Book Review – ‘#famous’ by Jilly Gagnon

Just one post away from fame.

#famous Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rachel Ettinger has flown under the radar for most of high school, exactly as planned. She’d rather focus on getting to New York City, where being the arty playwright is a bonus, not a drawback. Her googly-eyed crush on Kyle Bonham is embarrassing but unimportant. After all, there’s no way she’d ever end up with the King of Apple Prairie High, anyway.

Kyle does make a grease-splattered Burger Barn uniform look dreamy. But aside from flipping patties – and riding the tide of steady drama from his on-again, off-again girlfriend – everything about his life is fairly predictable.

So when Rachel’s jokey picture of Kyle winds up going viral, they’re both taken by surprise. Suddenly Kyle is insta-famous and everyone on the planet knows about Rachel’s silly crush… including Kyle.

Just as they think their lives couldn’t get any more complicated, their fifteen minutes of fame spirals out of control. And what starts out with an innocent photo becomes a whirlwind adventure full of fangirls, haters, and French-fry bouquets that forces them both to question whether fame – and love – is worth the price.

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This was just the cute contemporary I thought it was going to be – but had much more substance than I anticipated. ‘#famous’ deals with themes around social media, instant fame, bullying, and that awkward coming of age moment in life when your morals are tested, and embarrassment can come from just about anything. Parents, socio-economic status, fashion, your body, ooof the list goes on…

I felt this was an intelligent contemporary shedding light on issues that youth today face in the advent of social media and how strong a roll trolls, peers, and media fame impact on individuals, families, and the opportunities they can present to the right promotion-savvy person.

Told in alternating perspectives in each chapter between popular, gorgeous, star jock, Kyle; and artistic, fringe-dweller, Rachel. Jilly Gagnon gives some great character portraits for both the leads, they are both confident and insecure in varying degrees that was both endearing and believable.

#famous Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe main plot is predictable, but the storytelling is anything but. I loved Gagnon’s writing style, the comedic timing, the charismatic cast, and underlying themes. ‘#famous’ is definitely the first contemporary to surprise me in this manner in quite a while. The pacing is pretty good, mainly due to the shorter chapters and switching perspectives… and they don’t just tell the opposite side of the story on the same scene – they have their own separate arcs that twist and bump into each other. Their tones are completely different.

We get some great supporting characters and the family of both of our leads have a strong presence in the story. Though the story is simple, it has charm and interest and I would happily recommend this to anyone who loves a light contemporary.

Overall feeling: Sweet. Adorable

#famous Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

#famous Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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An overwhelmingly cute read dealing with some hardcore topics (but in a respectful way.) Love diverse reads like this… review to come 🙂

Book Review – ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

A contemporary love story that transverses gender… but lacks a little substance.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee and having his choice of colleges. They do not include falling head over heels for his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do . . .

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong . . .

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This is an adorable cute contemporary. I enjoyed it immensely. A quick diverse read you can complete in a day.

Some points that count against this novel for me are around it’s lack of substance. We get representation of two male leads, one identifying as gay, the other bisexual, but they don’t really delve into how that changes them. The story is solely about their coming together after they realise how they feel about each other. It’s all very fairy-floss and lollipop land. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I indulge in a positive, happily ever after ending every now and then. Plus the tone and demographic of this novel I can see why Sandy Hall has written the novel this way… but skipping over so many aspects poignant to the characters development takes ‘Been Here All Along’ from brilliant and memorable, to sweet and totally forgettable.

We see this same treatment of introducing a storytelling element and then not going anywhere with it. Cyber bullying, Dyslexia, Poverty, Graduation, and College. They are all introduced, but nothing is done with them. All excellent obstacles to overcome and our main characters to grow through the experiences… but it’s left on the side of the road in favour of a cutesy sunset ending. I mean maybe if we got a little bit more of each of these affecting the cast strongly in some way the story would have been much more compelling. But these points are me being very critical and wanting more from the story.

It really is a deliciously innocent lgbtqia contemporary, more suitable for the younger end of the YA demographic.

I loved the fact that coming out, sexual preference, and a gay relationship was handled respectfully and without fear or hate. How friends and family were supportive. We don’t have enough of these types of stories.

