Book Reviews

Raise It Up by Nick Wilgus at Harmony Ink Press

Genre Gay / Historical / Recent (1980s) / Young Adult / Romance / Drama
Reviewed by Christy Duke on 09-August-2017

Book Blurb

Secrets can only stay buried for so long before they poison everything. But dragging them into the light is never easy—and it isn’t something Cyrus Hood can do alone.


Amidst the atmosphere of suspicion brought on by the Cold War, Cyrus struggles to keep a lid on his family’s dark secrets, like the reason for his little brother, Charlie, being “not right in the head” and his father’s drinking, conspiracy theories, and abuse. While trying to hold together a family hell-bent on tearing itself apart, Cyrus is also discovering things within himself he can’t divulge—like his attraction to his best friend Oliver. Yet it might be Oliver who stands with Cyrus when Cyrus is at his most lost and vulnerable, and it might be Oliver to show him that no matter how many times life knocks you down, love can raise you up again.


Book Review

I almost passed on reading this latest Nick Wilgus book. I adore this author, but his books are, almost always, quite a few Kleenex for me. My good sense won out however, because I knew if I didn't read it I would regret it. An author who can bring out the kind of emotions that this one can has to be treasured because he makes me feel. Society today, with all of its advances, its reliance on technology, its social media obsession (of which I am one of the faithful), has generated more and more distance between all of us, to the point where we are emotionally barricaded to society's pain and suffering. So I'll take the heartfelt pain, the tears, and all of the emotions in between, because they remind me that I'm still alive, and I'm a human being.

Based on the information I can glean while reading, i.e. that Reagan and Bush will be taking office in a couple of months, ‘Raise It Up’ begins in the fall of 1979 and Cyrus is fifteen years old. This means he is five years older than I was at the same time period. Why is this relevant? Because I grew up in a manner vastly different than Cyrus and his siblings. I have no concept of coming of age in a household with an alcoholic, abusive father (physically, emotionally, and sexually) who doesn't hold a job, and where my mom just died of a massive heart attack caused by catching me singing while wearing a dress and makeup. My younger brother Charlie was beaten by my father with a frying pan when he was four years old and this caused permanent brain damage. There is never enough food, no central heat only a wood stove, and the bills are months behind. Compared to this, I grew up as a Rockefeller. The descriptions are so gritty and haunting that I hurt for Cyrus and his younger siblings.

Cyrus grew up with a traditional Catholic mother. The kind who was outraged at the decisions made by the Second Vatican Council which included, but were certainly not limited to, saying mass in English versus Latin and allowing the priest to face the congregation while saying mass. So much of Cyrus’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about his sexuality, his relationship with his mother, and his thoughts regarding his father, are entrenched in what he has been taught is a sin and an abomination. He suffers shame about his sexuality, guilt about keeping the family secrets that might have helped Charlie all those years ago, more guilt about being honest about what happened the day his dad took him and his brother John fishing which has now led to his father being arrested for involuntary manslaughter, and massive embarrassment over anyone in the community knowing what has gone on in their home. Again, I was speechless most of the time at the horrors this young man has seen and dealt with.

“I’ve already made a mess of things by telling them about John John. Daddy told them I was lying about that. And then he told them I was lying about Charlie. What if he tells them I’m lying about this too? I don’t want to make it worse now by doing something stupid. I’ve already embarrassed everyone.”

There's a reason I haven't mentioned Oliver or the relationship he and Cyrus have throughout this novel. In my opinion, this entire book is a beautiful character study about Cyrus. He's such a strong young man who has buried himself in guilt, shame, embarrassment, and has always tried to be kind and a good person. He realizes through his journey within the pages that being kind really just means people will walk all over you and take advantage. Oh, he doesn't lose those good parts of himself, he just learns to accept his anger at injustices, his anger at his parents for not being good ones, and by the end, Cyrus is learning to accept everything about himself. Now, Oliver is definitely a part of that, but it's my feeling that Cyrus would have made it there eventually, even if it took him longer by himself.

I didn't cry in this one. Thank you, Nick. But the emotions were definitely there, and very intense. I'm not usually one for young adult stories but this is truly one I can recommend. It's beautiful and ugly, but the beauty within is what rises to the surface.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Harmony Ink Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 350 pages/94391 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 08-August-2017
Price $6.99 ebook, $17.99 paperback, $17.99 bundle
Buy Link