You Never Cared by Michele L. Montgomergy

Title:  You Never Cared

Series:  N/A

Author:  Michele L. Montgomery

Genre:   Young Adult

Length:  17 Pages

Publisher:  Scarlet Tie (June 25th, 2012 first published April 7th, 2011)

Heat Level:  None

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥4.5Heart

Blurb:  “I would gladly trade places with Casper, given the chance. I lifted my head to see Casper’s best friend standing on the other side of the grave.”

Jordan is a golden child — wealthy, popular, the self-professed ruler of the senior class. Jordan is also a bully, a bully whose group of friends mercilessly tormented seventeen-year-old Casper for being different, for being poor, for suffering silently. Random acts of abuse from his classmates were par for the course in Casper’s life, until one night, the bullying evolved into a hate crime and he, unable to endure, longing for peace, finally took his own life.

You Never Cared is the heartbreaking tale, told in Jordan’s words, of a life stolen, of love lost, and of a soul compromised. But ultimately, it is a story of forgiveness and redemption. As Sammy, Casper’s friend and lover, attempts to cope with the anguish of his boyfriend’s loss, Jordan attempts to own his part in the crime, trying to make amends but knowing his only hope is to carry on Casper’s legacy, to work to build a better future for boys and girls who, like Casper, just need a strong voice to encourage and stand up for them.

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Reviewer:   John

Review: I had the opportunity of reading Michele L. Montgomery’s You Never Cared this week and I was left in a complete state of shock. Bullying is a global epidemic that affects millions of teenagers each year. The psychological impact that this form of abuse leaves on its victims can last longer than any form of physical abuse. Michele L. Montgomery accomplished in 17 pages what most writers take several novels to complete. I’m not a fan of short stories that leaves you wanting more, but this one may be the exception.

You Never Cared deals with the emotional aftermath of Casper’s (the victim) decision of taking his life after Jordan (the bully) and his friends bullied him on graduation night. The bullying gets so out of hand that one of the bullies violently rapes Casper in the storage room. This short but extraordinary piece of work is raw, painful, sad, and mostly heart touching. Since it is told in the bully’s point of view, we get to see the emotional damage that Jordan endures after Casper’s suicide.

Every few years, a book so powerful and meaningful comes along that inspires people to be tolerance and acceptance of others. You Never Cared is that novel for me. Michele L. Montgomery wrote a very powerful message that needs to be heard by everyone. I highly recommend this short story for anyone who wants to read a novel about, bullying, love, forgiveness and redemption.

Raise Your Glass by John Goode

Title:  Raise Your Glass

Series:  Tales from Foster High #3

Author:  John Goode

Genre:   Young Adult

Length:  120 Pages

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (May 30, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:   Tales of Foster High – Sequel to The End of the Beginning Kyle Stilleno used to be the invisible student. Brad Graymark used to be the baseball star. Then they fell in love and Brad outed them both with a spectacular public display of affection, and now everything is different. After spending a few days lying low, Kyle and Brad are going back to school. It’s time to face the music and see how Foster High deals with their growing romance. But the school’s reaction-and the staff’s hostility-are not what they expected. Everyone they know seems to be allied against them. Isn’t there anyone they can count on to defend their happiness?

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Reviewer:   John

Review:  Raise Your Glass is the third part from the Tales of Foster High Series by John Goode. The first two were an emotional rollercoaster ride as the characters came to accept themselves and each other. I honestly thought that was the end of it, but John Goode proved me wrong with the latest installment of his series.

Raise Your Glass deals with the emotional aftermath of Brad’s decision after he came out as gay teen to everyone. And let me tell you that the welcoming was not a warm one. Without giving too much of the plot, these two kids basically walked to the pits of hell and fought everyone off just to defend their love and right to be happy. I think that everyone can relate to that at some point in life.

John Goode is an extraordinary voice in the GLBT community. The rawness of the book makes it a must read for parents and gay teens everywhere. There are just a few books that have moved me to tears and this book is one of them. If you want to read this novel, I recommend reading the first two books so you get a better understanding of the story. Rumor has it that there will be a fourth installment of this extraordinary saga and I just simply can’t wait for it!

