Book Review – The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ by Shaun David Hutchinson

A brilliant juxtaposition of contemporary and fantasy.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT, Paranormal

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

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Saying goodbye to your departed frenemy… who just happens to be a zombie.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ is a hilarious and heart-warming tale told in alternating perspectives of best friends turned enemies Dino and July. But, July is now dead, well… undead. Death has been put on hold while these two teens make amends with each other and some other issues they have been struggling with.

Dino’s family run a morgue, and he is currently undecided on a lot of things. His career path, his friendships, his relationship. How he can confront people. He’s kind of emo and artsy. He also has a gorgeous transgender boyfriend, Rafi, that he feels like he doesn’t deserve.

July is loud and brash, the centre of attention, and very jealous of Rafi. He’s stolen all of Dino’s attention away from her and she’s left to float around other less important friends. So how does she deal with this abandonment? With passive aggressive comments and pranks on Dino.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Now July is back from the dead – zombie style without the hunger for brains and human flesh, and with Dino as her only confidant. The both have to overcome their antagonism to figure out why people aren’t dying and what to do with July now that she’s a slowly decomposing, flatulent corpse. With witty banter, great pacing, and emotional reveals, I was hooked from the first page.

The overall plot is predictable and obvious, but the subsequent plot points in-between were not. But all that middle-story stuff lent to some great character arcs for our two leads. With themes of friendship, redemption, loss, grief, and finding your place in this world ‘The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ is a brilliant read.

I’m loving the more graphic art trend of the cover illustration – you can see something similar on another of Shaun David Hutchinson’s titles, ‘The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza’ which I’m keen to pick up.

Overall, a strong recommendation from me. Great characters, quirky storyline, and a well-paced read.

Overall feeling: Killed myself laughing.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried 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.

Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

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It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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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 – ‘What to Say Next’ by Julie Buxbaum

Bring on the awkwardness!

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 292

From Goodreads:

Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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After ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ I picked up ‘What to Say Next’ in my following book haul eager for Buxbaum’s breezy narrative and quirky writing style. This novel did not disappoint, another light contemporary to while away an afternoon. I loved the unique viewpoint of a protagonist on the autism spectrum.

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere were a few times I felt as though things were a little one-minded for the sake of drama, but hey – what teen does not live in that headspace. Everything is life and death, emotions exist in their amped up, purest form… mix in a touch of Asperger’s and it’s a force of nature. And I felt Buxbaum treated David with respect, and it felt like (as it should be) he was just another person in the mix of humanity getting through each day at high school. That he can have relationships, that he is independent and not someone to be sequestered into a special school just because of his bluntly honest outlook on life which may make some people uncomfortable.

They need to get over themselves.

The first half was a bit of a slow burn – but it goes with the tone in the way David’s mind works. It really set the tone on his perceptions, thought patterns, and prejudices he overcomes on a daily basis.

Miney was the ever protective big sister for David and I loved that family dynamic.

Kit, whose perspective is alternated with David’s, is the biracial love interest. I found it interesting how she was the only character that felt race and heritage was an issue, whereas the rest of the cast were pretty much colour-blind. It was a pleasant state to read about. And let’s face it, Kit, by all rights should be the only one to talk about race and discrimination.

I was a little annoyed at the role Kit’s mother played, it’s like she didn’t have much authority as a parent – but if you are always trying to be your child’s best friend, you walk that line…

Interactions between David and Kit felt like an innocent, beautiful blossoming friendship. So adorably cute. Some things get piled on this pair, well a lot of things, which made for great reading, especially to see how they overcame these obstacles. And the plot twist – where the heck did that come from? Totally side-swiped me.

The writing style is gorgeous, easy to read and in a tone distinct for both narrators.

Loved ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ this was a great addition to my library and look forward to what Buxbaum releases next. A definite recommend for me. Though it’s more of a slow burn contemporary that a short angsty tale.

Overall feeling: Shades of social inappropriateness (in a good way).

