A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a beautifully written story of one man’s journey to self awareness about his sexuality and adulthood.  As you can imagine,  it’s not an easy journey.  Its fraught with the perils of expectations, the hurdles of high school cliques, hormones and feelings of inadequacies and so much more.

Sometimes I’m amazed anyone makes it out of the high school environment intact, even more a LGBTQIA youth questioning their sexuality.  The stresses and pressures from everyone, from parents to peer groups to society is intense.  It’s through David Pratt’s  character of Jim Wallace that we watch Jim and others around him try to navigate through rough waters to get safely onto the path that will lead out of town to college. Not all will make it.

Jim’s path is strewn with rocks and holes, some of which he digs himself.  Why?  Sigh.  Because he’s young, confused, scared, questioning…check all those boxes and create some more.  Nor are his actions ones that you will like, understand perhaps, but not like.  Fear and confusion can make you do some downright mean things, which Jim himself will later acknowledge.  Every character here, from Jim to Liz, to Pat and  more are layered, real people.  They are recognizable.  And that makes all their actions, relationships and interactions feel not only authentic but able to let us so deeply into their lives that we can hurt for them in their stumbling youth, wishing we could in some ways help make their paths easier even knowing, that’s not possible.

The narrative flows smoothly, I was swept so easily into Jim’s story, caught up in his life and that of those around him, not coming out until the book was done.  It made me think of all the young people it represents, past, present and probably future.  In some things, high school never changes.

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a complex and gorgeous coming out and coming of age story.  It will stay with you long after you’ve put the book or Kindle down.  It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover art is touching and matches the character and story.

Sales Links:

Beautiful Dreamer Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published March 25th 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press
ASINB01N7JFT93

A Free Dreamer New Adult Review: Crush by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4.5 stars  out of 5

crush-by-caitlin-ricciGoing to college gives eighteen-year-old Trey Porter a chance to experience the world beyond rural Alabama and his overbearing family. After staying in a motel due to a housing error at the school, Trey’s friend, Bryce, offers to let Trey stay with him. The fascination Trey feels with Bryce’s gorgeous, glamorous, and somewhat outrageous boyfriend, Co-Co, catches him totally off guard, because Trey’s never considered himself even remotely gay. At least that’s what he’s always believed. Trey prides himself on being tolerant, but it’s hard to handle the questions he faces about life and himself—and even harder to accept that there might be no simple answers.

This was my second book by Caitlin Ricci. She recommended it to me herself, after I’d complained about the lack of detail in “Running With the Pack”. At first, I was a bit hesitant because several reviewers mentioned crossdressing and trans themes, which I’m usually not so fond of. But I’m really grateful for the recommendation, because I absolutely loved this book.

Trey, Bryce and Co-Co are three wonderfully unusual people. “Normal is a setting in the laundry, nothing more” will probably stay a favourite quote of mine for a long time to come. And it’s a perfect summary of our three MCs. I really liked all three of them, though Trey seemed just a tad too innocent at times. His utter lack of understanding of any sort of sexual innuendo seemed a bit unrealistic to me, even if he is asexual.

The plot itself is on the slower side, without all that much action. But that worked wonderfully for the story Caitlin Ricci was trying to tell. There was some angst and Co-Co made for plenty of drama, but it was never over the top. Just like in “Running With the Pack”, Trey’s asexuality and Co-Co’s gender identity were portrayed in a very positive way. I really liked that.

Even though Trey is asexual, there were quite a few sex scenes. It was really interesting to find out how Bryce and Co-Co let Trey be part of their love-making, without him being part of the action itself. The sex scenes definitely worked to further the plot and weren’t just there for the fun of it. They were still hot, of course, but it didn’t devolve into simple porn.

The love between the three of them was obvious, without ever turning cheesy. The ending was simply perfect and so very romantic it almost had me tearing up a little.

Long story short: “Crush” is a wonderful coming of age story, with three pretty unusual MCs. While Trey occasionally seemed a bit too naïve, I still really liked all three of them.

Cover: The cover by Caitlin Ricci shows Trey lying in the grass, looking thoughtful. It’s simple and yet somehow brilliant.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published November 26th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634762711 (ISBN13: 9781634762717)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Jeri Review: A Good Enough Reason by C.M. Lievens

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

A Good Enough ReasonComing of age/teenage romance stories can be tough. Too much can be….icky, but not enough leaves you wanting so much more. Just as teenagers skate a fine line between being children and adults, stories based on them can skate that line as well. But this book did that really well.

Ellis is your typical nerdy loner with one friend. Well, he had two but one of them moved away.  Dale is Mr. Jock Popularity in school. We all knew him, that guy that everyone loved and he loved everyone back. So when Ellis and Dale are paired together for an English topic to debate for and against a topic, Dale thinks he is being cool by suggesting they debate if gay teens should get the same perks as straight teens as far as prom goes. Ellis assumes Dale is mocking him and it takes a while to convince Ellis that even though he is popular, Dale is a good guy. He even wants to find him a prom date.

Dale and Ellis grow closer, with Dale pushing the boundaries of friendship. And while this could have come off as supremely cocky of him, it didn’t. He genuinely seemed like a kid who wanted to explore his bisexuality with someone he not only considered a friend, but someone he was really attracted to.

Ellis is wary, but doesn’t throw up walls of “stay away seemingly straight dude”! He has a sounding board in his friend who moved away and best friend who is witnessing it all.

The author also does an amazing job of dealing with bullying. Not only how easily and often it happens, but how it is so overlooked by teachers. They just don’t take it seriously until it goes too far. And usually the person being bullied doesn’t want to come out and say anything because ultimately that makes the bullying worse. One scene, which I will call “the locker incident”, when Ellis is just dumbfounded that he is getting in trouble for something that happened TO him, I was heartbroken. Because it happens every.single.day.

This was a really great young adult romance story with a lot of meat to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would actually love to read more about Dale and Ellis.

Cover art by Bree Archer is lovely and works for the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 23rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634772520 (ISBN13: 9781634772525)
Edition LanguageEnglish