Book Review – ‘Hold My Hand’ (#2 One Man Guy) by Michael Barakiva

There is a lot to love about Hold My Hand.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 272

Alek Khederian thinks about his life B.E. and A.E.: Before Ethan and After Ethan. Before Ethan, Alek was just an average Armenian-American kid with a mess of curly dark hair, grades not nearly good enough for his parents, and no idea of who he was or what he wanted. After he got together with Ethan, Alek was a new man. Stylish. Confident. (And even if he wasn’t quite marching in LGBTQ parades), Gay and Out and Proud.

With their six-month anniversary coming up, Alek and Ethan want to do something special to celebrate. Like, really special. Like, the most special thing two people in love can do with one another. But Alek’s not sure he’s ready for that. And then he learns something about Ethan that may not just change their relationship, but end it.

Alek can’t bear the thought of finding out who he’d be P.E.: Post-Ethan. But he also can’t forgive or forget what Ethan did. Luckily, his best friend Becky and madcap Armenian family are there to help him figure out whether it’s time to just let Ethan go, or reach out and hold his hand.

There are a lots of wonderful things to love about ‘Hold My Hand.’ The representation and essence of Armenian culture woven into the narrative (and the food. The Food!) As well as a frank discussion on education, discrimination and acceptance in society as a whole. When Alek points out that with helicopter parents, parental controls on devices at home and at school, and the curriculum refusing to teach sexual health for the LGBTQIA+ community, there was nowhere for him to learn about issues concerning his health and development. Alek also tackles the Armenian church his family attends, still holding fast to bygone attitudes and interpretations that discriminate not only against him for being gay, but women, people of colour, issues like abortion, etc. ? I have to say it was refreshing the tone and frank discussion Alek brings to the narrative. It does feel a bit dated, because shouldn’t we have addressed these inequalities and moved on by now? Its popular opinion that attitudes need to change – and they are changing. But ‘Hold My Hand’ lets you know that the fight of social justice is still alive and surging. That we should not become complacent. There is still work to do to improve the human race.

I feel like we get a lovely character arc with Alek, building on his growth from ‘One Man Guy.’ We really start to see him stand his ground while remaining true to his heritage and family values. I haven’t felt such a clear cut path into adulthood in a YA novel yet. And I loved it. It really resonated with me. Though Alek is still a nerd, a little neurotic, he is not this angsty emo teen we get a lot of in YA, he feels balanced and grounded. I like his stance on honesty and forgiveness. It’s something I feel we can all aspire to.

I wasn’t as sold on Ethan. He let me down as much as he did Alek – but I am much less forgiving. I would have liked to see him work harder to earn Alek’s trust – though is was great to read, he was proactive in dealing with the situation later in the book. I think there is something about his easy-breezy laid back attitude that still annoys me. He is a great counter balance to Alek, but still, he’s not a love interest I am totally invested in.

Remi as one of the stories antagonists was a stroke of genius. He was like a Bond villain and I wanted to reach through the pages and punch him in the face… though he doesn’t paint a particularly pleasant picture of Australians. As an Aussie girl I was grinding my teeth: but I do know some guys like this. Too slick for their own good, and always seem to end up on their feet despite the carnage they leave in their wake.

‘Hold My Hand’ was a cute, understated love story with a relevant social message. While I think the pacing was a little slow and there was a mix of the tone being immature and then mature at times, like it was slipping between target demographics, Michael Barakiva’s writing style is as breezy as Ethan’s demeanour.

Very easy to read and escape into, I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading ‘Hold My Hand’ and feel like it did this series a justice. I definitely want to read more from this author.

It was educational on sensitive topics without being offensive. The romance is realistic with a social conscience, and this is a novel that is as thought provoking as it is endearing. Representation for the win! A soft recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Oh, my heart!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Perfect Ten’ by L. Philips

A cute contemporary, but ultimately didn’t hit the mark.

PerfectTen_BOM_2P.inddGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

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Who is Sam Raines’s Perfect Ten? 

It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th.

Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance.

But does a Perfect Ten even exist? Find out in this delectable coming-of-age romcom with just a touch of magic.

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This was a cute light romance. But it didn’t tick all the boxes for me. It did not feel like an authentic voice. Something about the position that Sam’s voice was coming from did not feel totally realistic for a young gay male. Yes, it was angsty and swoon-worthy, but there are subtle layers wrapped up in the identity that were not realised.

Additionally I just found Sam to be such a whiny privileged guy who was so thirsty for attention that he ‘threw his cat’ at any boy who paid him even the slightest amount of attention. For someone who was desperate for love, he acted in contradiction for the entire story.

The pacing is also slow.

