“Just because people only see thorns in us, just because for so long I couldn’t see anything else, doesn’t mean we’ve got no petals”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Format: Physical copy
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Thank you Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence’s name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro’s citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.
Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he’s either known as the “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.
When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families’ pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?
tw: murder, lynching, mention of abortion, homophobic comments
Even though this book took me a while to get through, thanks to my reading slump, I still enjoyed this a whole lot. This is a story of finding friendship in the most unlikely of people, exploring your identity, and a whodunit all wrapped in one! One of the nicest things about this book was for once there was no romance. You read that right, folks. No romance here, just friendship. And I am here for it. Plus, there is a great range of representation in this book that makes this book all the more lovable.
Kaylyn Spence might be your average high school girl…if her last name wasn’t Spence, that is. Daughter of a murderer and hated in the town of Samsboro, Kaylyn, finds herself back at home using a false name at school to get by without being tormented by the students and citizens of her tiny hometown. Surprisingly enough, her made up persona fairs well with the students and soon she finds her way climbing the social ladder. However, Kaylyn finds this to be exhausting and makes a friend she can be her true self with, or so she thinks. Little does she know her new friend’s father is the exact man Kaylyn ‘s dad murdered.
“My dad is the reason his dad doesn’t exist anymore, and his dad is the reason mine never came home.”
Gus Peake feels as though he’s never really fit in. Whether it be his cerebral palsy, speech impediment, or the fact that town automatically pities him since the death of his father, he can’t catch a break. Until the day he meets Kaylyn, who treats him as if he isn’t a fragile piece of glass like everyone else and has no idea who his father is. For that reason alone Gus and Kaylyn instantly hit it off as friends until both of the pasts come back to haunt them.
One of the things that I loved about this story was that even though Kaylyn and Gus have every right to hate each other after their families pasts are revealed they still chose not too. And instead chose to begin their own investigation of sorts as new evidence proves that Kaylyn’s father may not be the murderer. Kaylyn, Gus, and Gus’ long time best friend Phil start to hunt for answers that may have been covered up and never meant to be found out. I have to say it does get a ugly along the way, with scenes of the citizens of Samsboro lynching what appears to be made up body topped with Kaylyn’s father’s mugshot as it’s head. Drinks, fists, and slurs are all thrown towards Kaylyn, Gus, and Phil, which are all for the most part challenged, but it definitely still got ugly at times
“People need hard proof. Even when they git it, they say it isn’t hard enough.”
As far as the representation in this book, I have to say I was very pleased with it. Gus suffers from cerebral palsy, and even though I can’t personally speak on behalf of the representation, I still think that is was handled very well. That’s specifically coming from my medical experience working with patients with CP. People have also mentioned that Gus is pansexual, and while I didn’t read any on page confirmation of this, Gus does question his sexual identity throughout the story. Gus also has two mom’s which was hella heart-warming to read throughout this. Kaylyn, is a lesbian which is confirmed throughout the book multiple times. All of this just worked so well for the character’s, their arc’s, and the plot itself.
“We’re sorted into categories, but we can be nothing alike. I don’t even mean how some of us are hemiplegic and others are paraplegic, or how some of us are spastic and others aren’t, or some of us having learning disabilities and other’s don’t. I mean on a personal level, we’re all different people.”
The only issue I had with the book was the pacing. The beginning and the end were interesting enough but the middle seemed to lag before we got to the revelations of Gus’ father’s murder. I found myself having to push through the middle more often than not hoping the end would be worth it. And while I did like the way the story ended, I can’t say I was 100% sold on these giant revelations. At least I didn’t guess the ending for once though!
All in all, this was definitely a refreshing story to change things up. Especially if you’re looking for a book that is purely built on friendship and no romance. There are so many important life topics touched upon in this book that make a perfect contemporary read for the summer!
Until next time,