Surviving Elite High by John H. Ames

Title:  Surviving Elite High

Series:  Surviving Elite High 01

Author:  John H. Ames

Genre:   YA romance

Length:  Novel

Publisher:  Dare Media eMedia Production (June 19, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥4.5Hearts

Blurb:   John Henry Ames is a sixteen-year-old boy from a small New Jersey town. John is humble, shy and studious. He lives as an outcast in the shadows of an elite high school where he is tormented by two psychopathic bullies. On the verge of dropping out of school due to overdue payments, a teacher enrolls him in a tutoring program where he meets the school’s star quarterback and hero, Nick Anthony Hawking. Since he was doing poorly in several subjects, Nick needs John’s help to pass and graduate high school.

As John becomes closer to the jock, he develops a strong affection towards him even though Nick has a strong reputation of sleeping around with a lot of women. Nick becomes his friend and protector in school. Their sincere friendship helps to bring out the best in each of them. Several tragedies, like a school shooting, threaten to change their young lives forever. Will they follow their own voice or return to the safety of their own shadows? Surviving Elite High is a breathtaking saga that illustrates a flourishing same-sex love, family, and friendship.

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Reviewer:   Portia

Review:  I’m not going to waste time restating the blurb above.  It’s a pretty good overview of Surviving Elite High.  But, what it doesn’t reveal is just how fabulous this book really is.  I’ve never been a big fan of the whole 90210 vibe of some YA romance novels.  Somehow, the poor guy always gets screwed and the rich guy is never as good as we want him to be.  But, reading Surviving Elite High was like watching the pilot of a new TV series (with its growing pains) and watching the growth of the actors and the entire crew as they grow together as the season progresses.

The first couple of chapters weren’t earth shattering, but the writing was interesting enough to keep me reading.  But, as we get to know John and meet, first his tormentors and then his friends, you couldn’t help but want to get to know this kid more.  At this point, his sexuality wasn’t even an issue.  He was just trying to get from point A to B without getting his ass beat by dumb jocks.  His first person POV was quite interesting.  Despite all the negativity in his life, he has a great attitude.  He is really thrown off kilter, when he meets Nick and finds his secret crush is really a nice guy…most of the time.

So like I said, after that slow start, this book is really fast paced. It really is like watching a soap opera…there is so much going on.  But, somehow, it wasn’t too much.  And even with all the drama going on, it wasn’t maudlin.  The secondary cast is great.  John’s best friends, Madison and Kitty are two little rich girls that have kinda adopted John.  But, rather than being the typical teenage bitches, like on Pretty Liars, they are genuinely nice girls.  Hell, even Nick’s competition is a nice guy.  It was really cool, to see them all supporting each other through the chaos of high school.

Now, I know for a fact that this is supposed to be John’s story.  It’s written from his point of view, but for me…Nick is the bomb.  From the minute that John makes a blip on his radar, Nick is unwavering in his devotion; first as a friend and later as a lover. To everyone else, he can be a bipolar dickhead, but not with John.  With John he is always protective and emotionally open and I loved him.  There were several times, throughout the book, where I could have just reached in a hugged him for his choices.

John H. Ames/Juan Alvarado is a fabulous fresh voice in GLBT YA fiction.  I can’t wait for the next book in this series.  Senior year at Elite High promises to be another rollercoaster ride and I can’t wait!!  And in a perfect world, Jacob will find someone just as amazing as he is. Highly recommending this title for readers who hate bullies, love enemies falling in love and young men growing up nicely.

Light Outside the Closet by Stephani Hecht

Title:  Light Outside the Closet

Series:  Haven Coffee House Boys

Author:  Stephani Hecht

Genre:   YA LGBT, Contemporary

Length:  Novella

Publisher:  Extasy Books (March 1, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:   Sometimes the dark feels safer than the light.

Being a gay teen is hard enough, but when Christian’s strict father is transferred to a different city and Christian has to go to a new school, he discovers how much worse things can get. Fortunately, before he sinks into depression, Christian finds a new group of friends, who are also gay. Christian soon learns that his friends have their own problems, from desperately seeking attention to abusive family members.

