Cheers, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday. This week we’re focusing on young love, first love, all the angst and wonder to be found in Young Adult/New Adult fiction.
The hardest part about choosing our Flashback Friday recommendations is when we get genre-specific because, let’s face it, every single one of us has more than one favorite book in the genres we frequent. In fact, Sammy and Sadonna have selected the same book this week–and again, I’ve read it and couldn’t agree more! In fact, I could have quite literally chosen any one of about a dozen titles this week, so be sure to watch for this category to show up again at a later date. Because young love, it ain’t kid’s play. ;-)
Congratulations to last week’s Flashback Friday winner, Silke, who selected Dani Alexander’s Shattered Glass. An excellent choice it is, too!
And, as always, click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of this week’s e-titles.
I’m so happy to be able to shine a spotlight on this book once again for this week’s Flashback Friday. I read and reviewed Gives Light back in January, and loved it so damn much, I just had to choose it for my contribution to our first ‘Fave YA’ books theme. And, in fact, it’s part of a series! So, if you’re like me, and like to get wrapped up in a world for more than one novel, you’re in luck.
Gives Light is the beginning of Skylar St. Clair’s story, and takes us through how he ended up living with his Granny on the Nettlebush Indian Reservation, as well as how he came to be mute, and how he met and fell in love with Rafael Gives Light.
In my review I described the book as “an important piece of literature that is at once a beautiful coming-of-age love story, and also an extremely thoughtful book dealing with several pressing Native American issues,” and I still think that’s a good, albeit a bit simplistic, summation. I was sucked into the story immediately; I couldn’t put it down, in large part due to the author’s fabulous storytelling ability, but mostly because of Sky. Stealing another snippet from my review…my thoughts on Sky:
“In Skylar, Rose Christo has created one of the most positive, loveable, funny, down-to-earth characters I have ever read. Sky’s attitude, wit, and zest for life are unparalleled, especially for someone who has had to overcome so much adversity, perhaps worst of all being the fact that he is mute. He runs at everything head-on, and won’t be brought down. I love him. Plain and simple.”
I know I’m supposed to be convincing you guys to go out and read this book…but, scrolling back through my highlights has made me want to read it again! I love reading YA, but I think even if YA isn’t your first choice, or you aren’t sure if you would like it, you should still add Rose Christo’s Gives Light to your reading list. This book has so much heart, and it’s so smart, and funny, and interesting. I can’t imagine anyone not being glad they gave it a try. If nothing else, I promise you that Skylar St. Clair is a character you won’t soon forget.
“Skylar is my name, tragically.” Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about. When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona. Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son. And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.
By far and above the best YA series I have read is John Goode’s Foster High Series. So often I feel YA gets a poor rap—I think sometimes readers feel that because a novel is young adult it may not have the same emotional impact an adult read offers.
Maybe With a Chance of Certainty is a coming of age novel like no other. Its story revolves around Kyle, a battered, oft physically abused seventeen-year-old, who lives with a drunken mother and a fear that someday someone will truly see him, will discover he is gay and will force him out into the light of day that he so adroitly avoids. Enter Brad, baseball hero, god of high school fame, the abused and broken seventeen-year-old who steadfastly hides in the closet until he sees Kyle, really sees him and knows…knows that this is what he has been missing…that this boy is one he likes, maybe, with a chance of certainty.
This book is never glib or self-important but it is humorous and self-aware. This book is never trite or condescending but it does dare to look at the smallest of fears and bring them into the light and it does meet us right at the emotional level where we live, and it says we have the right to live there, to feel as we do.
I want to encourage you to explore the YA genre—so many times I have experienced my own teen years played out on the pages of these wonderfully crafted stories. So, please, take a leap, if you have not already done so and scoop up one of these terrific authors today.
This is a great series and tells the love story of Kyle and Brad over a number of books. The first few books cover the main characters finishing their senior year of high school. There is both an M/M series and a YA version of the first three books, so you can take your pick.
