Saturday, September 23, 2017

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 Stars.

I need to preface this review with how I struggled at the beginning of Autoboyography. I also need to add I received an advanced copy, so I cannot comment on whether or not this is present in the published version.

I was close to DNFing the novel several times over during the beginning, which would have been a shame. The premise kept me reading – a bisexual writer in this coming-of-age tale. Truly, I’m thankful I kept reading, as I enjoyed the story immensely. To be honest, there was a different feel to the first three chapters versus chapter four and beyond. The pacing, flow of information, and scene structure, the majority of the first three chapters were rambling monologue, giving info the reader needed, but in a storytelling fashion. All tell, no show. There was little to no dialogue. But my biggest issue was how the narrator dropped readers into scenes in the middle of it, only for a few paragraphs, then would teleport the reader into another time and place without a transition.

Explanation: paragraphs of a classroom scene. One word later, the reader would be thrust into the mall. Classroom, then arcade. Classroom, then home. All partial scenes, in the middle, with no beginning or end. While this promotes fast pacing, cutting out any unnecessary info, it was beyond jarring and confusing. I'd flip back pages, wondering if I'd somehow missed the end of one scene, a mark denoting a passage of time, and the beginning of the next. Days could go by from the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next.

If you are reading this review, like I went searching due to my struggles, hang in there. It's worth it. The scenes become full-length at the start of Chapter 4. The authors begin showing, instead of telling.

Tanner is a well-rounded boy from a supportive family, with an equally supportive best friend. It was a breath of fresh air to have a narrator who wasn’t abandoned, or bleeding angst on every page. Dry wit and self-depreciating humor, Tanner knows who he is, what he wants, and where he wants to be in the future. He’s a non-religious bisexual boy living in an LDS community, raised by a Jewish parent and one who holds deep-seated resentment toward the Mormon church.

Tanner’s family is intelligent, open-minded, empathetic, supportive, and gives true-to-life, realistic advice by emotionally mature individuals. It was refreshing.

While Autoboyography does show different sides to LDS, instead of besmirching it, it’s written in a gray area, where it’s decisions made, left up to the individual.

Tanner falls deeply into infatuation with the TA in the Seminar, a class where students write a full novel during the semester. Color me jealous, but I wish this existed when I was in high school. The only issue, the boy Tanner falls for happens to be the son of a bishop in the LDS church.

On the pages, the reader follows Tanner’s coming-of-age journey, as the boy he loves has a conflict of conscience but never of faith. The comfort and clarity Sebastian found in his faith was inspiring, even during his deep struggles with the followers of said faith. The evolution mirrors the book Tanner’s writing. Cute. Sweet. Mortifying. Several times over, I dropped my Kindle into my lap, only to cover my face with my upraised palms. I was embarrassed for Tanner – blushing, laughing, and smiling. Shaking my head at the dang kid. Mortified.

Tanner and Sebastian had chemistry, tension, and a push-pull banter that was as humorous as it was seductive. A true connection was felt from the pages, causing the reader to become emotionally invested in the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Autoboyography, and am so thankful I continued forth after struggling with the beginning. I recommend it to fans of the authors, as well as fans of the MM romance and Young Adult genres. But my recommendation goes deeper – young adults, especially those struggling with their sexuality while having faith, to experience the comfort of knowing they aren't alone. I also recommend reading by parents of these same children, to get a grasp on what they may be going through.

Like all the best Young Adult writing, this story made me laugh and smile and cry and reflect. It is the story of a bisexual boy from an affluent liberal family who finds himself one of only a handful of non-Mormon kids in his new Utah small town. And he finds himself falling hard for his very Mormon writing mentor.

I was able to overlook the erratic pacing and the sometimes confusing plot structure because I fell hard and fast for Tanner. Most of the story is told from Tanner’s perspective and his experiences and observations are wonderful. I loved his friendship with Autumn and I wanted so badly to protect him from Sebastian.

Tanner’s experience as an outsider in a Mormon town is only compounded by his mother’s experiences growing up LDS and her adult resentment towards the church. Similarly, Tanner’s ‘coming out’ is tainted by his aunt’s very negative experience a generation earlier. I loved that the kids and the adults in this story are all multi-dimensional. We don’t get good and evil, we get people trying to do what’s right for them. Even when I wanted to hate Sebastian’s family, I was forced to understand their emotional and spiritual struggles.

