This is the perfect example of book bloggers selling books, so to all you industry people and authors who say bloggers don’t sell books (not that we should, because it’s not our job!!!)… go away*.
Anyways. The Lighter Side of Life and Death. I don’t actually remember reading specific reviews for this book but I saw it at the bookstore, thought of Nomes, then bought it (not without a slight eye-brow raise from the cashier who was totes judging me because of that god-awful cover).
Sixteen-year-old Mason Rice is having the night of his life. He's just delivered an incredible performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year, and lost his virginity to one of his best friends—the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. His dreams are coming true, and the future looks golden.
Unfortunately, Kat sees things very differently. Crossing the friendship line was a big mistake, and all she wants is to forget it and move on, even if that means forgetting Mason altogether. What's a guy to do? Well, if you're Mason, you hang your hopes on the first attractive twenty-three-year-old you cross paths with. At first Mason wonders if he's imagining the chemistry . . . until Colette invites him over to her apartment. Suddenly Mason's living in a whole new world.
My Expectations: It’s a Nomes from Inkcrush rec (well, the author is) and we all know what that means (I had high expectations)
Delivery: It’s really good! I liked it, but it wasn’t insta-love.
This book is good. It’s really good. I can see the appeal of CK Kelly Martin now, I think her writing is more about the voice and the character than telling the story in a step by step manner. She pinpoints Mason’s voice from the very first page and fleshes him out as things get complicated making him one of the best male voices I’ve read in a while**. I loved how realistic he seemed, and what I loved even more is that Martin didn’t rely on some sort of crutch to shape his character. He’s not the runaway kid, the grieving brother, etc. He’s just a boy—he’s complicated, hormonal, confused, and authentic.
I thought Kat and Colette were respectable counterparts. I found myself sympathizing with Kat and never hating on Colette, which I think in itself created a complex dynamic that enhanced the reading experience. I liked the supporting characters and I found them all shine brighter because of Mason’s narration***.
It feels pathetic but I need to say it anyway. “I just like you more than you like me. It happens.”THIS. I thought this relationship was the part that Martin really nailed (excuse the pun. No seriously, get you head out of the gutter) because it is such a slim line between believable and lame and I thought all of Mason’s actions, from his forced-aloof-ness to his desperation to exude maturity… totally believable.
That said, the plot was also the part I had a hard time buying into. I felt that yes, it did tell a story but it lacked… something. I can’t figure out what, but I found myself at the end thinking “so what?” instead of “wow”. Martin had wonderfully explored the shades of grey in relationships (family and friends as well as ‘romance/lust’) but I felt along the way the plot got… murky. Like it got lost along the way only to be fished out at random places.
Lastly, I just wanted to touch on the subplots, and how awesomesauce they are. Friendships and new families were never cakewalks, and overall, I think Martin handled them very well.
Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable/Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: older audiences who want to read a unique contemporary YA from a male perspective (and a lot less specific than what I described too)
Acknowledgements: none in my copy. SMH. Not impressed.
8/10 – because there is so much good stuff, but I didn’t fall in love with it. I really loved Mason’s voice and the whole-ness of his character. I thought Martin tackled tricky themes really well and I liked the vibe of the book, if you get what I mean. I was never really fully invested in the plot though, and I thought the overall story did lack a bit of oomph. However, I can’t deny that this is a solid upper-YA**** book that has put CK Kelly Martin on my author-radar.
*yes, this is a ugh subject and I feel like recounting a slightly spiteful story of mine which would put me in an awful, petty light so I shall refrain :p
**speaking of male POVs, you guys should really read Split by Swati Avasthi—dude, that book is still floating inside my brain.
***he actually abbreviates his friends’ names! Yoanda and Zoe became Y and Z, which I dunno, I found really awesome.
****not intended for younger audiences.
author website / blog