The soapbox was huge in this book. It wasn't that I disagreed with the stuff the characters said while getting on soapboxes but it was just done in a very inelegant way. In the previous books we learned that Tony gets on quite well with the principal of the school he works in and that the principal also has no problems with Tony being openly gay. But at the beginning of this book he is away and we get a deputy principal of the 'I am not homophobic but' variety (which at least is a nice change of the religious 'you will burn in hell'-homophobes that fall out of these books every time you turn the page). This deputy manages to call in a meeting with some parents who question Tony's ability to lead the school's gay-straight-alliance/the necessity of such a club in the first place.
By the time that meeting takes place the actual principal is back again so there is no actual worry of any negative consequences for Tony or the alliance but we still get a long speech about the need for one and the need for a non-straight teacher for it. And by speech I mean 'random pupils and a few parents in favour of it say a couple of sentences each about why it is necessary' (but if you cut out the dialogue-tags it would make a very nice speech...or a leaflet about the necessity of such a group). They talk about closeted kids that were helped in coming out, about how the group helps pupils that are bullied for being gay, about why it is important that they don't need their parent's permission to join, etc. And all these things are true and important but the whole scene is just inserted so sloppily in the flow of the book. I don't know any of the kids that told their stories in that scene, they never appeared before (except perhaps as a mention in a side-clause) so I'm not really moved by these stories. I mean I am moved by the fact that there are still parents out their who won't accept their children if they're gay but that's not a new fact that this book only just told me. The series did have instances were it went 'homophobia is bad, also here are the consequences of homophobia for actual people you have gotten to know and care about' but this isn't one of them. This is 'here's a leaflet about how bad homophobia is with 'Kate said' and 'Tom said' inserted in random places.
And I'm still torn how to feel about this because as said, these are still sad and true facts, and I am very glad that m/m-romances discuss the topic...but this one didn't do it very well.
Now the book in general was...OK. A bit better than OK but not great either. I still enjoy the characters, Ben (and especially Anna) were less annoying than in the previous one but I simply might not be made for this sort of domestic fluff with My Little Pony-themed birthday-parties and discussions on who fetches the kids from school. I mean I am grateful that Kaje Harper doesn't go down the idiotic-missunderstanding-as-source-of -conflict route. On the downside that means she takes the let's-add-more-angst one and I swear I never thought I'd ever consider more angst as a downside because I love angst a lot. Harper also deserves lots of kudos for acknowledging that even with supportive surroundings some things simply take some time to process and some scars will always remain. The characters have realistic reactions to traumatic events in their lives. It's just that a lot of traumatic events are beginning to pile up and while taking each single one alone the reactions are realistic but I'd expect something else from a single person who has to deal with all this stuff...
Perhaps this series has just run it's course for me. I'm not sure if there will be another book (it doesn't exactly leave open questions but a few directions in which it still can go) but if there will be I'm not sure if I'll buy it.