Review- Before I Let You Go

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

35758169Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback ARC
Publication date: April 3, 2017
Publisher: Graydon House
Page count: 376 (ARC)
Star rating: 5/5

Annie Vidler is in deep, deep trouble. She’s not only pregnant, but also currently addicted to heroin. After many failed attempts at detoxing herself at home, she calls her sister, Lexie, who she hasn’t spoken to in 2 years. The two used to be incredibly close, as they grew up in a strict, religious household and only had each other to keep them company. Last time they talked, Lexie kicked Annie out because of her spiraling addiction. Now, Annie has no one to turn to and her baby’s life is on the line. Lexie has always been a “fixer” and seems to be there to catch Annie whenever she falls, so of course she swoops back into her life and tries to save the day. Unfortunately, in Alabama it’s illegal to use heroin while pregnant, so Annie gets charged and may lose custody of her baby before it is even born. Once again, Lexie is expected to magically make everything better, no matter the toll it might take on her own, personal life.

Thank you to Graydon House for sending me an advanced review copy of this title, I’m grateful for publishers who continue to believe that diverse books are important and need to be talked about more often.

Before I Let You Go is beautiful. It’s beautiful and raw. Annie experiences so much hurt throughout the entire novel . The reader feels all of Annie’s emotions, too, every step of the way. Pain, shame, and anger radiate through the words of Annie’s narration, which is almost addictive, itself. Both Annie and her child face struggles felt by the many people who are affected by the opioid epidemic. Kelly Rimmer’s novel helps educate readers on a disease that is not discussed enough in literature.

From the very beginning, Annie’s pain pours out through the language of Before I Let You Go. She is pregnant and wounded badly in many ways. Annie is ashamed of using drugs while pregnant, but she is hurting on the outside, too, because of the damage caused by all her attempts at getting sober at home. She’s in desperate need of medical attention, though scared of going to a hospital in fear of them taking away her baby. Annie is stuck and her last hope is Lexie.

Lexie, too, emits a lot of pain through her words. She has suffered tremendously, watching her sister fight addiction and fail to get sober time and time again. No matter how many intensive programs Lexie pays for, Annie can’t seem to get sustainable clean time. It’s obvious that Lexie will do nearly anything to help her sister, no matter how much destruction it causes in her own life. The two sisters love each other, but obstacles prevent them from effectively showing it. While reading this title, the reader grapples with this unhealthy, borderline toxic relationship. It’s obvious both Lexie and Annie want to heal and face their past traumas, but they are not sure how to do this.

The way Kelly Rimmer describes the emotional and physical toll addiction puts on an individual and their loved ones is both accurate and honest. Annie is part of one of the most stigmatized populations—she is an addict and she is pregnant. She is treated poorly by medical professionals, despite the training doctors receive in bearing no bias towards their patients. Even Lexie, who loves her sister endlessly, catches herself placing blame on Annie for not being ‘strong enough’. Lexie knows addiction is a disease, but the stereotypes sometimes seep into her mind.

Before I Let You Go is powerful because it provides insight into what addiction truly looks like. The pubic is constantly fed lies about addiction—that it is a choice or the fault of the individual. Kelly Rimmer tells her readers that addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as one. Hopefully, this novel will reach readers of different backgrounds to show them how devastating addiction can be for an entire family. Thank you, again, to Graydon House for sending me this engrossing novel.

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Review- Twelve Steps to Normal

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetTwelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Paperback ARC
Publication date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Page count: 384
Star rating: 5/5

Kira just wants her old life back—before she was forced to move away for a year, before her grandma died, and before her father started drinking too much and was sent to Sober Living. Unfortunately, as soon as she steps back into her childhood home, nothing is the same. First, there are 3 other alcoholics, who her dad met in treatment, living in her house. Second, her best friend is dating her ex-boyfriend, who she still has feelings for. Third, all her friends seem to be mad at her for ignoring their text messages, which she only did because she couldn’t stand hearing about all the events she missed out on. Kira makes a list of 12 steps, just like her father’s 12 step program, that will help revert her life back to the way it was before. Unfortunately, writing a list is easier than actually doing the work, and going back in time just isn’t possible. Maybe Kira will find a way to make a few compromises and accept her father’s illness at the same time.

