Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Tour for Btween Micah and Amos by Alan Oakes (Review & GIVEAWAY)


Today is a special day here at my site as I have an amazing book to bring to you!  Between Micah and Amos by Alan Oakes joins the illustrious league of  two YA books I love and recommend, right alongside The Hunger Games.  So join me in welcoming Alan Oakes who discusses how he deals with harsh reality in YA.  And don't forget to comment today to win some gift cards!

OMG Scarfprincess! - You hit the nail on the head with the topic: How do you deal with heavy issues of YA without making them too much?  
I work in a high school with kids who are struggling to graduate.  I see young adults with tremendous burdens in their lives every day.  When I did a first draft of Between Micah and Amos, it had a much harder edge to it.  I actually think young adults would have handled it just fine.  I was more worried about parents' reactions.  
A lot of parents think that high school is the same as it was 20 years ago, and that isn't the case.  I host mentors who work with our students and the mentors come to me with eyes wide open at the situations in life students are facing.  I suppose we could go on all day providing answers as to why young people have such complex/difficult lives.  Maybe we are witnessing the fall of Rome?  Is it why this generation loves dystopic literature so much?  
I chose to tone down language and smooth out some of the scenes because I wanted the reading to be accessible enough for young readers to identify with it and also not be so dark that it would put off parents.  It's like playing an an instrument  really.  You are trying to find that right pitch. 

Like a flash, the discharge from the gun lit up the inside of the dimly lit, filthy trailer Ashleigh called home. Ashleigh sat curled up on the stained pink carpet next to the pull-out bed in the living area where she slept.  The victim lay dead, slumped against the wall of the trailer.  Ashleigh looked at the motionless body.  She was petrified. 
Meet Ashleigh Mae, a seventeen year old high school senior living in the small town of Micah, Texas.  Her boyfriend Billy calls her a wild child.  Her momma is always telling her she makes bad choices.  No matter what, no one really understands her.   
Ashleigh dreams of a life with Billy.  Their love is true, she thinks. When her mother forces them to leave Micah in the middle of the night and move in with her momma’s old boyfriend Casey, on the outskirts of a town called Amos, Ashleigh’s life is torn apart.   
This is her fight to get it back….


EXCERPT:

“Good night,” Billy said to Ashleigh as the two were sitting in the parked truck. She held onto him tightly as he kissed her.
“’Night,” she murmured, sliding across the seat and opening the door. “Call me,” she added, her heart filled with sadness that she would be left alone again.
“Yeah,” Billy said with a half-cocked smile.
Ashleigh closed the rusted door to the pickup. Billy turned the truck around and drove off. Ashleigh was left alone again in the silence of the night. She made her way to the trailer, looking down so as not to trip on any of Casey’s debris.
“Where the hell have you been?” Jo Lynn bellowed, scaring the crap out of Ashleigh. Her mother was sitting imperiously on the half built deck in front of the trailer in a plastic chair, like a queen on her throne.
Ashleigh walked up to her mother and could see a half-finished bottle of Jack sitting on an old apple crate by her side. Jo Lynn took a drag from her smoke.
“I asked you a question… Come closer,” Jo Lynn demanded.
Ashleigh took one step closer. “I was out with Billy,” she answered apprehensively.
“You smell like sex!” Jo Lynn said, taking another drag from her smoke.
“While you were out whoring, guess who came by to visit?” Jo Lynn said dramatically.
“Who?” Ashleigh asked.
“Child Protective Services, that’s who!” Jo Lynn took a swig of her glass of Jack.
“Out of nowhere, too!” she continued. “Casey’s ready to beat the tar out of you! He had to flush all his stash down the toilet!”

MY IMPRESSIONS OF THE BOOK:

I'm very picky when it comes to YA books.  Many of them I can't stand, but Between Micah and Amos completely caught me off guard and kept me on the edge of my seat completely invested in these young people's lives.  

Before starting this story it's important to know that it deals with heavy issues.  There's no easy answers and there's no fairytale happy ending. The ending is empowering but not what you find in the typical YA story. That's why I became so drawn to it, it's REAL with bad things happening to likable people who actually struggle to find even a crumb of happiness.  It shows the world as it is, bruises (literally) and all and I applaud the author for not taking the easy and expected way out.

