They are THE EXTRAORDINARIES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing the love for a YA LGBTQ romance that’s out today from a long-time fave author, TJ Klune. I’ve mostly reviewed Klune’s paranormal Green Creek series (WOLFSONG, RAVENSONG, and HEARTSONG) on Joyfully Jay, but THE EXTRAORDINARIES I got for myself. I fell hard for BEAR, OTTER, AND THE KID years ago, and I pick up Klune’s books whenever I can, now.

About the book:
Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

My Review:
Nick Bell is a 16 year old out-gay boy who has a fierce group of queer friends. There’s Seth, who is likely gay but never dated anyone. He’s Nick’s oldest and dearest friend–Nick expects to spend a lifetime of friendship with Seth. Then, there’s Gibby, a take no crap baby butch black girl in her senior year. Gibby is in a committed relationship with Jazz, head cheerleader of their high school. And, Nick is sort-of friends with Owen, his rich and popular ex who relishes needling Seth.

Nick’s world is a little richer by virtue of true superheroes, dubbed “the Extraordinaries,” who save people with their superpowers. Nova City, where Nick lives, is home to Shadow Star, a superhero that can pull shadows to do his bidding, as well as his arch nemesis, Pyro Storm, who uses fire to wreak havoc. Nick is unabashedly crushing on Shadow Star, and has written literally hundreds of thousands of words in fanfic celebration of a possible love between Shadow Star and everyday boy “Nate Belen”. This mission and crush has helped lift Nick from the depression he suffered when his mother was tragically killed two years ago.

Nick’s dad is a cop and his only remaining family. They have a good relationship, but Nick struggles to connect with people in general due to his ADHD and neurodiverse situation. This is likely why he cannot see that Seth is actively pining for Nick–and it’s soon clear that Nick is missing the biggest secret in Nova City: he’s actually friends with the Extraordinaries that he idolizes.

Nick’s mission is to be normal at school, allaying his father’s fears for his future, but also to join the ranks of Extraordinaries, so he can:
1. get Shadow Star to fall in love with him, and
2. protect his dad from harm.
Much of the story is Nick strategizing hare-brained plans to unlock his Extraordinary potential. His awkwardness and complete obliviousness to reality is shake your head funny, but Nick isn’t the butt of jokes. His sincerity and desperation bring a gravitas to him, even when it’s clear that most everyone can see the bigger picture while Nick’s trapped in minutia.

Nick’s anxiety, depression and ADHD are a huge part of his character’s personality, and I really enjoyed the mental rollercoaster that Nick lived in. I felt how deeply it encompassed his worldview, and how frustrating it was to struggle with these hurdles minute-by-minute and pill by pill. Nick’s impulsive nature is further rattled when his dad gets injured while protecting people from the increasingly more dangerous battles between Shadow Star and Pyro Storm.

This is the first story in a series, and I seriously could not stop turning the pages. I was charmed and intrigued throughout, only slightly discombobulated by the fanfic opening. I adored Nick, and his narration is a masterstroke of YA voice. His one-sdied love afair with Shadow Star morphs into something much greater, and more satisfactory as he gains both knowledge and perspective. Expect some boys kissing!

We get some solid leads on the direction of the next story by well-placed clues about previous Extraordinaries that have disappeared, and the startling occurrences that shield Nick when Shadow Star and Pyro Storm are involved in battle. It’s a coming of age story, in many ways, but it’s also a coming to terms story, with Nick being a (lovable) petulant teen, confused why his dad now insists that Nick “leave the door open” when Seth visits his room. He clearly doesn’t get that they are only best pals! He’s also mortified by his dad’s “protection” demos involving items like bananas and vague threats of talks with his service pistol handy. There is so much awesomeness packed in this story, I can’t believe my iPad didn’t explode with cape-wearing kittens and chocolates filled with rainbow ganache.

I’d honestly read this story over and over, and highly recommend it to YA readers, and fans of superhero or LGBTQ stories. Like every Klune book I’ve ever read, I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel.

Interested? You can find THE EXTRAORDINARIES on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

You can catch up with TJ on his website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out now! ALPHA KNIGHT

Hi there! I’m spreading the word on a newly-released New Adult paranormal romance from Renee Rose. ALPHA KNIGHT pairs up two high schoolers in trouble–one who’s being pursued by her late-father’s shady partner and the other a wolf shifter whose brother’s on the run for helping the new girl in town.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
SHE’S GETTING A FAKE BOYFRIEND–ME.
WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT.

