Author: Emily Horner
LGBT books have just recently become a 'big deal' in publishing. Even with becoming more and more of a popular and readable subject, though, publishers are often sketchy on what to pick up. And frankly, some could care less. So when I see a publisher putting out something like this...it makes me a little emotional. And it makes me want to read the book. Even if I've never heard of it before. It had gotten mixed reviews in my little sphere of blog-reading, so I was a little apprehensive, but my inner-optimist just opened the book and got sucked in...
What goes on after your best friend dies in a car accident, leaving you to fend for yourself when you barely know who you are? For Cass, its moving forward. Her best friend Julia was there...and now she's not. Her other friends are just as devastated, but Cass doesn't feel that connection with them. They were always the theater geeks, and she was just...herself. The only thing they have left of Julia is a musical she had written. Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad
Oliver, Julia's boyfriend, decides to stage the production, Cass can only stand by as her grief and love for her dearest friend mix with other things. What is combined is an alternating tale of the 'Now' and the 'Then' that mixes in so many questions about sexuality, friendship, and grief through the eyes of a teenage girl who really doesn't know how to label herself. Especially when an old bully named Hannah works on the play in the lead role that had been destined for Julia...and feelings turn out to be far from hate. This confusing tale of a possible-lesbian is an emotional journey that will make anyone who ever questioned their sexuality tighten their stomachs and flood their tear ducts.
Cass is the type of protagonist that grabs you like a puppet and shakes your strings, leaving you a rattled and confused reader that's strangely satisfied. She barely knows who she is, and learning the truth along with her only leads to an unstoppable character-driven book. She is at constant times both guilty and innocent, deep and shallow, loving and hateful. Her interactions with the theater geeks who really are her friends are just as good and realistic. A scene in particular, when Oliver blames Cass for Julia's death, claiming she was like 'a sick puppy' and in love with Julia, really captured the realism. Coming off as both guarded and emotionally raw, Horner's characters are the real highlight and drive of the book.
The plot was both very good and not so good. On one hand, we are treated to a rich character-driven study that, for me, worked immensely well. I never felt a dull moment in my reading, and every move and thought made by Cass was interesting and provoking of my own little speed-shot of a brain. Other people wouldn't be as interested in this type of development, or they would prefer more action that character dealings. It's not a book for everyone, and that's probably it's only real fault. I did, however, think that the 'Now' was the better of the two periods - mainly because Heather and Cass had a cute relationship that I wanted to see more of! Romantics WILL find it hard to resist - even if you don't normally read these relationship types (which you should...broaden your horizons!)
Frankly, I'm going out on a limb by taking this book so personally, because I normally like to balance my personal interest with professional interest. However...Emily Horner hit home a bit too much for me not to want to shout to the hills about this book. I was pulled along by Cass at every interval...fell into every pitfall...and I knew exactly what she was going through. If you are an LGBT teen or know one, this book is a must read! If you even remotely understand what it's like, then you'll relate to this book in ways you'll never knew you could. If you don't like character studies, I'd be a little wary, but I personally cannot recommend it enough.
Cover Comments: I like it, but I'm not in love with it. The sky looks fake. About as much as I can deduce.
Rating: 5 Stars
Copy: From Sara at Penguin! Love yah, chicka!