Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.
But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.
Merriam-Webster defines Kitsch as ‘1. something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality – 2. a tacky or lowbrow quality or condition’ Just in case anyone was wondering… it’s not exactly a word that you hear everyday. The title being a perfect fit for this sweet Holiday read was among many reasons why I fell in love with Christmas Kitsch.
So why does the title fit so well? That word pretty much defines how Rusty’s parents see the people ‘outside’ their circle. It’s hard to explain exactly how awful these people were except to say that they were the exact opposite of Oliver’s family. Yes, this book went to extremes and maybe it didn’t have to, but it worked. It gave readers a vivid image and understanding that sometimes the richest people aren’t defined by money, but by character. It didn’t do it in a preachy way, but a gut wrenchingly real way.
The characters were larger than life in some ways – especially the supporting characters. Yet, at the center, were Rusty and Oliver. I loved the way their relationship grew from friendship to what it inevitably became. It wasn’t rushed, which was good because Rusty had a lot to come to terms with. I loved Oliver’s patience as well as the no nonsense way he handled his feelings toward Rusty. Rusty’s need to give Oliver everything he thought he deserved and Oliver’s need to just be with Rusty. Yeah, the romance part of Christmas Kitsch worked well too. *sigh*
Rusty was a good kid that knew his limits and his weaknesses – or assumed he did. Mostly because they were ground into him. Throughout most of this book I wanted to hug Rusty to console and encourage him and hug Oliver and his family, as well as Nicole and Rex and his family for being there for him when no one else was. (I also wanted to smack some sense into his parents, but that’s a given – this was definitely a book that brought the ‘momma bear’ out in me.) Watching Rusty come to terms with the reality of who he was as well as who he wanted to be – with the help of a lot of loving and caring people – was another amazing part of this story. It wasn’t always easy to read and there were just as many tears as there were laughs – but reading about issues like this isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to make you think and Christmas Kitsch does that well.
20% of the profit from the sale of Christmas Kistch will be donated to the Ali Forney Center in NYC, which is ‘dedicated to promoting awareness of the plight of homeless LGBTQ youth in the United States with the goal of generating responses on local and national levels from government funders, foundations, and the LGBTQ community.’