The leggy car thief is trouble with a capital T.

My brother went down because of her

I need to find him before the cops do.

Which means I’m not letting her out of my sight.

Anywhere the human goes, I go.

I’ll play her fake boyfriend.

Sleep in her bedroom.

Go to her prep school classes.

Take her to the homecoming dance.

I will learn all her secrets, find out all her games.

By the time I’m done with her, she’ll be sorry.

Sorry she ever set foot in our shop.

Sorry she ever met me.

Sorry she made me fall for her.

I didn’t review this title on my blog because I decided not to complete reading it. It was not the right book for me, but it may appeal to readers who enjoy erotic teen paranormal romance with recurrent episodes of stalking, scenes of sexual/partner violence and threats of human trafficking.

If you want to check out a free excerpt, click here for the first chapter.

Interested? You can find ALPHA KNIGHT on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to enter the Facebook giveaway!
Good luck and keep reading my friends.

About the Author:
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE loves a dominant, dirty-talking alpha hero! She’s sold over a half million copies of steamy romance with varying levels of kink. Her books have been featured in USA Today’s Happily Ever After and Popsugar and she was named Eroticon USA’s Next Top Erotic Author in 2013.

Catch up with Renee on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get free Renee Rose books by signing up for her mailing list.

Coming CLEAN to Live–Review and Giveaway

CLEAN-BANNER
Hi there! I’m so excited to share my review for CLEAN, Mia Kerick’s new edgy YA M/M coming of age story. This book is a very tough read, not because it’s written poorly, but because it portrays unflinching stories of sexual abuse, neglect and substance abuse in teens. As with all Ms. Kerick’s books, (THE RED SHEET, HARD DAY’S NIGHT), the characters are well-written and the story is filled with inconvenient truths.

Be sure to check out my review and enter to win a $10 GC.

CLEAN cover
About the book:
High school senior Lanny Keating has it all. A three-sport athlete at Lauserville High School looking at a college football scholarship, with a supportive family, stellar grades, boy band good looks… until the fateful day when it all falls apart.

Seventeen-year-old Trevor Ladd has always been a publicly declared zero and the high school bad-boy. Abandoned by his mother and sexually abused by his legal guardian, Trevor sets his sights on mere survival.

Lanny seeks out Trevor’s companionship to avoid his shattered home life. Unwilling to share their personal experiences of pain, the boys explore ways to escape, leading them into sexual experimentation, and the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol. Their mutual suffering creates a lasting bond of friendship and love.

When the time finally comes to get clean and sober, or flunk out of high school, only one of the boys will graduate, while the other spirals downward into addiction.

Will Lanny and Trevor find the strength to battle their demons of mind-altering substances as well as emotional vulnerability?

Clean takes the reader on a gritty trip into the real and raw world of teenage substance abuse.

A little taste (from the Prologue):
Lanny

Trevor wouldn’t even look at me when I walked over to the gas station this morning to say hi. And Jimmy’s Fuel Stop is like three miles from my house so it took a major effort to walk there, especially since I’ve been feeling like total crap lately. Another one of my shaky human bonds bites the dust. I need to go out and get myself a cat.

“Can’t you see I’m working, Keating?” That was all he said. But I’ve always been good at reading between the lines. I could tell what he was thinking as he stood beside the gas pumps, totally caught up in not looking at me. “Take a hike before you get me fired, loser. Some of us got goals in life….” So I took off before he had a chance to make me feel like I shouldn’t have ever made an appearance on the planet earth. But I still know it would have been better had I never been born…maybe Joelle would still be okay.

It’s Saturday afternoon and nobody’s home. Mom and Dad are probably off at the park with Joelle, sloshing through the wet snow together so she gets her daily exercise. Or maybe they took her to the make- your-own-sundae-place to improve her fine motor skills by sprinkling sweet toppings on big scoops of ice cream. I’m in Mom and Dad’s bathroom, bent in half with my head stuck in the closet, searching the cluttered shelves for anything that will get me high enough to escape. And I mean anything.

