Colors – Russell J. Sanders

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“We may be two screwed up messes, but at least we’ve got each other.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. So, here’s the thing with this one: it’s not actually a romance. There is definitely romance in it, but it’s not the main plot of the story. The dilemma of who Neil will end up with is pretty much an afterthought compared to, what I think is, the actual plot: Neil dealing with the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Really, everything relating to the abuse are the better parts of the book. Mostly they’re definitely the better written parts. There’s so much emotion put into those parts, from horror to worry to guilt to anger to determination to triumph, that’s mostly missing from other parts of the book. And even when the scenes aren’t directly addressing the abuse, the lingering effects are still present in Neil’s day-to-day behaviour and they were pretty consistent. Honestly, I don’t feel like we got adequate closure with that storyline, but it really is the best part of the book for me. (Though I want to note that the book’s summary makes no mention of the abuse, but that is literally happening in the very first scene, so be careful with that.) The parts of the book I wasn’t especially crazy about revolved around relationship drama (with Neil’s girlfriend and the new boy at school that Neil suddenly has a crush on) and a lot about theatre productions that is probably only interesting to people who are actually into theatre and would understand all the references and in-jokes. Honestly though, I was mostly all set to not like this book because the first half had a lot of annoying dialogue and theatre nonsense, but the second half really blew me away.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) High school senior Neil Darrien is a budding musical theater star. He has it all-a beautiful girlfriend, a scholarship at a prestigious school, and plenty of chances to showcase his talent. But when Zane Jeffrey comes to town and immediately lands a spot in the school show choir, Neil is jealous. What Neil didn’t count on, though, is Zane’s charm and humor, and the two soon become friends.

Melissa, Neil’s girlfriend, notices Zane monopolizing Neil and draws Neil into her church. There Neil discovers a situation he knows he needs to fix, but if he does, a deep, dark secret that could cost him his future career might come out.

When his relationship with Melissa becomes rocky, Neil is drawn to Zane in a way that is more than friendship.

 

[available for purchase at Harmony Ink Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Gives Light (Gives Light #1) – Rose Christo

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“A future without Rafael felt unfathomable in a way that took me by surprise.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I really, really enjoyed this book. 16-year-old Skylar St. Clair is our main character and narrator and this story is all about him. But it’s also a bit more than that. This story is kind of an exploration of Skylar’s feelings about his family and his heritage and his past, and it’s beautiful and sad and uplifting all at once. Skylar’s father has suddenly disappeared, leaving Skylar all alone, and so he ends up being sent to his grandmother on the reservation where he was born but hasn’t seen since he was five. Skylar is half Shoshone Plains First Nations, but he looks completely white and he’s lived off-reservation since he was a child so he knows nothing about that part of himself. He’s terrified when he first arrives on the Nettlebush Reserve, but over the summer he makes friends and is accepted into a community he’s been estranged from for almost 11 years. This story does have romance in it, but it’s mostly about Skylar learning about his roots and his history and how to live in a community that he should’ve been a part of all along. Another thing that this story touches on is all the complicated feelings Skylar has about his mother’s murder, the murderer, and falling in love with the son the murderer left behind. There is nothing really fast-paced happening in the story, it’s a calm and smooth read, and it was totally enjoyable from start to finish. I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequels.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) “Skylar is my name, tragically.”

Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

 

[available for purchase at Amazon.ca, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Whatever. Or how junior year became totally F$@KED – S. J. Goslee

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“It’s like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and motherfucking cheerleaders.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I loved this. So many feelings, so many laughs. The only reason I was really interested in this book was because I’m a fan of the author’s Teen Wolf fanfiction (just a note: this book was never fanfiction, it’s a completely original story) and her writing style. Also the blurb was hilarious. Totally worth it. Mike Tate’s girlfriend has just informed him that he’s gay (and he wouldn’t believe her, except that he feels it’s actually a little bit true), and that seems to be the catalyst that turns his junior year of high school from ‘business as usual’ to ‘scary and a bit insane’. I enjoyed reading about Mike’s personal journey and how he interacts with everything and everyone that happens in his life (though even by the end I was confused by whether or not Mike identifies as gay or bi, it seems to go back and forth a bit). There is a romance in the story, between Mike and another boy he’s known for forever, but there’s also major focus on Mike coming to terms with his sexuality and his relationships with his large (and hilariously entertaining) group of friends. I really, really liked this book, even though I’m not the target audience, and I definitely recommend it.

