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Reviewed by:
  • The Lighter Side of Life and Death
  • Karen Coats, Reviewer
Martin, C. K. Kelly. The Lighter Side of Life and Death. Random House, 2010. [240p]. Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-95588-4 $19.99 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-375-84588-8 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-89327-8 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12.

After fifteen-year-old Mason has sex with his best friend, Kat (the first time for both of them), he is left happy but unsure—the sex was great, but what does it mean? Meanwhile, his home life is about to undergo a radical change, as his father is marrying a woman with two kids and they are all moving in to Mason's house. At the wedding shower, Mason, high on his new relationship with Kat, meets and flirts with twenty-three-year-old Colette, a friend of his new stepmother. His feelings become less clear, though, as he finds that Kat won't talk to him about what happened. Things get even muddier when he sees Colette again, and their flirting turns into casual (on her part), obsessive (on his part) sex. Martin is at her best when she is inside a single boy's head, as she was in I Know It's Over (BCCB 10/08); secondary characters are more or less props, but they are relevant, credible props with characteristics that support her well-drawn main character. Her portrayal of Mason's lust-fogged state is almost comic as every moment of his day becomes a tug to focus on something other than the vision of Kat naked or his next encounter with the very sexy Colette. Although he never consciously makes the connection, his new sexual confidence emboldens him to take a more assertive stance with his friends and his bratty new stepsister than he normally would, letting them sweat out his response to their anger and distance rather than insisting on smoothing things over. In the midst of all the relationship drama, the truth of the title sneaks up on readers with a sly little wink—that all these matters of life and death, such as sex between friends, age difference in relationships, and blending new families, are only as serious as you make them out to be.



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