Title: The Lighter Side of Life and DeathSixteen-year-old Mason Rice is having the night of his life. He's just delivered an incredible performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year, and lost his virginity to one of his best friends—the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. His dreams are coming true and the future looks golden.
Author: C.K. Kelly Martin
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House Books
Release date: May 25, 2010
Unfortunately, Kat sees things very differently. Crossing the friendship line was a big mistake and all she wants is to forget it and move on, even if means forgetting Mason altogether. What's a guy to do? Well, if you're Mason, you hang your hopes on the first attractive 23-year-old you cross paths with. At first Mason wonders if he's imagining the chemistry . . . until Colette invites him over to her apartment. Suddenly Mason's living in a whole new world. Fans of John Green and Sarah Dessen will savor C. K. Kelly Martin's sexy, smart, soulful story of one confused boy, two girls, and all the complications that ensue in this feel good celebration of friendship, first love, first lust, and second chances.
Mason Rice is living the life. With good friends and a successful run in the school play, nothing could touch him. After one amazing day, he heads over to a party to celebrate his recent accomplishments and finds himself alone with his best friend, Kat. They end up sleeping together, and this changes everything. Kat wants to pretend nothing happened so she starts avoiding him, and their other best friend, Jamie, is mad at Mason because he's also in love with Kat and was kept in the dark about what happened between the two. At home, Mason is dealing with some big changes in his family. He butts heads with his step-sister-to-be and they can never seem to find common ground. Mason then meets Colette, his future stepmom's 23-year-old friend, who he starts a secret forbidden liaison with. As their relationship prolongs, Mason starts slipping away from his old life.
Here's a little personal history for you: I first read this book the year it came out. I just turned 21, but was at that stage where I still felt 20; right smack in the middle of Mason and Colette's 7-year age gap. Fast forward to today, 23 on the verge of turning 24-- same age as Colette. When I was reading this book in 2010, I was just "meh" about their relationship. I got that it was taboo but for some reason I wasn't as affected as I am now. What a difference 2 years makes. My feelings about their relationship changed immensely! Can I imagine myself messing around with a 16-year-old? The thought makes my stomach feel weird. And not in the good way. God, no.
The plot was great and the execution was better than I can imagine. Martin had this style that never went overboard, no matter how big the issue. It was nice and made for an enjoyable light read. The book was full of adolescent problems but instead of taking them and making a big unnecessary show out of it, she wrote it so that the characters actually could deal and the reader could actually see these kinds of reactions to things in real life.
What set this story apart for me was the narration from Mason's perspective. I've never really come across a lot of contemporary romance novels from a guy's point of view. It worked really well for this story, and his voice was so refreshing. He went through a lot of emotions, like every teenager goes through, and it was interesting taking a look into the inner workings of a teenage boy's mind. Mason was easy-going and handled everything great on the outside, but he was slowly losing it inside as the story progressed. He had this illicit affair with an older woman and eventually admitted to it, but the consequences weren't too drastic. Actually, the whole book wasn't as dramatic as it could have been. I personally love Martin for that; the story could have gotten really over-dramatic and cliché, but it was all done with subtle grace. Of course Mason wasn't without his flaws, as all the characters in this book were, but he was definitely a great narrator for the story.
The other characters were all very diverse, which I commend Martin for. Various age groups, ethnicities, and sexual orientations were represented without going overboard. It gave it a more realistic feel that I definitely appreciated. The story went in the direction it did because of Kat, Mason's crush who just so happens to also be one of his best friends. It was interesting that she was Filipino when there are virtually none of us in contemporary literature, so that was kind of cool. And hey, look at that, the story took place in Canada. But that aside, Kat reacted to what happened between her and Mason in such an odd way. It was exasperating. I wanted to like her more and wanted to know more about her. But of course, she was avoiding Mason for more than half the book so that didn't happen. I had mixed feelings about her, but I'm happy with how the story ended. Jamie, though. The other best friend. I could have done without his whining and total abandonment of Mason. I can't even talk about him properly without getting worked up. Colette... I don't know if the readers are supposed to like her. It's just bad right off the bat; she had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy. Freakin' illegal. If it's not illegal, then it's definitely lacking in common sense. She clearly had some issues that she needed to work out; re-evaluate her life a little bit, maybe, because... woah. Ick. All in all, I think every character served their purpose, and it was done well. The fact that both of the leading females in the story were so different in every single way was a nice touch. They could have been severely butchered, one being an immigrant teenager and the other a 20-something woman having an affair with a minor, but Martin managed to stay away from stereotypes.
Funny thing, while I was reading this book the first time in 2010, I always pictured Logan Lerman as Mason. I don't know why. Seems like a character he would play if a movie adaptation was ever made. I've seen several other places online suggesting Aaron Johnson, which would have been good, too, at the time (not now, though). I've always thought he and Logan looked pretty similar. Anyway. When I start getting into potential movie casting is when you know I like a book a lot. It was one of my favourites in 2010, and re-reading it now brought back the feelings. They've shifted a bit, because like I mentioned earlier, 2 years can change a person, even by the slightest. A lot of things that I liked during my initial reading, I changed my opinion on. To add onto that, I noticed more things the second time around that I wasn't really paying attention to before. Regardless, this book remains one of my favourites, and I would recommend it to those looking for a light and not so over-exaggerated read, considering the subject.
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