Together, Sebastian and Tanner are wonderful. They are sweet and sometimes beautifully innocent. I wanted so desperately to protect their hearts – but this story is too honest for that.

While I loved the story, I did struggle with the writing. At times, scenes ramble on and on but in other places, readers are jolted from aborted scene to aborted scene quite erratically. But these characters are special and I had a powerful emotional reaction to their story.

A really new and different take on a coming of age/forbidden love story. Tanner's family moves to Utah, the land of Mormons and the LDS (Latter Day Saints church) where his mother grew up but left after the church shunned her gay sister. Tanner is bisexual and moving from open and out California to closed and closeted Utah is an adjustment, for sure. Of course, the one person Tanner finds a spark for is the LDS Church's, bishop's son!! Couldn't even be a girl he found completely intriguing. Sebastian is the poster boy for the LDS church. He's lived his entire life with a smile that covers a lie. Tanner brings out everything Sebastian is fighting to keep hidden. The two take on a forbidden romance and all the angst that comes with the fight against Sebastian's bishop father, the closed minded church town, and the intensity of first love. The beginning of the book threw me off a bit at first. Slightly disjointed and halting with quite a bit of over description. I was unsure where this story would go, but boy did my perseverance pay off and I implore you to do the same, KEEP READING! This book was a "can’t put it down, stayed up till 2am reading" story! Although I did find the ending a bit lackluster, although it was sweet and the way I wanted, I guess I just wasn't finished reading and wanted more. The book is very Young Adult with great descriptions that don’t go into much real detail but written extremely well.

I don't often read coming of age novels, but I am very glad that I read this one. The blurb absolutely captured my imagination, and did not disappoint.

I found that Tanner was beautifully written as a boy who is right on the cusp of manhood, but can fall either side of the line, just depending on what is happening to him at that time. He was such a fabulous romantic writer – even though we don't get to read his book, anyone who ever wrote pages of their feelings of unrequited love, can imagine just what he has expressed in it.

And the whole LDS element was fascinating to me, as someone who lives in the UK, where there really aren't such large groups of Mormons. I met a young man going on his mission a few years ago on a flight to Ghana – so I remembered his nervousness, his earnest desire to do well, and yet he had never been away before and had very limited expectations of being able to talk to his family over the next two years. So, I could feel for Sebastian, and the prospects of his next few years.

The idea of basing the story around a book writing class is inspired, as it provides so many opportunities for the two guys to meet, which would have not happened otherwise. There are also some fabulously important people that get to join the cast; Autumn without a doubt being the most noteworthy. Whilst at the beginning of the book she dips in and out of sight, her contribution later is at times essential, and also, she holds a twist or two in her hands!

Really, my advice is that you should get yourself a copy and enjoy a wonderful love story, with some unexpected twists and turns. And do it as soon as you can. This book is on my re-read list, because I know I will enjoy it even more second time around. Thank you, Ms. Lauren.

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 31+ languages. (Some of these books have kissing. Some of these books have A LOT of kissing.)

Connect with Christina

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Autoboyography by Christina Lauren to read and review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Mathieu, author of The Truth About Alice.


Vivan Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv's mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Empowered Stars.

Moxie is for every female who has ever heard 'get back in the kitchen' ' good for a girl' 'smile!' In the year 2017, society shouldn't feel it's acceptable to respond to emotion with 'triggered!' All girls are conditioned to worry about their appearance, placing their worth on whether or not they are pleasing to someone's eye. How many times have you heard, 'treat her as you would your own daughter/sister/mother?' when speaking to a male who doesn't get the concept of respect, as if our worth as women is tied solely to another human being, as if we're 'owned.' How about 'treat her as a human being?'

Moxie is for the girls who are too scared to have a voice, as they witness those who speak up be called derogatory names. 'TRIGGERED!' Moxie is for the girls whose voice was silenced by shaming, bullying attacks. Moxie is for the girls who are so indoctrinated, they find validation by a boy 'choosing' them over another. Moxie is for the girls who refuse to acknowledge sexism exists, saying we're overreacting and to just let it go.

Moxie is for the boys who know better but still go along with the status quo, for those who speak up, and for those who find misogyny as a badge of honor, receiving all the benefits it offers.

