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The Lighter Side of Life and Death Hardcover – May 25, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–Mason and Kat are best friends, but, drunk after a party, they have sex, and neither knows how to deal with the aftermath. Mason's always had a crush on Kat and he's worried that she'll think he was taking advantage of her; she's acting distant and won't talk to him. Their behavior after their secret tryst puts a strain on Mason's high school clique, especially with pal Jamie, who had a crush on Kat and who finds out what happened. Confused, 16-year-old Mason jumps into a romantic relationship with an older woman, Colette. His feelings about the mess he's made with Kat and the inappropriate relationship with Colette ring true. A subplot about Mason's new blended family adds dimension to the story. This narrative will keep readers interested as it moves from shamed encounter to forbidden relationship. For female romance fans, the story allows a peek into the teen boy's conscience and explores the emotional consequences of sex without being preachy.Shawna Sherman, Hayward Public Library, CA
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* When best friends Mason and Kat lose their virginity to each other, they react quite differently. Mason is obsessed with Kat; Kat responds by ignoring him completely. Partly from a desire for revenge, partly from fascination, Mason begins an intense physical relationship with 23-year-old Colette, a dalliance that soon becomes just as obsessive as his relationship with Kat was. This is not your ordinary teen romance. It’s heavy on the sex but carefully nuanced. Although the lust is palpable, so is the affection and intrigue. Yes, Mason is in love with the act itself, but he cares deeply for both young women. The layers of emotion, so rarely evoked by young men in YA novels, give a depth and authenticity to Mason’s personality that expose his naïveté and occasional bewilderment. The book’s other characters are equally complex. Kat and Colette have strong, genuine feelings for Mason, each battling her own distinct emotions. Even Mason’s relationships with his new stepfamily are painfully true to life. Counteracting its apparently happy ending, this taut novel propels readers from one corroding relationship to another. A more genuine representation of teen life would be hard to find. Grades 9-12. --Frances Bradburn
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From reading the summary, you're probably thinking this book is about a teenage boy's sordid affair with an older woman. You'd be right, of course, though there's nothing wrong or sleazy about their sudden exploration of each other. They truly do have feelings for one another, and mutually choose to embark on an adult relationship. There's an age gap, yes, but it's not an issue - it's not illegal, they're both responsible, and there's just something right about them being together.
Mason is the teenage boy in question. He's at that point in his life where sex is on the cards, and he has a thing for his best friend, Kat. After a night of drunken antics, they go further than ever before, leaving their friendship in tatters the day after. This alone would be a nightmare for any teenager, not to mention confusing and completely devastating. Crossing the line with a friend is like walking a tightrope: either it all goes to plan, or you fall. Hard.
Mason, in true realistic fashion, has no idea what's going on with Kat. She's hot and cold, throwing mixed signals his way and making his head swim. Sounds familiar? I'm sure there isn't a teenage boy in the world who hasn't had trouble figuring out girls - it's just a high school given. I've never read a more honest account of male thoughts and emotions, not to mention physical descriptions of sex itself. Martin will never pull the wool over your eyes - she tells it as it is. Sex is awkward, chaotic, and intimate, and that's exactly how it's portrayed in The Lighter Side of Life and Death. Young adults are treated like adults within the pages of this book, and it really shows a sense of understanding between author and reader.
Colette, the older object of Mason's affections, is also very well written. You get to see her side of things through Mason's eyes, though she's an enigma that is never fully explained. Her actions and attraction to Mason could be construed as simple lust or longing, but I think it goes deeper than that. Maybe she's looking for that connection to tether her to reality, or someone who will just appreciate her for who she is and what she stands for. Whatever her reasoning, she opens her eyes to a whole new experience, taking Mason along for the ride with her.
The Lighter Side of Life and Death is about maturing, making choices and taking life as it comes. It's an honest depiction of one boy's brush with the seemingly interchangeable love and lust, and a realistic look at the decisions made by people of all ages. I admire its raw honesty, and I think you will too.
What results in The Lighter Side of Life and Death is an honest, gripping portrayal of growing up and burgeoning sexuality for a teenage boy. Examined is the difference between love and lust, which I guess may appear in similar clothing a whole lot of the time, so it is easy to confuse one for the other. I really appreciated that C.K. Kelly Martin wasn't afraid to go the full monty, it made the book's impact so much more larger on me.
As far as characters voices go, Mason has a distinctive voice. You can tell he's this easy going guy, yet he struggles over these issues which aren't exactly life and death, but certainly feel that way when you are sixteen. I loved how Martin portrays that teenage egotism perfectly. Let's face it, when you are a kid you are the center of your universe. Some of us grow out of that, some of us don't. I'm not even sure I've grown out of that.
I don't think I would hesitate to give this book to a teenager who is coming to grips with their hormones. This book is short, it's a fast read, yet it is non-judgmental of the decisions the characters make. Mason is never punished for what he decides. I guess what I am trying to say is I love this book for the fact that it isn't superficial, that it just seems to get it. Ya know?
Firstly, I want to encourage this great Canadian author - but more importantly, her stories and plotlines are always, always both heartwarming and incredibly true to real life.
Unlike other YA, The Lighter Side of Life and Death does not shy away from exploring a sensitive issue - sex and teens - but does so in such a delicate and sensitive manner, that somehow, while the act of sex is present in the book - it is completely overshadowed by the main characters who are struggling to "deal" with their actions.
The author does not discourage or encourage author - but rather takes a frank look at how sex can affect people, friendships and the rest of your life.
The writing is beautiful and poignant and I felt for each character - even though they both chose to deal with "what happened" in completely different ways. While it might have been tempting to "judge" the outcome - the fact is that the author does such a great job of fleshing out her characters that you get to "discover" just why each of these reacted the way they did - which goes a long way in understanding the situation and seeing it from a variety of points of view.
I loved it.