Some Boys

Full disclosure: I finished reading Some Boys on Saturday evening. I had intended to post on this book yesterday morning, but, after seeing what was happening in Orlando, words failed me. Truthfully, I still don’t feel quite up to writing this evening, but I’m forcing myself to do so anyway. If you’ve been following me for a while, you likely know that this blog is a form of therapy for me, and I need that right now. Also, the book I’m posting on deals with an important issue, one that means a great deal to me, and if I can lead one person who needs it to this book, I will have done my job.


Some Boys by Patty Blount is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. For that reason alone, this book has been on my radar. One thing, though, held me back from reading it immediately–the tagline on the front cover.

“Some boys go too far. Some boys will break your heart. But one boy can make you whole.”

Do you see what gave me pause? Yeah, it’s that whole “one boy can make you whole” part. Um, no. Ladies, you are whole and worthy without a guy at your side. If you want a boyfriend–or even a husband–that’s fine, but don’t let them define you or take away from what makes you you.

(Some editions of the book have since changed that last sentence. It now reads, “But one boy can mend it.” That’s a little better, but I’m still not happy.)

*Steps off soapbox…for now.*

So, what made me finally pick up this book (or at least download it from Overdrive)? Two things. 1. Recommendations from fellow librarians. 2. The absolute absurdity of the Brock Turner rape case. Some Boys deals with the fallout after a girl accuses the school’s star lacrosse player of rape. Sound familiar?

The main character, Grace, experiences victim-blaming and slut-shaming while Brock, the boy who raped her, is offered condolences. After all, he’s a good guy. Surely he wouldn’t do something so heinous. She had to be asking for it, right? He said she was into it, so it couldn’t have been rape. No one seems to care that Grace was too out of it to offer consent–or that she did, in fact, refuse his advances. She’s the pariah, and every day is another obstacle course of verbal assaults that only make Grace feel worse.

Ian, Brock’s best friend, was there the night of the assault. He drove Grace to the hospital, but he didn’t exactly know what had happened. He knew, on some level, that Grace had been through something horrible, but, like everyone else, he didn’t think that his friend was capable of something as horrible as rape. Ian’s mind begins to change, however, when a week-long detention makes him spend a little more time with Grace.

As Ian and Grace are forced to clean lockers during spring break, they learn a little more about each other. Grace learns that Ian is facing the possibility of never playing lacrosse again after his second concussion. Ian learns that Grace is genuinely afraid of turning her back on him or being alone and defenseless. She wears her black, studded clothing like armor, and she’s trying her hardest to stand tall when everyone around her turns away from what happened–or acts like it was her fault.

Ian begins to see that maybe his buddy Brock isn’t as innocent as he’s claiming, but, at the same time, Ian doesn’t want to be the one to step out against his friend. He could lose everything: his popularity, his standing with the lacrosse team, all the friends he’s ever had.

But what about Grace? She’s so alone, and, if she’s brave enough to tell the truth in the face of such hatred and animosity, maybe he is too. Maybe Grace isn’t quite as alone as she thinks.


When reading Some Boys, it’s all-too-easy to draw parallels to the Brock Turner rape case (or so many others we’ve heard before). The privileged, athletic boy is given more credence than the girl who accused him. Everyone said the same things we’ve been hearing in the news. She was drunk. Look at how she was dressed. She wanted it. She didn’t say no.

*Steps back on soapbox.*

Let me be clear here.  I don’t care if you’re walking buck naked down Main Street. I don’t care if you’re so sloppy drunk you can’t stand. I don’t care if you’ve said yes a thousand times before. If you say no–or even if there is no enthusiastic yes–it’s a NO! This is not a difficult concept to grasp, but a lot of people continue to insist that victims are somehow to blame for what happens to them. There is only one person to blame here–the rapist. That’s it. And our legal system, like the rest of society, needs to do a better job of supporting the victims instead of blaming them. They also need to quit being morons and stop being lenient with rapists instead of worrying about how a harsh sentence could harm their futures.

As you can likely see, Some Boys is sure to start some passionate discussions. I’m hoping those discussions will lead young people–and older readers–to really consider their actions and reactions when they hear of a sexual assault or when rape culture is perpetuated. Also, I’m hoping that this book lands in the hands of a young person–male or female–who needs to know they’re not alone.

Okay…I need to step away from this before I get all worked up again.

If you’d like more information on Some Boys, visit author Patty Blount’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or Pinterest.

For those who’d like to read other books like Some Boys, I encourage you to read All the Rage by Courtney Summers and The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. There are many other books out there, but this is a good start.

Charm & Strange

Occasionally, I encounter books that make me extremely uncomfortable. A couple of those books are Identical by Ellen Hopkins and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Well, I can now add another book to the list of uncomfortable, disturbing, and powerful reads. The book is Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.

Charm & Strange, winner of the 2014 ALA William C. Morris YA Debut Award, came to me via Goodreads First Reads, and I’m so glad that it did. I may not have otherwise picked up this book, and, though it weirded me out a bit, I think the book is very well-written, and it keeps readers engrossed and eager to know more about the main character and his twisted past.

Charm & Strange tells the convoluted story of Andrew Winston Winters. Known as Win to his fellow students, he keeps to himself at his boarding school. He tries to keep everyone out…for their own safety. He knows he’s dangerous, and he’s always on the verge of letting his emotions get the best of him. If he ever truly lets go, he’s sure the consequences will be disastrous. After all, it’s happened before…

Years ago, Win was known as Drew, a young tennis star with serious anger issues. After letting his anger loose on another boy, his parents decided to send him to stay with his grandparents one fateful summer…and that’s when everything changed. That summer, Drew was forced to confront what really lead to his violent outbursts, and he and his siblings made a terrible decision that would end the cycle of destruction that had ruled their young lives.