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘The Porcupine of Truth’ by Bill Konigsberg

Hidden depths to socially aware road trip.

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

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I enjoyed ‘Openly Straight,’ so I picked this one off my shelves soon after, desperate for some more Bill Konigsberg goodness. ‘The Porcupine of Truth’ wasn’t quite what I expected, but still an engaging, brilliant read. There is a lot of wit and Dad jokes in this one which tickled my fancy. All the characters are flawed and are batted around their heads repeatedly with their failings – something I really liked about the tone of the novel.

There was a lot of philosophy of self, death, and God in this. I appreciated the raw honesty of the discussions, loved the points of view, but there were a few moments I was completely over the God stuff… but I understand the need for it to be in the story as our protagonist Carson continually searched for the answer to why?

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI also loved Carson’s attitude towards homosexuality – he is faced with this question of acceptance in a variety of forms throughout the novel, and for a heterosexual white teen, he shows grace and maturity beyond his years, and beyond the scope of just about any other character in the novel. It was amazing to read. Juxtaposing this new generation growing up with tolerance and acceptance with that of an older, prejudiced one. And not just on sexuality, but on race, age, and class. It was such a succinct observation on society, as a subtext, that had me cheering.

However, with all the subtext and heavy emotional topics, I did feel it left the book feeling a bit bland. Only a bit. I kinda wanted Carson or Aisha to do something hilariously crazy and zany to balance it out. But this is realistic fiction at its best – a narrative of a person’s life on a journey, figuratively and spiritually, with an undercurrent of politics and social construct. It’s all heavy stuff laced with teen sarcasm and not-so-funny puns.

Carson is lovable in all aspects – a beautiful disaster. He’s socially clumsy and paddling to find some sort of rhythm. Searching for a place to belong. He encapsulates all that teen awkwardness and brings a vulnerable backstory that squeezed my heart.

Aisha had the same inner workings but with a more street-smart exterior. It was true genius to see her friendship with Carson progress.

I laughed plenty, and felt my throat tighten, very near shedding a tear, but not quite. Such a unique voice, though I did find the writing style slightly jarring at times. I don’t know if it was the swearing, the slightly-off jokes, or short abrupt sentences, at times it zapped out the magic to leave you facing the bleakness of it all. Great writing, but not the warm and fuzzy I was looking for.

A few things concerned me, like Carson overlooking death at a time when it should be hitting him the hardest – I only say that because I’ve been there and it’s a hard thing to come to grips with. It felt like he was using the good news of the moment to mask the pain he was going to face. Whether that was the author’s intent or not, it was something that stood out to me.

It’s a great book I’d recommend to those who love contemporaries, and books that leave you thinking…

Overall feeling: cutting and cutesy.

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Openly Straight’ by Bill Konigsberg

Getting a chance to redefine yourself… and discovering you are so much more than you first thought.

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

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I really loved the perspective in this novel and its discussion on the importance we place on labels, and the type of people we are without them.

I found the friendship/relationship growing between Rafe and Ben adorable. How some people you can just click with, and others are doomed to simply remain superfluous. It was a great character study in friendships.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the ending… I actually found it poignant. The object of this novel was about Rafe finding himself and learning the importance of the labels he’d let himself get classified into. Life is messy, it’s coloured with other people’s perceptions, there is no clear black and white… and it’s an ongoing journey.  I feel this was set up at the beginning of the novel and then commented upon at the end, comparing where Rafe ended up to where he started. Very cerebral, loved this aspect.

The friendships were great too. How Rafe felt freer to be himself by metaphorically going back into the closet. I get the whole thing about people constantly seeing him in a certain way – generally speaking we all do that. They are identifiers that help us to relate to the world at large. But they certainly not all we are. The more you get to know someone, the more they deconstruct the labels you have put on them.

