Review: Kitten by Jack Harbon

Quick note to say I received this book as an ARC from the Author! Kitten will be available on Amazon May 20th, 2019 and you can pre-order it here.

If you’ve read my writing before, than you know my general mandate in life is “Make it Queerer and Browner” because as a kid I never saw people like me in the things I was reading. Particularly queer and brown stories that had happy endings. So it won’t be any surprise to you that I really enjoy romances with queer and brown people taking center stage. Kitten by Jack Harbon is exactly up my alley.

Non-spoiler description: Kenneth “Kit” Bayer is going through a rough time. He’s recently graduated from college, gotten out of a bad relationship and staying with his big sis in NYC. When his sister finally pushes him to get a job he ends up at Yellow Fall, an ad agency with a less than sparkling reputation. Kit becomes assistant to Roman Li, total asshole, control freak, and it quickly becomes difficult for Kit decide if he hates Roman or if he’s attracted to him. As you might have guessed from the genre Kit and Roman get together but not without a ton of drama and heartbreak along the way.

Before I get into spoilers I want to say that I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It is melodramatic (soap opera vibes all up and through), funny, young and sweet. It’s got a bit of age difference (Roman and Kit aren’t crazy far apart in age but its there) and while there is some sex, this is more about Roman and Kit’s sweet relationship.

Almost as much, if not even more than Kit and Roman’s relationship, I loved Kit’s relationship with his sister, Bria, and also his best friend, Chad. Now maybe I love this because as a queer kid I love the idea of these relationships being so central to him and Harbon’s realistic portrayal of black families but mostly I think it’s because Kit has the kind of relationships I wish I had and loved seeing all of the inside jokes and care between the characters.

Now that being said, if you don’t want to get into spoilers, I’ll say: if you don’t love drama, or if Gen Y lingo is going to throw you way off, then this may not be the novel for you. It’s high emotion and drama which to me was fun but might feel a little one-note for some. There are also a lot of subplots in this story, they are easy to follow but if you’re looking for something simple, this isn’t it.

Alright…Let’s get into these spoilers!

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Spoilers ahead

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Turn back now if you don’t want to read any spoilers….

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Alright. Let’s get spoilery! I mentioned above there are quite a few subplots, let’s dive into those.

Subplot 1: Someone is stealing from Yellow Fall. This is a pretty major one! Kit gets his job at Yellow Fall and when someone begins to steal from the company he’s of course the first person that they look at, though as a reader we know Kit has nothing to do with it. Though it’s a pretty key subplot it does feel like it’s not as high on Kit’s priority list of things to worry about. That ends up being to his downfall, Kit is fired from Yellow Fall because the real thief framed him and he ends up losing Roman in the process. We’ll circle back to who the actual culprit is in a second.

Subplot 2: Kit’s relationship with his parents. Its perhaps no surprise to black queer people that Kit’s parents have an issue with both their children being queer. Bria and Kit have left home and live together, making their own family and not looking back…until their mother shows up begging to come back into their lives. Kit is rightfully skeptical but it becomes clear that she’s in it for the right reasons. The same cannot be said for Kit and Bria’s father who comes with an agenda. I think this subplot feels really realistic and though painful, an interesting side jag from Kit’s relationship with Roman. If I’m being honest though, this one feels like the one plot that could go away easily and I wouldn’t notice.

Subplot 3: Kit’s becoming a professional. I thought this was great and not generally a struggle we get to witness in novels. Kit is having to tone down some of his extraness in order to fit into the workplace and that’s very realistic. The part that isn’t so realistic is the things that Roman let’s Kit getaway with. There are quite a few times when Kit’s smart mouth would get him fired but I suppose that’s the benefit of having a boo who is also your boss.

Subplot 4: Kit’s friendship with his bestie Chad and new friend Michelle. This is pretty key. Kit’s in a new moment in his life, he’s starting work and that means all the free time and party time he had is disappearing. So it’s not a shock that Kit is happy that Chad and Michelle get into a relationship. He’s happy his friend is happy and he likes the new girl: she’s sweet, kind and thoughtful. Or so we think. Eventually we find out that Michelle is actually Sadie, Roman’s former assistant and controlling ex. Now this subplot is pretty key because Sadie is actually the one who’s stealing from Yellow Fall in a very complicated revenge plot toward Roman.

I mentioned above, if the drama isn’t for you then this is going to be difficult for you to get past. I didn’t mind this major plot twist (I thought the thief was literally everybody but Michelle/Sadie) but I also wasn’t sure it was earned. We don’t find out about Roman’s past relationship (that he is apparently scarred from) until after Roman and Kit break up because he believes Kit is stealing from Yellow Fall. Then we find out she’s actually his former assistant after Kit realizes that the thief is Michelle/Sadie. These links feel a little too convenient and like there wasn’t enough set up for them. But friends, as I said, the high soap opera level of drama allowed me to accept this information but if definitely stood out for me.

As if that’s not enough, Michelle/Sadie tries to act like she’s pregnant in order to get sympathy, telling them she’s pregnant with Chad’s baby. It’s a lot.

Ultimately, I found this book a ton of fun to read and the high drama is part of that. I also loved the language in the book, all the cultural references were a ton of fun and as I said, I liked the relationships in this book. If you, like me, love drama and brown queer love then you’ll want to sit down with a glass of wine and enjoy Kitten.

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