The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
The Dangerous Art of Blending In Book Poster Image
Courageous love story told by teen suffering abuse.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In an author's note, Angelo Surmelis relates personal experience growing up in an abusive home, and the way his life parallels that of his protagonist. He provides many links and phone numbers about abuse and bullying, as well as LGBTQ organizations. Some geography of Illinois, as well as what it's like to be raised in Greek culture.

Positive Messages

Homophobia, abuse, and bullying cause deep trauma, but if you get support, you can learn to face the pain and stop hiding. Stand up for those you love, stay true to yourself, and reach out to people you trust for help.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Quinones, Evan's art teacher, is one of the few positive role models in this story and a welcome one. He encourages Evan to give him some sketches for an internship program at a gallery. Mr. Q. admires Evan's strengths and talent, and encourages him to succeed. Also, Henry's mother and sister model acceptance and kindness.


Evan's mother is unrelentingly abusive, and all of the scenes of her physically hurting her son are described in detail. She's also emotionally violent, berating him constantly. There are also scenes of high school boys beating up Evan.


There's a mention of a kiss the summer before, and there are some sweet descriptions of two boys kissing that lead to making out and sex, but with no detailed descriptions of sex.


There's a fair amount of strong language (including "s--t," "d--k," "f--k," "a--hole," "f--ked up") used realistically by Evan and his friends. Bullies at Evan's high school constantly pick on him and call him cruel slurs.


Dunkin' Donuts mentioned often; it's where Evan joins his dad for early morning outings. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of teens drinking at high school parties.   

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dangerous Art of Blending In, by Angelo Surmelis, is a powerful, heartbreaking, coming-of-age novel based on the author's own abusive childhood. Be prepared: This is a tough read, but a worthy one. Although the message is ultimately uplifting, there are heartbreaking scenes of physical and mental abuse, as well as graphic scenes of bullying and homophobia. There's a reference to a same-sex kiss the previous summer and some descriptions of two boys kissing that leads to sex, but no graphic descriptions of sex. Mention of teens drinking at parties, and lots of strong language, including "s--t" and "f--k." In an author's note, Surmelis explains how he coped with being abused by compartmentalizing the different parts of his life, and he offers resources for support to encourage readers to "reach out and show the world who you truly are."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJaclyn S. March 16, 2018
Teen, 17 years old Written byJyjgfcjjgfdjyfdjydt April 18, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byReid9 February 6, 2020

Heart-felt love story

I think this book is a really good read. Although tough to get through sometimes, overall was amazing. I could never put the book down, I read the book almost e... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE DANGEROUS ART OF BLENDING IN begins with 17-year-old Evan Panos, who kissed a boy at Bible camp over the summer, doing everything he can to keep this secret from his Christian mom, a physically and emotionally abusive woman who beats her son. He survives by being silent, but as the beatings become more serious, the abuse is harder to hide. Even with the relief of his art, his secret trips to a monastery, and especially his best friend Henry, Evan still struggles. Henry encourages Evan to see that he deserves better than his mother's violent rage, but will he find a way to escape his abusive home and live the life he deserves?

Is it any good?

This is a beautiful, brave coming-of-age story of survival, love, and coming out, based on the author's own childhood. It's an engrossing read, although the descriptions of Evan's mom beating him are heartbreaking. And when the adults in his community turn a blind eye, it's devastating. The love between Henry and Evan carries this novel, and in the end, even if it's a hard read, it's a must read. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how it felt to read graphic scenes of Evan's mother physically hurting him in The Dangerous Art of Blending In. If you knew Evan, how would you have tried to be his ally?

  • Where can you turn for help if someone is bullying you? Or if you see someone being bullied, how can you stand up to it?

  • How does knowing that The Dangerous Art of Blending In is based on the author's own life affect how you view the novel? What does this story -- and the author's note at the end -- say about finding support, surviving, and overcoming trauma?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and coming-out stories

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