New and Noteworthy Special Reviews for Current or Upcoming Books
Clean by Mia Kerick
Review By Kirkus Reviews
“Two high school seniors grapple with family and school pressures and try to break free of drugs and alcohol in Kerick’s (Come to my Window, 2015, etc.) YA novel.
On the surface, Lanny Keating and Trevor Ladd have nothing in common. Lanny is a star athlete and an excellent student from a good family who’s well on his way to earning a college football scholarship. Underneath his façade of perfection, however, he hides feelings of guilt and remorse; he blames himself for an accident that left his sister, Joelle, with a traumatic brain injury. Trevor is a lackluster student whose legal guardian, Carl, sexually and physically abuses him on a regular basis. Despite their differences, Lanny is drawn to Trevor and the two begin an intense relationship involving sexual exploration and alcohol and drug abuse. As their partying escalates, Lanny’s life falls apart: his grades plummet, he’s kicked off the football team, and he comes perilously close to failing his senior year. Meanwhile, Trevor wants to escape Carl’s abuse and knows that education is the key to a new life. As their senior year draws to a close, they both race against time to graduate and find sobriety. Kerick has crafted a sensitive but unflinching portrait of teenagers struggling to stop the cycle of addiction. The narrative offers well-developed characters and a strong story structure. Although the two young men come from different backgrounds, both turn to self-medication to mask the painful feelings that plague them. The author’s approach to her lead characters successfully conveys the message that their problems aren’t related to their socioeconomic backgrounds. Lanny and Trevor’s relationship never strikes a false note, as the chapters effectively show the events from both characters’ perspectives.
A compassionate look at the harrowing problem of addiction, anchored by strong characters and a message of hope.”
The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick
Review By Kirkus Reviews
“A would-be heroic high school junior comes to terms with both his sexuality and his behavior toward others.
In this YA novel, Kerick (Love Spell, 2015) tells the story of jock Bryan, who wakes up one morning with an urge to put on a Superman-style cape and “help those in need.” He makes an effort to be nice to his mother, rescues a kitten from a tree, and even fights for environmentally friendly packaging for his breakfast sandwich—but he has no memory of something crucial that happened at a party the previous weekend, or of his secret relationship with his classmate, Scott. As Bryan tries to figure out what he did wrong, he also decides to reject the bullying of his basketball team friends, become a part of the greater community, and reconnect with his estranged father. As he gradually comes to terms with what he did, he develops a new maturity and responsibility and becomes someone Scott can love in return. The snappy, clever narrative voice can be grating at times, particularly early in the story (“In fact, if I wasn’t the absolute highest man on the Appleton High School jock totem pole…I was a respectable distance north on that pole”). However, the tone evolves along with Bryan and eventually becomes endearing (“You see, as a kid, I’d been secretly petrified of Santa Claus, since I’d always been confident that I was on his ‘The Very Naughtiest Boys in America’ list”). Bryan’s emotional growth and coming-out story are handled well, without an excess of sentimentality, which would be implausible in a determinedly macho teenage boy. The anti-bullying themes, though clear, aren’t presented in a didactic way, and never overwhelm the narrative, making the book an enjoyable one for readers willing to have patience during the early pages.
A well-written YA novel that balances honest storytelling with a strong anti-bullying message.”
Clean by Mia Kerick
Young Dudes Publishing
“”I guess the best way to sum it up is that there’s more pain lurking in his eyes than I’ll ever know the truth of, because there’s no way he’ll share it with me. Just like I’ll never share mine with him. We hide from all of the hurt, but it’s cool that we can hide together.”
Landon (Lanny) Keating is a star athlete whose personal life spirals out of control, trapped by alcohol and drug addiction. Once a star athlete, his academics and athletic career are quickly fading, and the one friend he has, Trevor Ladd, constantly pushes him away. Life at home is no better with his parents’ focus completely on the care of his little sister, Joelle, rehabilitating from a brain injury. Lanny feels responsible for the circumstances of his sister’s health, and the look of blame in his parents’ eyes too painful. Consumed with guilt, Lanny isolates himself from everyone in the wake of his sister’s life altering accident, turning to his addiction to free him.
Trevor Ladd is the high school rebel. His life at home is also broken, abandoned by his mother and sexually molested by his legal guardian. While Trevor seeks companionship from Lanny, they are both extremely vulnerable, trying to escape their home life while shuttering their innermost feelings from each other. Then something happens that triggers them both to finally face their demons.
Kerick’s novel is a well-paced, well-written, and thoughtful approach to teen angst and the perils of drug and alcohol addiction. As the novel shifts focus between Lanny and Trevor’s voices, we begin to see the deeper layers hidden beneath hardened exteriors, each of them revealing their true thoughts and feelings, until gradually they soften and their lives and future change for the good. Kerick is non-judgemental and compassionate, dealing with mature themes for young adults, while providing very realistic characters in Lanny and Trevor. A compelling read, Clean adds Kerick to the likes of writers who challenge us to find the hidden humanity in others. It’s a positive novel to help young adults and teenagers often ignored in the journey we all share together through the obstacles of life.”
RECOMMENDED by the US Review reviewed by Dylan Ward