I've copied the full review below too for ease:
My View:“Amaze yourself with your own daring.”
Here we are, the final chapter of the little epic of Kieran and Jo. I don’t mean to be dismissive, not in the least. It is little in that there are no major wars and no great geographical sweep. It is an intimate story about a young man becoming himself, and it is closely observed and written to the point where it feels as real as a memoir. Reading this book, as was the case with the preceding two, took me decades back in time, to my own university years. In this way the books have evolved from a sort of Young Adult coming out story into a New Adult taking on the world story. In all three books there is a deep emotional resonance that should touch the heart of anyone who remembers what it was to be starting out in the world as a gay man.
Here is the Kieran we’ve known since high school (called college on this other planet known at the U. K.). Although living in London, Kieran is still in touch with his parents, his friends Grace, Hannah and Kev. He has some new university friends, all Americans. There’s the smart and approachable Janice, and the two Sarahs, relentless party girls doing their London university thing. I have to say, the characterization of the Americans is sort of horribly spot on. It is very affectionate, but makes me rather squirm to recognize my national character this way.
But at the core of this gently harrowing story is Jo, the witty, sparkling and seemingly devoted boy who helped Kieran come out and make his way into the gay world of late 20th-century Salisbury, England. Having been to Australia with Kieran and his family, Jo has moved to London to attend drama school. For all the intensity of their relationship, Jo seems oddly absent in Kieran’s life, caught up in his own studies at the other end of the city.
The action, such as there is, is triggered by two events: a thoughtless prank engineered by Jo that opens a Pandora ’s Box of doubting hurt in Kieran’s mind; and a shocking tragedy that leaves Kieran adrift and broken and in desperate need of the friend Jo no longer seems to be. The results are hardly earth shaking, but upsetting enough in their own way because the reader can see that there might have been an alternative story if Jo was a different sort of person.
The narrator’s voice comes from a decade in the future – i.e. the present – and he guides us through Kieran’s emotional odyssey, which, for all its smallness, is surprisingly distressing. It is a reminder that seemingly trivial things can alter an individual’s experience, make his journey more difficult and more painful than it might have been otherwise. Kieran doesn’t suffer anything that many new twenty-somethings don’t go through, but we feel every misstep and poor choice as if we were making them ourselves.
I am grateful for Livings’ epilogue, which tells us what happened afterwards; it was particularly necessary in this case. It reflects the voice of an older and wiser man (but still very young, to my mind), looking back from a different place into the turmoil of his own youth. It is a quiet, almost anticlimactic finale to Kieran’s story, but nonetheless it moved me greatly.
Best Friends Perfect, Book 3 on Goodreads