First, I want to thank Little, Brown and Company for sending me a copy of this title. I was so excited when I saw Twelve Steps to Normal mentioned in PW and I just had to get my hands on it as soon as possible! I’m excited to share this review because addiction and recovery programs hit very close to home for me and providing education about this disease through literature is crucial.

I really enjoyed how Farrah Penn portrayed Alcoholics Anonymous in Twelve Steps to Normal. Kira has been down this road before with her father and he’s always relapsed despite trying the 12 steps in the past. Her dad’s sponsor has faith that AA will work for him this time and he will be able to properly care for Kira again. One of Kira’s steps is to forgive her father, which proves hard, but not impossible. It was refreshing to see a young adult who loves and cares about her dad enough to try and understand his illness. Many addicts never regain the trust of their family after spending years in active addiction, so it made me feel happy as I started to see Kira make an effort to grasp alcoholism.

Kira struggles with self-blame throughout the entire novel, which is something many teens (that I know) deal with. Kira knows the reason she ignored her friends text messages was because she hated the feeling of missing out on fun times. Unfortunately, they can’t understand this and make Kira feel like it was her fault they drifted apart. I feel terrible for her, as it’s completely understandable that moving away from your closest friends would cause jealousy and hurt feelings. I’m glad Farrah Penn wrote a young adult character that is relatable for teens with anxiety. I wish I could somehow jump into the book and tell Kira it wasn’t her fault for taking a step back from friendships to take care of herself.

I loved reading Twelve Steps to Normal and getting to know Kira. It was also great seeing her father progress in his recovery. Farrah Penn represented the recovery process and community well and Kira’s path to understanding her dad’s illness was perfectly crafted. If you’re interested in reading about the realities of having a loved one who struggles with alcoholism, please put Twelve Steps to Normal on your reading list. It comes out in March of 2018. I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to read this amazing novel. Thank you, again, to Little, Brown and Company for sending me this title in advance!

Review- Femme Confidential

Femme Confidential by Nairne Holtz

IMG_7620Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: August 10, 2017
Publisher: Insomniac Press
Page count: 290
Star rating: 4/5

It’s hard for me to write a summary of Femme Confidential, because it reads more like a collection of short stories. The title follows a group of queer femmes who grow up in different cities, but find their way to each other as they get older. Their lives intertwine in interesting and oftentimes sexual ways. Liberty, the most central character, raised in a Quaker family, ran away from university. Veronika didn’t realize she was queer until she hooked up with her best friend in high school. Dana, first introduced as a man, learns what it means to live as a transgender woman in Toronto. Although the book focuses on these three women the most, other queer females go in and out of their lives as friendships and relationships bloom and fail.

First, I want to thank Insomniac Press for generously sending me this title in exchange for an honest review. Queer ladies are my favorite characters to read about, so this was quite a treat.

I really enjoyed Femme Confidential’s writing style. The way the short chapters jumped around from different characters and different years made the book very gripping. Now that I’m writing this review, I realize this format could easily be confusing, but it was executed so well that it didn’t raise any questions for me. It’s quite a skill to be able to pull such a complicated storyline together, but Nairne Holtz did a wonderful job making sure there were no plot holes or missing parts.

Sometimes, books portray most of their queer, female characters with similar (or mostly the same) personalities. People who are aquatinted with more than one gay woman know this stereotype is not true, as LGBTQ individuals don’t all have the same interests and mannerisms. I loved how Liberty, Veronika, and Dana all had completely different personalities, passions, and sexual preferences. Each woman had her own career, relationships, and general life path. I also enjoyed the diversity in the way lesbian sex was portrayed. It’s easy to tell when a straight person writes queer female sex scenes because the anatomy isn’t right or the positions don’t make any sense. I actually understood where both parties were during intimate moments of Femme Confidential, which was awesome!

The only thing about this title that doesn’t quite sit with me is the ending. I think the book should have ended around 30 pages earlier, to be completely honest. Something about the way Liberty’s story wrapped up just didn’t make me feel right. Despite this, I’m sure the author has valid reasons for why she chose to end with certain events and I respect that. The ending did not change how much enjoyed Femme Confidential, it just left me with a weird feeling for personal reasons.

I want to give a big ‘thank you’ to Insomniac Press for sending me a copy of this title. It was very nice to read a book with a diverse set of queer ladies who have their own personalities and identities. Liberty is my favorite main character, but they all sound like people whom I would like to hang out with. I look forward to reading future works from Nairne Holtz!