TTBF Author Repost Guest Review: More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera


Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors!

This review was originally posted on October 31, 2016

eveThis review was done by another one of Team Midsummer’s favorite people, Eve.  She has submitted reviews to us before, so we were excited to have her on board for LGBT History Month! Thanks so much, Eve!

 

 

 

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

I was immediately drawn into narrative of this intriguing novel, although I’ll confess to being a little suspicious of its potential similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with a sexuality angle rather than the desire to forget a past heartbreaking romantic relationship. But I was impressed by the way the focus wasn’t specifically on any one of the main issues addressed by the story, but rather a cleverly crafted weaving of the elements of grief, mental health, class and social structures, teen relationships, and love developing outside of an expected heteronormative paradigm. For this reason, while the book certainly addresses the complexities and struggle of coming out, I found the whole story to be involving and important – not just the relationship between Aaron and Thomas. It also isn’t a copy of Eternal Sunshine – it has one similar element, the neuroscience of forgetting, but it fans out to be much greater than that.

One thing I will note, because it stood out to me so much while reading that I texted Jess about it at the time, is that Aaron and Thomas say, “No homo” to each other a seemingly inordinate amount of times in the space of two pages. Now, it may be my heterosexual, cisgender privilege showing that I have never had to clarify my sexuality while interacting in an affectionate way with someone of the same sex as me, but I did feel that this phrase was somewhat overused. I’d be interested to know if this is a common experience among young men, because perhaps this phrase is used so frequently and that is part of the culture of hiding homosexual attraction.

Aside from this, the character development seemed very natural and totally solid within a few chapters – I feel like I know Aaron Soto, his friends and family, and have an understanding of his perspective on the world. The outstanding part of this book for me was how bravely and easily it tackled upsetting and painful topics, making it comfortable for the reader to continue (albeit through tears) even when the characters were suffering. Silvera does not shy away from the impact of suicide nor from the violence inherent in some relationships. On top of that, the balance of wit and warmth is spot on, throughout the happy moments and the hard ones.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot but there are twists, and they’re the delicious ones that you sort of see coming but still have to pause and take a moment to think back on and process them once they do happen. The story will have you feeling all of the emotions and, while it certainly has a central homosexual relationship, I think it actually is a more profound commentary on humanity as a whole.

4.75 Bards

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#ReadIndie Book Review: Colorblind by Siera Maley

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Team Midsummer is proud to support Indie Author, Siera Maley, in our first READ INDIE review of the month!  Special thanks to contributor, Lesley, for reading and reviewing this excellent Indie novel!

Harper has a secret…and it’s not that she likes girls. She has a rare and special gift: she can see how old other people will be when they pass away. Nothing she does changes this number, and that becomes especially clear when her mother dies in a car crash. With only one other person in the world who knows about and shares her gift, Harper is determined to keep her distance from everyone. Then she falls for Chloe… whose number is 16. That means that Chloe doesn’t have twelve months to live. She doesn’t even have six. She is going to be dead by the end of the summer, unless Harper can find a way to stop it.

Colorblind by Siera Maley is a story about two star-crossed teens that fall in love and fight the odds.

Harper, 17, can see the number of each person she meets and that number is the age at which the person will die.  Her best and only friend shares her “gift” and is the only person that really gets her.  This “gift”, coupled with the loss of her mother at a young age has made Harper cynical beyond her years.  A heavy dose of teenage angst plus unusual circumstances have caused Harper to close herself off to life and love.  Like so many of us, Harper avoids joy because she believes it will help her to avoid pain.  Enter Chloe, a self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkie” with pretty eyes and a precocious puppy.  Chloe is trying to live life to the fullest, taking risks and looking brightly into the future.  Only Harper knows that Chloe’s future will be cut short because her number is 16.

Chloe pursues Harper without shame and Harper likes her in return, although she won’t express that to Chloe.  Harper tries hard to fight her feelings, knowing how hard it will be to lose Chloe.  She also morbidly tries to figure out how Chloe will meet her end and how she can stop it.  An accident brings Harper to the conclusion that she has no control when Chloe will die and she resolves to help Chloe achieve a summer of no regrets. Eventually love overcomes fear and Harper gives Chloe her whole heart.  They have a beautiful few weeks filled with the magic of first love but as Chloe’s seventeenth birthday approaches, Harper begins to panic.

On the surface Colorblind is a teen romance where a fun-loving kid falls for an emo kid and they share a summer of firsts.  As I dug into Maley’s lovely story, I found so much more complexity.  Seeing life through Harper’s eyes, I saw the fears and insecurities of my youth.  I was afraid of everything; coming out, losing loved-ones, being alone or never achieving my dreams.  I allowed that fear to guide, even make my decisions.  At times that fear paralyzed me.  Like Harper, I learned that love overcomes fear.

