam with different aspects of parental support that his life has been lacking, giving him his first ever chance at normal, healthy parental interaction.
K.L. Going weaves intense flashbacks showing how Liam’s relationship with his parents developed/deteriorated with his struggles to change himself into what he thinks they want him to be. It’s an interesting approach that juxtaposes stereotypes, parental roles & expectations, and ideas about masculinity in a fun and approachable way. While it can be enjoyed as a coming of age comedy, it is really more of an psychological exploration of the impact of parental expectations, verbal & emotional abuse, and alienation. I spent almost the entire book angry with Liam’s dad and disappointed in his mom until I realized how I should actually be pitying them. Eventually Liam finds that he does need to change his thinking and understand that the way his dad treats him has nothing to do with anything he’s done; it’s his dad’s own hang-ups, petty insecurities and need to control others that have made him treat Liam the way he has. He may continue to screw-up from time to time, but with understanding and support, Liam finally realizes that’s just a part of life.
- Posted by Cori