Book Review: 18% Gray by Anne Tenino

18% by Anne TeninoTitle: 18% Gray
Series: Task Force Iota, Book 1
Author: Anne Tenino
Genre: Dystopian, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy from publisher
Published: August 1, 2011 by Dreamspinner Press

In a future where the United States has split along party lines, Agent Matt Tennimore's job is to get people out of the Confederated Red States, whether they're captured special ops agents from his own country or gay CRS citizens who've petitioned for asylum. He never expected to have to retrieve his high school crush, aka the guy who ostracized him for being gay.

Rescuing James Ayala isn't going to be easy: he's crawling with tracking nanos and has a cybernetic brain implant that's granted him psychic power he isn't sure how to control. That's the good news. The bad? The implant is compromising James's mental stability.

So they're on the run, avoiding surveillance by AI aircraft and hiding from enemy militia. Then James confesses he tormented Matt in high school because James wanted him. Matt can't resist the temptation James offers, but he wants so much more than sex, assuming they ever make it home alive. Is James really a good bet when he's got a ticking time bomb in his brain and there's the question of how much he's actually changed?

Reviewed By: J9

In a Nutshell: The set -up is better than the actual execution of both the plot and the romance but may be a decent read if you have the patience.

The Set Up: In the near future the United States has a civil war and splits along political party lines to form Blue and Red States. Matt grew up in the liberal Blue State and since he’s gay that’s a good thing. His high school crush, James, broke his heart with his homophobia but now, seven years later, Matt is asked to rescue James from a Red State gay re-education concentration camp. The men embark upon a trip along the gay underground railroad to the Blue States and James tries to show Matt how sorry he is for how he treated him years before.

Why I Read this Book: Post-apocalyptic dystopian books are my thang and if there’s an MM romance even better!

What I Liked: I am equal parts captivated and scared at the world building that the U.S. could have a civil war based upon political party lines. Of course, this plays into my personal fear of political divisiveness so to read a book where this is reality was a scary wonder for me. I love the set up with state boundaries and how the Red and Blue States formed and how this affects the people who live in each. This imaginative world is both more advanced than our own (nano-technology and medicine) and more primitive (limited commerce, few natural resources and only recycled building material). This is stellar world building with the differences and similarities between Red and Blue States. How Jared’s nano-re-education integrates into this world is interesting and had good promise.

Mixed Success: I liked both Matt and James and their romance but neither characters, nor the romance, wowed me. I like the reunion trope, especially here since James hurt Matt so badly in high school, and I wanted resolution. The adventure plot didn’t leave a lot of time for Matt and James to engage in more than quick sex so the heart-to-heart talks were kept to a minimum and this caused the novel to lack emotional intensity for me. But to be fair, the emotional denouement at novel’s end was more satisfying than what I thought possible given the emotional lead up.

Also, before you ask, the title is explained and was a good explanation but only touched on once. In my opinion if you title a book something it should be a larger part of the story than one mention in passing.

What I Didn’t Like: First, the sheer volume of acronyms used in this novel was nuts. I have a fairly good memory but there were just so many agencies and acronyms for every one and their special divisions that I couldn’t keep them straight.

Second, the journey to the Blue State just took too freakin’ long. It didn’t keep my attention and I felt like a little kid on vacation, “are we there yet?!”.

Third, there were too many secondary characters. Matt has a huge family and most come out of the woods in the final forty pages of the book. I was like, Who? What? How? Forget it…

IMO: The set up for this book was much better than the execution of it and I’m doubtful I’ll continue the series even though I liked the dystopian world.

J9’s Rating:
2 Frogs

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About J9: Vegan. Avid runner. Android addict. Never without a book in hand. Currently devouring MM romance but reads historial romance and paranormal romance as well. Follow J9 on Twitter.


  1. Well that really sucks that it had such a huge set up but didn't pull it off in the emotional department. I really need a good connection between people when they are in a relationship in a book and I'm sad this was lacking.

    Thanks for the great review!

    1. Yeah I had high hopes for this book and I did finish but just was flat. Thanks for stopping in to read the review!


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