Tag Archives: YA

4.5 Stars for Before I Break by Alec John Belle #MM #YA @AlecBelle

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Title: Before I Break (Before I Break #1)
Author Name: Alec John Belle
Publication Date & Length: September 7, 2014 – 306pgs

Synopsis

When religiously raised Cyril Hayes begins his junior year at East Hill High School, every choice he makes suffers a greater consequence, and while facing challenges of friends, family, and love, learns that hate and intolerance are also a very large part of our world today.

Cyril Hayes is seemingly just like any other male his age. He has the perfect girlfriend, Melissa Summers, his best friend, Jake Rivers, and a lawyer father who brings home enough money to support his family and then some. When Cyril begins his junior year, he doesn’t expect his life to spiral out of control when he meets Avery Branson, the new kid in school who has a big secret: he’s gay. At first, Cyril doesn’t handle this truth well, due to the way he was raised, but as the story progresses, he ventures deep into the reality of homosexuality and begins to accept Avery for who he is.

Not everyone is happy with Cyril’s new friend, including Jake, who believes that homosexuality is a sin and is refusing to budge his beliefs. But Avery isn’t the only one at East Hill with secrets, and soon a tragedy will strike, knocking Cyril’s world completely off balance and leaving a scar on his heart that will change his view of humanity all together.

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Review

FourandHalfStars

This is a wonderful story because it shows that no matter what you are told in your church regarding gays it only takes meeting one to change your mind.  This is what happens to Cyril. It begins with Cyril Hayes, his girlfriend, Melissa Summers and Jake Rivers, his best friend on the first day of school. Cyril is very excited about starting his junior year. A new student, Avery Branson, enters Cyril’s class and he feels the need to be Avery’s first friend.  Avery is apprehensive and wants nothing to do with Cyril.

Upon reading this and knowing how high school is, I thought maybe Avery is aloof.  He may think he is too good for the students in the school.  However, when I read Avery’s poem that is between chapters you know right away that Avery is not aloof at all, he is this way so he doesn’t suffer any more pain.  You can feel the pain he suffers by reading the numerous poems throughout the book.  I thought it was an excellent way of knowing how Avery was feeling without telling.  They serve as flashbacks as well.

The friendship between Avery and Cyril is up and down.  Cyril has been taught by his church that God hates gays that it has been drilled into his brain for so many years that he believes it.  Cyril does not know that Avery is gay at first.  I cringed when Avery does tell Cyril, because I knew how he would react.  He freaks out, screaming, stating he felt used.  He does apologize and Avery does eventually forgive him.

There is a running story line though out about Jake realizing that Cyril is spending more time with Avery.  Jake can’t understand why he wants to spend more time with a gay guy.  It could be because they went to the same church.  Cyril realizes he has more in common with Avery than Jake.

The ending of the book moved me to tears.  Jake is mentally unstable and does something unthinkable because of the church’s teachings.  Jake has to suffer the consequences of his actions as well.

Angela

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AuthorBio

Alec John Belle is an online high school student that resides in the state of Massachusetts. His hobbies include reading, writing, and trying to find out who “A” is on Pretty Little Liars. He writes about tough topics that many are too afraid to talk about like suicide, homosexuality, self harm, cyberbullying, anxiety disorders, addiction, and other teenage issues, and he often blends these ideas with the paranormal. Before I Break is his first novel.

Before I Break is an Amazon Bestseller in LGBT Issues of Teen Fiction, and a sequel titled Once I Fall is set to hit Amazon December 15, 2015. His new paranormal young adult series, The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles, is set to release it’s first three books in 2015.

Alec John Belle has an active Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and previously Blogger before coming to WordPress.

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4 Stars for The Breaking Point by Catrina Wolfe – #FF #YA

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Title: The Breaking Point
Author Name: Catrina Wolfe
Publication Date & Length: July 23, 2014 – 140pgs

Synopsis

How often do we pass strangers on the street, in shops, at school with lost sad expressions on their faces? How often do we notice let alone try to help? Jodi is one such person struggling in a world where most people don’t notice or care. When her sexuality becomes known to the school by accident she becomes an outcast. Fearing for their daughter, her parents move their family away to start over. It is in this new environment that Jodi meets Carsen who had a similar high school experience. Carsen has problems of her own, a past not dealt with and a rocky marriage to contend with. When she extends a reluctant hand in friendship to Jodi she is surprised when Jodi is not the only one who learns from it. She teaches Jodi strength in adversity, in return she slowly begins to face her own demons.

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Review

FourStars

Jodi is bullied by her ex best friend, her boyfriend and their friend. I could feel Jodi’s desperation in the beginning. Her parents and the teachers do not try to stop the harassment. She feels that there is little left for her to do. She tries to end her life but is unsuccessful.