Maley tackles some of life’s biggest questions in this book.  Do our choices have consequences?  Is life a random bunch of events or is everything predetermined?  If we knew when life would end, would we live it differently?  While I related very much with Harper, the most significant reminder that Siera Maley gives to readers is that joy is found in the everyday, that each day is a gift.

Reasons that I loved this book:

The characters were three dimensional and relatable.  The plot line was unique and avoided a lot of the tropes that queer story lines tend to fall into.  It was a queer love story but it wasn’t about queerness: the action was in the foreground and the lovers just happened to both be girls.

I give it Five Bards!!!

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Book Review: Georgia Peaches and other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

I’m not going to lie to you, the beginning of this novel put me off almost immediately.  As a born and bred southerner, I too, grew up in the church, but I grew up in a denomination that is much more accepting and less judgmental than that of the Southern Baptist sect that is depicted in this novel.  Yes, I have been to a few Southern Baptist churches, and I’m not condemning them for their style of worship, because some of them were wonderful, but I do take issue with the church I remember specifically (and subsequently the church in Brown’s novel) preaching fire and brimstone with prejudice against those different than them.  But, unfortunately, this is a real reality in some churches, and not just in the South. Initially, this, and the ridiculous request of Jo’s father to “re-closet” herself for a year really just ticked me off.

Seriously, I hated her father for doing that to her.  But all of these things really culminated in me wanting to continue reading Jo’s story to see if these issues are resolved, and they were.  I can’t fully understand how hard it is to come out as LGBT in the south, since I am a straight, cis woman, but I have a number of close LGBTQ friends and I have witnessed how hard it can be for them.  Disclaimer: I also live in Charlotte, North Carolina, a giant blue dot in a red state, so I can’t totally imagine Jo’s situation in a backwoods Georgia small town.  Brown did a good job of keeping me interested and involved despite almost alienating me with Jo’s father’s request.

The overall message of this book is a good one: do not hide who you are for anyone or anything.  

Sure, the stakes are raised when Jo meets and falls for the picture perfect Christian girl, Mary Carlson, only to find out that Mary also has feelings for her.  A roller coaster happens with Mary desperate to come out and have the small town recognize her as a Lesbian and in a relationship with Jo, but of course that pesky promise she made to her dad kind of hinders that. Serious praise-hands emojis for Mary Carlson, who was the biggest star of this novel for me. I’d pay Jaye Robin Brown for more stories about Mary Carlson and Jo’s adventures after they get out of Rome, Georgia.

More shenanigans and heartbreak ensues, and Jo eventually creates a LGBTQ friendly youth radio program through her father’s ministry, and it made me so happy to have the warmth and love of that ministry involved as a juxtaposition to the bigoted church at the beginning of the narrative. So I think that it was important that Brown started out with the alienating church experience towards the beginning.

I loved the dynamic of the friend group that Jo finds in Rome, and how much they grow to accept her (save for one character and good riddance).

I grew to really enjoy this whole tumultuous story and the way that Brown was able to manipulate my emotions from the polarizing start to the accepting and wonderful ending.

Overall this was a really well written novel, the characterizations and the plot was well executed. Plus, if a novel can make me feel strong emotions, regardless, I will recommend it everyone.

A solid 4 Bards!

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

Guest Book Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

 

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Lesley (left) and Cassie (Right)

As you know, many of my best friends are helping out Team Midsummer with our LGBT History Month Celebration, and today’s Guest Book Review is by Lesley!  Lesley and Jess met at church a few years back, enjoyed many a trivia night together, and are now part of the fabulous five best friend group.  Lesley is now married to Cassie (another one of our Guest Reviewers!) and they are the most adorable of the adorable.

 

11595276When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

I grew up in a very small farming community in rural Michigan.  My parents were evangelical Christians and most of my friends and their families were, in some form, Christian too.  I was a “jock girl”, very tall, athletic, slightly arrogant and underneath it all, very gay.  Given this information, it would seem obvious to anyone reading the notes about The Miseducation of Cameron Post to see why I might have identified with Emily M. Danforth’s plucky main character.

However, Cam’s tomboy antics, Jesus-loving friends and family and pension for lady love aren’t the only things that make her relatable.  In fact, most of us can identify with Cam’s struggle for acceptance and identity regardless of our experiences or sexual orientation.  In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, we follow Cam on a journey from ages twelve to seventeen as she looks for her true self in her relationships, struggles and daily life.  She seeks acceptance from friends, lovers and the adults in her life the way any child would.  In the end Cameron finds the most satisfaction in accepting herself and in starting a life that reflects her beliefs and choices.