Kyle Stilleno and Brad Greymark are high school students in Foster, TX. Kyle is keeping his head down trying to get out of town without being noticed. But it turns out that Brad has noticed him. He’s the star baseball player and he needs help in History so he gets Kyle to tutor him. But history is not the only thing they study. :) This series, much like my last Flashblack Friday, really is a beautiful story of the building of a relationship between these two very different guys. There are lots of rough moments and very typically teenaged angst-filled drama, but so worth the time to savor these books.
Kyle is probably my favorite YA character that I’ve read so far in M/M. He’s smarter than most of the adults in this series. :) He’s raised himself, for the most part – his mother is a bit lost in the parenting department. The opening lines of Maybe with a Chance of Certainty are some of my favorite lines I’ve read ever in any book. These words I think speak to so many kids on so many levels.
Brad, in many ways, is Kyle’s opposite. He’s high school royalty, comes from a family with some money (although, as we see, that doesn’t guarantee anything except a roof and three squares a day). His family is dysfunctional as well, but in a different way. He’s just as lost in some ways at Kyle, but somehow he knows that if he doesn’t go for this, he will regret it for the rest of his life. Sometimes he acts without thinking things all the way through, and Kyle is his anchor and his touchstone.
There are wonderful secondary characters, realistic and funny dialogue, tragedy that will make your heart ache and truths that will make you want to punch somebody in the throat. Just brilliantly written and I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves very well-written and emotional stories.
Kyle has worked hard at being the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad is the baseball star at Foster High. Both boys are damaged in ways that the rest of the world can’t see. When they bond over a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks that maybe his life has taken a turn for the not so lonely.
He finds out quickly that the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for one of the most popular boys in school, and if being different is a sin in high school, then being gay is the biggest sin of all. Now Kyle and Brad need to come to an understanding amidst the scrutiny of their peers or their fledgling relationship will crash and burn before it ever gets off the ground.
Unintended is one of those rare books that does flashbacks really well. Those flashbacks are what power the story around two of the sweetest boys who unintentionally become friends and then fall in love. This story starts out in the present and goes back to ten years prior. The story shows the start of their relationship ten years in the past, and their lives now as they’re moving into their first house.
While this isn’t a very long story, coming in a just 100 pages, there is a lot of relationship and emotions packed into that space. Both Taylor and Alex are ordinary young men going through the motions of life and end up meeting each other in very normal circumstances. Their relationship, though, is a bit extraordinary because both boys realize almost immediately that they have met someone very special to them. Even though at first they can’t define just how special this person will be in their lives.
I really loved how M.J. O’Shea shows the little things that matter between Taylor and Alex because so many times that’s glossed over in romances. That doesn’t mean they have an easy journey, because they do make some mistakes along the way, including one major one that hurts both of them. It’s how they come out in the end that matters the most, though.
I can’t really tell you how much I enjoyed this book and want others to read it and meet these two awesome characters. Alex will melt your heart, and Taylor will make you want to hug him to death by the end of the story.
**Note:** This titles is available only via Amazon
Taylor thought he had everything together. He just got into the college of his choice and all he had to do was coast through the rest of the year, enjoy his friends, and wait for freedom. He hasn’t really participated in the gossip about the mysterious and beautiful new boy who just showed up in school, but he had to admit the guy was intriguing.
Alex was completely lonely. His family moved so often that he’d never had a chance to really fit in anywhere. The new guy in town, gorgeous and rich, he was the object of envy, the subject of stares. But he dreamed of having one real friend in a sea of shallow acquaintances. Somebody who actually knew him, not just what he looked like.
They met by accident, when Taylor stumbled into Alex’s room at a party. It only took them one night to decide they were meant to be best friends, and not much longer after that to realize that they were in love.
Taylor, who’d never been with a boy, was afraid of what would happen when he finally admitted to the world that he was in love with Alex. Alex, who wasn’t willing to be a secret much longer, was afraid that his family would pack up and move again before he had the chance to convince Taylor that their love was worth any pain it might cause when it was brought out in public.
In a sweet and sometimes painful story of true love, Unintended answers the question:
“Would you change who you were to be with the one person you were meant to love?”
There are so many amazing YA titles out there right now, especially in the last few years. Beyond that, however, it does get a little difficult. When I first started reading LGBT fiction, there was a dearth of books for teens with gay themes. The books that were out there were good, but they just weren’t enough.
