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Emory Jones loves two things: horror movies and Connor Nichols.
For the past four years, Emory, Connor, and their families have vacationed side by side on Longboat Key, Florida. Eighteen-year-old Emory has pined for his neighbor from behind the covers of Stephen King books, but college boy Connor has never noticed him. Probably because Emory looks like Jack Skellington with good hair.
Emory anticipates another predictable summer of sunburn and disappointment. Instead, he ends up with a mystery on his hands when a beloved beach bum goes missing, and Connor volunteers to help with the search. Turns out it’s not just scary movie cops who are worthless, so the boys start an investigation of their own—leading them straight to an abandoned beach resort.
Despite the danger, Emory and Connor grow closer, but as Emory’s gay dreams start coming true, so do the horror movie tropes he so loves. Even though he knows that sex equals death in slasher flicks, Emory can’t keep his hands off the guy of his teenage dreams.
This is Not a Horror Movie is a 78,000-word new adult gay rom-com… with a monster.
Liz tosses Salem’s Lot back, and it nails me in the stomach. I grunt and bend over at the waist, hoping she didn’t rupture my appendix. Then, I stand and run my fingers through my stupid hair. God, why didn’t I get it cut? Thanks to an earlier swim, it probably looks like a dead animal pelt.
“Stop preening,” Liz hisses.
“I’m not,” I growl. “Do I look okay?”
“Of course you look okay. You’re the male version of me.” She disappears around the corner and toward the big back patio that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. The screen door slides open and shut, and she shouts, “Connor” like it’s a war cry.
His voice is a low rumble that I feel in my skinny chest. Great, I’m in nothing but swim trunks. As if ex-football star Connor Nichols needs to be reminded that I’m the human equivalent of an under-stuffed scarecrow. It’s even worse now that I shot up five inches my senior year of high school. A horrifically late bloomer, I’m now sixfeettall and have trouble controlling my appendages. Running into walls is my newest hobby. I’m a pro.
The screen door slides open and shut again, and the rumbles turn to words. “Where’s my favorite book nerd?” he says.
Yes, that would be me. I have the urge to raise my hand like I’m back in school.
He turns the corner into the kitchen, and there is no way he got better-looking. How did he get better-looking? I mean, why? How? Someone tell me how this golden god of a man could get better-looking. His blond hair is a little bit longer on top. He’s still a big tower of tan muscle. The glitter of his grin actually makes a ding sound in my head. I’m a microwave dinner that’s done.
I open my mouth to say something—say something, stupid—but catch my sister making a funny face at Connor. Liz makes funny faces at me all the time. I can usually read her precise level of Emory-exasperation based on eyebrow curvature alone. Connor doesn’t exasperate her usually, but right now, she’s staring at him like he’s a math equation, and Liz sucks at math.
“Emory?” Connor says.
I let out the breath I’d been holding when I start feeling dizzy. “Yeah?”
His whole forehead is a staircase of creases, and his mouth hangs open like he’s a hungry fish. He hasn’t shaved in two days—two. I’m an expert at Connor’s facial hair. He has ambitious chin follicles that could blossom into a full beard if he wanted.
I’m waiting for him to cross the room and put me in a headlock, because that’s what he started doing last summer when I was seventeen and Connor, nineteen, was a student at some community college in New York State. I swear his life purpose last summer was embarrassing me. But Connor doesn’t move, and this is some Invasion of the Body Snatchers shit right here.
“Dude.” Liz grabs his upper arm and shakes. Of course she’s totally confident in nothing but a red bikini because she’s Liz and has confidence and boobs. “Earth to Connor. What’s the matter with you?”
He clears his throat but looks like he’s choking on a golf ball. “You look different,” he says to me.
Liz nods. “Oh, no shit, right? He shot up a million inches this year, but you should see him walk. He’s like drunk Gumby.”
I lower the dark unibrow I refuse to let my sister wax.
Connor flashes those white teeth. Ding! Ding! “No, you look like a grown-up,” he says. “What’s up with your hair?”
I reach up and squeeze the probable disaster that is my head. Back home in Ohio, Liz told me to grow it out over Christmas. What was once a frizz ball, short on the sides and long on top, is now a thick, tangled veil of brown that falls past my ears and often into my eyes. In social situations, I have literally hidden behind my hair. I’m sure the addition of Florida humidity has made it a sea anemone.
I vomit some consonants before finding actual words. “It’s dumb, I know. I should have got it cut.”
Liz squawks. “Everyone loves the hair. What are you smoking, Emory?”
She’s right; everyone does love the hair. The girls back at Perrysburg High School spent our final semester petting me like a pony. Sadly, I did not get the same treatment from guys.
Connor talks a lot. Always. He’d be a fabulous talk show host, lulling guests into telling him their deepest, darkest secrets all with a wink and a smile. He’s not talking now at all.
“So how was the drive down?” I hear my voice, so I assume I’m the one who asked this boring question.
He’s still swallowing around that golf ball when he nods. “Fine. No, your hair looks… good. I’m gonna…” He points in the direction of the beach and leaves.
Liz’s chin is down around her toes. “What the hell was that?”
I shrug. “The blinding paleness of my skin ate away at his frontal lobe?”
“Where was the headlock? I love when he puts you in headlocks.” She holds her hands up, a T-Rex mimic, and shadow boxes. “You look like a praying mantis being eaten by your mate.”
I scoop Salem’s Lot from the floor and sigh. “Maybe if he’s weird and avoids me for the next two weeks I can stop being desperately in love with him, go away to college, and pretend he didn’t set the bar ridiculously high for the rest of my adult life.”
4 out of 5 (very good)
Independent Reviewer for Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Awful things happen against beautiful backdrops and this is no different.
I really like Emory, the horror film buff. He has a close, cheeky relationship with his twin sister, but for all the cheek he'd do anything for her. I enjoyed watching his character develop, his confidence grow and slowly realise how others see him.
The relationship/dynamics between Emory and Conner are interesting... friends/holiday neighbours... Emory's secret crush...
This isn't for the faint-hearted, there is blood and danger and it's put me off abandoned buildings again! It's creepy and has a darkness throughout, I love it.
4 out of 5
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, mental health speaker, and LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. Her current obsession with Timothee Chalamet runs deep, and don’t even get her started on Call Me By Your Name.