The parents are devastated by the situation and in their devastation seem to drift away from Jodi. A move might help strengthen the bond between parents and child, but something else happens. I really liked how the realtor convinces her partner, Carsen, to speak to Jodi about her similar experience. There is a feeling of optimism that this book has not had up to this point. Jodi meets a girl who is interested in her, another ray of light. I’m thinking that this book is going to have a happy ending when Jodi has a run in with her bullies. Jodi tries to end her life and is successful this time.

I have to admit this ending to a book really rattled me. With a larger support system, I believed that Jodi could go to these people. The characters really draw you in and you want a happy ending for the girl who was bullied. Unfortunately, bullying takes its toll.

Angela

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4.5 Stars for The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen #trans #lgbt #ya

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Title: The Other Me
Author Name: Suzanne van Rooyen
Publication Date & Length: Dec 18, 2013 — 218 pgs

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Treasa Prescott thinks she’s an alien. She doesn’t fit in with the preppy South African private school crowd and feels claustrophobic in her own skin. Treasa is worried she might spend life as a social pariah when she meets Gabriel du Preez. Gabriel plays the piano better than Beethoven, has a black belt in karate, and would look good wearing a garbage bag. Treasa thinks he’s perfect. It might even be love, as long as Gabriel doesn’t find out she’s a freak.

As Treasa spends time with Gabriel, she realizes she might not love him as much as she wants to be him, and that the reason she feels uncomfortable in her skin might have less to do with extra-terrestrial origins and more to do with being born in the wrong body.

But Gabriel is not the perfect boy Treasa imagines. He harbors dark secrets and self-destructive tendencies. Still, Treasa might be able to accept Gabriel’s baggage if he can accept who she longs to be.

Review

FourandHalfStars

This is a fairly quick read, as it’s young adult and not long. It’s relatively fast-paced, as I expected. The YA genre and length should not be deterrents for anyone interested in the subject, however. This was hands-down one of the best works of YA queer fiction I’ve ever read.

It is the story of a South African trans teenager, though it is also in part a love story. Not merely in the romantic sense (though there’s a bit of that too) but in a general sense, including self-acceptance and love between friends or family members. Most people, not only teenagers, would be able to relate to the themes of feeling like an outsider and of being trapped in a life or body that feel wrong.

The first thing that impressed me was that it’s about a trans boy. More often than not, trans fiction focuses on people living their authentic lives as girls/women. Of the several YA tans-themed books I’ve read previously, all were about trans girls. The second thing of note is that it’s told mainly from Treasa’s perspective and with Treasa’s feelings about actually being a boy. Other books have told trans stories mainly from the perspective of lovers or family members. Finally, the last thing that stood out was that Treasa is also not straight. Again, the vast majority of my previous readings have involved trans people who are presumed gay until they transition, but Treasa maintains a preference for boys throughout.

Another aspect to Treasa’s identity as a gay boy is that often, trans stories are incredibly binary. In other words, someone “proves” to be a “real” boy because of a love for sports and typically masculine pursuits and interests. Treasa is, even as a boy, still somewhat gender-non-conforming. I appreciate that the author didn’t go overboard to assure us just how much of a boy Treasa truly is.

Those things alone make the book an absorbing read. In addition, the two main point-of-view characters, Treasa and Gabriel, are both very different from the teenagers who populate many YA novels. They both have secrets and things about which they feel hurt and shame, however, both are highly sympathetic characters. They are the sort of people who feel like friends after reading their stories. Characters are always my favorite part of any story, and I found myself drawn to both of them.

The only things about which I had any concerns are a few minor implications. First, Treasa muses that it must not be normal for a girl to want to write fan fiction about two boys. It’s hard to tell whether this is the author’s view as well or whether Treasa just feels like an “alien” already that everything is suspect.

My other concern was that Gabriel insists throughout the book that his few very minor gender-non-conforming behaviors (mainly music and nail polish) don’t make him gay. But he does it to the point that I couldn’t help wondering who he was trying to convince–himself or the reader. Again, it was hard to tell if this was the author’s insertion of her views or genuinely part of his character, an unwillingness to question his own sexuality. This becomes particularly important towards the end of the story.

These concerns are not reasons to dislike the book. On the contrary, they provide excellent talking points. Rather than making assumptions about the author’s intent or rejecting the book for perceived flaws, we should have open dialog about what those things mean.

Overall, I rank this as one of my all-time favorite YA books. Despite the fact that I’m well past the target age and rarely read the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it to anyone who has adolescents, in part because the beginning of empathy is understanding. Provided the book is still in print, I fully plan to make sure my kids read it when they are older.

I give this book 4.5 stars.

~Amy

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AuthorBio

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and entertains her shiba inu, Lego.

Suzanne is also the publicity manager for Entranced Publishing and is rep’d by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Works include:
Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir)
Obscura Burning (Etopia)
The Other Me (Harmony Ink)
I Heart Robot (Month9Books)

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Author’s Website: suzannevanrooyen.com