This book feels like jamming as may experiences with boys in a PG setting as humanly possible to appeal to a tween audience. The dash of Wicca even further proved my point in baiting that demographic.

Perfect Ten Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The character arc and character development were pretty good though. Even if I found Sam to be one massive sigh and eyeroll away from wanting to throw up in my mouth. L. Philips even crafted a commendable ending, throwing a few red herrings out there… but ultimately for me even that felt undercooked and drawn out.

I did love her depictions of art and music. I can see she has a talent for writing, but maybe steer away from the M/M romances, she’s writing an interpretation of the gay experience and missing some of the major issues that gay youth struggle with internally and externally.

Sam would have had to have been medicated to behave the way he did – a lot of his reactions are so far from biologically male it was laughable.

I liked Meg, though again, she was so stereotypically the >insert derogatory term for female best friend of the gay lead< that I was praying that she would have something else going on for her storyline other than seeking relationship advice and validation. It’s obvious their friendship is more than that, but L. Philips neglects to explore any of that.

Landon just felt like a cautionary tale for engaging in sexual activity too young. And to act as an antagonist. In all honesty after finishing the novel I really felt like he was a plot device. Again there were so many missed opportunities to increase tension and pace that were missed.

All the characters were so ‘nice.’ It was a pleasurable enough read but felt like it lacked substance and authenticity. I would have rated it lower if not for L. Philips lovely writing, great dialogue, and a sense that there is a lot more to her than presented in ‘Perfect Ten.’

I’m not going to recommend this one, there are a lot more contemporaries in this genre which execute a story much better, like Bill Koinigsberg, Cale Deitrich, David Levithan, and Adam Silvera. I really wanted to love ‘Perfect Ten,’ but it disappointed me… though it does show a lot of promise for L. Philips as a writer.

Overall feeling: Undercooked and inauthentic.

Perfect Ten Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perfect Ten Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Guardian’ (#2 Proxy) by Alex London

Teen dystopian with diversity.

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

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In the new world led by the Rebooters, former Proxy Syd is the figurehead of the Revolution, beloved by some and hated by others. Liam, a seventeen-year-old Rebooter, is Syd’s bodyguard and must protect him with his life. But armed Machinists aren’t the only danger.

People are falling ill—their veins show through their skin, they find it hard to speak, and sores erupt all over their bodies. Guardians, the violent enforcers of the old system, are hit first, and the government does nothing to help. The old elites fall next, and in the face of an indifferent government, Syd decides it’s up to him to find a cure . . . and what he discovers leaves him stunned.

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This duology has me falling in love with Alex London’s writing and imagination. Not only do we get representation of a minority group (GLBT, POC) but a dystopian world to rival many that have dominated the YA genre. I can’t believe these books have been sitting unread on my shelves for years. ‘Guardian’ was a great read, but not quite up to the excellence of debut ‘Proxy.’ I was still engaged as a reader but upon completing the book I did not feel it had as much of an impact on me as the debut of the series. While the story unfolded organically, I did feel the omniscient POV pulled me from the story frequently.

Like ‘Proxy,’ ‘Guardian’ felt like a road trip book, protagonist Syd attempts to once again get to some place against a faction in power to free the population from an oppressive rule (and save their lives from a virus.) We see Marie stepping in as his protector/squad member again. And a new addition of Liam as a love interest.

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI don’t think I saw too much character development from Syd. Being fallible seemed to play a big part of his story, but that had already been brought up in ‘Proxy.’ Instead it seems he starts to wrestle with his guilt and whether or not he is deserving of happiness.

Liam felt a little one note. He definitely embodies the mind of a soldier, but I wanted more inner torture to come out after the events he’s lived through and done… that kind of stuff would mess up anyone. I wanted more vulnerability (in private moments) to shine through. I feel it would have rounded him out as a character and not just a stereotypical protector.

I didn’t feel like Marie went much of anywhere. She helps move the plot along at some points, but again I was questioning what she was even doing there. Her determination to stick to a cause still feels out of step with the narrative. I think a great opportunity to juxtapose the philosophical themes of the novel were missed out in using her as an alternative point of view, or a sounding board.

It did feel a little formulaic, following the same path of ‘Proxy.’ I was hoping it would divert from this template, but still an entertaining read nonetheless. The first half, like the debut, felt a tad slow in its pacing. There are some great action scenes, but it takes half the book to set up the scene and get all the characters in place to drive the plot forward.

I really love Alex London’s writing style, but I’d love to read more following a different form of plot/story and see him start moving the plot forward in the early chapters.

I pretty much hunched-out the ending very early on – but not quite – there was a little twist to it that I had not guessed… and that added a great surprise. There were also a few other elements that I did not see coming. Overall, ‘Guardian’ gave me more surprises than ‘Proxy,’ but it let me down in the structure of the plot, pacing, and it needed a bit more spice for the characters. I needed something to balance out the bleakness in the world of ‘Proxy’ and machinations of introducing new characters and plot points.

I think as a sequel I was expecting more complexity, a higher intensity of challenges faced, introduction of a more emotional connection with the characters; but it was more of another episodic adventure following our protagonist. I can definitely see its appeal to the YA market.

Again some grammatical mistakes London’s editing team overlooked : missing words, words out of place. A little frustrating. I hope they up their professional game and let this author really shine.

I am going to download the finale short story form Alex London’s website because there is no third book in this series. Mainly because I did not get the level of completion I wanted. I don’t think it’s going to address the big questions, philosophical questions in the subtext, but merely wrap up the future of the main characters – which would be nice. As ‘Guardian’ ended as abruptly as ‘Proxy.’

Still a great read I’d happily recommend.

Overall feeling: totally didn’t suck

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Proxy’ (#1 Proxy) by Alex London

Teen dystopian about selling personal debt that raises some interesting questions.

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia, LGBT

No. of pages: 384

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Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

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A great hook. ‘Proxy’ is fabulously paced with some great action scenes and kept me riveted from start to finish.

A minor issue I found around the main characters becoming a little annoying over time. I wanted them to grow. Become a little more mature in the light of the challenges they faced. When certain reactions and tone of their narrative became repetitive it impeded the chance to establish a strong emotional connection, and destroyed some relevance to me as a reader.

However, I liked that ‘Proxy’ wasn’t focused on a romance storyline and had a gay protagonist. But I wanted a bit more of a personal connection with Syd other than him just trying to save his life. I wanted some fun and anxiety to make him more relatable, heck a fart joke would’ve make a huge difference.

Knox was bothersome through most of the novel and I wasn’t quite convinced of his motivations, I feel there could have been a stronger underlying motive added to give more strength and conviction to his character. He felt superfluous- until he wasn’t. I understand he starts out as superficial due to his every whim being catered for, but I wanted a stronger sense of drive for his character – social status, street cred, ambition – something for me to really sink my teeth into.

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI enjoyed the aspect of teens struggling through a world they didn’t want to be in, wanted to rebel against. I think I was craving that stronger emotional connection to the characters and their mission. More angst. Less triviality. Something to really hammer home the bleakness of the world on an emotional level.

I did find myself questioning Marie’s presence. It felt a tad fabricated at times. I guess it boils down to ‘Proxy’ being a plot driven story and therefore the character driven part is the weaker aspect of the novel. You can feel the author’s hand guiding the story.

The amount of gore, murder, and senseless killing definitely painted a desperate picture of how brutal this world is. The cutthroat struggle for survival, you can definitely see Alex London’s experiences as a journalist reporting from conflict zones supporting this story.

Loved the world building and technology, the class structure. I have questions about how the world came to be, how it developed into what it is, and how things will go after the cliff-hanger at the end of ‘Proxy.’ Now keen to read the sequel ‘Guardian’ asap.

Themes of class, race, power, and sexuality were a great addition to this narrative, but some of it felt disjointed in a technologically advanced civilization. Like gay discrimination just seemed a little redundant. And with the level of genetic manipulation and technological intervention through bloodwork, there would have been a larger evolution in self-expression/adaptation/specialisation to link into the class structure. How beauty standards of today expressed in the novel wouldn’t necessarily be the same in the world of ‘Proxy’ with all this technology at their fingertips. Like more extremes of genetic manipulation and integrated technology would express wealth and stature, and therefore some of the wealthy could seem almost alien.

Alex London’s writing style was effortless, I was able to slip into the imaginary world easily and only got pulled out from some grammatical errors – which his editing team at Philomel Books let him down on. Words out of place or missing. Maybe between 5-10… I feel like London deserves much better.

Wonderfully unpredictable. Though I guessed the twist very early on. It was just a very bumpy ride. Thoroughly enjoyed this – one of the better dystopian novels I’ve read in a while in YA. An active protagonist.

Overall feeling: mildly impressed

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Not Your Backup’ (#3 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

Diversity, superheroes and an expert plot.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 320

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Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities than the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, and she isn’t always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when that’s done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.

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I’ve been getting a real kick out of this series – the diverse cast, superheroes, espionage, and teen angst. ‘Not Your Backup’ did not hit all the same marks as its two prequels for me. The pacing felt slower and there were a lot of characters to follow, and given the amount of time passed since having read ‘Not Your Villain,’ it took me a minute to get back into the swing of the story.

I love how it picks up not long after the events in ‘Not Your Villain’ following Emma as a protagonist. The only one on the Sidekick Squad who does not possess meta-human abilities… though she does have a high IQ and has been dubbed Mastermind. I was a little tired of her ‘woe is me no-one takes me seriously because I’m a child and don’t have superpowers’ shtick. It was a great plot device but it felt like it dragged on for too long. I would have liked her to use it as an advantage – let people underestimate her and become more cloak and dagger.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmma’s self-discovery around being asexual (ace/aro) was interesting and educational, as too the discussion of queerplatonic relationships.

Bells as the love interest is cute as all get out (the protagonist from ‘Not Your Villain.’) And you could see him revelling in all the character growth he’d made from that sequel.

Plot-wise ‘Not Your Backup’ is outstanding, we get seeding of clues and threads, many of the characters have their own arc (some of them off-page.) I think though, compared to the other two novels published so far, there was less action, less gadgets, less uncertainty in the people around them, which left most of the novel feeling bare and the pace lagging. The last section of the novel, leading up to the conclusion was back at what I expect from C.B. Lee. Great pacing, twists and turns aplenty, all ending in a big bang. Where ‘Not Your Sidekick’ and ‘Not Your Villain’ were introducing characters, ‘Not Your Backup’ followed these characters and started setting up plot points to be resolved in the finale ‘Not Your Hero’ which was initially set to be due out this June 2020, but I haven’t seen an update in a while, and with many titles getting pushed pack, we may not see this released until around Christmas or in 2021. So I guess ‘Not Your Backup’ has a bit of that old middle book syndrome playing out. Something of a necessity. And that’s not to say I was bored or anything, quite the contrary, I remained engaged throughout and love Lee’s writing style. It was just a little slower than I was used to.

Going in, I already knew there was a final book coming for this series, so the whole overturning of the Hero’s League of Heroes and dethroning the reigning council members was not going to be resolved in this instalment. And after being declared fugitives in the previous novel, the only thing I predicted was the Sidekick Squad getting back together and attempting guerrilla warfare tactics. Besides that, I had no idea what was around the corner, and C.B. Lee managed to throw in a few curve balls giving me a few WTF moments. Genius.

I am expecting an epic conclusion in the final novel and can’t wait for its release. And I’d definitely recommend this novel (and series) to lovers of superheroes, YA, and queer literature. It’s certainly a well-written fun romp through a genre that has outlasted many throughout our written history. Though ‘Not Your Backup’ cannot be read as a standalone – you definitely need to read the sequels to get a proper understanding of the characters and world building.

So C.B. Lee not only entertains me, but gives me snippets of queer culture education along the way in a superhero wrapping.

Overall feeling: Yee-haw!

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

Love the themes and experiment in formatting but the delivery was lacking.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 343

From Goodreads:

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

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I really struggled with this novel, and it’s doubly disappointing because I really loved all her other title. The pacing as just so slow. I put the book down repeatedly due to lack of interest. It sort of picked up in the second half, but I still didn’t get that hook I was hoping for. I even felt the amazing writing style that I have come to expect had dimmed significantly.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe formatting of the novel also threw me off big time.

I loved the diverse cast, the concept of the seven deadly sins as a theme for each characters struggle. The characters were beautifully flawed and realistic, but I struggled to relate to, and care about any of them. I don’t understand how I was so detached? Maybe the fact we were dealing with so many big issues – slander, drug dealing, drug use, bullying, abuse of power, suggested statutory rape, divorce, abandonment, alcoholism, autism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so on – it was a bit much to stomach from such a small group of high schoolers. The teacher in me arcs up and struggles to swallow the narrative. I guess it’s a good thing to have a strong reaction to the subject matter. Like I said, I loved the premise of ‘Seven Ways We Lie,’ the cast are amazing… but the uber-slow pacing just about did me in.

With run on sentences and dialogue in chapters I found difficult to read, and prose driven narration in others ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a great experiment in presenting tone in the layout of words. I can appreciate the attempt, but wasn’t sold on delivery.

I had given up on predicting the novel, I was just focusing on finishing it. Granted the last third is much more palatable, and that benchmark Redgate writing style started to shine through, but it was too little too late for me.

I hate to say it, but ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ was a big flop for me.

Maybe it was also because we follow so many perspectives?

Overall feeling: Oh no.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Seven Ways We Lie 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.

#bookporn

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I was so excited to add this to my Redgate collection – I absolutely adored her other titles. ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ uses the themes of the seven deadly sins for each of the main cast… only this one felt a bit scattered and took me a long time to get into. Still some great writing. Review to come soon…

But the cover is on pointe!

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.