That’s when I see the cough syrup. The bottle in front is almost new, and there’s an older bottle of a different brand right behind it, little more than halfway full. Seeing these medicine bottles reminds me of something Chad suggested about a week or two ago— that we should try robo-tripping. He told me that if we drink enough cough syrup, the DXM in it would get us high in a “super blissful, tingling-body-parts way,” which sounded pretty decent to me then and still does now. Not completely surprised I remembered Chad’s exact description of a DXM high, I thank God for this dextromethorphan stuff that suppresses nasty coughs, because it looks like I’m going to find my much-needed buzz after all.

Pleased that I don’t have to resort to sniffing glue from the tube on my father’s basement workbench or huffing my mother’s hairspray—and believe me I came close—I snatch the bottles with a shaky hand. They’re both sticky with the syrup that dripped down the side last time one of the Keating’s had a major head cold accompanied by a hacking cough. Licking my fingers provides me with a hint of the cherry flavor I’m probably going to be barfing up later tonight. But I don’t care. I can’t get through a single day without some help, and by that I don’t mean help from my human friends, seeing as I have none left.

The walk to the shed seems longer than ever. It’s an effort to so much as put one foot in front of the other. I haven’t eaten anything for a full day; I’m sure that’s why I feel like such crap. And it’s not like I want to think about this stuff, but I can’t stop myself. The “stuff” I don’t want to think about is really people. The people I have hurt so much lately because of my bad habits.

This list starts with my little sister Joelle, who I told to “stuff a sock in it” when she asked me to read that goddamned book about a kid going to school—for the zillionth time! “School’s not all it’s cracked up to be, Jo. Stop being so damned excited about it! Those kids are gonna tear you to pieces and won’t even wait until you turn your back to do it!” It hurts too much to remember the expression on her face right after I told her that, so instead I stare beyond the leafless trees into the gray sky and think about my parents.

I’ve hurt Mom and Dad a lot too, because they know I’m sick, they just don’t know exactly what’s wrong with me. And I’m not sure how much they care. Their plates are too full already with Joelle’s problems, I guess.

I glance down at the two bottles of cough medicine dangling from between my fingers and remember Chrissy and Robyn, who I use like toilet paper. They can do way better than me in the study-buddy department.

I trip over a root that crosses my path and fall to my knees, but just as quickly drag myself back to my feet. A stray root isn’t enough to stop me from getting to where I’m going.

I’m almost at the shed now, and I can’t avoid thinking about him any longer. Trevor hates me. He never calls anymore, never asks me to go to the shed to drink some beer and fool around. He just looks at me in the hallway at school with angry disgusted eyes, and tells me every chance he gets “you’re fucking up your life and I’m not gonna let you fuck up mine.”

Trevor Ladd…the ultimate untouchable. If I could’ve made somebody like him want to be with me, I would’ve surely been able to win my parents back. Well, no such luck. I’m more of a zero to Trevor than I ever was…and Mom and Dad still don’t care.

Blew my entire life sky high. Which is where I’ll be soon, if all goes according to plan. I lift each bottle of sticky sweet cough medicine to my lips and kiss them, one by one.

Just the sight of the tiny, beat-up brown shed fills me with an indescribable sense of relief, probably like the feeling of coming home after years at sea. As soon as I push open the door, I see that Trevor isn’t here and I’m illogically disappointed. But Trevor can’t save me from myself. He did his duty; he tried to get me clean, and he got clean in the process.

Way to go, Trevor.

Alone in a frigid shed in the middle of the woods, I’m more than eager to suck down a couple bottles of cough medicine so I can be somewhere else…someone else. A vision of Landon Keating forms in my mind—not Lanny, the student, or Lanny, the athlete, or Lanny, the son and brother—but the near-future version of me when I’m “simultaneously mellow and stimulated,” if the online experiences I’ve read about taking DXM are accurate. Sad truth is, I’ll take just plain disoriented. Any effect will be fine if it whisks me away.

I drop down to the cold floor and without ceremony open one of the small bottles. The cough medicine goes down more easily than I thought.

Cherry-berry-sweet-thick-burning-soothing- pleasure-pain. It doesn’t take too long.

Itchy as hell…belly’s on fire….

“Read to me, Lanny…read it again!

