Title: The Lighter Side of Life and Death
Author: C.K. Kelly Martin
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Mason and his friends have just completed a very successful run of their school play and are celebrating at a friend’s house. Kat, Mason’s best friend, asks him to walk with her. They end up at Mason’s house, and one thing leads to another. Mason is very happy, but Kat ignores him and chooses to pretend like nothing happened.
Confused and hurt, Mason meets Colette, a 23-year-old friend of his stepmother’s. He can’t help but flirt with her, and to his surprise, even though he’s just 16, she flirts back. All of a sudden, Mason is caught between two gorgeous women, trying to figure out what he wants and just live life as best he can.
I’ve been cutting back majorly on the YA I’ve been reading lately, mainly because it just doesn’t appeal to me very much. The teenage angst bothers me, and when it comes down to it, I’d rather read about adults than teenagers. But when I received C.K. Kelly Martin’s latest, I was very excited. I really enjoyed C.K.’s last two books, I Know It’s Over and One Lonely Degree, and I know she has a real talent at writing the teen voice in an incredibly relatable way.
C.K. emailed me after I received the book to let me know that it wasn’t quite as dramatic as I Know It’s Over, especially because one of my favorite aspects of that book was how well C.K. handled the topic of teen pregnancy. I appreciated the information, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of The Lighter Side of Life and Death at all – in fact, I loved it because it wasn’t about life and death. The title itself reminds us that there is a lighter side to both the good and bad aspects of life. Things don’t have to be as serious as all that, not if we don’t want them to. The entire novel is a reminder of that lighter side.
Mason was a wonderfully written main character. He rang so true for me. Sure he had major relationship issues, but I loved that he was never angst-y about them. I would say that’s because he’s a guy, but we all know by now that in books, guys can just be as bad about that as girls. While Mason does genuinely care and want to do what’s right, he realizes that he can’t change the situation with Kat and just needs to let it be. He takes a step back, right into the waiting arms of Colette. Again, he wants to do what’s right here, but he’s intoxicated by her beauty and the appeal of an older woman. (As an aside – I have to wonder what Colette was thinking. Martin wrote her very well, but when I was 23, people in their first year of college, never mind high school, looked like they were about 12.)
I loved how clear Mason’s voice was, and how true C.K. wrote it. There’s no pretention in this book. From his dealings with each of these women, to trying to adjust to his new stepfamily, Mason’s emotions are understandable and easy to sympathize with. I read The Lighter Side of Life and Death in one sitting. C.K. makes it suspenseful because the reader is so invested in Mason’s happiness and a satisfactory resolution to his story. As a result, readers won’t want to put this book down. It’s a sweet, real story about a believable teen with a great voice.