That Time I… Survived My Teens

That Time I… Survived My Teens by Craig Barker: Review by Lost in a Book for @BMBR

That Time I... Survived My Teens

Blurb:

The Saturday prior to starting this memoir, my ex-fiancé and I had two of his work friends over for an old-fashioned games night. And when I say “old-fashioned,” I’m talking about dice, cards, racking up your points on an abacus, etc. You know, the things people entertained themselves with before politicians blamed every violent fart that wafted their way on video games.

Stop doing that.

Anyway, seeing as I didn’t know who these people were and would’ve much rather spent the evening on the sofa with our dog, I was less than optimistic. If anything, the whole ordeal was going to be like sitting through a Christopher Nolan movie. Sure, I’d say I was having a great time to fit in, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t have a clue what was happening, and I’d probably need to take a nap midway through.

Hours before they arrived, just as I’d started to have those “what if I accidentally say something so obscenely offensive or mind-numbingly stupid, I’ll be haunted by the memory of it for years to come” thoughts, my ex ran down into the basement in which I dwell, his eyes frantic, and begged—

“Please don’t talk about choking on dicks when they get here.”

Come again?

“Please, Craig. That kind of talk makes them uncomfortable. Don’t do it.”

I felt a flurry of emotions in the picosecond it took for his words to register: amused, bemused, offended. It sounded like a joke, but his face was full of fear—a fear that I would be unequivocally crude to these complete strangers, and that my behavior would burn bridges he obviously wanted to keep erect (more on erections later).

That was when it hit me like a pair of loose-hanging nuts to the taint; a realization that I, Craig Thomas Barker, had a pattern of behavior that stretched across my life since adolescence—

I’m the person you get warned about before meeting. I’m the person that gets warned before going anywhere.

Like Carrie Bradshaw, “I couldn’t help but wonder” why that was. So, in order to understand who I am today, I decided to take a look at the years that shaped me. I spread my life out on the table, lubed it with the flare of artistic exaggeration, and went at it until I found my answer.

This isn’t so much a memoir as it is a gay’s journey to discover himself; don’t expect structure, coherency, or a thoroughly thought out narrative with a climactic closing paragraph that gives any of this dribble closure. I’m no one special, I’m not famous, and I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said before, but I have lived a life, and all twenty-six years of that life has culminated in a single sentence—

“Please don’t talk about choking on dicks when they get here.”

This memoir explains why…
And it was cheaper than therapy.

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5 Stars

I’ve been on a memoir kick for a bit and one thing I always struggle with is rating them. I mean, how do you give rating for someone’s actual real life moments? Luckily, this one is very readable, engaging, full of feels, and written in a casual way that is reminiscent of telling stories to my best friends… in between alcohol, drugs, sex, and all the other trigger warnings that are sprinkled throughout. That Time I… Survived My Teens is sad, soooo heartbreaking, and had me laughing as we follow the author, Craig Barker through his teenage years while getting a contact high and liver damage from reading about all his shenanigans.

My initial thoughts were that this would be a cheeky, fun, and lighthearted read about all the embarrassing moments that take place throughout the teenage years. WRONG. The bullying and homophobia Barker endured is disgusting and absolutely heartbreaking to read about. How can “teachers” turn the other way? Administrators? Friends? Adults? Who the fuck ever? Someone should have been able to step up and step their ass in to protect him. But nope… and holy shit was he terrorized. I hope you don’t let that dissuade you from reading this. I’d would imagine that reliving this was painful for him but finally telling his story to people that will actually listen might be therapeutic. Like lancing a wound and getting rid of the infection. I felt honored to share a fraction of this heartbreaking memoir and only wish I could have been his teacher so his path wouldn’t have been as broken.

Was Craig innocent and the picture of a perfect student, son, friend? Nope. Not even a little. He admits his pain-in-the-assery and selfish tendencies. Some reactions and actions are questionable but when you’re constantly backed into a corner/wall and the very people hired to care for and protect you only exacerbate the issues, it’s inevitable one would strike out at anyone and everyone.

Craig experienced a lot beginning at age 13 through high school and I’m glad I was able to read and feel his story, angst, anger, sadness, hopelessness, and moments of his escape. I’ll most definitely continue on this journey if he feels inclined to tell us more. Recommended.

Trigger- drugs, alcohol, mention of self-harm, bullying, homophobia, addiction, depression.

P.S. Fuck that school. Fuck the administrators and most especially Fuck the teachers. As educators we are hired to teach children not only academics but go alongside parents to model how to be good human beings and not tolerate this behavior. The assholes in this school (and any other school that allows bullying and homophobia to take place) clearly got into education for wrong reasons. On behalf of “mama/papa bear” educators who truly love their jobs and the students placed in our charges, I’m sorry. You are loved. You are valued. You are worth it just as you are.