In the end, though, Drew couldn’t take that final step, and that decision would haunt him and make him into Win, the lone wolf with no real connections to anyone or anything. He retreats into something of a fantasy world, a world that helps him to make sense of the horrors he faced as a child.

Win’s fantasy world is unraveling fast, and it soon becomes clear that something happened to him so awful that it colored every aspect of his existence. He’ll have to rely on two friends–friends he didn’t even know he had–to get him the help he so desperately needs. In the process, Win will come face-to-face with his childhood self, the memories that plague him, and the abuse that led him to this point.

Read Charm & Strange for a dark, unsettling, and intense look into the mind of a boy who is looking for answers–answers about his own nature and the haunting past that made him into the emotional powder keg he has become.

_______________

When I first started reading this book, I thought I was dealing with a story about a young sociopath. Drew–and Win, his older self–seemed to have no real emotions, he acted impulsively, he didn’t connect with most people, and he had no remorse for this sometimes destructive actions. The more I read, though, the more I learned about this character. Yes, he still had some disturbing tendencies and thoughts, but I suspected that there was more going on below the surface. How right I was. Drew/Win was holding onto a secret so terrible that even he couldn’t face it, and that secret ultimately led to the worst events in this boy’s life and to his own view of himself as a monster.

I think Charm & Strange is an important YA novel because it takes a hard look at how abuse impacts boys. I’ve read loads of books that deal with abuse from the female perspective, but I can’t remember offhand any of them that look at abuse, especially sexual abuse, from a boy’s point of view. (If you know of any books with this perspective, let me know in the comments.) This book addresses the cyclical, catastrophic consequences of abuse and what some kids do to escape what happened to them.

If you’re thinking about picking up this book and/or adding it to your school/classroom/public library, I warn you that it is an intense book suitable for mature readers. There is frank talk of sexual situations, alcohol and drug use, and violence. There’s also a fair amount of adult language. Charm & Strange deals with mature themes, and that should be taken into consideration when recommending this book to readers.

For more about Charm & Strange and author Stephanie Kuehn, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Identical

There are few books that have disturbed me as much as my latest read, Identical by Ellen Hopkins.  In fact, I can only think of two books that creeped me out as much as this one did:  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.  If you’ve read these two books or know anything about them, you know why they are so disturbing.  Hopkins’ Identical is similar to these books, but some of the subject matter is so sickening that I had to put the book down on several occasions.

Kayleigh and Raeanne are identical twins.  Their mother is running for Congress and has no time for them.  Their father escapes into whiskey bottles and uses Kayleigh as a replacement for his absent wife.  Kayleigh feels like she’s dying inside, and Raeanne uses drugs and sex to escape her miserable life at home.

As the problems at home begin to escalate, Kayleigh and Raeanne each face the turmoil in their own ways.  Kayleigh cuts herself and binges.  Raeanne is always looking for a bigger high and a newer guy.  What will become of these twins when one of them cannot harbor her secrets any longer?

As I stated previously, this is a very disturbing read.  At the same time, I cannot keep Ellen Hopkins’ books on my shelves at school.  Identical is no different.  I would caution some students that this is a very mature read, and they should proceed with caution.  Some readers simply will not be able to handle it (adults included).  It is definitely a book that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

Fade

Fade is the sequel to Lisa McMann’s bestselling novel Wake.  It continues the story of Janie, a teenager who is an unwilling participant in others’ dreams.  She is a dreamcatcher.

Janie is continuing her undercover work with law enforcement, and her relationship with her partner Cabel is developing nicely.  Her boss, Captain, has given her some notes from her predecessor.  Janie is reluctant to read Ms. Stubin’s journal because she is afraid of what her future as a dreamcatcher will bring.

Janie is also on a new case.  She is working undercover to catch a sexual predator at her high school.  Cabel is against her work on this case, and many arguments ensue over Janie’s position as bait for a predator.  As the case progresses and the identity of the predator is revealed, the relationship between Janie and Cabel becomes more strained, and Janie faces a danger that she never expected.

What will Janie do?  Will she catch the predator in time, or will she become the next victim?  What will be revealed about her future as a dreamcatcher?  Read Fade to find out the intriguing answers…

Wake and Fade are two books that are immensely popular with the young adults in my library.  I know quite a few adults who enjoy them as well.  I was thrilled to learn that there will be a third book, Gone, coming out in February.  I think it’s interesting to wonder how I would react if I could be involved in the dreams of others if it meant certain sacrifices being made in my life.  I honestly don’t know what I would do.  (Luckily, I don’t have that particular problem, but I am holding out hope that a superpower will manifest one of these days.)  It’s a mystery.

Living Dead Girl

With a title like Living Dead Girl, I didn’t expect this book to be light and fluffy, but I was not prepared for it to be as disturbing as it was.  This novel by Elizabeth Scott gives readers a look at what life might be like for someone held captive by a pedophile.

Alice was ten when Ray kidnapped her.  She is now fifteen, and Ray is looking for a new little girl to replace her.  Alice is dead inside, and she will do anything to escape Ray’s torture, including picking out her replacement–the new Alice.  She knows this means her life will soon end, but it really ended the day he took her.  That’s when she became Alice, and she just wants it to be over.  Even if it means that another girl must take her place.   She can’t ask for help because Ray will kill her family.  And, really, no one wants to see what’s really going on.  Alice knows her only choice is to die.

Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl is a gripping account of what a child living with a pedophile might go through and how this abuse becomes cyclical.  No matter how hard I try, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget this book.

If you enjoyed Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones or Patricia McCormick’s Sold, you might want to read Living Dead Girl.

Note:  This book is definitely for mature readers.  I don’t think I would recommend it to most teens.  Many of my students (and a few adults I know) would not be able to handle the book’s subject matter.