The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne hits so much of what is right with the YA genre. It’s historical, it’s touching, and it’s beautifully written. I’ve reviewed it for The Novel Approach before because it’s a rerelease, but the book actually came out in 2009. Honestly, I’m disappointed I hadn’t read it when it first came out, because this book is just phenomenal.
Norris is a sympathetic character. The youngest of four, his family struggles financially. Between his older brother trying to save enough to propose to the girl he loves and his older sisters squabbling every chance they get, and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten that he doesn’t even go to school; instead, the family has one of their tenants tutoring Norris with old books that are falling apart. And Norris just wants an education. He wants to learn science so he can properly tinker with things and make them work.
When Norris begins to start seeing shadow people, everything in the book starts to slowly fall into place. New characters emerge and Norris begins his journey that is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.
Just writing this review for Flashback Friday makes me want to go back and reread this book! I have no doubt you’ll love it as much as I do!
London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead, it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside — a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him.
Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-people” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.
The Twilight Gods is a retelling of the Native American folktale, “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.
I’m going to start out with a little backstory about this week’s choice.
On August 28, 2012, my mom passed away. For the three weeks she was in the hospital and, ultimately, in hospice care, I was driving three hours round-trip, four to five days a week, to sit at her hospital bedside. To top it off, I’d just lost my sister to cancer five months earlier, I missed my childrens’ first day of school, I missed a lot of time with my own family while taking care of a developmentally disabled brother and a father with dementia—who didn’t understand, and needed frequent reminders, that his wife of 62 years was dying. Suffice to say, the only thing that kept me sane at the time was escaping into books during those long and mind numbing hours sitting and listening to monitors beeping, while wondering when my mom was going to take her final breath.
Now, for the honesty part: I don’t remember much of what I read during this time, but I very much do remember one gorgeous and lyrical Young Adult novel—it resonated so deeply in its beauty and simple truths that during a time when most of what I recall is that the stress was almost too much to bear, I remember this book. The book is Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
On August 14th, I wrote a simple review of this book. I’m going to steal a snippet from that review because, at a time in my life when not much made sense, this book spoke to me. Aristotle and Dante made sense of a universe that’s full of mystery and wonder of so many things yet to discover.
Reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe taught me that there’s such a thing as too much, and that it’s possible for a book to be written sparely and still be full and abundantly powerful.
Ari Mendoza narrates this story, the story of a fifteen year old loner who meets Dante Quintana in the summer of 1987 and is suddenly not so lonely anymore, though he still feels very much alone with his anger and frustration. This is the story of a boy on the verge of evolution and the slow and sometimes painful discovery that being ashamed of how he feels doesn’t make those feelings inevitably shameful.
• I learned that feeling small and insignificant and inadequate doesn’t make it true.
• I learned it’s possible to run away from something and not even realize you’re running or understand exactly what it is you’re running from.
• I learned that feeling sorry for yourself is the quickest path to loneliness.
• I learned silence can be just as powerful and destructive as anger.
• I learned it’s possible to wear the scars of battle without ever going to war.
• I learned that the most crippling scars of war are the ones that live inside of you.
• I learned there’s a difference between feeling real and feeling valid.
• I learned that a face can be the light in an otherwise dark world.
• I learned that it’s possible to love someone more than you think you’re capable of ever bearing.
• I learned that we all are in a constant state of discovering who we are, no matter our age.
• I learned it’s possible to look for something but not know exactly what it is you’re looking for.
• I learned that love is an instinct and is sometimes directed not by what we say but what we do.
• I learned that hiding from yourself is easier than hiding from the people who see you for who you truly are.
• I learned it’s possible to be so near to someone that it’s impossible to see all they mean to you.
• I learned it’s possible to be ashamed and have no idea why.
• I learned that all the mysteries of the universe can be found in a kiss and can be solved just by holding someone’s hand.
I can’t say for sure whether or not this book would be as impactful if I reread it today as it was at that time in my life, but I can say that at the time, it was a book that moved me deeply.
And the cover…the cover is everything.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.
But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
The Fine Print:
*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*E-book will be delivered in winner’s choice of format (.epub, .mobi, .pdf – dependent upon availability)