It was wonderful to read a novel about a gay youth experience that didn’t involve single parent families, or unsupportive families, violence and discrimination, there were some elements of bullying and heterosexim used to illustrate the differences between a gay perception and a straight one. The whole book felt positive and informative about friendships and how to find your comfort zone with the outside world.

The relationship between Rafe and Ben was like a slow burn. It grew organically and was introspective. It was if they both decided to take the blinkers off and come at their growing feelings in a different way. I found it refreshing. A little unrealistic, because I’ve yet to meet a teen who approaches the world this way. But I appreciated it for what it is.

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Claire Olivia is cute too. Wise beyond her years. Like most of the cast in this book they are all proficient at character studies of those around them.

I also got some great writing tips from Mr Scarborough’s critique of Rafe’s writing – pushing him to think about the motivation behind his prose. Also the different forms of writing – a short story compared to free writing (stream of consciousness) it can only serve to enrich my own journey.

The humour in this novel is fantastic. Many times I was chortling so loud I sounded like a misfiring hairdryer! The characters have a dry sarcastic wit that translates well off the page.

The only downside, and the reason I’m not awarding top marks is because I felt like I wanted more from this novel. More meat. While highly philosophical, I found myself yearning for more plot, more story. As it stands this novel is fantastic, but as a reader, that sense of needing substance is not a great thing. It’s speculative, adorkable, and even educational, but not filling.

I’m definitely keen to read on in this series – with a novella (‘Openly, Honestly’) and a second book recently published ‘Honestly Ben,’ you can bet I’m going to be diving in as soon as I can. I also will be adding some of Bill Konigsberg back catalogue – his writing style is effortless, introspective, and deliciously hilarious. Dude – you’ve made me a fan!

Overall feeling: It got me here, *points to head* and here *points to heart*

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A road trip of two teens facing their fears…

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question. 

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I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.

I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.

I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.

Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.

Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.

Young couple driving convertible at sunset

It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.

But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.

I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.

I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..

Overall feeling: not too shabby.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘The Night We Said Yes’ by Lauren Gibaldi

… but I think I’ll say no.

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. 

But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future. 

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I picked up ‘The Night We Said Yes’ solely due to the hype it had been receiving on the blogosphere, the gorgeous cover, and a catchy blurb…

Though honestly, by the halfway point I was bored. The reasons behind Matt (the love interest) moving away had me intrigued, and the dual narrative from the present, alternated with that from a year ago and added interest, but the characters came across as bland and silly. I was still waiting to be gripped by something.

The Night We Said Yes’ is a story about flawed characters. It’s well written, but on the whole, it’s a story that could be of any teenager… and that was just it… I felt like it was an anecdote from my past, or my friends past. There wasn’t anything extraordinary to grip me from this tale.

The teen drama was just so juvenile. The behaviour of the main characters was frustrating. And the storyline very, very simple. I wanted more complexity, more tension. The stakes for the protagonist, Ella, just didn’t seem that high. Maybe it was because I didn’t connect with the cast, or the plot.

It’s not a book I would bash for being poorly written or having sub-par construction – like I mentioned, its done well, but just not for me. It’s fairly short and easy to read in one sitting. I spread it over a few days, putting it down frequently due to boredom or annoyance. I think the younger end of the YA spectrum of readers would enjoy this more.

Overall this book felt a little – I hate to say it – bland. It is a cute contemporary, but there wasn’t anything about it that grabbed my attention, and I did not connect solidly with any of the characters or their predicament.