We get a mix of perspectives: our protagonists Kyle and Gideon, best friends who develop a crush each other. Ruby, Kyle’s girlfriend. And Ezra, Gideon’s older brother back from living in L.A. and surfing for the past few years. There is a strong sense of family with all the characters. Plus, given the ‘vanilla’ Disney style to the story telling, expect it to be tropey and sugary as apple pie.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe two male leads, Gideon and Kyle don’t have much of an arc or development other than getting together. Ezra is really a complimentary character to help drive the plot forward. It’s Ruby who really shines when you take character development and growth into account.

And as happens in most contemporaries, just as the protagonist makes some resolution on the main goal or journey, it ends. With all the other good bits just coming to a head…. How does Kyle deal with his dyslexia? How do the couple deal with the cyberbullying incident? Will the girl responsible be held accountable? Will Ruby be punished? Will she get to college? Will Gideon win the class elections… so many unanswered questions that were set up in the narrative. So grimacingly frustrating.

So while this was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon reading, I was really hoping for more gravitas to the story. This would be best recommended to those who love quick cute romances and younger YA readers. Connoisseurs of lgbtqia contemporaries may find this a little bland. ‘Been Here All Along’ was a great novel to introduce me to the writings of Sandy Hall, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to pick up another one of her titles.

Overall feeling: Cute. That’s all. Just cute.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Someday’ (#3 Every Day) by David Levithan

A peep into the mythology of A, a change in direction, but there’s still more story to tell.

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, GLBT

No. of pages: 393

From Goodreads:

Every day a new body. Every day a new life. Every day a new choice.

For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who had a life like this.

But A was wrong. There are others.

A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to—and what it’s like to discover that you are not alone in the world.

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I loved the themes and philosophy ‘Someday’ forces you to think about.

There are a lot of perspectives in this novel, but it stays mostly focused on A, Rhiannon, X, and Nathan. I’m not sure if that’s the reason if felt slow with pacing (especially in the first half of the novel), or the amount of information needed to explore the themes of the novel, and while I enjoyed the head-jumping, I’m feeling like it wasn’t really all that necessary to the story. It left ‘Someday’ feeling bulky.

We get glimpses into other body jumpers – but I have to ask from a reader’s point of view, getting invested in these characters, what was the point? Yes, it goes to establish some evidence of others like A, and reinforce the good and bad choices we make – but I was left with the start of a story… and then nothing.

So too was the concept of A discovering others out there like them. Learning about their condition, the mythology, their origin. I also wondered about A and X’s theory that they are born normally and simply jump to another body after the first day… does the baby then die – it would be soulless right? I hurts my brain. I am still wishing for more exploration into A’s condition and for there to be a connection to some sort of community. Also, for a more solid answer to what A and Rhiannon’s relationship is going to be like into the future. It’s touched on briefly as a concept, and we get different ideas of what it could be like through the experiences of other body jumpers – but it’s not an answer.

It feels like there is at least another sequel to explore A’s existence and a happily ever after yet.

One thing that did stand out to me in ‘Someday’ that was missing – both ‘Every Day’ and ‘Another Day’ also had ties with family (Rhiannon’s) and A beginning to explore the boundaries of his existence. We have those dismissed in this third novel of the franchise and it left me with a feeling of being somewhat untethered. Was it intentional to highlight the loneliness A was experiencing? It left Rhiannon not as complex as she was in the previous two novels.

Loved the development of Nathan. His perspective felt like it represented one of acceptance. Of societies acceptance. Of how many of the LGBTQIA+ community shape their own family. But again in the previous novels we see him struggling with questions around faith and they seemed to have been abandoned in ‘Someday.’

X/Xenon/Poole, although clearly making some harmful choices, does raise the issue as to when are you able to look after yourself, chase your own needs and wants: and is that even possible for beings like X and A? It was something I would have loved to seen explored (or even discussed further. It felt like we suddenly humanise X, get a brief discussion and then it was all over.

I’m really hoping we get another instalment to tackle issues like family (biological or community made), faith, self-care, and ambition; along with the mythology around A and his kind. See him finding a place where he fits.

Discussing the themes of this series with a few friends, we thought it was a nice analogy to those with disassociation disorders. A friend who has undergone gender confirmation surgery, but was born intersex, said having lived through the experience of people perceiving you as one gender and then another – almost like different people in different bodies was very similar to A’s experience. You perceive things differently, there are different physical sensations and others relate to you differently. I think it’s marvellous that we can have discussions like this, brought up from popular YA novels; it’s not something that I would have been exposed to in my youth. We are getting a language and awareness of the human condition through novels like ‘Someday.’

