Boys Come First by Aaron Foley

Boys Come First is a novel about three thirtysomething Black gay friends from Detroit, trying to get their lives on track. Dominick has just moved back to Detroit from New York City, after losing his job and longtime boyfriend at the same time, and he’s keen to catch up with his best friend Troy, a teacher whose school is under threat and whose boyfriend is more work than he should be. Troy introduces Dominick to Remy, his other best friend, a hotshot estate agent caught between men who won’t commit, and the three of them become firm friends as they try to sort out their love and work lives.

I was drawn in by the cover of this book, which really emphasises the friendship that is at its heart with a beautiful design, and it was definitely worth it. The chapters move between the perspectives of the three protagonists, bringing a lot of backstory and detail as you see them navigating love, sex, and work, all whilst thinking about what Detroit means to them against the backdrop of gentrification and the loss of Black history and culture in the city. It is packed full of location detail (it’s one of those books where the city is basically another character), but also a lot about the different characters and their drama. 

At its heart, the book is about three friends trying to come out of their thirties where they want to be, and it has an uplifting ending (and a few good ‘uh oh’ moments of drama) that also shows that friends really are vital. It feels like it would make a great TV show, adapted to keep the messy drama but also the comedy, as it has the character focus that comes with a lot of witty, modern TV looking at millennial lives.

Covering race, sexuality, family, gentrification, and a whole host of other things in a witty, modern way, Boys Come First is a novel that plunges you into the protagonists’ lives, packed with observations and harsh truths. One for people who like books that feel like the drama from the group chat, but with social commentary too.