“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.” ~ Jeannette Walls
If Brent Kenson and Robbie Kowalski, of 'Sire' by Kate Pavelle, had not been assigned to work together as lab partners, they might have never gotten together. They have been admiring each other from “afar” but neither has the nerve to approach the other. They seem like an unusual pair. Robbie is athletic, huge, and clumsy, while Brent rides horses and is lean and graceful. Brent's family is wealthy, while Robbie comes from a middle class family. Being “forced” together gives them the opening they needed to get to know each other better.
Brent's Uncle Atilla and his partner, Kai, own a stable and Brent's favorite thing to do is to be there, where he's learning the horse business. He's an accomplished, competitive rider. He helps teach classes and frequently performs in shows. Brent wants this to be his career, but his father, Tibor, has other ideas. He and Brent's mom are both lawyers and Tibor expects Brent to follow in his footsteps. It's a bone of contention that's caused many arguments between them. As his relationship with Robbie grows, then blossoms into romance, Brent realizes that he is gay. With his father already on edge about his choice of careers and anxiety over a dark secret he overheard concerning his dad, Brent is terrified that learning he is gay will be the last straw; fearing it will shatter their tenuous relationship forever. Brent won't talk to anyone, not even Kai, who strongly senses something is up and especially not Robbie. Confused, Brent decides to break up with Robbie before it goes any further, makes it even harder for Robbie. Feeling like he has no choice, that nothing is ever going to change, Brent begins to prepare for the end.
Robbie is euphoric when he spends time with Brent. When he goes to Brent's house for their tutoring session, Robbie is overwhelmed by the size of his house and the apparent affluence of Brent's family. Brent's family is polite, but doesn't exactly greet him with open arms. Robbie's family, on the other hand, is very welcoming when they meet Brent. Robbie's family know that he's gay and it's fine with them. Robbie works with his father's carpentry business; he loves working with his hands and would like to make a career of carpentry some day. Brent wants to share his love of horses with Robbie who has never been around them. When Brent takes Robbie out to the stables and teaches him how to do what's required, he catches on to the routine quickly and is soon comfortable around the horses. When Brent breaks up with Robbie, for no good reason that he can see, Robbie is hurt; he hopes it's just a temporary setback, but when Brent completely withdraws, Robbie has to admit that he's wrong. Seeing Brent at school is absolute torture, but Robbie doesn't know what else to do besides leave him alone.
Our teenage years should be a time of life when everything is simple, but they are often over complicated by a teen's undeveloped self-confidence, overthinking everything, peer and parental pressure. Their decision-making skills are not well formed yet, so when things seem overwhelming, their conclusions are not always sound. Brent decides that killing himself is the only way to stop his pain, but he doesn't stop to consider what it would do to those he would leave behind. To further complicate things, Brent is mentally ill; he suffers from depression but those around him didn't recognize it until it was almost too late. People need to be made more aware of these debilitating diseases and recognize the signs so they can help those who suffer from mental illness, because the more they know, the more they might be able to help. Thanks, Kate, for raising awareness and tackling the often taboo subject of suicide.