Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling - Michael Murphy
~ Review by Leisa

Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling (a really, really cool title!) is at times not a comfortable read. Aaron is the son of an abusive father who heads a cult-like, ultra conservative and restrictive group that broke from the Amish. His father preaches that he alone can provide his followers with a path to God. It’s hard to read about the harshness of Aaron’s life – He is physically abused by his father, and bullied and tortured at high school for acting and dressing differently. Josh is a jock who initially participates in the torment of Aaron, but is also intrigued by the stoic young man. They slowly become friends, and Aaron ultimately makes the difficult choice to break with his family and go to college with Josh. At college, innocent Aaron is easy pickings for a man who introduces Aaron to sex, but also breaks his heart.

The characterization of Josh and Aaron is lovely. Josh is a sincere young man who grows to truly love Aaron both as a friend and as a man, and to appreciate Aaron’s very real decency. Aaron is certainly innocent – much of his life has been devoid of modern and outside influence – but he is also incredibly naïve. He easily falls for player Sebastian’s smooth seduction, and doesn’t see the inevitable betrayal coming...

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