This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 4 stars! Riveting, thought-provoking, and educational as only Mr. Wake knows how to do, Bad Boy hit a lot of high points for me. I first fell in love with Wake’s writings in his previous works penned under his former name Leah Raeder (you can find my review of Black Iris and Cam Girl here and here), and this novel only proved that I will continue to have a vested interest in any new words he releases.

♥ Review: To be perfectly honest, if I tried to write a review for this book, it’d likely sounds very similar to those I wrote for Black Iris and Cam Girl, seeing as Wake brought back familiar characters and set them in a world we’re familiar with and he wrote it in that viciously lush prose that we’re so accustomed to from him at this point. I think the note attached to my ARC copy from the Senior Editor at Atria, Sarah Cantin, best expressed my thoughts on this book, Wake as a writer, and how open he is with this period in his life with the public, better than I could ever hope to do.

     “In Bad Boy, Elliot has crafted a dark, sexy psychological suspense that speaks to the unique experiences, pleasures, and challenges of being a trans man. On the surface, this a novel about a social vigilante group, the moral quandaries of bashing back, and what happens when two damaged people fall in love and become stronger together. But the story beneath that story is even more captivating: that of an author carving his way into a new emotional and psychological space, and writing himself into a new life–the life he was always meant to have.
     I’m incredibly proud of Elliot for breaking new ground with this story. More importantly, I’m grateful to him for pushing me, as his editor, to constantly question my own internalized assumptions about gender and sexuality, and to read–and live–with an open mind and heart.”

For the book itself, I can say that there’s so many layers to this book and varying plot threads that keep your attention diverted in every single direction at any given moment. There’s the story of Ren’s transition from female to male and all the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful high and low points that can come with it. There’s his backstory that bleeds vengeance into his present life. There’s the whole degree of suspense revolving around Black Iris and its vigilante occupants doling out their brand of justice to the predators who deserve it. There’s also a twisted storyline about Ren and his previous best friend/ex-lover/roommate and the toxicity/dependency that’s still brewing between them. Then on top of all of that is a wicked hot new romance. Yes, there’s a lot happening in this book. While I myself didn’t have too much difficulty keeping up with everything that was going on, I can see why others might would get a bit flummoxed or frustrated with that much depth and so many layers. However, like usual, Wake masterfully wove his web of threads until the exact moment when it would lay the perfect trap for his readers and we’d become completely ensnared. (Though, I must be getting better at reading between the lines because I totally had the “bad guy” pegged long before the big reveal.) I won’t go into detail beyond that to avoid spoiling it for anyone, but I will say that I really, really enjoyed the ending. Like, hugged my kindle to my chest levels of adored it.

But engaging plot and graphic, rich prose aside, I think the most important reason people should read Wake’s work is because of the conversations he starts. I feel like my world broadens with each of his novels, and I’m able to get a firsthand viewpoint of a person with experiences and walks of life so outside my own every single time. But more than that, I feel like reading his work helps me to become a better person; they guide me to better understand the struggles and the victories of my fellow person. I sincerely hope that he continues to provide influential books with important storylines like the ones within these companion novels because I’m not finished learning and growing, and his writing is integral to both.

♥ Teaser Quote: Oh boy, which to choose? I always struggle with what quote to pull from his books because I seriously highlight so many. I think I’ll tease with the romance since I didn’t go into too much detail with it. The cat and mouse game between these two was an intense slow-burn and a sensational one at that.

    “You’re new here. I’m Ren.”
    No reaction.
    “The Ren. From YouTube.”
    “Is this the part where I’m starstruck?”
    “I saw how you looked at me.”
    “Same as I look at any pretty boy.” Her smile had a cutting quality, slicing my insides to ribbons. “So, Ren from YouTube, are you going to play?”
    “We’re already playing.” My voice was all grit. “And I don’t like your game.”
    As I turned to go, fingertips grazed my forearm. The hair there stirred.
    “Be fair. You’ve charmed me with that lovely face and these exquisite arms. Allow me to return the favor.”
    This was starting to feel like one big mind-trip.
    “Do I get your name?” I said.
    “Call me Cressida. Cress, if you like.”
    Chaucer flickered through my head. No calling her bluff–the names we give ourselves are the truest ones. Even when they’re lies.
    “Cress,” I said, “you seem like trouble.”
    “Good thing you like bad girls.”
    “They’re my Kryptonite.”
    “Does that make you Superman.”
    “It makes me a stupid boy.”

– quote taken from the eARC of Bad Boy at 8%

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels
Angst Me So Good

♥ Rec It? Yes! I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I think Wake continues to provides novels that speak for those that don’t often find their voices represented in novels, though I’ve definitely sensed the pendulum swinging more for diversity and LGBTQIAP+ representation lately, and that’s likely because of authors like Wake who continue to push boundaries and demand their voices and readers like them be heard.

♥ A very special thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.

*Disclaimer: An e-copy of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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