ARC Review: Calling Calling Calling Me by Natasha Washington /// a gay/pan MM romance that doubles as a love letter to San Francisco

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by A Novel Take for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary:

Patrick Mahoney has one goal in mind: get out of his native Fresno and find freedom in the rainbow and glitter-painted streets of San Francisco. As a college freshman, he’s sure he’ll finally have the chance to be himself, away from the judgmental eyes of his conservative hometown.

Josh Dirda’s never wanted to be tied down before, preferring the emotional ease of the one night stand. But when Patrick moves into the apartment that Josh shares with three friends, Josh is pulled in by Patrick’s sly wit and quietly creative spirit. As Patrick’s self-appointed tour guide, Josh can be Patrick’s introduction to the city he loves. But after a drunken Halloween hook-up crosses lines, Patrick and Josh must reckon with their true feelings—and decide whether they can let go of the ghosts from their pasts that haunt them.

Release date: September 4th

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★★★★

This book is about Patrick, a gay boy from conservative Fresno, who moves to start college in the city of his dreams, San Francisco, where he hopes to leave all the bullying behind him. His apartment search lands him a room in a shared flat with other slightly older students, among which is Josh, a Jewish pansexual boy who was born and raised in San Francisco.

Right away what I loved from the first few chapters was Patrick’s reaction to how open and chill everyone was about Josh’s sexuality and about Patrick’s too. The contrast between their mentalities and the mentality of the people Patrick grew up with was both astounding and relatable, and while we’re talking about relatableness, let me tell you that the first half of the novel spoke to my soul because so many of Patrick’s experiences and feelings are something I went through in my own move. Also his feelings about leaving his mom and his family and being completely on his own were On Point and I might have cried in the first 10%.

Like with most romances, this is narrated by both Patrick and Josh and I enjoyed both POVs in different ways, and I think both characters were very well written and well researched. I can’t speak for Josh’s Jewish representation but I think it was well woven into his character and a big part of who he is.

I have something to say about the pansexual rep and it’s that I feel like some people might not love it, but I personally did. What Josh does until meeting Patrick (sleeping with a lot of people and never being in a long relationship or a relationship at all) is not because of his sexuality at all and that’s made very clear in the book. Edit: something I originally forgot to write about is the fact that Josh is shown at the beginning (before the romance with Patrick) in scenes where he’s flirting and kissing girls too. It wouldn’t be remarkable if it wasn’t for the fact that a lot of m/m romances where one of the characters is MGA tend to avoid showing the character acting on his attraction on women or even thinking about women at all. That’s a whole discussion for another time, but I’m so glad that this was actually shown here. The pan rep gets a big 5/5 from me.

I loved the supporting cast too. Josh and Patrick’s friends were great to read about with their virtues and flaws, and Patrick’s family (well, part of it at least) was also lovely to read about. Patrick’s coming out to his mom was also one of the best I’ve read and I might have cried again.

Something this book differs from most romances is the pacing. (skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know anything about the romance) The MCs get together pretty soon (around 50% of the book) and the rest of the book is an exploration of the first few months of their relationship. I would also say that the first half of the book is more about Patrick’s character study, while in the second half we already feel like we know Patrick and the focus shifts to Josh, we find out why he does what he does and find out more about his family etc. It’s something I haven’t really seen in romances where usually the we-can’t-be-together-conflict lasts until the third fourth of the book, but I have to say it worked really well for me and I wish more romances sort of followed this path.

Another thing I loved about the book was the setting. San Francisco is one of the few big cities I’ve visited and I have to say, as a two-day tourist I didn’t exactly get the best impression from it. It’s…messy and the people tend to be kind of rude (sorry) (or maybe I was just unlucky). But this book feels like a love letter to this city and you can’t help but falling in love with it a little bit yourself too.

I briefly considered removing half a star from my rating because there were a few plot lines that I think didn’t necessarily need to be there and made me nervous about their outcome. This took a little bit of my enjoyment away, but ultimately I did think that all these things were handled well.

This is one of the most solid romances I’ve had the pleasure to read and I definitely recommend it.

Rep: Jewish pansexual MC; gay MC

TWs: alcohol and weed consumption, homophobia (challenged), bullying, past suicidal thoughts, transphobia (challenged), death of a loved one (not family)

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