I'm happy to welcome Lisa from The Novel Approach back to my blog for this month's Booyah Books.
Hi everyone! I hope you all had an wonderful November and that whichever holiday it is you celebrate as we speed headlong into the month of December, it brings you a multitude of joyous moments.
This month’s installment of the Booyah! may not interest everyone. I totally get that in this realm of M/M romance where all our favorite authors consistently and skillfully deliver the erotic, Young Adult fiction might have a very limited appeal. But let me tell you, I just read two books last month that are easily a couple of the best, YA or otherwise, I’ve ever read. And that’s saying something, because I read a lot.
The first of the two is by an author who’s new to the M/M genre, J.C. Lillis, and her book is called How to Repair a Mechanical Heart. I’m just going to say, no lies, this book is unlike any I’ve ever read. Now, having said that, maybe it’s just because I haven’t been looking, but regardless, this one’s an original, and I can’t recommend it aggressively enough.
This is a story that deals with Brandon Page’s coming out, and all the ways he struggles with his very vocal Catholic conscience. But here’s the thing; J.C. handles this in such a humorous and kind of heart-tugging way that it never once delves into the preachy. In fact, Brandon’s inner monologues are almost like another character in the book, which totally endeared him to me because it’s so much a part of who he is.
But the thing that makes this book original is the backdrop it’s set against. This is a road-trip story about three friends: Brandon, his BFF, Bec, and his fellow vlogger and love interest, Abel McNaughton—who’s out and proud and funny and charming—everything that could possibly attract Brandon to him. Brandon and Abel are serious, we’re talking serious, fans of a show called “Castaway Planet”, and the three friends are traveling RV-style around the country to attend a variety of cons featuring the show’s cast. Along the way, you’ll meet a unique cast of show ‘shippers, ranging anywhere from rabid purists to the fanficcers who think the show’s stars, Captain Cadmus and Sim (an android), should just go ahead and get it on. There’s also a certain segment of the fandom who think Brandon and Abel should get it on too, and that’s where the romance—and the conflict—begin.
And there you have it. Just when I’ve become complacent in the belief there can’t possibly be any more original ways to tell me a coming-of-age story, J.C. Lillis happens along and not only tells it but sells it in a colorfully wrapped package of humor and pop-cultural icon worship and maybe even just a smidgen of satire, then plops a big red bow of characters I unashamedly fell in love with smack-dab on top of this ginormous gift.
Brandon, Abel, their fabulous friend Bec, and perhaps the most prominent character of all, Brandon’s hyperactive and very vocal conscience, shared a story with me that made me laugh, brought a lump to my throat, and tweaked the part of me that made me want to hug Brandon close and tell him that love is never wrong.
If you like YA even a little bit, give this one a read.
Buy How to Repair a Mechanical Heart HERE.
For those not familiar with Harmony Ink, this is the Young Adult press started up earlier this year by Dreamspinner. When I first found John’s “Tales From Foster High” series, it was offered as three separate novellas on the DSP site. Well, now you can find those first three stories in one book, titled simply Tales from Foster High, where the invisible boy, Kyle Stilleno, and his fresh-out-of-the-closet jock boyfriend, Brad Greymark, are introduced and quickly become the most visible couple at their small Foster, Texas high school, as they take on the establishment and the bullies-that-be who are trying to make things as difficult as humanly possible for the boys.
End of the Innocence is a continuation of their story and shouldn’t be read as a standalone. Their background and all these two boys have gone through, and are still going through to be together, is critical to loving them. Theirs is a story of courage and of standing up for the right to dignity and to love honestly, and is a story about standing firm and uniting against the bullies who would try to push them, and anyone else who is deemed different, back into the shadows.
This is a book that also illustrates the sad and heartbreaking reality that sometimes the bullies win, but that the war continues and it goes on because what touches others can also rock the very foundation of who you are and what you believe in, and change is worth fighting for.
Kyle and Brad are without a doubt in the upper stratosphere of my all-time favorite characters, simply because John Goode has made them so. He has a great gift for telling a story that is, by all accounts, a means of delivering the sweet promise of a love story designed to make me believe in forever, blended with clever dialogue and sharp prose, added to that a powerful message that shares both tragedy and hope.
I could gush on and on about this book and this series. It is easily one of the most outstanding examples of realistic Young Adult fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Sometimes the message is that real life sucks hard, but then again, sometimes the message is that when enough people care to band together for the sake of change, change is inevitable for the sake of those who care enough to make it happen.
Let me tell you, this book isn’t easy on the heart or the tear ducts, but is so very, very worth the journey if you’re willing to heed the word.
Buy End of the Innocence HERE.
And that's it for this month's YA themed installment of the Booyah! Until next time, happy reading!