Ricker, Jeffrey. The Unwanted. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $11.95. 312p. PB. 9781626390485.
If only Jamie can survive two more years of high school and get out of town, he knows life will get better. Regularly bullied and beaten up because he’s gay, Jamie’s lucky that his best friend Sarah and dad have his back and help him survive. One afternoon, Jamie returns home from school (beaten and bloodied thanks to bully and nemesis Billy Stratton) to find winged-horse Pegasus in his backyard and a stranger in his house. His response? Jamie screams like a girl (don’t judge!). The stranger upends Jamie’s world view with the announcement that she’s his supposedly-dead mom Xena (or Maia), and then his father tells him that, not only is she alive, but she’s an Amazon. His mother has shown up now because someone is out to destroy the Amazons, and, as it turns out, Jamie is the key to their survival.
Author Jeffrey Ricker writes a fast-paced fantasy novel based in the St. Louis suburb Athens incorporating the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. Initially, readers might be reminded of Percy Jackson, but in The Unwanted they will encounter a story where the characters have more depth and emotion and feel more real. The readers experience Jamie’s first flickers of desire, the power of a first kiss, and genuine tears of loss. Ricker’s prose transports readers into the world of bullies and redemption, love and loss, and prophecies and being the chosen one. Readers are also treated to Jamie’s snarky comments throughout the book–which left this reviewer laughing out loud.
Teens will love the action and adventure as well as the fact that this isn’t simply another coming out story. The author has offered an excellent fantasy story, and this novel just happens to have a gay protagonist. Thank you, Mr. Ricker, for giving readers another option!
Ruth Compton, Youth Services Librarian
Arlington County Public Library (VA)