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The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Surmelis’ novel is rewarding in spite of its difficult subject matter.
Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

A tough but engaging read

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis is a tough read. The book tells the story of Evan, a Greek-American, closeted gay teen as he deals with his physically, mentally, emotionally, and verbally abusive mother, who claims he is evil and full of sin.

The scenes in this book are exceptionally well-written giving the reader a vivid picture of Evan. The Dangerous Art of Blending In is a page turner, but with every page, the reader can see just how broken Evan is inside. Surmelis does a fantastic job of accurately portraying the abuse Evan’s mother gives, because he experienced many of the events that take place in this book in his own life. 

The topic of homophobia is prevalent throughout this book and is mostly portrayed through the thoughts and beliefs of Evan’s mom. This aids the reader in understanding the negative effects that the hateful thoughts and harmful actions of people who are homophobic have on those they oppress.

The use of first person and  present tense through the eyes of Evan helps the reader feel more empathy for him. The narration is permeated by devastating thoughts, such as “the person who was supposed to love me the hardest—the most unconditionally—has always wanted me gone.” These heartbreaking statements amplify the emotional aspect of the novel, as Evan’s pain becomes all too real for the reader, stirring sympathy within them. These comments help the reader make sense of the never-ending trauma that Evan experiences.

The clever use of backstory helps add a complexity to Evan’s mother, who throughout much of the book reads as a two-dimensional character. But by adding some flashbacks and talking about her life before Evan’s dad and Evan, this helps her come to life as a villain with an emotional core.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In is a book that will stick in readers’ minds for a very long time after finishing. This book is compelling in so many ways because it is eye-opening to two very important topics: abuse and homophobia.

Much of the time, a book like The Dangerous Art of Blending In, which covers such serious topics, is skipped over because people want to read something happy. Admittedly, even Surmelis realizes the depressing nature of his story and includes a list of resources for those struggling with abuse and bullying in the author’s notes. However, sometimes it’s good to step out of one’s comfort zone to experience other topics and ideas.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In is an emotional journey, and it shows a bittersweet reality given through the perspective of a young boy’s thoughts and experiences as he searches for something resembling home.

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