Starting with a traumatic event, the story flashes back to how we got to this moment and it's a very bumpy journey that actually brought tears to my eyes.  Ashleigh's life is no fairytale as her mother had her at a young age and now drags her from one abusive drunk boyfriend to another.  Every bit of money goes to beer which leaves nothing for Ashleigh, no food or clothes.  Seeing her mother be a human punching bag and go back for more, knowing that those men mean more to her mother than she does has left Ashleigh with very low self-esteem.  It's led her down the usual path of exchanging sex for love and falling for the same kind of men her mother chooses.  I felt so sorry for her and knew there was so little help for her until she started taking care of herself and stopped wishing for her mother's love which doesn't happen until that traumatic event forces her to make adult decisions.

With a cheating boyfriend, a worthless mother, and a dangerously disgusting new man in her mother's life, the only bright spot is Manuel who comes from the rich side of town.  He sees a goodness in her and he's the only one to truly care about her and want nothing in return. He's kindhearted, would do anything to make her smile, and is the complete opposite of everyone she's known before which is why there's a constant feeling of dread around them and knowing that their relationship won't end in a HEA and good doesn't always overcome evil. There's only MOMENTS of happiness that you grab onto and cherish forever.

Besides the warm and sweet natured Manuel, Ashleigh has another champion in Gladys the no-nonsense school counselor who does everything she can do to help a young girl she knows is heading towards a bad end but is limited by what the sorely lacking laws allow. She was funny and gruff but her plainspoken words are the catalyst for Ashleigh to finally forge her own path in a final scene full of empowerment.

This was an amazing story both achingly sad yet empowering, dark yet with a ray of sunshine at the end, a real look into the lives of today's teenagers and I can't recommend it enough.  It had me in tears for parts of it but I couldn't put it down.  The writing drew me in with its realistic portrayals of both the good and the bad in people and left me drained yet comforted at its conclusion.  For fans of YA, THIS is the book you should be reading and I look forward to seeing if Mr. Oakes can live up to the immensely satisfying book he created here in his future writings!

My rating for this is an A+!

*I received this book from the author in exchange for me honest opinion.

WEBSITE FOR THE BOOK

ALSO AT:  GOODREADS  |  FB  |  PUBLISHER

BUY LINKS:  AMAZON EBOOK  |  AMAZON PAPERBACK  |  BN EBOOK

AUTHOR INFO:

Alan Oakes is a Graduation Coach and Counselor at a Texas High School.  He is a featured writer for Green Building and Design magazine and a contributor to other magazines including Texas Architect and New American Luxury.  In the past, he served as Associate Pastor of Saint Austin Catholic Church and Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at UCLA.

Alan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts degree from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the author, feel free to go to his website:   
http://www.alanoakes.net/

**********GIVEAWAY**********

Alan will be awarding gift cards to three randomly drawn commenters during the tour. The characters are always going to Sonic – so he is giving away gift cards in the names of the main characters: Grand Prize: Billy-sized $25.00 2nd Prize: Manuel-sized: $15.00 3rd Prize: Ashleigh-sized: $10.00 If the winner prefers, they can get either an Amazon or BN.com gift card instead of the Sonic card. 


-To be entered, leave a comment, along with your email addy.
-A winner will be chosen randomly from all comments made throughout the tour, so the more you comment the greater your chances of winning.  A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 3/29.

9 comments:

  1. I have to agree with you on your observation about high school today being something different and I'm glad that you reflect that in your book.

    lyra.lucky7 AT gmail dot com

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  2. I agree. You don't want to scar kids with issues...but how do you deal with tough stuff in a way that they can relate and understand? Great post and thanks for sharing!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

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  3. What is your favorite genre?

    moonsurfer123 at gmail dot com

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  4. I'm glad that you managed to find a middle way.

    shadowrunner1987(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. Great excerpt! I'm looking forward to read more of this!

    lennascloud at gmail dot com

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  6. Hi Everyone - Thanks again Scarf Princess for hosting today!! Thanks also for the terrific review. I swear, I had two other posts up here, but now, they are gone - such a mystery! Cheers!

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  7. I very much doubt that school is the same as when I attended. Different times!!

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  8. Wonderful thoughts scarfprincess! I like the sounds of this one! Thanks for the chance to win!

    Kate

    hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

    ReplyDelete