”Can’t feel my legs at all….

“Wishes don’t wash dishes, son.”

Can’t stop barfing…. So sick….

“Take a hike, Keating—you filthy, no-good, loser boozer-druggie!”

Blew it with Trevor…blew it with everybody.

Can’t breathe…need a breath….

Gonna die here alone.

My Review:
Landon was a great student and star athlete with everything going for him until his young sister was hit by a car. She survived, but with severe handicaps, and Lanny’s family has become all about Joelle and her care. His overwhelmed and overwrought parents are angry and hostile, and don’t even bother to acknowledge Lanny most days. Lanny and his parents share guilt and blame for the tragedy of Joelle’s accident, and Lanny takes it super hard. He turns to alcohol to hide his pain, and he gets his alcohol from the school bad-boy, Trevor.

Trevor is a burn out. He lives each day in fear, and resignation, of the continuing sexual abuse he’s endured since he was twelve and his mother abandoned him with her friend, Carl. When he can, Trevor seeks oblivion via alcohol and pot. And Lanny, the angel-faced “clean” boy that sometimes lurks in Carl’s gardening shed with him. When they are drunk, it’s easy to seek other releases, and Trevor’s easily able to direct some impersonal (non-penetrative) sex between them.

Lanny feels like Trevor’s the only person in his life who sees him. Trevor’s too afraid to love anyone, and doesn’t believe he’s worthy of love, in any case. That said, he sees how far Lanny is slipping–he’s been kicked off the football team, he’s failing classes and he spends every night getting bombed. Soon they move on to pills, supplied by a mutual friend. Trevor knows his only way out of Carl’s lecherous grasp is death, or cleaning up and graduating high school. He tries to get Lanny to clean out, too, but Lanny’s not having it.

Expect things to get worse. Expect there to be real terror on the pages, especially for Trevor when he discovers just how far gone Lanny is.

This story is a story of redemption. It is an honest and harrowing tale of hitting rock bottom, and surviving. The first half is the descent, and the second half is the rise, and it’s not an easy road on either side. Yet, it was told brilliantly, with Lanny rediscovering himself, and his family becoming a strong and supportive unit again. Lanny does what Trevor can’t–forgive himself. And his recovery is well-defined in the general Twelve Step way. This may be a YA tale, but the truth of it applies to people at all ages and stages.

It is also an M/M tale–a dash of romance. Lanny is definitely attracted to Trevor, and acknowledges that he is gay. Trevor was not sure of his orientation–he’s not attracted to Carl in the least–but he does acknowledge that he’s attracted to Lanny, and feels the most love for him that he has of any of the few people who’ve been in his life. There is some sexuality on the page–most consensual, some abuse. Both are told honestly and without glorification.

Part of Lanny’s recovery is making amends for his use and abuse of Trevor, who is dumbstruck that Lanny feels any need to apologize. Trevor’s been mired in guilt over ever giving Lanny any substances to abuse in the first place. Lanny’s steadfast determination to be a real friend to Trevor, not an escape, allows both boys to come to terms with the ills of their past. I adored how very healthy all of this was, and how it engendered a real and beneficial relationship.

At no point did I feel there was any shortcut or glossing over of the tragedy and healing in this story. I think the writing was excellent, if unconventional. Trevor’s POV pages are especially fraught with his fragmented internal narrative. He’s contrary and cagey, and always looking to defend himself and his emotions by denying them. He’s honest with Lanny about being a liar–having hidden so much of himself, never believing that anyone could (or would) want to help him–that he is dirty, filthy, unlovable and unwholesome because of his abuse. It made for a very poignant counterpoint to Lanny’s squeaky-clean, but detached family.

I always struggle to read books that feature abuse of a minor, because I’m a mom, and I hate that this happens IRL. Reading is my escape from MY everyday problems, in many cases, so I prefer the lighter fare. That said, an intense read like CLEAN serves a very important purpose in highlighting the experiences of people who are very different, and often very troubled. CLEAN is fantastic. I hope that it finds readers who have the courage, like Lanny and Trevor, to be present and be counted. To not give up, and to do the hard work necessary to do better than just survive the experience.

Lanny and Trevor discover that life is hard, but very very worth it.

Interested? You can find CLEAN on Goodreads, and Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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