Sunday, July 22, 2018

Again with the Unexpected from Me: Rambling Review of Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert

About a year - ish ago, I talked about breaking out of your box and trying something new. Often my favorite authors have done such as task and has met with mixed results.

Some I loved.
Some I couldn't wait for it to be done. 

But, here is the thing: I tried it. I find some reviewers quick to judge based on either what little they know about the plot or based on others reviews. If we don't break out, then the great read is our loss. So, back to the blog post...

I talked about a new platform and an author I followed over there. First, the story was Y/A. Better yet, it was serialized. Okay for this older-younger-minded adult, this poor story had two strikes. Under 18 characters and I have to be patient to wait for chapters.  If you missed my post about this, check out this blog link. However, the story was gripping and thought provoking so I was hooked. 

Unfortunately, this new platform was poorly supported. The author had to make a call. Pull the story and publish it later. 

Now, you should all be colored surprised that I did not succumb to bully tactics of the kind where I am posting to the author's Facebook page on the regular. Trust me. The temptation was high to do it. But, I knew if I waited patiently, the story would be completed, and the steep, ugly cliff I was left on would give me the rope to get off.

But did I want to? 

Yes, you read that right. I was left on a cliff but I was uncomfortable. The story went to a place that any woman/man/human should be extremely uneasy. As the author reassured me, the plot direction was necessary. The hero's reactions were needed.  

Now, comes July 24th: Sweet Sixteen is ready for publication.  Do I finish? Spoiler! Read the title of the blog post. I couldn't resist. Because Brenda Rothert said - it's going to be okay. Trust me.

Sweet Sixteen is an unexpected story that grabs you and makes you think. From the story synopsis, you expect a Y/A romance where the hero and heroine connect on a level that transcends their age and gives the reader hope. And yet…

Sweet Sixteen is a lot more.  It’s everything wrong with entitlement. Following the pack. Group think. And what’s hardest to swallow is this is what these very important high school years are about. About fitting in or not fitting in. It is easier to follow the pack and then break out on your own individuality once you escape this small microcosm. This is what our hero and heroine with their friends face in their senior year of high school. 

Chase learns from our heroine about truly right in the face of wrong. What it is to be brave. It’s not always about the big moments with huge speeches but the little things that has you showing your community, it’s time for change. 

Is there romance? Of course. A long, unrequited admiration and a new respect.  Truly it is not the romance, but the growth of both characters that kept this reader engaged non-stop until the end. 

This is one of those books that leaves you thinking in the end. Although it's romance, it's only as Brenda Rothert can dive into a subject that others fear to tread and bring out the rawness in such a way that it leaves you thinking for days. First and foremost is it romance story. However it's the strength of the heroine and the growth of the hero that make for a compelling read. 

I can see readers having difficulty with the main conflicts. It’s introduced in not a dark or tee-tee taboo’ presentation. It gives the reader insight in how behaviors - long standing are accepted  by both youth and adults. But is pivotal for how far the hero will need to come to self awareness. As a woman, mother and human, the scene depicted bothered me to the core. Stepping back from it and reading this a second time, it’s a necessary evil for both the reader to go on an emotional journey with Chase and Gin. So in essence the rug needs to be shaken greatly. However,  I hope those who are sensitive may skip over the details in Chapter 3.

In careful discussion with book friends, this story does deal with reality facing our youth today. Some of these readers have high schoolers at home.  They agree that in our world this is an unfortunate truth that is not sugar coated but proceeded with caution in eyes wide open for sensitive readers. With that said, I feel obligated to address there are potential triggers that may have made me uncomfortable reading, but for others will not be welcomed. These include themes: bullying, underage alcohol/drug use, sex with multiple partners and physical abuse.

The author has taken great pains to bring the ups and definite downs of high school in well crafted story without glamorizing. The subjects could have been easily sugar coated as part of fiction, but Ms. Rothert delivers the subjects in their raw reality. 

Just because I found the story intriguing and thought provoking, does not mean it will be for every reader. As readers are not fond of my love of instalove, they may not find the ability to read such a raw story. I will say with everything that made me uncomfortable and don't welcome in my personal life, the power of change was what really brought this full circle for me. 


How did I feel about the story in take one (Inklo) versus take two (eARC)? Welp, it’s a good thing the author is on a summer vacation because the same “I want to choke him” and “Gin deserves better” were spitting from my mouth. Right from the story’s onset, I connected with Gin. Her strength leapt off the page. Chase had to win me over, just as he had to with the heroine as the story's progression. 

I know this is YA and yes, it’s set in High School. But the themes: regret, compassion, bravery, and self-awareness cross the age gap.  Because of the sensitive nature on the conflict, I don’t recommend for under 18. In addition, if you think you are picking up a taboo read, think again. Because Brenda Rothert’s words will make you think and not titillate. It will make you think about gender relationships, peer pressure, all the crap that adolescents deal with and in very adult manners none of us want to face. 

For me, this story isn't meant to be entertaining romance.  It's meant to carry a heavy load for the two characters. You aren't meant to fall in love with the hero. He's supposed to earn your forgiveness along with Gin. Gin carries the story for me - she made me want to see her survive and thrive.  Gin is why I continued to read. But Chase's evolution kept me satisfied.

I will finish with the ending to the story is everything I needed. Getting to know the characters this was their 'perfect'. 

In the end, if you are looking for something raw, reality-based with the heroine rising to the top and hero learning what true bravery is, this is the story for you.  Be aware it deals with extremely sensitive subjects. Characters are under 18 but definitely written for a mature audience.

Purchase on Amazon  or Read for #FREE with Kindle Unlimited


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