Monday, April 6, 2020

#AmReading YA


I don't always find connections between the books in this feature, but I happened to read these two, almost consecutively, and found some commonalities between them. Both are male/male romances, featuring characters, who were forced out of the closet. Though Date Me, Bryson Keller was lighter than Man Up, each book dealt with the homophobia that still, unfortunately, exists, and struggles with identity.

Date Me, Bryson Keller
Kevin van Whye
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
What If It's Us meets To All the Boys I've Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a '90s rom-com!

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new--the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he's never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn't expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there's more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he's awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this "relationship" will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world--and with each other.
Bryson Keller normally kept himself free of romantic entanglements, but still accepted a challenge to date the first person, who asked him out at the beginning of every week. Caught up in the moment, Kai, who was currently in the closet, shouted, "Date Me, Bryson Keller!" And, Bryson, being the great guy that he was, agreed.

It was such a pleasure watching this fake dating turn into friendship and then more. I absolutely adored both Kai and Bryson, and loved seeing Kai come into his own during this story.

Bryson played against the typical jock stereotype. He was beautiful, popular, and rich, but he was also kind, understanding, and self aware. I swear! The kid owned my heart. I couldn't have picked a better person to help Kai navigate this part of his life.

Kai was also wonderful. He seemed quite jolly and go with the flow, but because he felt forced to hide a part of who he was, he carried this immense weight around with him. I shed tears, when he shared these feelings with me, and it broke my heart that he ever felt as though he had to keep who he was under wraps. His struggles with identity went beyond his sexuality, as well. Kai was mixed race, and mentioned never feeling "enough", and I would think that along with the worry and pressure of coming out was a big load to bear. That's why I was so happy he connected with Bryson.

Together, these two were perfection. They were so adorable. I could feel all that first-love/like excitement coming off the pages, and it put the biggest smile on my face. The flirting, the stolen glances, the tenderness, the sparks, the giddiness - all those things you experience as you are falling for someone, was beautifully captured, and I adored every second of it.

Though the beginning and the end of the book were all sorts of super cute, the middle was bumpy for Kai. It's sad to see, that people are still encountering homophobia in 2020, but it's a reality. That part of the story broke my heart in two, but Kai was lucky, because he had such an incredible support system. Donny and Pryia, his two best friends, as well as his little sister, Yazz, stood by his side, and held him up, when he was struggling to stand on his own. Yazz was actually the biggest rock star of the book, and when her standout moment came, wow! I was ready to start a fan club for this kid after what she did.

Overall: This was a story that left me fist-pumping and feeling good.

Man Up
Kim Oclon
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Trism Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
With David’s final baseball season starting and college plans still up on the air, he begins senior year on edge. But when his baseball coach, Coach Kelly, wants to know if David is gay, he is left speechless. David knows the answer to the question but was hoping to get through his final year without anyone noticing the hallway glances at Tyler, a star on the boy’s track team, or their rides home together each day. In a school where his friends are turning their backs on him, he finds a new set of allies, that he didn’t know roamed the high school halls. Although he was forced out of the closet before he thought he was ready, what happens next is up to him. David can either cower in the corners or man up.
Due to his family's economic situation, David knew the only way he could go to college was on a baseball scholarship. This dream was looking promising, until the team bully caught David in his crosshairs, and decided to out him in an attempt to remove him from the team. But, the damage was done, and David wondered, if he would be able to wrest control of the narrative, and get his life back on track.

I really felt for David. His senior year was going ok. He was working hard to advance his game, and he was in a wonderful, though secret, relationship with an amazing guy. He still was dealing with all the pressure and stress related to college admissions, but he was handling it. Then, Kevin had to come and add to his stress. I truly abhorred him, and everything he was meant to represent, but I acknowledge that he was not alone in his beliefs. When I was teaching, we all knew the least safe place for any kid, who was different, was the locker room. Sad, but true.

Many of the well-known scenarios we associate with the treatment of those in the LGBTQ community play out in this book, but it must be acknowledged, because these scenarios still exist. Though, I may have seen this before, it was David's struggle to accept himself, and take charge of the situation, which really drew me in. I appreciated how difficult this was for him, and it was compounded with other issues he was facing. I felt so proud of him, of the way he eventually faced the situation, and I was also proud of how some of the other people in his world stepped up as allies and friends.

First and foremost, David had the support of his amazing boyfriend, Tyler. Tyler was out,  but respected that David needed to make that decision for himself. It was easy to see how deeply he cared for David, and I definitely felt the love between them. They were sweet and swoony, and I was solidly aboard this ship.

