Author's: Goodreads Publisher's Page
Pub Date: September 10, 2013
Received from Bold Strokes Books in exchange for an honest review
Dannie says: A *like* I wanted to *love*.
The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.
What I Liked
Teasing tidbits in opening chapter, but at the same time they sort of spoiled what might have been a killer end of chapter hook, by blatantly saying up top that Dad was moving out and also spoiling the fact that Travis was going to die.
Relationship between brothers feels very honest. The anger and frustration, the rivalry, the birth-order theme and the way the author handled the emotions surrounding Travis and Asher's relationship felt very authentic to me.
What I Loved
The concept. When I read the above blurb on NetGalley I knew I needed to read this book. It sounded right up my alley and I was instantly hooked.
The way the author handled the sexual identity and GLBT issues. That this isn't an "issue" book just because the MC is GLBT. Like kids with disabilities, we need more kids who fall outside the middle-class-white-kid cookie cutter who are main characters not because of what makes them different but because of what makes them the same--in this case grief and loss, divorce, and identity development. I do wish there was a more full arc regarding these themes, but as it was a subplot and not a primary plot point, and possibly also due to this really being more upper MG than true YA (at least IMO) maybe the loosely tied ending in this regard was intentional.
Travis. I loved that he wasn't some sweet, innocent little victim. That he was kind of a pain in the ass and that Asher was okay still feeling that way about him after he died. He was probably my favorite character because I felt like I could really *see* him as I read.
I loved the photography theme. I'm a sucker for a good landscape/non-portrait picture. My dad has a thing for photographing sunsets and rises. I thought experiencing Asher's journey and identity development as a photographer was one of the coolest parts of the read.
What I Wanted More Of
Distinct voice--though it felt like it got stronger as the story progressed, at first I felt like the author's male MC didn't sound very male.
More explanation about why Asher has a douche canoe like Levi for a best friend. Not only do I dislike Levi I also felt like Asher was a douche for putting up with him. So I wanted to know more about the origins of their friendship, and I wanted to be in Asher's head a little more at the beginning of the book as to why he continued to be friends with a kid who seemed decidedly unkind.
Details and experiencing on-camera of Travis death. I felt like the way Travis died (which isn't a spoiler since the author spoils it in one of the first chapters) was somewhat unrealistic. A public community pool where you had to pay to swim would have a life guard. Especially in Florida. So whenever he referred back to how Travis died, I didn't understand that piece. I also didn't understand how the ambulance had arrived so quickly, if he had only been in the bathroom for a couple minutes. Finally, I felt like I was cheated as a reader by the whole scene playing out off screen, so to speak. I felt Asher's emotional upheaval that followed could have been explored more thoroughly as well, though that may be a chick thing and might not appeal to the target audience.
A more full/just confrontation with his parents. The ending on the whole left me feeling a little meh, which sucked because it was literally one of those times when I turned the e-page and went, "Wait...what? That's it?" Which is never a good feeling to have after you invest time and emotions and energy into a read. For me, the story didn't warm up to the main, Asher-centered conflict quickly enough, and the ending ended too soon.
Short story long, this one's a mixed bag for me. There were things I loved and things I wasn't crazy about, and things I wanted to love but couldn't. I'm feeling like a pretty tough critic on the tail of my #PitchMadness slush diving expedition, though, so maybe it's me. See for yourself, and tell me what you think in the comments! Links to purchase are below!