You can waltz into the darkness pretty easily. Or you can try to negotiate a way back into the light. Sometimes you get lost trying. And sometimes you even think you’re in the light, but you’re still stuck on the other side.p. 161
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Pedophilia?, Drug Use, Underage Sex?, Murder, Mentions of Homophobia, Infidelity and Death.
I’m so happy to bring to you today my review of Derek Milman’s sophmore novel, Swipe Right For Murder. If you weren’t aware, I was given the opportunity to read and review his debut novel, Scream All Night which I adored and rated 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was such a wild, chaotic and fantastical ride that, given the opportunity to read his second book, I jumped straight away at the chance. FYI, spoilers ahead!
Swipe Right For Murder is a Hitckcokian LGBTQIA+ Young Adult thriller that focuses on seventeen year-old Aidan Jamison who finds himself accidentally involved within a domestic terrorist plot by the group The Swans, who target homophobic people in power who advocate/legislate anti-LGBTQIA+ rights, or ordinary people who refuse their services to LGTBQIA+ individuals. Aidan literally gets placed in the middle, and after hooking up with an older gentleman named Benoit on the app ‘DirtyPaws’, doing the sex, and then waking up the next morning to find that Benoit was shot in the head by a sniper – Aidan runs the fuck out of the hotel room and keeps on running.
What confuses the hell out of Aidan and the reader, is that The Swans think that Aidan is actually Mr. Preston. A man who seems to have something they want. Aidan of course, does not know what this actually is because he is not Mr. Preston.
Or is he?
What follows is an actual insane story mistaken identity – but not really – and governmental shenangians (THE FBI REALLY PLAYING GAMES WITH AIDAN) and a terrorist group on his tail. The situations Aidan gets involved in are completely and utterly ridiculous – but I believe that’s the point. It is an action-filled novel that also explores morality, LGBTQIA+ history and, though briefly, mental health.
For a detailed synopsis, here is the GoodReads blurb:
On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.
Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.
He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.
Thoughts on the narrative, characters and writing.
The premise of the story was interesting and I was extremely excited to read a YA thriller that situated itself within this sort-of conspiracy between the government and terrorism. Aidan was in interesting narrator who demonstrated extreme emotionality and intelligence. He was able to explore the moral and ethical ambiguity of the farcity of the government in lying to him and using him for the taking down of a domestic terror plot (Yes, you read that right) without his consent and knowledge in contrast to the cult-like terror group who were killing anti-gay legislators because of their degredation of LGBQTIA+ rights. It was interesting to read how Aidan’s internal thoughts acknowledging his feelings – in that, he wasn’t sad about those people being killed but he was sad that people were being killed. It started a conversation that could have been powerful and interesting within the story – but did not deliver in that sense, as when you find out the actual motivation and grand plan of the ‘leader’ of The Swans, it was a disappointment. I think it may have supposed to be highlight the insanity and illogical mental perceptions of terrorists, who believe in their ‘mission’ – but it was underwhelming. Scott, who is the leader of the terrorist group, did what he did for the grand plan of targeting a Carnival full of kids because his partner, Ken, committed suicide. Scott broke up with Ken prior to him taking his own life, because Ken wanted children with Scott:
“Scotty sighs and leans back in his seat. “He wanted children.”…
“He was basically straight.” Scotty gives me a wistful smile….”I wasn’t interested in conformity,” he says. “I wasn’t intersted in breeding. But Ken loved the world. He loved it too much, and that was his problem.”p. 222
When Ken’s family rejected him, and cried about not being able to see his family, his only connection with them was through Instagram photos. Scott broke up with him because he couldn’t “put up with pathos…I’m not attracted to weakness” (p. 222). So, Scott targeting the Carnival as his grand plan was to get back at the ‘Traditional American Narrative” of being “burdened by children” (p. 222). He then claimed that he was the superior race – even though being ‘gay’ is not racial identity. I do think though that this constant monologuing by Scott was to emphasise his ‘evil’ ways, and how unhinged he was – but it just made his character not a very interesting villain because of his two-dimensional nature.
One of the other aspects of the narrative, moving away from the terrorism and the murder and the being-on-the-run from everyone, Aidan’s backstory in an interesting one. I keep saying interesting because it was and it had the capacity to be an incredibly powerful conversation about the effects of death in the family, mental health and how a family heals or tries to, in such a tragedy.
Though it did this briefly, I felt that the fact that his brother Neil’s death, and that impact on Aidan and his family and the way that influenced Aidan’s decisions and growth through his adolescence. Because one of the major concerns I had with the narrative itself, is Aidan’s understanding of his past ‘relationship’ with his best friend Shane’s, father. I say ‘relationship’ in quotation, because it is never explicity stated, but the fact that this story occurs when Aidan is seventeen, one can assume that Aidan’s ‘relationship’ with Shane’s father, Tom, occurred when he was either sixteen or younger. So basically, it was statutory rape and Tom was a pedophile? Rhode Island’s age of consent is 16 years old, where this occurred, but still. It was just not handled well at all. Aidan also then has sex with Benoit who was described as a ‘silver fox’, so I’m guessing he was at least in his late 30s the least – and again, this type of behaviour seemed destructive as a result of Aidan’s past. If that makes sense. I don’t want to seem like I’m judging the sexual behaviour of Aidan, I just think that there was trauma involved as a result of his relationship with Tom that needed to be explored and considered.
Moving on to characters, Aidan was a solid character though I found him to be lacking in common sense most of the time. I get that it made the story more interesting because it would have lacked the ‘adventure’ if Aidan just went straight to the police, like most people would, but his actions throughout were not the smartest to do in the scheme of things. Again, I felt that Aidan was not an extremely strong character in terms of his personality as I did not connect very well with him, or his friends who disappeared halfway through the story or his family. Though it was very engaging and I read it within a few hours, it didn’t have the same panache as Scream All Night did.
The writing itself was amazing. Milman’s talent really is conveyed through how he weaves his story together. Although the dialogue and scenes, at times, seemed choppy, there were some incredibly beautiful sentences and imagery. The quote used at the beginning of this review, was one that I found to be incredibly beautiful and simple. I adored it.
Milman is an author who I will always be on the lookout for, because I find his writing to be easy to read and stunnng in its easy ability to weave the reader into the world. But I found this book to be lacking somewhat, and I’m sorry if that is offensive I don’t mean to be insulting, but that’s how I feel. Though I loved, and I mean loved, the snippets of LGTQIA+ American history that is scattered throughout and Milman’s writing, the rest of the actual story, the characters, etc., fell flat. For that reason, I would rate Swipe Right For Murder a 3 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it though, if you want an action-packed, fast-paced Young Adult thriller. Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman is out now.
That’s it for tonight friends! Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,
About the Author: Derek Milman
Derek Milman has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, film school
teacher, DJ, and underground humour magazine publisher. A
classically trained actor, he has performed on stages across the
country and appeared in numerous TV shows, commercials, and
films. Derek currently resides in Brooklyn, where he writes full
time. Swipe Right For Murder is his second novel for YA.
I received a free e-book ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest and un-biased review. I also want to express my sincere thanks to Jimmy Patterson Books for reaching out with the opportunity to read and review Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman.