Book Review – ‘Every Last Word’ by Tamara Ireland Stone

Cute romance, great rep of mental illness…

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health

No. of pages: 358

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

I am tossing up whether to award this a higher rating. The way it deals with mental illness, primarily OCD is masterful. The representation is top shelf. I feel accurate representation is paramount, and Tamara Ireland Stone deals with this topic sensitively through the experiences of our protagonist Samantha ‘Sam’ McAllister. But it was the tone of ‘Every Last Word’ that is holding me back. It’s hard to talk about a serious ailment without it feeling heavy or depressing, but I would have liked some more levity to break up the narrative and offer some respite. Maybe pose a great juxtaposition for what Sam has to suffer through?

Additionally this was a triggering story for me personally. I have OCD, and much of the descriptions of Sam’s attacks I’ve had to deal with in the past, so ‘Every Last Word’ may have a stronger negative emotional impact on me than another reader. Plus, some of the attitudes reflected from Sam’s high school friends feels very mean-girl-esque, and I simply have no time, and low tolerance, for this type of behaviour. Though, Stone addresses this in the novel brilliantly.

What we get in ‘Every Last Word’ is a brilliant first person experience of a young girl experiencing OCD, her triggers, her coping mechanisms, and how she grows and adapts throughout high school and friendships. I especially like how she was given new coping mechanisms and confidence as she faced new experiences/ outgrew old ones.

There was a lovely twist that I did not see coming (though a particularly overused trope,) but the main plot is fairly predictable. The language and characters suit a younger demographic for the YA market. But the pacing is spot on, I was able to read this very quickly in two sittings. It pulled out a lot of the feels, and concludes on a hopeful note.

I’d definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporaries, it levels an accurate portrayal of OCD, and has a cute romance to boot. It’s not for everyone, but I am glad I got to experience Tamara Ireland Stone’s writing. I’ve looked at her other titles on Goodreads and it seems like she writes a lot of cute light romance contemporaries, but none that have ignited my interest at this point. Let me know if you’ve read any of her other titles and what you think about them. I’m on the fence with this author.

Overall feeling: *rocks my hand side to side*

© 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 – ‘Sacrifice’ (#5 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Another guilty pleasure – but didn’t feel like the end of the series.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarliseGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 324

From Goodreads:

Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He’s the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he’s all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She’s got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael’s defiance, his family’s ‘bad luck’. Before he knows it, Michael’s enemies have turned into the Merricks’ enemies, and they’re armed for war.

They’re not interested in surrender. But Michael isn’t the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?

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At this point in time, ‘Sacrifice’ is meant to be the last book in the Elementals collection. But I didn’t feel it. I was hoping for the all stakes battle, for all the Elementals to join together as one unstoppable fighting unit. We’ve been getting hints of this all through the series – and well… *fizzle* *deflated balloon*

As with all the other books in the series, we get another perspective – this time from Michael, the oldest Merrick sibling. I’m so glad all the hormonal teen boy violence was kept to a hush and we actually got some story. Though there was an awful lot of people getting shot, blown up and killed. But the Merrick brothers seemed to have chilled a bit – that or they are still reeling and in shock.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlise.jpgI enjoyed the story, but ‘Sacrifice’ just didn’t pack the punch I was expecting. Maybe because Brigid Kemmerer already had a follow-up in the works, who knows. The characters and storylines are feeling more realistic, so I don’t understand why this didn’t grab me as much. Plenty of tension, the stakes were high for Michael… possibly it was the angst that was absent? Or maybe it’s my unmet expectation of the ultimate showdown not being realised? I was also hoping to get more on the mythology of the Elementals, the formation and organisation of the Guides and their motivation. It’s just been very precursory up until now. I want more history and nitty-gritty of these secret warring factions.

I also didn’t get much over the relationships of the other brothers – Kemmerer tends to omit the other characters when she’s concentrating on the story of her books protagonist. I missed Becca, Laney, Adam… I mean it’s a close-knit family unit and is seems common sense that their boyfriends and girlfriends would be present for most of the time.

But that’s just me being picky. And a little gibbed about not getting some of the answers I wanted.

Otherwise ‘Sacrifice’ was another great addition to the Elemental universe. I’m still wondering how there are so many Elementals though, it was getting to a point you couldn’t hurl a stick without hitting one. But that meant plenty of displays of awesome supernatural powers. Me likey! The tension between Hannah and Michael was great, especially with Hannah’s father continually getting in the way. I really enjoyed this emotional tussle.

I read this very quickly, in fact I was wondering where the rest of it was when I’d finished. The same breeze writing style leant to completing the novel in a day.

I’ve seen Brigid Kemmerer’s note on Goodreads informing fans that the next novel in this series ‘Strife’ had been put on indefinite hiatus due to contracts on some of the releases we are now starting to see released and on the publishing schedule. But I hope we get to see her return to the Merrick boys and publish the next book – maybe it will give me the answers I crave?

Nonetheless, I’m putting this guilty pleasure back on my shelf and looking towards the next challenge.

Overall feeling: Where was the rest?

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Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlise

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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 – ‘Secret’ (#4 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

A refreshing take on what was becoming a formulaic series.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 328

From Goodreads:

EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER.

Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.

And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides.

SECRETS IN THE WIND. DANGER IN THE AIR.

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What a turn of events – after starting to get a little bored with the formulaic writing in ‘Spirit’ and then reading the novella ‘Breathless,’ I was indeed breathless… and excited. ‘Secret’ certainly delivered.

We finally got away from the stereotypical romance and got a taste of some real angst. The character development in ‘Secret’ was fantastic for many of the cast. And I blazed this book in one setting. I was compelled. Protagonist, Nick possessed a quiet strength that appealed to me. The struggles he faced and the grappling with his identity felt so visceral and real.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifThe introduction of Adam as Nick’s love interest did feel abrupt and a bit insta-lusty, but it worked for me. Adam’s representation not only helps raise awareness of the abuse some teens face, but also juxtaposed all the machismo and violence. He was a pacifist and a pillar or strength rolled into one. It was refreshing to read a different type of male character that wasn’t all flighty attitudes and flexing muscles.

Quin and Tyler both managed to annoy the crap out of me though – but it’s just their personality… they deserve each other. Such drama queens, reactionary, and frightened, but express most of their feelings through violence or putting themselves in harms way. I didn’t enjoy their self-destructive ways – but is did make for great tension and plot point reveals.

I’m also seeing a pattern where some of the cast are getting dropped out of the story, It wouldn’t be hard to drop some bigger crumbs and involve them in the plot more prominently when they are not the leads. I felt like I was missing Hunter and Layne… ☹

I felt the melodrama and teen-boy violence was dialled back a bit and let the story shine. Don’t get me wrong, the hormone induced fits of rage are still in here, but if feels like the novel is starting to gain a conscious and perspective showing that it is not all right to always react to unpleasant situations with a fist.

It also felt like we got to tackle some real meaty social issues – and not just as a plot point, but as a tone persevering throughout the story. Discrimination, identity, violence, child abuse… and many more related issues. It gave this instalment a bit more substance, and I found this to be my favourite book in the series so far.

Kemmerer’s breezy and effortless writing style leads to a fast read, and she manages to keep the story driving forward with each chapter so the pacing rarely lags.

The relationships of just about all the main cast are put to the test and evolve in ‘Secret,’ and am interested to see the new dynamic at play in ‘Sacrifice.’ After how ‘Spirit’ ended and set things up, I was expecting more of a supernatural smack-down in ‘Secret,’ but this seemed to head off in a tangent. We still get some awesome paranormal goings-on, but the development of this story arc really didn’t progress, in fact it felt like a repetition of that of the previous novel. But the tangent of Nick’s story was definitely engaging nonetheless. I’m still craving my big battle scenes involving all of the cast – fingers crossed I get to see the elements fly in ‘Sacrifice.’

Secret’ definitely revived this series for me and gave me more faith in the Elementals. A great addition to the collection and one I highly recommend to read.

Overall feeling: Revived!!

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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 – ‘Spirit’ (#3 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Hormone fueled hot boys with superpowers and sassy girls… YA tropes at their best.

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

With power comes enemies. Lots of them.

Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.

He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.

Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust...

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With these books concentrating on the Merrick boys, I was surprised to discover that this ‘Spirit’ stepped away from the family and was from the perspective of the new comer, Hunter Garrity. But it stuck with the formulaic writing we are beginning to expect from this series. Fun, angsty, and with tropes up to the eyeballs.

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI’m starting to get over boys throwing tantrums and resorting to violence of some description to express their frustration. The Merrick boys and our protagonist for this book in the Elementals franchise, Hunter, love to beat, wrestle, and fight each other at the slightest hint of anxiety. It totally fits the bill of typical behaviour of young men in their teens, but getting into the third novel in this collection, the behaviour is getting tiresome. *sigh*

And then there’s Kat. The way she’s introduced is with a metaphorical slap in the face. She’s practically bipolar and makes no apologies for it. I love the fact she seems to be sexually liberated, not afraid to express her feelings and desires, but I felt her promiscuity was boarding on self-destructive behaviour.

The eldest Merrick brother, Garrick again shows his maturity and how he is growing in how he raises young teen boys with a gentle hand.

Spirit’ was fun, but it was all very melodramatic. I love me some angst and drama, and I think if there was some more time in-between reading each of these books I’d love them more, but there were moments when I felt the tone of the novels was a tad immature. Though, perfect for its intended demographic.

So I was getting over the formulaic presentation of the novels – a hot brooding male with violent tendencies, a magnet for trouble meets a sassy independent girl and then bicker and fight before revealing some deep dark scarred past to each other to finally bond… Yes, it is a guilty pleasure, and I do like this type of read every now and then, but I was hoping for some more variety in the Elementals series.

And just when I was thinking all hope was lost, there was a twist.

It didn’t completely redeem the series, but I’m still enjoying it, even with the frequent eye-rolling and huffing at the immaturity of the cast. Boys are so annoying most of the time.

As with the previous books, ‘Spirit’ was a quick read, well paced and developed the storyline even further. Some new characters added tension and interest, and I’m still keen to continue with the franchise. Though I wanted to get that big ah-ha moment from Hunter close to the end… it felt like a non-event. Such a big build up, all of their abilities and I wanted something truly epic, but was disappointed.

There is definitely a lot set up for the next novel in the series…

With many characters behaviour, and how the main cast misinterpret these actions – it happened quite a lot in ‘Spirit,’ and while it added some great tension and perfect reveals for the storyline, they weren’t all entirely believable, and well, felt overdone. Haven’t I read this plot device many times before?

So while entertaining, interesting, and full of a teen girls wet-dream, there was a large element of unoriginality for me. Yes, I’d still recommend it for those who love trope-y YA, and love the over-dramatic teen boy antics and the writing style of Kemmerer. It’s geared more towards the tween market than mature readers who enjoy a bit of young adult content every now and then.

Overall feeling: blah blah blah…

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Spirit (#3 Elementals) 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 – ‘Spark’ (#2 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Hot boy trouble and teen drama.

Spark (#2 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 345

From Goodreads:

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally. Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it. And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Because Layne has a few secrets of her own…

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I have to say I enjoyed this much more than ‘Storm.’ It was slightly more complex, and although it still had a lot of YA tropes and machismo that frustrated me, their dominance was less present in the storyline. Plus, I felt a stronger connection to the main characters, Gabriel being an angry loner, and Layne being a bookish nerd who doesn’t believe she is beautiful due to some unfortunate scars. Additionally the sense of family was much stronger. In ‘Storm’ the boys always bickered and fought like young bucks jostling for king of the pride; where in ‘Spark’ we start to see more of the person behind the roles they play and how each is slightly damaged, and what they have sacrificed. This ultimately led me to find the Merrick boys much more endearing. With ‘Storm’ I was annoyed with all the boys-will-be-boys behaviour and the amount of bullying that went on. ‘Spark’ brings a strong sense of belonging and comradery.

Mentioning bullying – it feels like every second person in this universe is a psychopath in the wings, waiting to impact with maximum devastation. It’s all so unrealistic and dramatic. But given the tone of this YA novel, it tends to the angsty, over-emphasised flare to create pace, drama, and engage the reader. This series feels like it had strong shades of the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. A group of special teens, just trying to be normal and fit in while battling oppressive forces trying to kill them, all the while hiding their existence from the general public.

Spark (#2 Elementals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGabriel managed to tick me off quite a bit, he is impulsive, reactionary and quick to use his fists. I kept flashing back to high school and those immature teen boys I wanted to drown in a river. Kemmerer captures that mix of boy and man, fuelled by hormone that we find both frustrating and loveable at the same time. Gabriel is definitely a flawed character and makes plenty of stupid decisions, some led by the character, and others I felt designed by Kemmerer herself in setting up plot and a big reveal.

Layne is my favourite character in this series so far. Yes, she is stereotypical, but I connected to her altruistic nature and insecurity. To her nerdiness and sass.

But the stand out performance has to come from the oldest Merrick, Michael. In ‘Storm’ he seemed to always be getting in the way – an obstacle to work around, where in ‘Spark’ Michael comes to the forefront with compassion, sacrifice, and wisdom. You really get a sense that he is the lynchpin holding the family together.

Spark’ is addictive and dramatic, but not a masterpiece. It is what it says it is on the cover. A marvellous YA romp. Expect stereotypes, tropes and lots of hot boys. This is definitely a guilty pleasure for me. The kind of quick fun read to give me a break in-between denser tomes.

I’m not so convinced on the propensity of Kemmerer to couple everyone up –  it feels a little contrite, but that is the trend in YA paranormal romances, so be prepared for some tension filled stories of boys finding true love – and a little of themselves along the way.

I feel like we don’t get as much of the play on the brothers elemental powers in ‘Spark’ – this is a more character driven story. But you get a sense of things building, leading to a battle so I’m sure in the next instalments we’ll get some grand-scale supernatural goodness… just the kind of thing that excited me about this series in the first place.

I managed to read this in a day. It’s punchy and each chapter drives the story forward. A change of perspective between Gabriel and Layne doesn’t really feel all that necessary for the plot, it lays out the storyline plainly and loses a bit of tension. But it gives us teen lamenting in return. A fun tweeny read that I find oddly compulsive; I will be continuing on, intrigued to see where Kemmerer is going to take us.

Overall feeling: getting to like this better.

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Spark (#2 Elementals) 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 – ‘Storm’ (#1 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Trashy and terribly addictive.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 432

From Goodreads:

Earth, Fire, Air, Water – they have more power than you dream.

Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her, Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys—all the ones she doesn’t want. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water—just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life’s at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who’s hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming . . .
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This was so typically YA. It had so many of the tropes. But I did enjoy it somewhat. It fell into my guilty pleasure category like the Lux series from Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Cue damsels in distress. Cue a love triangle. Cue stubborn boys who treat girls badly. Cue hormone addled teenage boy brains. It had so many tropes I was rolling my eyes. But I also like bad sci-fi and horror movies – I get a delicious kick out of them, and so too did I get a kick out of ‘Storm.’

I was frustrated with all the testosterone being flung around at many points. The possessive nature of the love interests. And everyone seemed okay with putting their hands on Becca to stop her, hold her, it was all a bit misogynistic. That aside, it was also dramatic, and tension-filled like so many pop culture tv movies. It’s the type of thing I enjoy to read every now and then. A quick easy fun adventure.

With so many of the elements that usually annoy the heck out of me in a story, ‘Storm’ could have been a massive flop, but something about this worked… I was always eager to see what was going to happen next. Curiosity, pace and tension were constant throughout. I think if some of the tropes had been eliminated or satirised, I would be singing the books praises, instead, it hit a middle-of-the-road vibe for me. Enjoyable and interesting, engaging even, but not too original.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgTold from dual perspectives of the ‘couple’ Becca and Chris, there was a heavy element of ‘tell’ and not ‘show.’

Beca annoyed me as a protagonist, she flip-flopped from one boy to another, always with some body part on her mind. It didn’t feel like she had much else going on except for all the beefcake circling her. She has her moments of stubbornness and empowerment which redeemed her character for me, but then she’d slip into a damsel in distress, or boy-crazy teen, and I was back to the eye-rolling.

Chris was aggravating, if it wasn’t for reading moments from his POV, I’d written him off completely. But he manages to pull a few rabbits out of the hat by displaying compassion and selflessness in between growling and getting all up in the faces of other males in Becca’s orbit.

Hunter was endearing. Charming. And then he fell prey to the possessive posturing too – seriously, I could feel testosterone dripping out of this book. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Hunter – even at the end I still did not get the resolution I was craving for – I’m guessing it will come in one of the following novels in the series. For the most part I’d have to say he was my favourite character. Whether he’s there just to add tension to the Becca-Chris relationship, or an actual viable option for Becca is still unclear.

Brigid’s writing is easy-going, and I read the book in a day. She manages to capture the frustrating teen boy nature perfectly. I literally wanted to reach my hand through the pages and throttle some of the characters. Many times. There are moments of swearing and bullying, and even moments of humour causing me to bark out loud.

As for predictability, I don’t know if I was having a good day or not, but I guessed the entire plot very early on, and even all the sub plots… so no surprises for me. But I still had fun.

It’s on the fence if I’d recommend this – I can see how some would find this derivative, and how others would love the teen angst and soap opera of it all. So if you love trashy paranormal romances – this one’s for you… if you like more intellectually challenging books, maybe skip this title.

Overall feeling: Overloaded on trashy teen drama!

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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.