New Release: Option Four by Jon Eliot Keane

Title: Option Four
Author: Jon Eliot Keane
Language: English
Published: 25th May, 2017
Length: 57,500 words (198 pages) approx.
ISBN: Paperback ISBN: 978 1 78645 126 2
eBook ISBN: 978 1 78645 127 9
Category: Fiction
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Drama, Romance and Relationships, Contemporary Fiction

It's 1997, and seventeen-year-old Donn Carhart wants to come out. There are four ways it could go: reject, tolerate, accept, or they'll say 'me too!'

But his parents don't like gay people, and he doesn't know any other gay kids.

After meeting Alex, an openly gay transfer student, and learning a little bit about gay history in the United States, Donn starts the Acceptance Project club at school. The club is about addressing discrimination, and it draws a lot of student members, including Thad - the most popular guy in his class, who just so happens to be Donn's crush.

After Donn comes out, a group of parents try to shut it down as a 'gay club' - a danger to their children and the community. With his family, community, and classmates pushing back on his decisions, will Donn push forward or will he opt out?


Editor's Review:
As a preamble, I'm going to explain the difficulty of getting a book like Option Four to the right audience.

1. It's contemporary fiction.
Except it's not quite contemporary, because it's set in 1997. Now, whilst that's not so long ago, in the fight for LGBT+ rights and equality, an awful lot has happened during the past twenty years, which is why stories like Option Four1. are so important. However, the BIC book categories2. currently list 'modern and contemporary fiction' as 'post-1945', so contemporary fiction it is.

2. It's LGBT+.
BIC has NO LGBT categories at all. It does, however, have a 'qualifier': 'of specific Gay and Lesbian interest'.
BISAC3. does have several LGBT categories (fiction/romance - general/gay/lesbian; young adult fiction/romance).
Amazon4. has the categories: fiction - gay or lesbian; romance - gay or lesbian; juvenile fiction - LGBT.
Smashwords5. has the categories: young adult or ten - gay & lesbian; gay & lesbian fiction - gay/lesbian.

On this occasion, the main character does identify as gay, but these categories are next to useless when it comes to listing LGBTQIA books that are NOT gay or lesbian (i.e. bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc.)

3. It's young adult (YA).
As the points above indicate, there is variation in how YA LGBT+ fiction is listed. Does Amazon's 'juvenile fiction' extend to 'young adult'?

3. It's fiction with romance.
This is the trickiest issue of all, because, on the one hand, there are those readers/authors who see 'romance' in the narrow sense defined by the RWA6., and they're disappointed when they buy a book categorised as romance only to find it's not what they were expecting. On the other, Option Four does have a significant romance story arc, but it's not the central story arc. Thus, fans of romance will likely enjoy the novel immensely, but it isn't categorised as a romance.


So, to my review.

What readers might notice first is how incredibly well crafted this novel is. Indeed, several of those who read Option Four during the publishing process asked the same question:

Is this really Jon Eliot Keane's first novel?

This isn't necessarily to assume that all first novels are bad, or even not that great, but they often have a rawness, a feeling of newness, and a slight sense of uncertainty that wears off as the author's confidence grows.

Jon Eliot Keane writes with confidence, giving the feel of a seasoned author with a few previous works under his belt, perhaps, in part, because he did what all authors should do: sought feedback from other authors and let the story mature a little before casting it out into the publishing pond.

That confidence transfers to us readers and confers trust in the author to guide us through the story, which is crucial to a story like Option Four.

Told from a first-person perspective, the story is written in continuous prose (i.e. it's written like a novel, in titled chapters) but it takes the form of the journal entries of the main character:
My name is Donner Charles Carhart.
Sometimes, in my more cynical moments, I wonder what possessed my parents to name me that. I mean, Donner's a great name, sure - for a reindeer.
These 'asides' provide sometimes humorous, always poignant insights into the events that unfold in the story, which centres on Donn's 'coming out / coming of age':

Ready for a shock?
Brace yourself. Okay. I'm going to write it down now. First time in my life I'll have ever written this down.
Writing it down makes it real.
That may be why I haven't written it down yet. I've been sitting here with the pen hovering over the paper for five minutes, gearing up for it.
Okay. Here goes.
I think I'm gay.
Well, actually, I'm pretty sure I'm gay.
There's some margin for maybe in there. I had a girlfriend once, but she came out as a lesbian about three months after we broke up, so I'm not sure that that counts. I mean, if she was a lesbian when we were dating, then were we really dating?
I suppose it doesn't matter.
Through his journal entries, Donn shares with us readers his thoughts and feelings about significant moments, his crush, his boyfriend, his friends, his parents, school tests, and so on. But what drives this story is Donn's search for acceptance - from his peers, his parents, the school and the community as a whole. He's pragmatic and confident; he sees a problem and comes up with a solution.

Donn's decision to set up 'The Acceptance Project' - an in-school club for tackling all forms of discrimination - is driven by this pragmatism, which is awesome, but it's also at the heart of many of the interpersonal challenges he faces. He's a flawed narrator, a young guy just starting to deal with the 'big stuff' of life and not always getting it right.

Option Four is a young-adult novel, written with young-adult readers as the intended audience, but it's a novel that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, LGBT+ or otherwise. Adolescence is an experience we all share, and there are many moments in this story that will strike a familiar chord for most of us, but there are also the unique insights into what it was like to be seventeen and gay in 1997.


1. Beaten Track has a number of current and upcoming titles that are 'contemporary/historical', all crucial to ensuring that the struggle towards LGBT+ equality - how far we've come - isn't forgotten:
2. As a UK-based publisher, the BIC system is used to categorise Beaten Track's printed books.
3. BISAC is used by GooglePlay.
4. Amazon categories are used for Kindle ebooks. However, once the books are listed on the various Amazon websites, they also take into account the BISAC and BIC categories (depending on location).
5. Smashwords categories are used for our wider ebook distribution to iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Scribd etc.
6. According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), "Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."