I definitely did not predict what was going to happen in ‘Someday’ at all. As I eluded to I previously, I was expecting quite a different story. The themes were different to those tackled in the prequels, and I still got no resolution to what I wanted after reading ‘Every Day’ and ‘Another Day.’ I really enjoyed the tension and direction of the plot, but felt it could have been 100 pages shorter and told the same story.

I think this is more a book for lovers of Levithan’s writing, those who loved ‘Every Day’ and are keen to continue with A and Rhiannon’s story, and those who enjoy queer literature, I’m on the fence if I’d recommend this to anyone outside those circles.

Overall feeling: Swinging between enlightened and unfulfilled.

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Another novel that has been hiding on my TBR shelves for ages – starting to find enjoyment from contemporary titles again. I’m also looking forward to exploring less popular titles… let’s see what ‘When You Were Here’ can offer, slotting it into my bedside table stack to get to it sooner.

Film vs Novel – Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I have a lot of emotions about this novel. One is that I think is it an important topic, that it was valuable to experience life through the eyes of a teen pushed to a point of seriously considering suicide as an option. The other is the total despair and sadness, the loss of life of someone who had their whole life in front of them. That so much value was placed on silly teenage pranks and behaviour. That she couldn’t see that life does get better, that there is help. But the main theme of the novel is not about suicide, but what we can do for each other to stop it. To put an end to apathy. That everything we do impacts on someone else, and even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s life around.

Thirteen Reasons Why’ has been on my radar for a very long time, but I never picked it up. Suicide is such a sensitive, heavy topic, I didn’t want to put myself through the emotional ringer. I don’t like to think about the consequences for such actions. It’s dark and depressing. I did not want to put myself in that headspace. But this novel does not drag you into shadowed corners and lament at how hopeless life is. This is more of a factual account of circumstances that leads Hannah to her decision. Our protagonist Clay his hope. A shining beacon that lets the reader know that all is not lost. This tone is also reflected in the television series throughout the first season that follows the plot of the novel.

Though it is never stated outright, there are hints in the text of how Hannah is suffering depression, which it has been happening for a while. A condition that goes undiagnosed and it compounded by a series of unfortunate events… all narrated by herself on the set of cassettes she addressed to the main people who affected her life and turned her to a path of loneliness.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The first half of the novel is a little slow, introducing characters slowly as each is discussed until about halfway when we start to get more shocking revelations. After that, I was glued to the page. A sort of morbid fascination. What drove Hannah to do what she did? What is going to be Clay’s reaction? So much more happened than I was expecting. The television show follows suit with flashbacks, but is has the luxury of multiple perspectives, where in the novel it is solely Clay, and Hannah through the tapes. Katherine Langford plays Hannah in the show and exudes that lost child putting up a happy front to disguise all the turmoil underneath. The novel focuses on Clay piecing together a timeline through each tape, where the screen interpretation focuses on events and hypes up the bullying more. We see many of the reveals in the novel much earlier in the screen version to keep an episodic pace.

Clay is a great protagonist. He reacts to the circumstances appropriately – a guide to how you should react to what is happening, as testament to so many characters in the story who lack that compassionate behaviour. He is the litmus test for all of the other characters in the story. The narration treated the events respectfully and lets the reader make pragmatic decisions with compassion. I too loved the depiction of actor Dylan Minnette’s of Clay; he captures the quiet nature and determination that is so strong in this character.

Thank goodness for the screen adaptation, otherwise I may never have read this book. It’s what spurned me to bite the bullet and read the novel before indulging in the series. Because, again, suicide = scary and depressing. I like to read fun, happy, escapist books much of the time.

Definitely thought provoking and I can see it as a great conversation starter for teens (or anyone) who feels they are in the same situation as Hannah. The novel even highlights that there were people who cared, who wanted to help, but she just didn’t give them the chance. So I never got that complete isolation and spiralling pit of despair that this topic generally deals with. We get a balanced view of all parties involved.

The novel ends on a great note too. Hope. Looking forward to see where the tv shows takes these themes beyond the scope of the book… dealing with real issues and hopefully not turning it into another overwritten teen drama.

Highly recommended. It’s not as depressing as it may seem. I didn’t fall into a sopping mess, rather just felt sadness and pity. At this point I have to say both the book and screen adaptation are a solid tie.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.