- Dakar Kopec
Broken Boys, Beyond Friendships
I recently published a fiction novel titled Broken Boys, Beyond Friendships, which has a different writing style from my well-established nonfiction work. I wrote this book because I felt like I needed a break from my usual by telling the stories of young gay men who have a hard time understanding their thoughts and feelings or rectifying the discrimination, sexism, and ostracization from family and friends. While many young gay men are bullied relentlessly, others may "pass" because they're comfortable with the traditionally defined male role, sans attraction to females. However, these men still do not escape the confusion of being sexually attracted to someone of the same gender. Furthermore, these guys often confuse admiration with attraction, feel additional pressures from their peers to conform, and have very little affiliations by way of social programs or role models. Hence, role identity and feelings of confusion become the pervasive demons to be rectified in isolation and silence.
During my time in school, I had four roommates. Only two of us survived beyond our 30's - a 50% survival rate. Additionally, I had to bartend in West Hollywood to pay for school. I saw first-hand the toxic concoction of a past filled with pain, confusion, and doubt mixed with present hopes, dreams, and fantasies of being validated. We all want to feel important and have a purpose. For whatever reason, those who are different than others often feel insignificant and may need to find meaning in their lives. Hollywood's false promise of fame and fortune often seems the perfect remedy to fill this emotional void. Isn't this why many flock to California or New York? There is a perception of acceptance in Hollywood since we often see differences on big screens. The fantasy of returning for one's class reunion in a limo to say, "See, I do matter," is ubiquitous for many who have been hurt or wronged during their youth. Ha! I did it my way!
Broken Boys, Beyond Friendships, is a story of young people trying to reconcile their feelings when facing who they are. As the euphemism says, the sun shines most brightly after the darkest storm. In this book, we see the pain and suffering incurred during Blake's youth leave a hole in his self-esteem, the rejection of Dillon by his family because of his attraction to other men, and the pain of Logan, the man who has it all except for the one thing he wants the most. Like young women, men are often taken advantage of and coerced to do things they would not normally do. As a result, they end up in gangs, in the sex trade, or remove themselves from society. However, unlike women, prevailing sexist attitudes tell men they are supposed to be strong and independent and not need social support. As a result, they may have the impression that receiving help would mean they accept victimhood, which contradicts their prescribed gender role that demands strength and stoicism when faced with adversity.
Read Broken Boys, Beyond Friendships, to better understand how males explore their identities and the role females play in their exploration. Here is an unbiased review and beautiful overview from Brenda Creech, a woman I have never met, spoken to, or had any contact with at any time in my life:
Broken Boys Beyond Friendships by Dak Kopek [sic] is an emotionally charged novel about a fifty-three-year-old man reliving his past regrets. A longtime friend asked to visit Blake Roberts to ask for a critical favor. Blake agrees but is apprehensive as he presses the buzzer to open the gate to his driveway. He had not seen Ivy Vandermark for years, although she was his best friend's sister. Ivy had come to ask Blake if her daughter could come and stay with him and interview him for a book since she wanted to write to tell Blake's story. There were things in Blake's past that hurt many people, especially the Vandermark family. His best friend, Logan Vandermark's family, had taken Blake in and treated him like one of their own, and now Jillian, Ivy's daughter, wanted to write his story. Blake questioned if he should bring it all up again. The entire Vandermark family had risked everything to help Blake during his worst times, so he finally agreed, and a couple of months later, Jillian arrived. As Blake relived his past, all the shame, agony, and hurt returned to the surface. Jillian wasn't judgmental [sic], and Blake and Jillian formed a bond. They laughed together at some memories, and when Blake became emotional, he saw tears running down Jillian's face. What about Blake's life made Jillian want to tell his story? Why was Blake willing to relive his painful past for Jillian, someone he had never met before? The reason will shock you. This captivating novel by Dak Kopek [sic] pulls at the deepest emotions of the reader. Some events in Blake's life shocked me. I laughed at many of Blake's and Logan's antics in high school and beyond, and I cried when the emotions overwhelmed me. Kopek's writing style was simple to follow, and he has a knack for making the reader feel like they are part of the story. That is the aspect of this book I liked best. The characters became real, and Blake's story broke my heart. I will remember this book for a long time. There were a few things I didn't like about the book. It is in the romance genre, which I always enjoy reading, but it isn't the classic romance I am used to. However, the reader quickly gets pulled into the story and feels compassion for the characters. My least favorite characters were Eden and Diebold, Blake's agent. I can't say I liked the way they treated Blake and Dillion. I can't say more without revealing a spoiler. The editing was professional, as I only found a few errors. The storyline was enthralling, and the characters were perfect for their roles. I found myself engrossed in the emotions of the book and surprised by a bombshell ending I would never have expected. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will watch for other books by Dak Kopek [sic]. I am rating this book 5 out of 5 stars for all the reasons just stated. Although there was a lull, as mentioned above, I didn't find any reason to deduct a star. I recommend this book to mature readers over the age of eighteen because there is some profanity and strong sexual innuendos. The book may be offensive to some readers of various religious affiliations.
I have embraced this review because I believe Ms. Creech truly understood what I wanted to convey with my characters, Blake, Dillon, Logan, and Eden. Because I was stepping out of my usual writing, I am still insecure about my work as I am getting to know my vulnerability better. Additionally, Ms. Creech affirmed my intended goal and my confusion of categorizing this "kind-of coming-of-age," "kind-of romance," and one hundred percent drama story. As someone who prefers honesty and transparency, I live in a world of grey, and categorizing something as black or white is tough for me.
You be the judge. Please tell me how you would classify this book after you read Broken Boys, Beyond Friendships.Will you recommend the book to someone else?