Review: South of Sunshine
Dana Elmendorf - South of SunshineExpected publication: April 1st, 2016 by Albert Whitman
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Young Adult
Find on: Amazon, Goodreads, Book Depository
What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love?
And what will she risk for acceptance?
In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.
Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.
~The blurb mostly lies.
So there's this reality show called Southern Charm I'm grossly obsessed with. It takes place in Charleston, South Carolina. The castmembers attend garden parties and christenings and there's a lot of gossiping, but it's all done subtly. "Oh, that Kathryn. She's such a little - Does anyone want cobbler?" (They became trashier in Season 2, but that's another story.)
Whereas in Sunshine, Tennessee, the name is simply ironic. After Kaycee Jean McCoy's boyfriend dumps her for the local hobag, Chelsea "Chesty" Hannigan, she isn't exactly devastated but more thrilled that she's finally able to live out her dreams of being a lesbian in peace. The only problem, the townspeople of Sunshine are homophobic, racist bigots, and her mother is one of them.
So when Bren, who is open about her sexuality, moves to town with her family from Boston, Kaycee is immediately enamored by her. More-so, by her hair.
(...) Bren stands. That hair. God, how does she make it swoop over the top of her head like that? The way she runs a hand over the slicked sides, I wonder if she has a comb in her back pocket.
Bren - who I initially thought was a guy - and Kaycee's relationship starts off more as an instacrush. One-sided on Kaycee's part, because Bren hadn't paid her much mind in the beginning. Then, it delves fast into instalove territory and becomes so obnoxiously, intolerably sweet, I could barely deal.
Believe me, I love my YA. I love all the sweet interactions and Ferris Wheel rendezvouses and spaghetti dinners. You name it. But Kaycee was tumbling/stumbling/collapsing into Bren's arms so often, you would think she needed psychological help.
Also, Kaycee is a Category 5 slutshamer. Don't believe me? Here she is, talking about a girl named Charlotte.
(...) Everybody in school knows she has a girlfriend, and I'm not talking girl-who's-a-friend either. No one cares because she's from the trailer park, so it's not like they expect her to act any differently, which is a sad point of view. Jacinda, her girlfriend, used to date a black guy from the neighboring county. Both Charlotte and Jacinda are perfect outcasts for each other. Forever exiled from the social circles.
Being anything besides heterosexual is practically criminal in Sunshine, but ironically, half of the teenage population already is. I was so appreciative of Kaycee's best friend, Van - who also happens to be gay - as he helped her come to terms with her sexuality, but she treated him horribly and he still remained by her side, despite everything.
Outside of the occasional bonfire, the book doesn't exactly exude Southern glamour, which was what I hoped for. It's mainly centered on Bren and Kaycee's instalove-y relationship. Kaycee has no hobby outside of Bren. And whenever she goes on one of her shaming sprees and someone attempts to bite back, she gets all emotional. Not even Kaycee's mother's late "change of heart" could redeem the book for me. My tolerance level has officially dropped to 0 with this book.