Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Review by Emily-Anne Mikos

Page Street Publishing Co., MacMillan Publishers, May 2019

388 pages, hardcover, $17.99 USD, 978-1-533-62414-735-7

Ages 13-18, Grades 9-12

Young Adult, Contemporary Realism, LGBTQ+

I smile until it hurts and when Cam notices, he grins, too. “What is it?”

“This is just…” I trail off, shaking my head.

“How do you feel now?” he asks me. His words are softer now. “Still like you’re on drugs?”

I let myself sink back into the feeling of floating. Simplicity. Riding the wave of euphoria, less intense now but just as powerful because maybe it can stay like this. Maybe I can feel like this again now that I know what it’s like. Maybe I can start hanging out with Cam, and maybe we’ll do this again. God, I hope we do.

Sic itur ad astra.

“I feel like myself,” I finally tell him.

Beside me, my new friend smiles at the sky.

Deposing Nathan is a novel that reads like a secret: special, emotional, and powerful. As we learn more about Nate and Cam’s intertwined and complicated story, we fall deeper and deeper into their secrets, until all we can do is keep turning page after page. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down.

In Zach Smedley’s truthful portrayal of two young boys navigating school, family, and love, we are given a real look into how complicated life can become if we aren’t honest with ourselves. When sixteen-year-old Nate first meets Cam, he doesn’t think he needs him. Nate has his girlfriend, his dad, his aunt, and God looking after him. Yet quickly the two boys develop a powerful bond, sharing secrets and helping each other in ways no one ever has before. And then, almost a year later, Nate is stabbed and Cam’s the one going to jail for the crime. The story follows Nate as he tells his side of the story during the deposition, revealing how they became friends, and how their strong relationship slowly deteriorated into that of hate.  

Deposing Nathan has real, believable characters that aren’t the clear-cut characters that commonly found in YA. Nate is the good religious kid who can do no wrong, yet as we get to know him more throughout the story we realize he isn’t as perfect as he wants to be. We see Nate struggle with new sides of himself that Cam helps him discover, and in doing so he begins to foster a strong resentment towards Cam. Similarly, with Cam, right off the bat we see him as an obnoxious, annoying kid with no manners. But as we learn in Nate’s deposition, he isn’t as unbreakable as we expect him to be. Even the side characters have a level of dimension that brings the reader further into the story, like Nate’s girlfriend Aria and her anxiety. Although it isn’t a main focus, Aria’s anxiety is always present in the story, and something that the characters understand and help her with throughout the novel. The level of believability that these young characters possess makes them easy to relate to and builds a strong bond between the characters and the reader. Even when Nate begins to spiral and starts to treat Cam terribly with no explanation, we still are with Nate on his journey. The author is able to build empathy for Nate despite the awful things he does, showing the reader that deep down, this isn’t the person Nate wants to be. Even when Nate tells himself otherwise.

As Nate continues to try to deny his own story, it’s Cam that pushes him to tell the truth, and not hide who he is from anyone. As an LGBTQ+ narrative, Cam and Nate deal with their newly realized sexuality in vastly different ways. Cam embraces who he is the second he knows, coming out to his parents and his school, even if it means dealing with bullying and ridicule. Nate does everything he can to avoid his feelings, going so far as to hurt everyone who cares about him in order to hide the reality. With Nate unable to accept his sexuality, his friendship with Cam soon becomes a tool for mutually assured destruction, and neither boy knows how to handle the impact.

Deposing Nathan is heartbreaking in all the right ways. I cannot recommend it highly enough to any reader who is looking for a story about real characters navigating their way through identity and love. Don’t miss out on reading it.  

Emily-Anne Mikos is a graduating student from the UBC creative writing program. She is currently working on her own novel and plans to continue writing stories about women without saviour complexes. She has decidedly abandoned real life for fictional worlds where bees are still thriving. #Savethebees.

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