Overall feeling: ho-hum

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Dealing with Girl Hate in Literature and Real Life

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An observation pulled from some of my favorite novels, and experiences from my own life, shows there seems to be a lot of girl hate. Bullying. Insecurity. And there seems to be little justification behind the sudden backlash of slurs. Some chalk it up to puberty or jealousy. But it has continued through all aspects of my life, and in many genres of books. I thought I comment on some of the more prominent forms that I’ve experienced.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-08-by-casey-carlisleEven if someone is dealing-with-girlhate-pic-03-by-casey-carlislestruggling with their size, it doesn’t diminish them as a person. In Victorian times having a little extra padding meant you came from wealth because you could afford food. Now it seems packing a few extra pounds is displeasing to the eye. Makes you unattractive. All this PhotoShop re-touching and refusal of fashion designers to manufacture larger sizes, or even display their couture on models over a size 0. Have we became so hateful towards female biology? It is a natural state for girls to carry more body fat as they get older. It has nothing to do with being unhealthy or unattractive, it’s a natural cycle of hormones and metabolism. I read this kind of hate and bullying in books too, though I’m glad that we are starting to see a movement against this stereotype (on television too) Main characters who aren’t rail-thin are starting to pop up in the mainstream. I hope this trend continues and helps to stamp out body shaming, we should be sisters in arms, not tearing each other down with fickle, narcissistic attacks.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-09-by-casey-carlisle dealing-with-girlhate-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleAnd may other reasons. But when did having an opinion, indulging in free speech, make someone so awful? World leaders, innovators, business owners, have all struggled with nasty slurs because they stick to their guns. I actually find it attractive, if someone is resolute in their beliefs. Mental strength and intelligence breeds a fertile environment for growth. These days we see female characters embracing the term. Proud to wear the mantle of bitch. Because it portrays power. It’s not quite free of a negative image, but it’s starting to evolve into something like #girlboss instead of some foul mouth wench with nothing but negative comments spewing from her mouth.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-10-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-05-by-casey-carlisleOr maybe she is not afraid of her own sexuality. And the sad thing is, being called a virgin can be just as derogatory. We really can’t win… Slut shaming seems to be more present in YA than other genres, girls use it to jostle for power in their peer groups, to be the alpha chick who is not to be trifled with or she’ll tear you down. There is still such a stigma with sex through the teen years, and I really wish it could be approached responsibility rather than reinforcing negative views on sex and sexuality. The trend is starting to get addressed on the television screens, but I’ve yet to read much about it in the novels from my shelves. Yes, bullying is attacked in some, but slut shaming tends to be a character trait or a storytelling device. This leads on to another element I’ve personally experienced:

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-11-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-06-by-casey-carlisleI’m five foot eight inches, so sit on the tall end of the scale, and have been called tranny or drag queen by girls in clubs as I’m walking by, or behind my back. Since when is being tall a failing – these slim models gracing our magazines are the same height – it’s just another juvenile hate-filled slur women use to make them feel good about themselves. I tend to see this trend reversed in literature. Girls are described as Amazonian, and strong, warrior-like. Someone to aspire to. This certainly does not translate to real life. I may get a rare “You’ve got lovely long legs” almost hinting that I use them to ensnare men like some black widow spider. Getting called ‘tranny’ is a big pet hate of mine, it’s doubly offensive. It’s said with the intention to make you feel less than a natural born woman, clumsy and unnatural. Which I find preposterous! I know some transgendered women and they are gorgeous, successful, intelligent, and talented women. It’s wonderful to see many book titles being released starring diverse characters on identity and sexuality. They are diffusing these kind of prejudices and hopefully will get rid of this kind of discrimination and bullying for good.

There are so many other aspects bullies latch on to, or make up, to lash out with words. You have short hair, you must be a lesbian. You like sports, or never wear dresses… You wear glasses, or have braces – metal head. Don’t get me started on being called a ginger or bluey because I have red hair. It’s pitiful to be at the blunt end of girl hate. And bullies will always find something. I’m glad to see it getting reduced in my reading choices. Readers are becoming more intelligent, more discerning in their purchase decisions when at the checkout. So it is forcing authors to develop interesting, complex and diverse characters. Tackle more politically aware subject matter and have a social conscience. Granted, it won’t stomp out bad behavior, but it is shining a light on it and forcing nasty characters to explain themselves… and that’s something I really like.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-12-by-casey-carlisleSheesh! A dealing-with-girlhate-pic-07-by-casey-carlislegenuinely gorgeous girl can be reduced to her physical appearance. I’ve heard it said with malice many times in real life. Signalling that the target has the mental capacity of an ape – or that she uses sexuality to get what she wants. She can’t also be a kind and loving person, or a rocket scientist. No. She can’t possible have it all. There is nothing to tear her down with so let’s make perfection a failing… oh please! Women are put on pedestal frequently in books, and having all these attributes is praised, idolized even. But we see plenty of girl hate in real life. But this can also be a negative, because it reduces the character to a two-dimensional caricature.