I'm a 39-year-old feminist, raised in a rural town, with only 42 students in my high school graduating class. Moxie hit so close to home in so many ways, I was an emotional wreck while reading it. Sometimes the injustice felt is suffocating... and we always hear 'calm down.'

I applaud Jennifer Mathieu for writing a novel, with an unsure girl as the narrator, about a subject that is always in the news, yet simultaneously always swept under the carpet. Moxie is written with humor, yet it slowly devolves deeper into sexism, which evolves the reader in the passenger seat while girls experience injustice at the hands of their peers and those who should protect them.

I won't lie, I broke down bawling, almost a PTSD moment when the bra-snapping and groping occurred on the pages. When I was thirteen, my girlfriends tore my dress off my body in the middle of a packed cafeteria, taking me beneath the table as I tried to put myself to rights. Being in a school with seventh graders to seniors, where grown men groped me and I was a defenseless child (my 13-year-old boyfriend had to get his senior cousin to protect me, both humiliating to me and emasculating to him), where I had to speak to male teachers and nothing was ever resolved. Those events stick with a person for life, so why put our daughters and sisters through it now? The fact that this still happens 20+ years later, how we've yet to evolve, makes me sick.

We need to have a voice, not be divided and culled from the herd as we're pitted against one another to see who wins the prize. Women raise sons, teaching them how to treat other women, both by example and by how we allow other men to treat us. It starts with us, and we need to come together and uplift one another, not tear each other down, leaving us in a weakened state that is easy to be preyed upon.

Yes, this is a review of a novel. Yes, everything above is my social commentary. Yes, everything I just stated shows the evolution within the novel... without a single spoiler.

I highly recommend Moxie to anyone between the ages of tween and 'cruising the funeral home,' but especially for those who are on the fence, arguing that feminism isn't needed because it's 2017 and we're all equal.

Jennifer Mathieu is the author of Devoted, Afterward, and The Truth About Alice, the winner of the Children's Choice Book Awards' Teen Choice Debut Author Award. She teaches high school English in Texas, where she lives in the Houston area with her husband and son.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu to read and review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fallen Heir by Erin Watt

These Royals will ruin you.

Easton Royal has it all: looks, money, intelligence. His goal in life is to have as much fun as possible. He never thinks about the consequences because he doesn’t have to.

Until Hartley Wright appears, shaking up his easy life. She’s the one girl who’s said no, despite being attracted to him. Easton can’t figure her out and that makes her all the more irresistible.

Hartley doesn’t want him. She says he needs to grow up.

She might be right.

Rivals. Rules. Regrets. For the first time in Easton’s life, wearing a Royal crown isn’t enough. He’s about to learn that the higher you start, the harder you fall.

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Book 4
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Fallen Heir picks up with Ella and Easton finishing their senior year at Astor Park Prep, but entirely in Easton's point of view. I think this story flows best if you've read The Royals books #1-3, but it's not necessary if you want to skip straight to Fallen Heir. I was so excited to finally read Easton's story, but I'm left feeling slightly disappointed. Book #4 seemed to move so slowly and didn't quite live up to my high hopes for it. The story just kind of seemed to drag on and then abruptly end. Also, I wish it would've been in more than just Easton's point of view because I felt like it started to get a bit repetitive. Erin Watt's Fallen Heir just didn't draw me in and keep me interested the same way the previous books in The Royals series did.

Easton Royal has never worried about the consequences of his decisions until he meets Hartley Wright. She's the only girl to ever turn him down even though he knows she's attracted to him. However, Easton's determined to win her over.

This is the first time I haven't been completely wowed by Erin Watt and I for sure thought that I would adore reading Easton's story, but it just didn't do it for me. Nevertheless, I am excited to read what happens next for the Royal family!

3.5 stars for Fallen Heir by Erin Watt.

3.5 Cliffhanger Stars

In the past 24-hours, I've binge-read all four of The Royals titles. No doubt, I can attest to the continuity of how well the authors transitioned from Ella and Reed's narration to Easton's. I wanted to be inside the boy's head, and I'm not sure I got what I bargained for, to be quite honest.

No matter who is the narrator, Fallen Heir has the same frustratingly infectious quality that has the reader white-knuckling their Kindles, while furiously tapping the pages to see what happens next. This frustration always has my heart racing as I read, and I love a book that can do that to me.