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Reviewer:   Portia

Review:  Christian is the new kid in school.  But, as a military brat, he’s used to that.  Luckily, even before school starts, he makes friends, other LGBT teens just trying to make it through senior year.

I hated this book.  Hate that in this day and age, teenagers are still having to deal with bigots and bullies at school.  My mama-heart spent much of this book pissed as hell.  Pissed because the issues and concerns of the characters were a bit too real for me.  Real in that they reminded me of my teenagers’ friends who are struggling with their sexuality, sometimes with little or no support at home.

No, Light Outside the Closet is not a maudlin survey of adolescent psychology.  Life Outside the Closet introduces, what I’m calling, the many faces of gay adolescence.  Taylor is effeminate and “out”.  Christian is out, but looks straight enough to pass.  James is so deep in the closet, he’s practically in Narnia.  One character is bi-racial and you might not know it, but RuPaul is the only acceptable gay man in the minds of many African-Americans.

This basically is Christian’s story.  Well, maybe not.  It is very much an ensemble cast.  Stephani did a good job introducing their world.  But, back to Christian, he has a crush on James, but James’ cousin, Devlin has a crush on Christian.  All very Pretty Liars.  But, when James makes a decision that affects other lives, well…let’s just say feelings change.  More than anyone, I think James learns about himself. And, honestly, I worried that he might not make it to the end of the book alive.

This is labeled YA romance, but don’t let that stop you from reading it.  The emotions are so well-written that anyone who enjoys romance will enjoy this story.

So, yeah, I hated Light Outside the Closet.  And I hope Stephani is cuddle up somewhere with her computer, writing book two.  I can’t wait to hate that one, too. 😉  Highly recommend.

Chulito by Charles Rice-González

Title:  Chulito

Series:  N/A

Author:  Charles Rice Gonzalez

Genre:   YA Urban Romance, Coming of Age

Length:  Novel

Publisher:  Magnus Books (December 13, 2011)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts
Blurb:   Set against a vibrant South Bronx neighborhood and the queer youth culture of Manhattan’s piers, Chulito is a coming-of-age, coming out love story of a sexy, tough, hip hop-loving, young Latino man and the colorful characters that populate his block. Chulito, which means “cutie,” is one of the boys, and everyone in his neighborhood has seen him grow up–the owner of the local bodega, the Lees from the Chinese restaurant, his buddies from the corner, and all of his neighbors and friends, including Carlos, who was Chulito’s best friend until they hit puberty and people started calling Carlos a pato…a faggot.
Chulito rejects Carlos, buries his feelings for him, and becomes best friends with Kamikaze, a local drug dealer. When Carlos comes home from his first year away from college and they share a secret kiss, Chulito’s worlds collide as his ideas of being a young man, being macho, and being in love are challenged. Vivid, sexy, funny, heartbreaking, and fearless, this knock out novel is destined to become a gay classic.

Product Link:  Chulito: A Novel *Note:  There was no buy link on publisher’s website for this title.*

Reviewer:   Portia

Review:  In a lot of ways, Chulito is like a lot of urban 15 year olds.   He shares an apartment with his single mother, he sells drugs and he’s a high school dropout.  But, Chulito has a secret…he’s gay.

Oshun be praised!!! I loved this book!!!  Okay, had to get that out of my system.  Now, let me tell you about my Reviewers’ Find of the Week.  According to his website, Charles Rice-González has a bunch of fancy degrees and is a very busy guy.  He is the director of BAAD, The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance and is a community activist. I am just thankful that he didn’t let real life get in the way of his writing Chulito.  This is the most authentic YA novel, of its genre, I’ve ever had the privilege to read in a long time.

Chulito is a young man and as such, very much a victim of the pact mentality.  He’s lived in the same building forever, had the same friends and is comfortable in his little world.  But, when he sees his openly gay friend kiss another guy, something inside him clicks.  It takes him a minute to realize the feeling gnawing at his gut is jealousy.  And even after he comes to acknowledge his attraction, he is too immature to break free from the pack.