Women, girls, PEOPLE, are complex creatures. We have motivations, hidden depths. Why do we assume so little at first glance? Why look for the hate? Why not start looking or the amazing?

I’m beginning to find novels coming out with some fantastic female friendships, especially in YA. It’s showing the full range of a character and not reducing a female to a trope or stereotype. It gives me hope that we’ll be able to reduce the amount of girl hate out there. Nasty trolls posting awful comments online, bullying, it feeds girls insecurities and can lead to feeling shame unnecessarily, fearing for your personal safety, depression, behaviors like cutting and even suicide. So let’s put a stop to girl hate and become sisters instead.

Personally, looking back over my life, I’ve been on both sides of the fence in many of these types of behavior. But thankfully, through my experiences and reading habits, I’m identifying potentially harmful behavior and words, and grow into a better version of myself.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘So Hard to Say’ by Alex Sanchez

A superb contemporary glimmering with diversity.

so-hard-to-say-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute, and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends. 


Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio’s attention. After all, she’s popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can’t he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I felt ‘So Hard to Say’ was more aimed at a middle grade demographic, and in that sense, didn’t have the emotional punch I was looking for. Nor was the storyline complex. However, this novel was innocently concise and poignant. And definitely worth the read.

The narrative married perfectly with the inner voices of our protagonists Xio and Frederick. The Mexican culture that Xio brought, and the confusion and coming of age from Frederick’s story were nothing other than brilliant.

It completely captured those moments of questioning about first love, or attraction, and sexual orientation in the judgemental arena of high school. Even if you removed the aspect of Fredericks questioning his sexuality, the way he approached different friends directly translated to many friendships I had growing up – some you were friends with outside of school, some within… I liked that it showed multiple ways relationships develop throughout your childhood to teen years.

Even though it felt very innocent and stylized, it captures the issues facing our protagonists with an understated grace. This is not an angsty over dramatized account of Xio and Frederick’s life, but a great peek through their eyes with enough insight to set the scene and let you draw from your own emotions and experiences.

Xio’s inner monologue is mixed with culture and a lack of confidence that all teen girls seem to stumble through – what’s wrong with me? Why won’t he love me? I actually loved that realism about her, and her joy at embracing family and heritage.

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Frederick’s life in comparison felt sparse – but you soon realise it’s on purpose. He’s distanced many parts of his life because he’s not sure about things. It was a joy to grow with him through the novel and see him fill those empty spaces, on his way to becoming the person he is meant to be.

Xio’s closing chapter was the most touching and prophetic. I’ve had sexual and gender-diverse friends all my life and can’t imagine ever not sharing our journey together. Friendship is forever – especially when the bond is more like family than someone you happened to go to school with.

I personally learnt a lot from Xio; about Mexican culture and home life. It’s not something we get a lot of exposure to here in Australia. And the fact that the language was scattered into the dialogue was fun. Even in the end pages you get a glossary of terms that I found cool.

This is my first novel from Alex Sanchez and has definitely left me wanting to pick up more of his titles. They are short enough with a light writing style that lends to being able to complete in a day. A great book to give to a younger teen. It was educational, insightful and a cute contemporary. I’d recommend this to lovers of contemporary, diversity and simple love/friendships that can resound with you long after reading. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for me.

Overall reaction: How adorable (kinda like this panda – he’s black, he’s white, and he’s Asian.)

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.