Fallen Heir was a roller coaster of emotional extortion, running the gamut from heartbreak, to frustration and anger, to surprised laughter at Easton's banter and charm.

So why am I not 5-starring the book like I did Paper Princess?

Easton is all over the place, which I understand due to his ADHD, upbringing, and his tragic past. Easton is hurting, having lost his mother to suicide, feeling he is partially to blame, being the middle child who feels adrift from the rest of the family, and finding out his hero is actually a villain. Easton was difficult to read on many levels. I do applaud the authors on the authenticity of how Easton's mind functioned in chaos.

What I struggled with is the wash-repeat feel of the storyline... What was new and original in Paper Princess, and its two sequels, seems worn and tired in this new story arc.

*Rich, misunderstood bad boy as our hero.
*Poor, abandoned, intelligent, hard-working heroine.
*Love-Hate vibe (which I loved, but it felt forced in Fallen Heir vs fluid and natural in Paper Princess)
*Heroine's father is the adult villain of the story.
*The doe-eyed, doormat, spineless, begging ex who’s refusing to let go, thinking the guy is theirs even if they aren't together anymore (for longer than a year even, in both cases) and blames the guy because they broke up. Yet never seem to be bothered as their friends go after the guy. Honey, he doesn't want you – get over it. You cannot dictate whether or not someone likes you, and it's not a mark against your self-esteem if they don't. They're not a possession you can control – if they allow that, what's to like or want if they're that blank and weak?
*Gaggle of mean girls, one in which blackmails/extorts/annoys/bullies/overpowers everyone – adults and students alike, and everyone looks on and their only reactions are to wring their hands and blink.
*A brother/father/friend's girlfriend is actually 'evil' and using this loved one, but no one steps in and stops it. Just lets it unfold and exacerbate... "Not my business"... but it's gonna be.
*Our hero, allowing said mean girl to run herd on him for all of the story, making him look weak as he self-blames instead of just nipping it in the bud as it happens.
*Only the 'poor' girls are good, and the rich girls all want more money and status. All the men are pushovers who just let it happen, then fret as their world burns at their feet
*The real 'doer' never takes responsibility in the aftermath, while the hero ends up self-blaming as everyone else blames him too. (Everyone, even Ella, angry at Easton for shouting how the relationship was fake – it was. Easton was being honest for once, after he said NO multiple times. I don't believe in cause and effect. She does what she does, and only she does it. It's not Easton's fault if she doesn't like the humiliation of everyone finding out she was a liar – her premeditated actions in the aftermath are her fault, not Easton's. Just saying. I can't stand that mindset, and Ella bashing Easton over it, it made it feel as if Ella had a character trait lobotomy now that she's no longer narrating the story. "But did you apologize?" Excuse me, that girl is trying to mess with you and everyone you care about, Ella – have you lost your ever-loving mind, girlfriend? Where did logical, problem-fixer Ella go? She turned judgmental, instead of actually helping with the problem, and wrung her hands as their world burned at their feet.)
*Illogical actions/reactions.
*The mother of all cliffhangers times 2.

While I did enjoy the story, tried to empathize and sympathize with Easton as he torched his own life, the wash-repeat of similar storylines dropped the entertainment value for me. While the subtle nuances were different, the plot points were essentially the same.

The book was hyper-focused on Easton, with only cameos here and there, missing that 'gang' feel of family like the previous books, where they tackled the issues together and had each other's backs. After all Easton had done for Reed and Ella, Ella wasn't empathetic, nor helpful, but judgmental and completely not like Ella at all. Gee, how about a rehab, because we all know telling an addict no or guilt-tripping him isn't going to 'fix' the issue.

Fallen Heir just didn't work for me. Separately, I 'got' Easton, and I felt for Hartley, but together they didn't fit. It felt forced. There is zero romance or relationship building. When they do come together, it felt out of nowhere and out of context of the situations they were in and their surroundings.

Honestly, I think the book suffered due to the fact that it was a singular point of view from Easton's narration. The reader needed to 'hear' Hartley to connect with her, because she was so cold, reserved, closed-mouthed, refusing to give the simplest of answers or open up to Easton, we readers didn't get to 'know' Hartley at all. No connection. I'm not knocking her character traits (I'm a similar type of person) being so reserved, without her point-of-view, the reader had nothing to go on with Hartley – she was a stranger to us, less developed of all the characters, because at least they spoke freely to Easton so we (the reader) could get to know them too. Hartley was an enigma to readers, so why are we rooting for an Easton and Hartley pairing when we have nothing invested by Easton's bizarre obsession? The only time the reader connected with Hartley was through hearsay and eavesdropping on Easton's part.