This is an amazing coming of age story.  Chulito is forced to examine what it means to be a man.  His environment is steeped in Latino machismo.  His picture of manhood has been shaped by his neighborhood.  A working poor ghetto filled with drug lords and gangs. I spent much of this book praying he didn’t get killed before he figured it out.  The language is raw and some readers might be offended by the liberal use of urban vernacular and racial epitaphs.  I could do an educational rant on the intracultural use of the word “nigga”, but I won’t.  Just know that the N-word can be used as a term of endearment.

Throughout the book, Chulito wears many masks.  Each is real at the moment.  One minute he’s 100% gangsta, getting his hustle on, the next he’s a slobbering love-sick fool, wanting only to be with Carlos.  Luckily,  Rice-González has crafted an amazing support team for him in the persons of Kamikaze, Julio and Brick.  Through them, Chulito learns that no one is all good or all bad.  And regardless of what path you choose, a real man will forge his own way and take responsibility for his choices.

The story is set in the Bronx and  Rice-González did an excellent job bringing that world to life.  It’s easy to imagine the author as a young man in this vibrant world; not just some generic Latin world, but Newyorican New York, a unique blend of Black speech, Latin passion and New York rawness.  Chulito made me homesick for the energy of the city.  I saw the young men that I grew up with and loved as a teenager.

I have no doubt that Chulito will appeal to a wide range of readers.  His message of self-acceptance will resonate with adults who have crossed over to a world outside the pack and young people still finding their way.

I wouldn’t be much of a reviewer if I gave away the ending, but know that I cried.  Cried for the thug who loved another dude, for the young man who dared to dream and for the community that loved them both.

Chulito is beautifully written, wonderfully crafted; an exquisite addition to LGBT YA fiction.  If this book doesn’t receive any awards, it won’t be because I didn’t nominate it.  I am the newest Charles Rice-González fan.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to track him down and do an interview with him, at some point.  In any event, I hope he finds the time to craft another wonderful story in Chulito’s world.  Highly recommend.

Decision We Make by R. J. Scott

Title:  Decisions We Make

Series:  N/A

Author:  RJ Scott

Genre:   YA Romance

Length:  Novel

Publisher:  Love Lane Books (January 22, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:  Daniel Keyes is an orphan, fostered by the Walker’s. The product of a lonely childhood, he is thrown into the chaos of the Walker family and into the life of his new foster brother Jamie.

This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.

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Reviewer:   Portia

Review:  Daniel came to live with the Walker family after his mother’s suicide.  The quiet, shy musical prodigy is immediately taken under the wing of the family’s middle child, Jamie.  From the moment they meet, their bond is strong and unbreakable.  But, as the boys approach their high school graduation and Daniel comes out to the family, everything is about to change.

Not every adult fiction writer can transition well into the world of young adult romance.    RJ Scott is one that can.  Decisions We Make is a really well-written story.  Most of it is from Daniel’s POV.  It is heartbreaking to see how the decisions that he makes are painted with a brush dipped in the pain of loss and insecurity. *Note:  That was a really cool sentence, huh?* Jamie is his perfect compliment.  There are lots of flashbacks into the boys growing up years, but these are well-crafted and not at all distracting.

The Walkers are a tight-knit family that I wished every LGBT kid could have grown up in.  The parents are very upfront with both their concerns and their support.  Mark is the perfect big brother, ready to fight if anyone hassles the boys about their “new” relationship.  And their little sister never failed to make me smile with the stuff that came out of her mouth.

This book is not all flowers and kisses.  Some really bad things happen that bears evidence to the fact that some folks are filled with bigotry and hate; folks who become the victims of a scorned young woman, bent on revenge.  But, the “incident” did cause the boys secret out into the open.  I really felt for Daniel.  He would love to just love Jamie, but, he also worries that loving Jamie may bring rejection from the rest of the family.

The ending is great and I hope we get to see Jamie and Daniel as they head off to UCLA.  As a mom, I closed this book knowing most teenage romances don’t last, but hoping that this one does.  Highly recommend.