The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson is a book that is definitely current with the times. It is not just another queer book about two guys falling in love. It’s actually much more than that. I might have said that before about another book, but it doesn’t make this any less important to read.
The author writes a well thought-out story about two boys with two very different backgrounds, and likely more so than most, as one’s mom and the other’s dad are running against each other for the role of U.S. President.
With that said, do not write this off as some kind of political agenda on the part of the author, where it’s all about bashing the right-side and praising the left-side. While there is some political talk throughout the book, and even some villainy, Hutchinson is careful and sensitive enough to display both viewpoints of the characters in equal measure, and in a way that readers can relate to and empathize.
The story centers on Dean Arnault and Andre “Dre” Rosario. Dean’s mom is the Republican candidate while Dre’s dad is the Democratic candidate. What seems obvious is that Dean is very conservative and pretty much supports all that his mother believes, while Dre is quite liberal and shouts for all the world to hear for his gay agenda. However, what we learn as we continue on with the book is that these two are not quite the caricatures they’re assumed to be.
Sure, Dre wears very fitting and bright clothes that make him stand out, but his agenda is more along the lines of doing monster makeup for his YouTube channel and spending personal time with his dad. As for Dean, he has the looks of a future Republican church-going political leader, but he’s still learning how to identify his own complicated sexuality, and if it really fits into what his mom’s future for him is supposed to be.
So when Dre and Dean are suddenly locked in a room together with nothing much to do but talk with each other, despite their differences and that of their parent’s rivalry, they find a rare connection that they haven’t been able to have with anyone else, and a friendship develops.
It’s easy to say that they find a way to make it work and then they end up together. And they lived happily ever after. But what Hutchinson has done with Dean and Dre wasn’t just state that polar opposites could be together, but he also points out the intricacies in their character development as they battle through their black-and-white thinking. What we need to understand as a reader is that their differences are as nuanced as their similarities, and no matter which “side” of the political spectrum you’re on, or even the sexual spectrum you’re on, I believe Hutchinson has done a rather spectacular job of giving us a broader view of things, especially for those who are still trying to understand themselves, whether it be in their sexuality or in their standardized beliefs.
There are quite a few topics of interest that are brought up throughout the book, many on which Dean has to internalize and tread carefully, as he’s the one who, at first glance, may have a lot more to lose. However, Dre being out and proud is not without its own distinctive obstacles.
How Dre and Dean tackle these issues, with this looming presidential election rivalry included, is no small feat, and done so with several missteps that make them such an engaging couple to root for. Having to be able to see both sides of the story with equal narrative really helped to give us a true understanding of these characters’ personalities and what they’re feeling. The story felt very human and relatable without being patronizing, and as someone who has friends with very different and opposing beliefs at times, I appreciated that, especially at our current state as a country.
When it comes to books that have some kind of political element in it, it can be preachy, but as I said, Hutchinson was able to add that part of the story without it having it overtake the relationship between not only Dre and Dean, but also the relationships between the protagonists and their parents, which can so often be overlooked in young adult books. I loved these two wonderful individuals and I hope everyone else who reads this learns to love them just as much.
The State of Us gives us the learning experience we all need.
Pre-order your copy of The State of Us, which hits store shelves June 2nd, though the following links:
Official summary of The State of Us:
When Dean Arnault’s mother decided to run for president, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, least of all her son. But still that doesn’t mean Dean wants to be part of the public spectacle that is the race for the White House—at least not until he meets Dre.
The only problem is that Dre Rosario’s on the opposition; he’s the son of the Democratic nominee. But as Dean and Dre’s meet-ups on the campaign trail become less left to chance, their friendship quickly becomes a romantic connection unlike any either of the boys have ever known.
If it wasn’t hard enough falling in love across the aisle, the political scheming of a shady third-party candidate could cause Dean and Dre’s world to explode around them.
It’s a new modern-day, star-crossed romance about what it really means to love your country—and yourself—from the acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and Brave Face, Shaun David Hutchinson.