After stating all that above, I do need to say I'd kill for the next in The Royals series. I wish I had it right now, because it ended in the mother of all cliffhangers (times 2), as the authors yet again emotionally extort the reader. I'm good with that – I thrive on the adrenaline rush as my heart races for what was revealed/happened in the ending. I just hope the storyline deviates from this point forward.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to mature content, bullying, alcohol abuse, violence, and adult language.

Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Fallen Heir (The Royals #4) by Erin Watt to read and review.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Micah Johnson Goes West by Sean Kennedy

Micah Johnson is living two separate lives. On the field he’s making a name for himself as a rookie with the AFL football team the Fremantle Dockers—at just eighteen. But when he steps off the field, Micah is a mess: confused, away from home for the first time, and feeling isolated from family and friends three thousand kilometres away. The foster family he’s staying with is nice, but Micah isn’t ready to open up to them about what he’s going through. Distracting himself with hookups and partying seems like a good idea until a friend’s life is changed by misfortune and Micah’s own health is threatened by his behavior. Micah knows he has to make a change, that he can’t do it alone, and that maybe there’s no shame in reaching out to others.

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Book 2
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Micah is finally working as a professional footballer! Living far from his friends and family, Micah is a little less abrasive than he’s been in the past but he’s still struggling with the whole adulting thing.

In Micah, Sean Kennedy has created a beautifully flawed and honestly human character who will resonate with teenage boys everywhere. I still don’t know whether I love or loathe Micah and in this story, my feelings for him changed from moment to moment. He’s alternately infuriating and completely loveable. He is impossibly arrogant and terribly insecure. His temper is a little more contained than it was a year ago but he is still terrible at relationships.

This is a pretty gritty look at Micah’s first year away from home. Micah’s introduction to life as a professional sportsman is a little less gilded and a little more realistic than he might have expected but he still manages to get himself into some frightening situations. While Micah is still pretty self-absorbed, part of his growth in this story involves Micah starting to demonstrate some empathy and insight into the people around him.

This is actually quite a slow story but Micah had my attention the whole way through. He is a fabulous antihero and I’m already looking forward to his next adventures.

As this is the second book in a spin-off series, I do not recommend reading as a standalone. Please read Tigers and Devils onward first.

Micah Johnson Goes West picked up where the previous book left off. Moving away from his home to Perth, Micah is a rookie for the AFL team, Fremantle Dockers. On the field, he's focused – tight – but off the field, he's a train wreck.

Without spoilers, or giving specific plot points away: Micah is more mature in this installment, after showing growth in the last book, but he has a lot of growing up to do. Homesick, feeling adrift without his mentor and ex, he feels isolated, yet it's his own need to close himself off to others that is fueling this emotion. It's in Micah's nature to lash out to keep others from hurting him first, but it makes dealing with him difficult for anyone who wants to get close to him.

To be honest, it was difficult to read Micah's spiral downward. I was muttering at my Kindle, wishing I could shake some sense into Micah, then give him a hug.

Micah is always getting in his own way – creating what he fears – and this leads him to make poor choices, devolve. But this is par for the course in a coming-of-age book, needing a catalyst for change. Without Declan, Micah has a new support system he comes to depend on, developing another set of side characters for the readers to connect with.

The pacing was a bit slow for me in places, but not enough for me to lose interest. However, I could see where this may become an issue for readers who are used to more 'exciting' reads. There isn't a bunch of bells and whistles with the plot, and low on romance. This is a coming-of-age journey as a young man finds himself, showing character development via interaction with others.

Also Available in the Get Out Series

Book 1
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Harmony Ink

For reviews & more info, check out our The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson post.

SEAN KENNEDY lives in Perth, Western Australia, but his heart still belongs to his hometown Melbourne—which is also the home of Simon Murray and Declan Tyler from his series Tigers and Devils. A disciple of cult leader David Lynch, Sean is breathlessly awaiting the revival of Twin Peaks in 2016.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Micah Johnson Goes West (Get Out #2) by Sean Kennedy to read and review.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson by Sean Kennedy

There is no Plan B.