Copy provided for honest review.

What If It’s Us

What If It’s Us by by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera: Review by Lost in a Book

What If It's Us

Blurb:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

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3.5 Stars 

The ending…

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and…

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I don’t even know what the hell kind of ending that was. So warning, it’s not a HFN/HEA. I can’t explain much more than that without giving spoilers. Just know I am pissed and sad and maybe everything in between. (#Dramatic) Where TF was my warning about it not having a HFN/HEA? I don’t think every story has to have one BUT I don’t want to read the ones that don’t. *sigh* Sorry, I’m still emotionally ragey AF.

Anyway, Arthur is a 16 year old student “interning” at his mother’s law firm in New York City. He has a happenstance encounter with a cute boy while out running errands but unfortunately, they get separated before details are exchanged. What follows is a series of events using social media and missed connections as two teenagers humorously follow signs from the universe in hopes that they will be reconnected.

I love Arthur and Ben. They’re so completely different and really develop this amazing connection. Arthur is like this excited little puppy who is super extra all the time. Ben always says that Arthur has zero chill and that’s correct. His excitement is contagious and he naturally brings out the best in people while also drawing everyone together. Ben’s a bit more rough around the edges and while he usually has the best of intentions, his execution leaves much to be desired. They don’t have much time but the young love consumes them.

“It’s weird, because even I know that two weeks are nothing. So why do two weeks with Ben feel so earth-shattering?”

There were a few things I really liked about What If It’s Us:
~The anticipation- The path to reuniting had me on the edge of my seat. I was so ready for an epic moment. (Even if the moment didn’t live up to my imagination the build up definitely worked for me).
~NERDS!!!!!- The nerdiness is on a whole new level and I loved every bit. I may have added 1/2 star for all the HP references. *shrugs*
~The support system- I adored the friends surrounding the MCs. They are supportive, loving, funny, and real. Dylan. Oh Dylan, he made me giggle.
“Right. Okay. If you’re not going to speak from the dick, I think you should speak from the heart. That seems like the next logical step.”
~The parents. *dreamy sigh* Both sets of parents are amazeballs and love/support their kids as parents should.

If you’re looking for a spiced up Y/A (is that a thing?) then this isn’t for you. Everything takes place off page besides kissing. There are some jokes but nothing explicit between the main characters is written. This worked well with the story and the maturity (and age) of Arthur and Ben. The focus is more about building their connection.

Was it perfect? nope. The first half seemed a little draggy to me at times. It got to the point that I was skimming instead of reading because things were taking forever. There were some story lines that seemed random IMO.  I could *maybe* see they were added as another way to show that it’s important to accept someone as they are? Did I mention the ending?  I’m also still peeved about that. Reallllly f’n peeved.

The writers are very talented and I was invested. I loved the characters but I can’t move past where they left off. Especially when it’s unknown if a sequel will follow.

sad.gifI don’t know if I’d recommend this. Maybe yes? Because Arthur and Ben are great. Maybe no, if you’re the type of reader that needs closure. YMMV. If I pretend the ending had a HEA, I could give it 4 stars.

”But Arthur? I barely know him. I guess that’s any relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

 

Noah Can’t Even

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green: Review by Lost in a Book

Noah Can't Even (Noah Can't Even, #1)

Blurb:

Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos.

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2.5 Stars

*sigh*

It’s me…

*cranky face*

I went into Noah Can’t Even with the preconceived notion that it would be a coming of age read with sexual discovery, lots of humor, sweet and steady relationship progression, and with touching moments interspersed throughout. See? My fault for having so many assumptions

What we actually get is Noah being a nerdy high schooler that thinks there are certain things he can do that would make him a tiny bit more popular and wash away the embarrassment that his parents’ actions have caused (Totally fine). He has one person in his corner, Harry, his best friend (Still working for me). Noah is also insanely dramatic and chaos follows in his wake.

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As the blurb mentions, Harry kisses him at a party but that takes for-freaking-ever. This isn’t really a coming of age romance. It’s more about Noah navigating high school and being a 15 year old that’s clueless about life, his family, and his sexuality. Most of the story is about Noah navigating a shitstorm of events that just. won’t. quit.

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Was it funny? Sure, there were funny parts. But it was also stressful. The bullying, the parents, Noah, etc., all became OTT. There weren’t enough funny parts to counteract the never ending drama that was Noah’s life, IMO.

