This is a review of the pre-publication draft available for free online. There are innumerable editing, typo, spelling, pacing and transition issues in this draft that I’m assuming will be cleaned up for publication (whenever that may happen).
Boy with Stockholm Syndrome falls in love with his abuser...
In Snake’s universe anything goes. In ‘Brothers’ a loan shark can take all of a person’s possessions as collection on a bad loan, including family members. Women and children can be sold into prostitution as pay-back on the loan. Wilber is the ruthless shark who works for ‘The Organization’ a shady, organized-crime type of enterprise. He has moved up the ranks and become obsessed with Brant, a fourteen year old boy (at the start of our story) traded in by his father to the Organization for debts owed. Brant serves for 12 years (years!!) as a rent-boy to pay off this debt and to protect his three younger sisters from the same fate. As Brant continually says, “That’s what brother’s do.” Admirable, courageous, selfless, and incredibly mature for a fourteen year old. But along the way, Brant fancies himself indebted to and in love with Wilber, his abuser. He has been so mistreated and manipulated (Wilber’s every move towards him results in a flinch or cowering; and he is continually crying, a veritable waterfall of tears) that this ‘capture-bonding' psychological attachment is the outcome. Classic Stockholm Syndrome.
What is it about Derekica Snake’s story-telling...?
There is something that draws you in, moth to flame. I start off engaged but am left with the same curious aftertaste. I like the premise: innocent boy taken as sexual submissive, made to endure abuse, rape, torture, mind-fucking. Lots of kinks, check, check and check... This sweet morsel is molded to serve, he only exists as a sexual toy to a cruel, heartless bastard of a ‘master’ (check! check! check!). Oh, forgot...he has to have long hair and be physically beautiful and very thin. Years of abuse have ‘improved’ him physically but left him mentally deadened; a lovely shell. That’s the basic formula.
And there’s the rub (ahem...), all the life has been sucked (hummm...) out of Brant and, I fear, the story too. He cowers, he whines, he cries, he always goes crawling back to Wilber. Even in the end when they finally come together with some semblance of affection, I want to feel for them but am left numbed.
I think Snake has a distinctive style. Her books are certainly unique and, dare I say, memorable, but not for wonderful writing or great world building. She likes to set up a simple dynamic of victim versus abuser but there just doesn’t seem to be any heart in it. ‘Brothers’ reads as almost cartoonish, very cold and one-dimensional. Even the sex seems dry -- all the right words but no sensuality -- how can there be when the abused offers himself unconditionally and the abuser never really shows any contrition for his actions? The curious turning of abuser into hero doesn’t sit well with me, at least with Snake’s delivery. And really, once you’ve read one book, you’ve read them all... I’ve rounded up to three stars for the effort but I hope Snake’s future work shows more variety and more depth of connection between her protagonists.