Friday, January 5, 2024

Today's read... Sun Don't Shine by Crissa-Jean Chappell

I hesitated to pick-up today's read, not sure if I wanted to dive into tough themes right away this year after hitting more serious reads than I prefer during the last months. I'm not a huge contemporary fan and just 'need' more imagination recently. But I finally gave in, since the blurb just sounded too interesting. So, let's see if I regretted this decision or not.

by Crissa-Jean Chappell
Fitzroy Books
Young Adult Contemporary
172 pages

JANUARY 16th!!!

Sixteen-year-old Reece is an expert at keeping secrets. She has to be, since her father abducted her ten years ago. For as long as she can remember, she’ s been on the run, sneaking food out of the dumpster and sleeping in the woods. Every time she moves, the same rules apply— cut your hair, change your name, and, above all, don’ t let anybody get too close. Reece has no choice except to obey Dad’ s orders. When Reece meets her first real friend, a boy named Shawn, she begins to realize that everyone else has secrets too. And the deadliest secret of all is the one her father has kept from her all these years.


All of the concern, protectiveness, and twisted reasonings behind love weave into a grabbing tale with bite.

Reece has been running away from the 'bad' men with her father for almost as long as she can remember. From tents to vans, her homes last only as long as her father feels its safe. Their current residence, a cheap hotel in Florida, has offered a real bed and steady schooling for a couple of years...until she breaks her father's rules and begins to have a friend. Questions arise, and as she seeks the answers, the weave of secrets unravels.

This story had me engaged from beginning to end. Reece's living situation comes across naturally while carrying the required rawness to make the difficulties clear. She sympathetic despite her razor-sharp edges. The relationship with her father stays on edge, making her views of him understandable while still carrying a sense of wrongness to build tension and suspicion. There is violence, hints of drug abuse, hints of child abuse and more, but none of it tiptoes past what even upper middle graders can handle. Still, it keeps the reader at the edge of their seat and plays along the edge of a true thriller without completely crossing that line. In that sense, it isn't a true thriller but more of an edgy contemporary with a dash of mystery and plenty of dark secrets.

It was no problem to get caught up in this story and root for Reece as she untangles her life to discover the lies underneath. The writing is smooth, keeps the pacing high, and brings the scenes across in all the right ways. There are more than a few logic hiccups, but these fade under the well-paced plot and desire for Reece to discover the truth. The end loosened on this end and didn't quite pull through with as much finesse, but the end pulls most threads together to leave the needed hope and satisfaction after the storm. And, of course, a bit of food for thought.

And here she is...

Crissa-Jean Chappell was born in Miami, Florida. As a kid, she climbed the oaks in her backyard near the bay and imagined that their branches were the scaly skins of flying dragons. She spent a lot of time talking to invisible creatures. The hall closet was a time machine that could zap back to the days of brontos and T-Rex. Her friends were raccoons and foxes, opossums and burrowing owls, bats and blue crabs that scuttled up into the trees.

In high school, her city started taking cues from those neon-soaked television shows. The beach began to build fancy cafes and velvet-roped clubs. Miami was no longer a home for wharf rats. It was the treeless land of strip malls and sun-baked parking lots. Chappell watched it all from a distance. She put it down on paper, as she’d done since she could pick up a Crayola (starting with hand-stapled “horse books” on notepaper, which forced her unfortunate readers to turn the pages backwards). She studied fiction of all forms at the University of Miami: from black-and-white monster movies to ultra-serious plays. Chappell became known as the girl-who-writes-about-teenagers. It took a while to figure this out. Teachers said: write what you know. She wrote about elves and other dimensions. They said: write something that you’d actually want to read. She wrote about Florida girls who didn’t want to grow up.

Chappell now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her debut young adult novel, Total Constant Order (HarperTeen) is a NYPL Book For The Teen Age and a VOYA Perfect Ten. Chappell’s second novel, Narc (Flux Books) is currently optioned for film. More Than Good Enough (Flux Books) is a Florida Book Awards medalist, which Kirkus calls, “compelling and emotionally nuanced.” Chappell’s newest YA novel is Snowbirds (Simon Pulse). “…an engrossing mystery,” School Library Journal. She holds a PhD and MFA from the University of Miami and has taught creative writing and cinema studies for over fifteen years. She is a professor of film and creative writing at Lehman College. When she misses South Florida, she talks to the parrots in Green-Wood Cemetery. 

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