But, there were others on his side too. Patrick, the varsity catcher, was a surprisingly wonderful ally. Though he was not the most vocal in speaking out against the homophobic behavior, his showed his support through his actions. I also loved Allie. She was a member of the LGBTQIA group at school, and became a friend and confident of David's right when he really needed one. I felt like she was such an important part of his transformation, and liked that she brought in an outsider's perspective.

Overall: A thoughtful exploration of one young man's journey to self acceptance.

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

34 comments:

  1. Date Me, Bryson Keller sounds like all kinds of cute and adorable. :) Bryson sounds like an absolute doll and I love that as a character he went against the stereotypical jock persona.

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    1. I agree with the synopsis, that it has some of those Simon vibes. I think you would like it

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  2. fist pumping and feeling good...we could all use that feeling right now. :-)
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. I always love those feel good books, and I agree, we need them more now than ever

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  3. Glad these were both really good reads for you! Hope you and yours are doing well!

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  4. Both of these sound like really cute reads, and I'm so happy that these kinds of relationships are being represented in YA fiction.

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    1. Bryson Keller was definitely cute. Man Up was a bit heavier, but very hopeful.

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  5. I’d never heard of either of these books but I have to see, I need to read Date Me, bryson Keller. It sounds like a great read and one which I could easily lose myself in during these trying times. I need a feel good read in my life. Ad for Man Up, this one explotes a reality which we wish wasn’t still happening. It sounds like this one hits on the emotions but I definitely think it sounds like it’s worth checking out. Excellent reviews as always and a couple of new books to go on my TBR.

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    1. I think whoever wrote the synopsis was right about it having a "feel" like Simon. Bryson Keller is OwnVoices, and the author wanted to share his experiences, which unfortunately, included homophobia, but the book was more light than heavy. The author of Man Up wanted to take on homophobia in a sports setting, and I liked that she made that part of the story, but not the whole story

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  6. Bryson and Kia sounds wonderful and of course I do love the fake dating trope so this sounds right up my alley. David sounds like he went through so much but Tyler sounds so good for him. Great reviews.

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    1. Both couples were quite wonderful, and I was happy that David and Kai had such supportive partners.

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  7. Outing someone is so horrible - I'm glad David has support and is able to recover from it.

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    1. It really is, and it happened to main characters in both these books. Crazy! But, I think it's good, that we see it in books, to remind non-queer people, that it's not appropriate.

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  8. I hadn't heard of Date Me, Bryson Keller---I will definitely have to check it out now. And I'm so excited that you enjoyed Man Up---I agree that it's sad that we still have to think about these types of situations. It seems like sports (especially in high schools in some areas) is one area where there's still a lot of growth that needs to happen when it comes to LGBT acceptance.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Bryson Keller was wonderful! Very sweet and touching, with a bit of drama, but mostly super cute. I was all over it.

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  9. Both sound like very timely reads. The second one definitely sounds like a heavy read so I'm glad to hear it ends on a good note. David and Tyler sound really sweet together.

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    1. Heavier, but not heavy. Lots of sweet and hopeful parts woven into the story. David's journey was not super easy, but he was lucky, and had lots of support.

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  10. These are both completely new to me but I love the sound of them. It sounds like both books had some pretty fantastic characters.

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    1. I was very taken by the characters in these books, and happy to watch their stories unfold.

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  11. Date Me Bryson Keller sounds so utterly adorable! And I like that Bryson isn't a stereotypical character too.

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    1. It was so adorable, and I can never resist an adorable romance. I always give authors a lot of credit for crafting characters, who defy the norms. It shows so much more creativity, if you ask me

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  12. Eep! I can't wait to read Date Me Bryson Keller. Sounds exactly like what I need right now.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Very fun, cute, sweet, and feel good. Promise!

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  13. Date Me, Bryson Keller sounds AMAZING. I now want to read that book after reading your review.

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    1. I was so into the romance in this book. I hope you get to read it and enjoy it too

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  14. Date Me Bryson Keller sounds like my kind of read. I am definitely here for some feel good stories right now. I will have to check that it is on the TBR.

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    1. Both had positive endings, but Bryson Keller had a more upbeat vibe for the majority of the book, and was lighter. I really enjoyed it

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  15. Date Me, Bryson Keller sounds so super cute!! Great reviews!!

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  16. What a fun premise, the weekly date dare!

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    1. The dare was an interesting set up, and the whole purpose was to show how he didn't need to be attached, and then, he got attached.

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  17. Okay, I've added Date Me Byson Tiller to my TBR. I have been in the mood for feel good contemporaries, and it just sounds too cute. I like that Bryson also plays against the jock stereotype because it is really overdone... I like the sound of Man Up as well and each person being respectful or where the other is on their journey of coming out and not forcing the other person. Great reviews x

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    1. Bryson was a delightful surprise. It was a cute and fun romance, while not avoiding the realities, that some/many face, when coming out.

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