Book Review: Gagging For It By Ellis Richmond

Gagging For It By Ellis Richmond

A Coming of Age YA Novel published by Oata Publishing (03/07/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

In a small town in the 1980s Claire is seduced by her older cousin’s husband. Thinking that a relationship with Tony will be good for her, Claire does everything he says and keeps their relationship a secret. After Claire starts dating a boy her age from school, she struggles to reconcile the two different relationships. Tony won’t take no for an answer and he loves her, doesn’t he?

Keywords:

Grooming, Teenager, 1980s, Troubled Home, Affair, Sexual Relationship, Sex, Abus, Injury, Friendship, Trapped, Manipulation, Secrets, Bullying, Coercion, Rape

My Review:

Claire is young. So very young. This book will punch you in the gut because this story is very realistic. This story is scary and at times hard to read. In the 1980s where the novel is set, it is much more likely for a story about Claire to happen. She is somewhat isolated. The influence of the world is narrow. Claire knows what she is surrounded by and the author very cleverly sets the novel in the poorer end of a small town. Claire’s home environment, her neighborhood, and her school are so well described that I can visualize her upbringing and see her story so clearly. I can understand Claire and her thought process and her confusion and changing perspective as she grows throughout this book. I feel so much for Claire and the situation that Tony has pushed her into.

The author creates so much empathy for Claire in the eyes of the reader. Claire may not be a model teenager but she is an amazing person. She is always willing to help with her younger siblings and the kids at the gym. She is hardworking and enjoys the challenge of an early morning newspaper route up hills so steep she can’t always bike them. She has such strong drive and motivation. She isn’t lazy or selfish. And yet she gets pulled into this terrible situation with Tony. I feel like the author manipulated me at times! I know what Tony did was very, very wrong and yet the way he groomed Claire from the very beginning made so much sense. If I was Claire, I might have made the same choices she did.

I’m so glad that the author included Frank and Luke as examples of good men and positive role models in Claire’s life. Just in case the reader gets confused by Tony, there are these two shining examples of how men should be acting toward and around Claire and other kids. Because of Tony though, I kept waiting for Frank or Luke to do something wrong. The author primed me not to trust anyone in the book, that anyone could have ulterior motives.

I absolutely loved the easy camaraderie between Charly, Maddie, and Claire as well as the realistic and open conversations between the three girls.

My one complaint about this novel was the abrupt ending that wasn’t satisfying to me as a reader. This book felt like part one of a two-part book and I would have preferred a clear and gratifying ending. I felt like Claire was in the middle of her transformation, that she was only partway through growing as a character when this story ended.

This book will appeal to readers who like clever and realistic portrayals of hard-to-read and emotional subjects.

This novel was published by Oata Publishing on 03/07/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

A YA Coming of Age Novel published by Ahimsa Press (06/17/20)

Summary:

‘Once people have decided you’re a “quiet one,” they never let it go.’ Location 391

Meredith has lived 18 years as the preacher’s dutiful daughter. They’ve never had to give her a curfew because she’s never been out late. She’s never had a boyfriend. Even thinking about being the center of attention makes her anxious. In her last year of high school Mare drunkenly signs an ‘anti-virginity pact’ with her best friend Johanna and promptly forgets about it. Until it resurfaces as copies spread all over school. Pushed into the spotlight, Mare doesn’t know what to do, but she wishes she was still invisible. All the attention – most of it negative – threatens her reputation, her standing with her family, and even her new romantic relationship.

Keywords:

Coming of Age, Teenagers, High School, Senior Year, Seniors, Party, Alcohol, Introverted, Anxiety, Bullying, Preacher’s Daughter, Atheist, Friendship, Dating

My Review:

I absolutely love an emotional coming-of-age story and this book did not disappoint. The strongest emotion I felt while reading was anxiety. I consider myself an ambivert and experience shyness and anxiety when I’m at the center of attention sometimes, but Meredith takes this to an entirely different level. Wismer so specifically describes all aspects of anxiety so well that not only could I empathize with Mare, but I could sympathize. I think anyone reading this novel could understand what anxiety actually feels and looks like if it’s unfamiliar to them.

This book unpacks so many teenage dramas and it packs quite a punch. The bullying felt real. The anxiety felt real. The home and church life of a preacher’s daughter felt real. The religious abuse felt real. The homophobia felt real. The nastiness of the in-crowd felt real. The only over-the-top drama subplot that didn’t feel as real was the animal abuse.

I absolutely loved how this book tied romance and a romantic relationship with a strong friendship angle and the relationship between siblings. I loved the story of Meredith and her relationship with Johanna, her relationship with Sam, and especially her relationship with her sister.

This novel was published by Ahimsa Press 06/17/20 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Katie Wismer’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Stars in the Texas Sky by Stephen Matlock

stars int he texas sky

Stars in the Texas Sky by Stephen Matlock

A Fiction Novel published on amazon.com (07/01/2012)

Summary:

Windmill is a tranquil orderly town in the middle of Texas where change is slow in coming in the year 1952. Tabitha tells the mayor about Windmill on page 34, “It’s small-minded. Nothing Ever happens here. It’s just a wide spot with two roads running into each other. No one comes here – they all come from  here.”

Benjamin Clark has been on the short end of the stick his whole life, ever since he understood that his skin color made him different to others’ eyes. Henry Valentine  is the Junior Safety Patrol Officer who is growing up on the right side of town. Both boys are passionate about baseball, have a growing interest in girls, and question the system of race.

 

Keywords:

 Texas in the 1950’s, racial tension, coming-of-age, boys becoming men, hard life lessons, inequality, corruption, stuck in ways, friendship

 

My Review:

Stephen Matlock has confronted a sticky issue in this book. He confronts the topic through the eyes and eventual friendship of two boys born so different because of skin-color and so similar because of their love and passion for baseball and doing what is right. Matlock confronts this issue in the light of growing up and becoming a man. It is a coming of age novel. The boys are just around 13 years old and the reader gets to feel their confusion and frustration in the backwards-thinking town that they currently live in. Matlock masterfully tells a coming-of-age story relevant for any reader, for he tells the story of understanding, honesty, thinking for yourself, standing up for what is right and what you believe in, and more. The story goes deeper than just a boy and an unlikely friend and deeper even than racial tension in a small Texas town. There is fighting, murder, revenge – all the makings of an intriguing read.

Matlock has many life lessons packed into this book. There are so many coming of age themes that I thought the one about the boys’ confusion about girls and their growing feelings towards girls was unnecessary for the story.

Matlock also had a tendency to repeat his life lessons. I love the quotable bits but it does get a little hit-you-on-the head until you get it as you read along. Throughout the novel Matlock writes some profound tidbits, like “Dreams lead to sorrow same as night leads to day.” (Page 5). Matlock certainly has a way with his words and his dialogue is ten out of ten.

It’s only natural that a book’s language should match the time period and setting. Stephen J. Matlock does just that – naturally weaving in descriptions that match the time and the place – which is difficult to do unless you are a master of your craft. The only part that caught me by surprise was the climax in the middle of the book, setting me adrift in a sea of unexpected plot turns, but Matlock firmly led me ashore when the subplot he had been building broke through the surface, tying all the elements together in the end. Still, if only he didn’t end the main story (in my mind) half way through the book I would have been way more satisfied.

What is growing up?

“‘Son, you gotta learn how it is in this town and this country. You keep your head down, don’t look a white man in the eyes, don’t be looking at a white woman, and just never ever think of touching a white woman less’n ou want to lose an arm. Never.'” (page 32).

“Growing up means you learn to accept things the way they are.” (Page 61).

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a historical fiction book set in America (the South) or a coming-of-age novel.

This novel was published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 07/01/2012 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

 

Links for more information:

Stephen Matlock’s Website

Goodreads Profile

FreeValley Publishing’s Stephen Matlock