Bloom offers a solid, inclusive romance about boys, baking, and a band, but one that also could have been improved with a few more pages.
Bloom tells the story of Ari, a teen who feels trapped in his parent’s bakery. While he wants to move to the big city with his friends (and pursue his dreams of creating music), his family needs him there. And so, in a desperate effort to find someone else that can take his place, he posts fliers to advertise an opening at the bakery and meets culinary student Hector.
While the story’s core thrust is Ari and Hector’s slow development from work colleagues, to friends, to more, I’d almost say it’s through their friends the story develops. Some of Ari’s friends and bandmates aren’t the most supportive of people, and their negativity and desire to blame Ari for failing to escape his bakery serve as an excellent foil to Hector (as well as Ari’s actual friends in the band). In many ways, the story is more about Ari learning the difference between toxic friends and real ones as much as it is him discovering what he wants from life and what his relationship is with Hector.
Not that Ari is always the most perfect person either – but while our protagonist sometimes makes bad life choices, they’re never arbitrary. Ari’s actions always feel normal within the context of his character, and how sometimes people act under stress. We’re not always our best selves, and we’re not always good at identifying who really is in our corner, and Bloom tackles that well.
My one issue with Bloom is, of all things, length. It’s 350 pages and despite the book’s heft it feels like scenes are missing. The first time this happened was early on. Ari’s not so great friends swing by the bakery on Hector’s first day, and one makes the comment “oh, is the big dumb boy scout helping today,” and, when chided, the person responds, “that’s what you called him.”
We never see who made make this comment (when I first read the line, I thought for sure Ari said it, but on a second glance it’s not 100% clear), but even without knowing, the structure bothered me. The only interaction we’ve seen Ari have with Hector is what looks like a 5-minute conversation when Hector offers to work at the bakery and Ari tells him to show up the next day. We as readers can guess that Ari hung out with his friends, and can maybe picture he said “I found some sucker to take my place at the bakery,” but the fact that it’s left as an exercise to the reader didn’t sit well with me (and had me flipping back pages to see if I missed something). This feeling hit me several times when I was reading – I felt certain moments and actions were glossed over, when they would have been better served by the story slowing down and expanding on them.
To be clear, I recommend the book. The art is fantastic (the monochrome off-color green really worked for me), Hector is delightful, Ari grew on me, and their story is certainly worth reading. It’s a good book, and in a space where there aren’t that many queer romances, Bloom excels at delivering a solid story.
I just wish it was longer.