Glitterland by Alexis Hall

“All my smiles, you can have all my smiles, whenever I can find them.”

Ok so technically the quote above wasn’t in the main story, it can be found in the bonus scene, Aftermath, which is included in the re-released version of this book. But it really struck me when I read it. I think it encapsulates where Ash ends up by the end of this story so well – leaning into the love he’s found with Darian while still acknowledging the fact that his mental illness may not always make it easy for them.

I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s take a step back. This book was originally released several years ago, I believe it was Alexis Hall’s first book he ever published. Earlier this year it was re-released with a stunning new cover, some minor updates, and a handful of really great bonus material at the end. I only discovered Alexis Hall’s writing about a year ago so this was my first time reading this one and I think I’d rate it within my top 3 favorite of his books I’ve read. Just behind Boyfriend/Husband Material. It’s a pretty quick read but not necessarily an easy one. It deals with some pretty heavy mental health issues, which may be a lot for some people (though if you’ve read Paris Daillencourt, I think this one was much easier to read), but I thought it was also full of hope and certainly love. Ash struggled very much with his illness, the worst of it happened prior to the timeline of this story but he still experienced bouts of illness in the present day. As heartbreaking as it is to see him struggling and self-sabotaging, it was even more heartwarming to see the subtle shifts in him as Darian worms his way into his heart.

I live in the U.S. so I can’t even pretend to be an expert on British class systems but I know enough to tell that Ash and Darian were from very different worlds. They’re not two people who you’d really expect to ever cross paths, let alone be friends or lovers. This point is put on display several times throughout this book, particularly whenever either one interacts with the other’s social groups. Darian is from a lower class than Ash and it’s often assumed that Darian is just a shallow, empty-headed pretty face. But Darian showed his depth time and time again and I loved that he called Ash on his bullshit and didn’t put up with disrespect from Ash or his friends.

Ash does a lot of things that make him hard to like sometimes, the way he treats people – his friends and Darian, in particular – doesn’t always put him in the best light. In a comment in the bonus content, Alexis Hall said his way of dealing with this was having Ash hate himself most of all. In my opinion, I think this approach worked well. It’s hard to really be mad at someone who has so much self-loathing. I also think that we witnessed significant growth from Ash throughout this story. Some of his revelations and the things he says and does toward the end of this story are wonderful to witness.

Outside of his relationship with Darian, which was just lovely, there were also interesting relationship dynamics between Ash and his friends Niall and Max. I won’t really get into it but their friendship was very complicated and was woven into the story so well. I also enjoyed the bonus content that was included at the end of the updated version. There are a few bonus scenes and a few other fun goodies that you’ll definitely want to check out! Anyway, long story short, I really enjoyed this story and I’ll definitely be looking to read the other books in this series at some point in the near future.

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