You know how every so often a book comes along that just blows you away and you have to read every book the author has ever written and those books blow you away TOO and then you have to find a bunch of things to distract yourself with while you're waiting for their next book to be released because otherwise you will go crazy?
Well, Canadian writer C.K. Kelly Martin wrote that book.
And then she wrote the rest of them too!
Simply put, you guys, she is amazing. I'm going to try not to get TOO gushy, but she is one of my favourite YA authors of all time. I think her novels are so significant and important that everyone should be reading them. Do you love YA? Read them. Do you want to write YA? As far as I'm concerned, they're a requirement. Every time I finish one of her books, I want to hand them to all of the people on the planet earth and say, "YOU NEED THIS!" And that makes me sound kind of creepy but really it's because C.K. Kelly Martin touches on so many emotional truths, I feel safe in making the assumption that there's something in her books that all of the people of planet earth need and can connect with.
Which is why I am spotlighting all of her titles.
(That and I could not possibly pick a favourite--they're all exceptional!)
My introduction to Martin's work was her startling, unflinching debut I Know It's Over. It's a book about a boy named Nick and his intense, all-consuming relationship relationship with a girl named Sasha. The two are so full of each other they can hardly breathe. When they break up, Sasha citing a need for space, Nick is devastated. It's not what he wants and he struggles to understand how it's something she could. And then Sasha comes back... to tell Nick she's pregnant. Together, they must figure out what to do and then how to cope with and continue on after their decision has been made.
I Know It's Over in two words? Heartbreakingly real. It tackles some big issues--teen pregnancy, sex, sexuality--but never once feels like an Issue Book. Martin is never melodramatic nor does she ever write with a heavy hand. This story is frank, brutal and emotionally confrontational. Powerful.
Martin's sophomore release, One Lonely Degree, follows a girl named Finn. After a traumatic experience at a party, Finn's life hasn't been the same. Her parents' marriage is disintegrating, and the reappearance of an old friend, Jersy, brings with it new and terrifying feelings made more complicated by the fact that Finn's best friend, Audrey, is dating him. Audrey is the person Finn trusts most in the world and she'd never do anything to jeopardize their friendship--but when Audrey goes away for the summer and Finn's world continues to collapse, Finn finds herself turning to Jersy more and more. He makes things seem possible in the best kind of way... but what about Audrey?
One Lonely Degree has a very special place in my heart out of all of Martin's work. I had an instant connection to Finn because as a teenager, I was Finn. Our life experiences differ, but we were totally high school attitude twins. At its core, this is a book about change. About dealing with, adapting to it (or not) and surviving it. Holding things close, keeping them, understanding them, letting them go and taking what's left. The topic is delved into beautifully in this book and it's just breathtaking.
Martin's latest release, The Lighter Side of Life and Death (May, 2010), sees her return to a male narrator and a bit of a departure in tone. Mason Rice has to be one of my favourite male characters to grace a YA book in a long time. He's sixteen and he and his best friend, Kat, have sex after a party and it's undeniably awesome... in the moment. Mason wants to take their relationship to the next step but Kat doesn't, so the only thing he can do is wave goodbye to the relationship they might've had and watch what's left of the one they do have deteriorate. To make matters worse, Mason has to deal with a whole new family dynamic: his dad's fiance has moved in with her cranky thirteen-year-old daughter and an adorable handful of a six-year-old. Luckily (?), distraction comes in the form of Colette, a twenty-three year old woman, and the chemistry between her and Mason is undeniable.
The Lighter Side of Life and Death has it all--Martin's trademark honesty and her leveling observations but Mason internalizes his angst differently than Nick and Finn did. There's a real sense of fun that is just another testament to Martin's skill as a writer and as with all of her books, this one is an absorbing read you'll find hard to pull yourself away from. The situations are so realistically and deftly handled. When I finished this book? I totally hugged it.
Sold on her yet? OF COURSE YOU ARE. But there are a couple more things I've got to tell you about C.K. Kelly Martin's work before I wind this up:
1) I really admire and appreciate the straightforward and shameless way she tackles the subjects of sex and sexuality. It is so thoughtfully and sensitively handled. Martin really respects her readers and her characters.
2) The realism (natch). Her books are among the most realistic YA novels I have ever read. Nothing is sensationalized, but everything is beautiful and honest and raw. Martin just understands how extraordinary and hopeful and devastated we can be by the most every day things, which is what makes her books so relateable and wonderful. She could tackle any situation and I'd get it, whether or not I've lived through it exactly, because there is something so universal in her narratives and the way she relates her characters' stories. I think that is so special.
This September will see the release of her fourth novel, My Beating Teenage Heart, and you bet I'll be the first in line to get it. I hope you guys will be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th to infinity in line to get it too. But not the first! Because as I have said, that will be ME (Courtney).
Check her out!