After a youthful crush and sugar-sweet first kiss, Cam experiences a devastating loss.  Forced to navigate her formative years with only her born-again aunt and elderly grandma to guide her, Cam gets into the usual trouble created by the boredom of teens in small town America.  Her trouble is often overlooked until her greatest secret is twisted from the truth and revealed as a dark path from which she must be saved.   Instead of finishing out high school, Cam is sent to a rehabilitation school for kids with similar “afflictions”.

This book is one that tells the story of each of us as we grow in a world that prefers the status quo.  While the subject matter is a bit dark, the depth of Danforth’s characters creates a light and lovely story.  It reminds us to celebrate our differences and that a diverse world is a beautiful one.

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone struggling with self-acceptance for any reason.

4 Bards, as I liked the book, but the ending left me hanging, which I didn’t really like.

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Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

25036310Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself. 

Team Midsummer had the amazing chance to interview Caleb Roehrig and we love him. Check out our interview here.

I read this book in a matter of hours.  The only reason I put it down for a few minutes was to run from one airport terminal to the other so I could make sure to catch my flight home.  Even then, I held the book in my hands, unwilling to let it go or lose my place for too long.

When Caleb said he set out to write a thriller, I’d say he succeeded in spades.

First things first, let’s talk about characterization.

Flynn, oh, Flynn, my sweet snowflake.  He is so well rounded as a character, he has his flaws, he has his snarky sarcasm that made me laugh out loud (to the chagrin of my neighbor on the flight), last-seen-leaving-aestheticand he has a struggle of accepting himself for who he is.  He is brash, he is ridiculously self confident in that he will find clues and information that the cops can’t find about his missing girlfriend, and I assume he must have an extremely trustworthy face, because a lot of people he doesn’t really know open right up to him.  Although, I think my main concern here is that those people’s parents didn’t teach them to not talk to strangers.  But again, I could always talk to a wall, so I’m not the best judge!

January is somehow able to be likable despite all of her flaws and her incessant lying.  For instance, even waaaaaaaaaay before the events in Last Seen Leaving, she was consistently portraying her boyfriend, and so-called best friend, Flynn is a very negative light to those around her.  Not only to some of the kids at her new private school, but also to her coworker, who she also pitted against Flynn to make him jealous.  She’s definitely a master manipulator, and I credit Roehrig for still creating a character that I was rooting for, even though I kind of hated her too.  She reminded me of one of those girls in high school who definitely thought she was better than anyone and everyone, therefore isolating herself from everyone.

The mystery/thriller aspect.

This story kept me on my toes the entire time. While I do have my reservations about girls just giving up a lot of random information about January to a guy they’d never really met before, I loved that Flynn had this whole Nancy Drew thing going on (Side note: Nancy Drew was way better than The Hardy Boys).  He’s definitely a bolder person than I’d ever be.  I’d be persuaded to let the cops handle it and then wallow in my own misery, but not Flynn.  Which I love.  I found it so amazing that he was kind of bad at investigating, and the killer was definitely not someone who I immediately suspected, so I credit Roehrig for laying plenty of false leads throughout the narrative that were pretty convincing.

Romance.

I just fangirl flail about Kaz and Flynn. Just, go read this.

4.5 Bards!

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Keep up with the rest of our LGBT Month Celebration!

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: April 11, 2017

“I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back.”

What does a sixteen-year-old girl have to do to kiss a boy? Molly Peskin-Suso wishes she knew. She’s crushed on twenty-six guys…but has kissed exactly none. Her twin sister Cassie’s advice to “just go for it” and “take a risk” isn’t that helpful. It’s easy for her to say: she’s had flings with lots of girls. She’s fearless and effortlessly svelte, while Molly is introverted and what their grandma calls zaftig.

Then Cassie meets Mina, and for the first time ever, Cassie is falling in love. While Molly is happy for her twin, she can’t help but feel lonelier than ever. But Cassie and Mina are determined to end Molly’s string of unrequited crushes once and for all. They decide to set her up with Mina’s friend Will, who is ridiculously good-looking, flirty, and seems to be into Molly. Perfect, right? But as Molly spends more time with Reid, her cute, nerdy co-worker, her feelings get all kinds of complicated. Now she has to decide whether to follow everyone’s advice…or follow her own heart.

Guest Book Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley

cass-profileGuest Review for LGBT History Month is provided by Cassie! Cass and Jess met back in Graduate School when they were both pursuing their Master’s Degree in English Literature.  They’ve been friends ever since.

 

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

As a graduate student of English literature, I spent most of my career ensconced in the Renaissance era, happily devouring poems and plays and studying delightfully weird science texts and recipes from the 16th and 17th century, and I have a special place for all things Shakespeare and Shakespeare adjacent in my heart of hearts.

As such, I love a good Shakespeare retelling.