 

[available for purchase at Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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A Fine Bromance – Christopher Hawthorne Moss

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“Robby found the time he spent with Andy was the most comfortable and rewarding of his life.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I really wanted to like this one. The premise was an interesting one and I’m still having a hard time finding books with asexual leads. But I just didn’t like it. Robby and Andy are good characters, in theory, and I really wanted to read their story. But I just couldn’t with the writing. The writing annoyed me and the romance was basically nonexistent. Also a lot of characters acted horribly with barely any consequences. What originally drew me to the story was the idea of Robby learning that he is asexual and falling in love with his new friend (who happens to be trans) while they solve a mystery. What I ended up with was a story that was almost nothing like that, and was also badly written with a very obvious mystery and an inconsistent romance and tone. I recommend this one on the premise alone, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s not really a book I’d read again. To be fair, I’m not the target audience (this book is YA), but I don’t think that excuses much here. Teens deserve better.

 

[available for purchase from Harmony Ink Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1) – Sean Kennedy

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“Yes, because I have a raging boner for all the guys in the school. Soon it will explode and shower them all and they will catch The Gay and life will never be the same.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I started out liking this book, but I was completely ready to be done with it by the time I got to the end. A lot of other people seem to like it so I’m assuming it’s just a personal problem I have with it. This is a book about teenager Micah Johnson and his ongoing struggle to not be an arsehole. I think. The reason I started off really enjoying this was that I found Micah pretty funny. He’s really sarcastic and snarky and a bit of a dick, but I found him a likeable enough character. I liked Micah, which was probably part of the problem of why I didn’t end up liking the book. Judging by the behaviour of the other characters, I don’t think I was supposed to like Micah as much as I did. Micah first appeared in a previous book in a different series by the same author (Tigers and Devils) and a lot of things happened in that book that are only vaguely summarized in this one, so anyone who hasn’t read the previous book is missing a large chunk of the backstory. As it is, Micah comes off with an attitude problem, but I didn’t feel it was so bad that it warranted the other characters to get on his case every time he opened his mouth (there were times where he crossed a line, but most of his behaviour is average teenage dickishness). This book also has no real plot; though I suppose Micah’s reformation is supposed to be the main one, though I never got into it. There are few other subplots about starting a GSA, Micah’s school environment, a vague romance, and his future career in the AFL. I usually enjoy reading slice of life stories, but not really ones that only seemed to shit on the main character for reasons not adequately portrayed.

 

[available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble.]

 

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Running With the Pack – A. M. Burns & Caitlin Ricci

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“It didn’t feel strange for the three of them to be like that together. It seemed normal.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This is a sweet one. Also it’s the first YA book I’ve ever read that featured a poly relationship, and an asexual character. I don’t really know much about poly relationships or how they work, but the one in this book seems accurate enough. This is a story about Finn, Ivan, and Adrian, three high school seniors who discover that it’s okay to be in love with more than one person at a time (so long as everyone is onboard). The three boys are adorable and so open in their affection and love for each other, which you don’t really see much of in YA books (I find). Even before they decide to start dating each other they are really close (especially Ivan and Adrian, who’ve known each other longer). Their relationship is really easy to get invested in; which is a good thing because it’s really the main focus of the story. Also the book kinda gives off the impression that there is a supernatural element of some sort going on. There is none of that. The story features wolves heavily but they are just normal wolves, no shifters. This is a simple story of teenagers falling in love, with a little twist. There’s some drama, some laughs, some fluff, and even some danger. It’s a nice story and a quick read. I really wish that it was a bit longer because I really would have loved to read more about Finn, Ivan, and Adrian and how they and their relationships grow and develop.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, Book Depository, Amazon.ca, and Chapters]

 

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Seven Tears At High Tide – C.B. Lee

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“One summer to be happy and in love.”

 

In a word: Go read the thing! It’s a beautifully written story about two boys falling in love for the first time, and the meaning of choice. It’s got romance, fantastical elements, a fun cast of characters, so much cuteness, some angst, and two loveable dorks you just can’t help but root for.

[available for purchase at Book Depository, Amazon.ca, and Interlude Press]

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