Review: The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers

I follow a lot of journalists on Twitter. If I like their writing style, their ‘voice’, I follow with an aim to read every piece of work that they share. Blog posts, articles in magazines, columns in newspapers, I absorb it all to the point where they start to feel like a friend. (Apologies to every journalist who I’ve ever replied to in an overly familiar way, completely forgetting that we don’t actually know each other!) Occasionally, these lovely people write entire books and I will pre-order with glee, knowing that it will feel good to inhabit a world that they’ve created, for hours rather than mere minutes.

One of my favourite writers is Justin Myers, aka The Guyliner, whose blog posts dissecting The Guardian’s Blind Dates have been a joyous addition to my weekends for years. I devoured his first book, The Last Romeo, in record time due to its familiar style and was looking forward togetting my hands on book two this year. I preordered the hardback, but the coronavirus pandemic meant that the release date got put back and I couldn’t wait until August so… I bought it for my Kindle too. The main character is bi and I was keen to discover how this would play out in the story. The cover blurb gives a little intro:

At twenty-nine, Jake D’Arcy has finally got his life just right. Job with prospects: check. Steady girlfriend: check. Keeping his exhausting, boisterous family at bay: check. So why isn’t he happier?

When his confident, much-adored younger brother Trick comes out as gay to a rapturous response, Jake realises he has questions about his own repressed bisexuality, and that he can’t wait any longer to find his answers.

As Trick begins to struggle with navigating the murky waters of adult relationships, Jake must confront himself and those closest to him. He’s beginning to believe his own life could be magnificent, if he can be brave enough to make it happen…

There was a lot I could identify with in this novel. It wasn’t identical to my experiences – due, in part, to the fact that bi men face a lot more prejudice than bi women – but I could relate to a couple of overarching themes (which I don’t think are spoilers). The difficulty in coming to terms with bisexuality as an identity is very real to me as, in a world which is still so biphobic, you’re often fighting with years of internalised biphobia without even realising it. I could also relate to the thought that younger people have an easier time of it as I have, somewhat naively, looked at the way the world has changed since my teenage years and assumed that things are better now. Just because some things have improved, doesn’t mean that coming out is any easier for a 17 year old than a 27 year old!

Overall, I thought this was a wonderfully engaging story about coming out, growing up, and connecting with yourself and those closest to you. It’s very thoughtfully written, as you don’t just get the perspective of the main character, and the discussions with family and friends really help you see how Jake’s behaviour is perceived by them. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone bi, anyone who knows someone who’s bi, and anyone who likes novels about identity and emotion. When I finished it, I felt… seen. I’ll end with a fantastic quote from the book about bisexual people: “They knew the best of both worlds, and the worst. If anything, they had a fuller picture of what is was like to be attractive, aroused and alive.”

The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers is out in hardback on 6 August 2020.

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