Rummanah Aasi
  YA literature is usually targeted as a lower form of reading that is filled with teen angst and no literary merit. While this may be true for some books in the YA canon, there are many others that are very profound, complex, and extremely well written. I recently came across The Lighter Side of Life and Death by CK Kelly Martin, which does a really good job in discussing teenage sexuality from a male's perspective-something that is not very common in YA literature.

Description: After the last, triumphant night of the school play, sixteen-year-old Mason loses his virginity to his good friend and secret crush, Kat Medina, which leads to enormous complications at school. Mason feels like his relationship with Kat has gone to the next level, whereas Kat doesn't seem to react that way. Bouncing back from a rebound, Mason begins an intense physical relationship with Colette, a dirty secret that becomes much more. When is it love and when is it lust?

Review: I admire Ms. Martin for writing a novel about the complications of relationships and sex that teens deal with, which seems to be taboo in our society. Although the novel is about sex, it focuses on Mason's confusion and dealing with the several different relationships in his life. The Lighter Side of Life and Death allows girls to see a teen boy's conscience and explores the emotional and frank consequences of sex without being an 'afterschool special'.
  To be honest, there are a few things that I didn't like about the book. For one, when I started reading the book I felt as if I was walking in the middle of a movie. I knew the characters by name and could maneuver my way into the plot, but I didn't establish a connection to any of the characters. We only know Mason had a serious crush with his long time friend, Kat, by just one sentence. I needed more. I needed to see their connection. I also found Mason to be annoying and self righteous. He needed people to like him. The other woman, Collette, doesn't come off as a woman, but rather a teen herself and she slowly disappears in the second half of the novel. What really confused me was Mason, who is 16,  having a relationship with a woman who was 8 years old his senior but not being able to have his car license. Maybe that's a Canadian thing, I don't know. Overall, The Lighter Side of Life and Death is a mature romance novel without your average teen romance-novel-with-a happily ever after. It is a book that will stir up some discussion though.

EDIT:  Ms. Martin was very kind in clearing up my confusion. Here's what she told me about the driver's license situation in Ontario (the province where Mason lives):

You can get a learner's permit when you turn 16 but that only allows you to drive with a licensed driver who has had their license for four years beside you. Then you can't take the test to drive alone for another eight months if you've had official lessons or another full year if you haven't. I mention this in chapter twelve where Mason thinks, "Can I just say that it’s ridiculous what they make you do to get a driver’s license here? I’ll be practically seventeen before I can go anywhere alone." However, the driving age differs by province. There's no national standard.

Wow, I'll need to remember that whenever I hear a teen gripe about driving! Thanks for the info, Ms. Martin!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Since this book is about sex, there are semi explicit scenes. There is also strong language in the book too. I would recommend this book to Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Doing It by Melvin Burgess
1 Response
  1. It seems like a deep and slightly controversial book. Great job on the review, I really loved how you were able to talk about your personal views on the matter as well - it brings a lot of depth to your review.

    A short, but sweet review - just the way that I wish mine were. >< i tend to go on too long though, but I think that yours are just perfect.

    Tina


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