The Lighter Side of Life and Death by Kelly C.K. Martin

Author: Martin, C.K. Kelly
Title: The Lighter Side of Life and Death
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-375-84588-8
Format: Fiction
Rating: Good
Grades: 10 and up
Curriculum Framework: English
Genre: Realism


Mason and Kat lose their virginity to each other after a party. While Mason thinks he is finally going to be with the girl he has loved for years, Kat fears they have ruined their friendship forever. In the next few days he tries to play it cool, but she plays it downright cold and refuses to talk to him. As the news of this encounter eventually makes it around their circle of friends, things become more and more awkward. Mason seeks solace in pursing a secret relationship with an older woman, Colette, which of course, complicates his life and feelings further.

The story subverts the image of the guy who doesn’t call the next day and lets us into the mind of a boy who cares very much and worries over his feelings. It shows us that teen confusion is not gendered, but depends on the individual. The action includes descriptive scenes of physical intimacy. Condoms are always used, as if perhaps reminding readers to practice safer sex. Sex is portrayed as a natural exploration, not good or bad in itself, and the characters have natural and complex emotional responses to sexual encounters.

The plot realistically reflects teen life, where social and family dramas are the most important and often confusing conflicts. Dealing with the recent addition of stepmother and stepsiblings to his daily life gives some contrast to Mason’s internal monologue. The action meanders slowly as Mason ruminates on his feelings and eventually arrives at an obvious conclusion. The book’s slow pace may deter many readers, but the realistic portrayal of emotions will be a draw for some.

Reviewer’s Name: Erin Daly
E-mail Address:
Library/City: Chicopee Public Library, Chicopee
Date of Review: 2/19/11

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