After being outed in an especially brutal way and briefly running away from home, Micah Johnson has sworn to get his life back on the straight and narrow. Well, not so much straight, but you know what he means.

Unfortunately the path to redemption is not an easy one. With fights at school and on the football field and an all-round snarky attitude as his number one defense mechanism, will Micah survive the school year and the training camps to achieve his dream of making the national draft and becoming a professional AFL player?

His mentor, Declan Tyler, believes in him, but Micah wishes he had the same confidence in himself. Only time will tell if the ongoing reformation of Micah Johnson will be successful.

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Book 1
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Micah Johnson is a fabulous character. Obnoxious, insecure, and arrogant, he is a wonderfully memorable anti-hero. This story of Micah’s progress from complete asshole to not quite as much of an asshole is alternately funny and frustrating.

Readers will spend most of the story cringing as Micah continually makes bad situations worse. He alienates his friends, antagonises the bullies, and constantly reaffirms his asshole reputation. For most of the book, it is almost impossible to like Micah. I had some empathy for the homophobic behaviour Micah faced – until his reactions made the situations worse. This is a story of personal growth and I actually really liked the absence of any sort of ‘come to Jesus’ moment. Micah’s progress is pretty limited. As a result, he feels like a real kid rather than a literary hero. He is far too familiar and his mistakes are painfully funny. I may not have liked him but there were many moments where I completely loved him.

This is very much a sports story. In his last year of secondary school, Micah is preparing for the AFL draft. The story tracks him from the end of school through summer selection camps. Many of the sports tropes in this story are a bit tired and the blatant homophobia feels outdated (though maybe not in Australia). Sports fans will enjoy the competitive tension and I found this a welcome change from all of the books about traditionally American sports.

I am annoyed that this book is marketed as the first in a new series. If I hadn’t read the Tigers and Devils series first, I would have been lost. As it is, I read the earlier books some time ago and I still found myself trying desperately to recall events and characters that the author assumes readers will remember. This is not the start of an autonomous series. It is an extension of the Tigers and Devils series and I really could have used some recap summaries at the start of this story because it took me a long time to properly get into this book.

3.5 Stars

A word of warning: as this is listed as the first in a series, I tried to read it shortly after its release. After three attempts, I realized my error. While it's listed as the first, it's a spin-off of an adult series (Tigers and Devils). I understand listing it separately, as it is geared more toward younger readers, with a younger narrator, it's nearly impossible to get heads or tails without reading the Tigers and Devils series first. Micah's journey 'begins' during Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3), as is obvious by the 'ONGOING' in the title. So my warning is to readers thinking this is truly the first in a series – it's not. Go read Tigers and Devils first.

After reading books #1 and #3 of Tigers and Devils, I restarted The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson with great ease now that the info-dumpage from past books makes a whole lot of sense. I felt connected to the environment and the characters, and was able to read as if this was book #4 being narrated by Micah.

Micah is a difficult character to enjoy. He's arrogant and irritating, all a cover for his insecurities. While he wasn't a pleasant narrator, he felt real – emotions dictated by human nature. Every interaction is tainted by Micah's antagonism, no matter with who or whether they are being nice to him. This makes for a stressful read, where it's with great difficulty for the reader to connect with the narrator, because he rubs everyone wrong – friends, family, enemies, bullies – the reader. No matter how stressful to read, the author is authentic with Micah's personality, never deviating from the uncomfortable nature.

Micah encounters homophobia as he finishes out his high school career, enters camps, to prepare for the AFL draft. Heavy on Micah's personality, The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson is also a sports story. One of the first I've read where it's not just used as a prop to propel the main character to a love interest, with a few passages to affirm it in the sports genre. Light on romance, Micah is an athlete dealing with homophobic and closeted jocks, while simultaneously reveling and fighting his antagonistic nature.

Recommended to LGBTQ fans, who enjoy reading coming-of-age characters, with a story based on character development instead of focused on romance and between-the-sheets action.

SEAN KENNEDY lives in Perth, Western Australia, but his heart still belongs to his hometown Melbourne—which is also the home of Simon Murray and Declan Tyler from his series Tigers and Devils. A disciple of cult leader David Lynch, Sean is breathlessly awaiting the revival of Twin Peaks in 2016.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1) by Sean Kennedy to read and review.