Angelo Surmelis’ The Dangerous Art of Blending In is one of survival and the search to find oneself, and it does not disappoint. This relevant coming-of-age novel not only broke my heart, but stitched it together after the damage was done.
The story of The Dangerous Art of Blending In is what originally grabbed my attention, for the sole reason that it features an abused, gay teenage son of immigrant parents struggling to make it in corporate America. While the story was more than I expected, the duality of the characters really surprised me. Instead of sticking to their intended role in the novel, every single character is complex, thought out, and intriguing. Of course I felt for Evan, but I also felt for the father, stuck between his closeted son and abusive wife. Even the small side characters that only serve as filler context are well-developed and interesting, to say the least. It’s the perfect Young Adult novel in my book (pun intended).
The story follows seventeen-year-old Evan Panos growing up under the rule of an abusive, Greek mother and enabling father, as he spends most of his high school life hoping to fly under the radar. Evan’s cuts and bruises don’t necessarily go unnoticed, but he always found a way to explain them, using anything other than the truth. At the same time, Evan is starting to notice his best friend Henry differently, and his new feelings and hesitancy to trust others makes confiding in him difficult. The relationship between Evan and his best friend plus the escalating abuse pushes Evan further away from everyone. Exhausted from the weight of living, Evan spends his time drawing alone in an abandoned monastery, his one and only escape from reality. This book was emotionally difficult to read, but not disappointing if you can stomach the contents. The abuse and homophobia is constant and if either of those topics are triggering, you’d better skip this book. On the contrary, if you think you can handle the overall degrading treatment Evan receives from his mother, go on ahead. Surmelis does not disappoint.