And let me tell you, As I Descended is a great Shakespeare retelling.

The author writes in her acknowledgements that she wants to write a Macbeth with ghosts and gay people (which are two of my personal absolute favorite things) and she definitely succeeds at doing that – there are an abundance of both in the text and both the ghosts and the gays represent a diverse spectrum; the novel takes place on a restored Virginia plantation, which is rich in history and legends and horrors, but two of the prominent LGBTQ characters are of Hispanic heritage, and I was pleased with the weaving of Hispanic folklore with that of the Old South.

I think that what I really enjoyed most about this novel was the fact that as a reader, you don’t at all have to be knowledgeable with respect to Shakespeare and his plays to enjoy the book – it stands alone as a good read and a great story – but if you are familiar, it just heightens the enjoyment of the novel. As a Shakesqueerian scholar, I love, love, love the homages to the Bard within the text, and how the chapter titles are lines from the play and elements of the hauntings within Acheron Academy are dripping with bloody good nods to the play itself. The narrative stands well on its own as a modern ghost story, but pairing it together with Macbeth makes it tenfold more appealing.

Knowing the play so well can serve as a double edged sword – or dagger, if you will – hanging over your head as a reader; if you know what happens in the play, you know relatively early on which of the characters within the novel will meet a most tragic end. And, ultimately, I found that I didn’t want those characters to meet a tragic end – and maybe that is my own personal bias, as 2016 has been a terrible year for lesbian characters and LGBTQ representation – the “bury your gays” trope has ruined some fantastic characters and storylines, but here, in this space, with these characters, it’s to be expected – but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest, which I think is a great testament to the quality of writing by Talley in this novel. As I read, I found myself feeling particularly sympathetic towards Lily, our Lady Macbeth (who, interestingly enough, to me at least, goes more the way of Ophelia from Hamlet, in a haunting scene on the cursed lake, than how I envisioned her off-stage death in the play itself), which given the nature of her character, I am uncertain as to whether sympathy is the right emotion to feel for her.

Despite knowing going into this that everything is going to end horribly and tragically, because Macbeth, the road to hell is worth riding on, and I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

4.5 Bards!

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Be sure to check out our Calendar to keep up with LGBT History Month here on A Midsummer Night’s Read!

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Book Review: Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

Seventeen-year-old JT Barnett lives a humdrum existence in Clearwater, FL, working in the family gas station, drifting through school, and dreaming of fabulous days to come. His one attempt at drag led to public humiliation in a school talent show, so he is reluctant when Seth, his wildly attractive, overachieving boyfriend, encourages him to enter the Miss Drag Teen pageant in New York City.

The prize of a four-year college scholarship ultimately convinces JT, and after lying to their parents, he, his best friend Heather, and Seth embark on a spring break road trip that leads to fights, honest reckonings, and encounters with a cast of remarkable personalities. With the exception of spiteful Tash, the diverse group of pageant contestants offer JT acceptance and a tantalizing glimpse into a brighter world.

I am a massive fan of drag queens and drag in general, in the past year alone I’ve been to three drag shows, one drag brunch, and have binge watched RuPaul’s Drag Race countless times.
So when I got wind of this book, and Jeffery Self, being at the Texas Teen Book Festival, I knew I would absolutely love the story.  I was not disappointed at all.  The narrative is mostly focused on JT’s struggle with accepting himself as who he is, back rolls and all (eyes Alyssa Edwards), and coming to realize that if you start to live in the moment then things can really start to happen for you.

Yes, this is a very positive LGBTQ book, and I love that.  But I also love that other than a few mentions of name-calling, that this was a personal journey of self love and discovery than it was someone trying to grapple with their sexuality—not that it’s a bad thing to have that narrative—I just was pleased to be reading one that was more focused on the individual.  In addition, as someone who has struggled with anxiety and crippling self esteem issues, I related so much to JT and his journey.

JT is in a happy relationship with his boyfriend of almost 4 years, and has been out and proud for a while.  It’s really just his self doubt that holds him back, well, that an the lack of money.

Shenanigans happen and JT finally gets to leave his bubble of Clearwater, FL and goes to the Big Apple to compete in a teen drag pageant. I don’t know about you, but I have helped a friend dress in drag for an amateur drag show and it was so much fun, so it brought back some happy memories.

Clearly there are some characters that were blatantly based off of some of the queens from RuPaul’s drag race, and I totally loved it.  I’m talking about the Pip/Adore Delano hybrid (PARTY), and the bitchy Tash that reminds me of Coco Montrese.

I loved this book.  The writing is punchy, upbeat, and the pacing is excellent.  Do yourself a favor and get into Drag Teen.  You won’t regret it!

5 Bards.

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: January 31, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to.

When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating.

But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.

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