I didn’t give up though. I was still rooting for Noah. I wanted to see something lighthearted and positive come out of it for Harry and Noah. They get their HFN (I think?) but of course it doesn’t come with total bliss. There’s a life circumstance cliffhanger for Noah that…

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Whatever. It wasn’t my cuppa but YMMV.

Skating Through

Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove: Review by Lost in a Book

Skating Through

Blurb:

There are two things Ben Lewis has convinced himself he can never have at the same time: playing hockey and being openly gay. Hockey is looking to be his only choice. Until now. Being captain of the team and starting his senior year of high school is a lot to handle. Throw in a budding friendship with his crush, Marcus, and Ben is faced with deciding if he’s brave enough to take the next step.

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2.5 Stars

So…

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Skating Through didn’t grab me like I was hoping it would. I’m a huge fan of Y/A and coming of age stories. It wasn’t bad. Or good. It just… was??

Ben Lewis is a high school hockey player that’s firmly in the closet. He has a best friend named Ryan that’s his only source of companionship where he can truly be himself and the rest of the time isolates himself from real relationships. Ben has had a crush on a fellow student (Marcus) but hasn’t pursued anything for fear of outing himself to his team and family.

Marcus is bright, sassy, and refuses to hide. He can pull off any shade of hair and isn’t afraid to show his interest in Ben. Both boys rarely see each other until the summer before their senior year where they’re constantly in the same place and eventually form a friendship.

Other than that, nothing really happened. Yes, coming out of the closet is a huge deal. I don’t need dramatics in everything I read and can appreciate realistic situations and reactions. But for me, the main characters were boring. There was some odd story line through the plot about a historical connection. I think it was supposed to help drive the plot but seemed out of place- almost like it was added after the rest of the story was written. The “tell and not show” writing in this book is everywhere and drove me a tad crazy. There’s a lot of daily minutiae included on page but the meat of the story happened off page.

At least I liked their friends.

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If you’re looking for a sweet, no drama, low angst, rated G read, this could be for you. I like my YA or Coming or Age stories to pack a little more of a punch but YMMV.

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Holding On

Reviewed for @BMBR

4 Stars

How does one classify this book? Is it a coming of age? It had all of the coming of age feels that I love: the hesitance, the self-discovery, the falling for your best friend, and the coming out. But, it also had other aspects that made me think we were dealing with characters much older than 18 year old high school seniors. Still, there were the moments of magic I crave in coming of age stories that made me pretend the other stuff didn’t exist… at least for a little while.

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Aaron is a high school senior that has it rough. An abusive, alcoholic father has been a dark cloud that finally turned into a cat 5 hurricane. Add in being homophobic to his father’s already glowing personality, a mother who stayed and endured the abuse (not judging, just recounting), a sister that witnessed it and Aaron wins the award for the crappiest luck of the draw. Aaron’s bright spot though, is his best friend Jeff who doesn’t know his two biggest secrets: abusive home life and that he’s gay.

Jeff is an amazing best friend that’s the calm in Aaron’s storm. He attends to his every need and is able to calm Aaron down from his panic attacks. He is the constant rock Aaron counts on as all hell breaks loose. Jeff is also gay and Aaron doesn’t know.

How they finally got together is beyond me. Every time they were about to make a step in the right direction, drama intervened. There was a TON of drama which meant a lonnnng delay in coming out and an even longer delay in actually communicating interest in each other.

Once they got over the overly dramatic lack of communication and the seal was broken on sex, it was balls to the wall. Errr… more like balls to the chin, hand, ass. You get my point. This was one of those areas I had to suspend my reality and pretend. Aaron and Jeff are two nerdy (but hot) high school virgins with zero girlfriends/boyfriends in the past. BUT, you wouldn’t have know based on their sex life. I’m talking zilch on hesitance, dirty talk that was seasoned, alpha male title drops (literally), fantasy sharing, etc.

“Now tell me, my sexy alpha man, what is it you want?”

There was none of the fumbling first time awkwardness. It read like college or mature adult sex which didn’t line up with their age or experience.

As I mentioned, they go through a lot in the story and I appreciated the balance they had in their friendship and eventually relationship. They had a great connection and chemistry that made me all warm and fuzzy… and if I closed my eyes and pretended they were at least in college, it was hot too. They did take for-freakin’-ever to finally come together. It was amazing how clueless Aaron was. Some of the drama was a little after school special-ish with the star quarterback back coming to their defense and awkward classroom speech. The legal proceedings at the end were also a tad unrealistic but again, I pretended because I enjoyed the bond that Aaron and Jeff had.

For the most part, Holding On kept me coming back for more. I’d recommend it for 18+ coming of age fans who don’t mind lots of drama. Trigger warning for abuse, alcoholism, homophobia, and death.

https://boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com

Copy provided for honest review.