Having just finished this, I must say that I'm sort of speechless. I'm not exactly sure what to say about this book. However, it's been a long time since I've felt the desire to stick with a story in one go and even longer since I've finished a book this long (82k+) in only a day.
With that said, there are a lot of warnings that should come with this book. For one, there is no romance in this one. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to even call it a gay novel because the main character is more asexual than anything. There are 'suggestions' and 'impressions' that this could turn into a gay romance but that could also be taken as the MCs just getting violent. But to those readers thinking they're picking up a young adult, new adult, whatever you want to call it, romance, you'll be sadly disappointed.
That out of the way, I'm extremely glad I read this. It might not be romance or m/m but I adored the characters and the journey I took with them. They're intense to say the least, psychotic and likely to fly off the handle bars but there was something about them that made me want to continue reading and find out where things were going. While I wouldn't say there's a huge cast of characters, there are more than the typical couple and a few side characters. The main contenders here are three guys: Neil, Andrew and Kevin. Neil is an asexual (kinda) who just wants to play Exy (which is like a sport that mixes lacrosse and ice hockey). He's a frightened kid but knows how crucial it is to lie low for fear of his father discovering where he is. Kevin is difficult to explain. He's mean and criticizes everything about Neil but at the same time, he's this lost soul who's been dealt just as crappy a hand as Neil has. Andrew is... psychotic. It's the only way to describe him. I don't understand how he became this way but he's got nothing to lose and he acts on that. He's five foot nothing but he's not afraid of staring down giants. He's amazing but scary and willing to keep everyone who he deems 'family' safe and right now that is Kevin.
The story follows Neil along as he gets accustomed to living in such an open place and playing the sport he loves. Immediately he has issues with Andrew and his gang (who are Neil's teammates) that makes his life difficult but he loves Exy enough to put up with the hostility from everyone. It's about the trials that Neil has to go through, the panic and fear he always has about being found out and being hunted again and the consequences he has to deal with when he makes his decisions regarding whether to stay or to run.
The only thing I didn't like about this book (aside from the lack of m/m romance, of course!) was how confused I was at times. The beginning will be hard to get through for some people because you're left wondering what is going on. You don't get the full back story for Neil or Kevin or even Andrew that really makes sense until well into the book so you're left wondering and probably saying WTF multiple times.
I feel that I should warn readers that this isn't exactly about the mafia either. While there's an undertone of it and even the threat of a yakuza pride descending on Neil and Kevin, it's not actually shown or very prominent in the story. Given that, I didn't much mind this because I felt like the whole book was focusing on second chances and Neil finally living a life, finding a home and standing up to his past. To do that, he needs Andrew and Andrew is willing to help him because of Kevin. It sort of seems like a love triangle but, like I said, this isn't romance. It is more of a bonding between these characters over a common issue.
To be honest, it's hard to explain this whole book because so much happens and is revealed that would spoiler the whole story if told. So, I'm going to leave it here. I enjoyed the novel. It has its issues but I found the whole thing fascinating and couldn't put the book down once I started. I liked that it wasn't saturated in sex but focused on such broken, and in Andrew's case, frightening characters. These characters are misfits, pure and simple and their attitudes and aggressions show that. It's a book of deceit, loyalty, dangerous situations and trust. It's not your traditional story but a gripping tale nonetheless and I'm really looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here and seriously how there's some m/m romance in the near future for Neil and Andrew!!