Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing well! This month I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in TBR and Beyond Tour’s book tour for Camryn Garrett’s second novel, Off the Record. I’ve been so excited about this book since I first heard it announced and it truly was an impactful and thought-provoking read.
Title: The Key to You and Me
Author: Jaye Robin Brown
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving head-on by taking lessons from a girl in town.
Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, everything changes.
Piper’s not sure if she’s ready to let go of her ex. Kat’s navigating uncharted territory with her new crush. With the summer running out, will they be able to unlock a future together?
Off the Record by Camryn Garrett follows Josie Wright who is jetted off on a press tour to interview up-and-coming actor, Marius Canet, after winning a prestigious journalism award. However, on the press tour, a young actress confides in Josie that she was sexually assaulted by a well-known and well-loved director. Josie wants to help take down this director but she quickly feels like she’s in over her head, and will it end her journalism career before she’s even got to start it?
This is an extremely important book for a myriad of reasons. The main character, Josie, is a fat, Black bisexual teen and all of these facets of her as a person are all equally celebrated in the book. We see Josie struggle with the – often well-meaning – fatphobic microaggressions from her friends and family, but we also see her celebrate and love her fatness, which is wonderful to see. She talks about how all of the fad-diets are exactly that – fads – and how easy it is to celebrate being fat online and on social media in general, but when it comes to real life and your faced with other people’s overt fatphobia, it’s a lot more difficult. I think for all the ways that Camryn Garrett discussed the experience of being fat in this book was so needed and it truly resonated with me – it’s definitely up there with some of the best fat representation I’ve ever read! Furthermore, both Josie and the love interest in the book are bisexual, and it’s mentioned on page. We see Josie talk about how cute she finds male, female and nonbinary people, and the love interest gushes about his ex-boyfriend, too. This type of explicit bi representation is so heartening to see, when so many YA contemporaries brush over it by instead saying that the character ‘likes boys/girls’, is gay or queer, or just implies it otherwise.
Aside from these parts of her, we really get to see Josie’s passion and drive for what she does. She is clearly a talented journalist and is proud about that. We also see her ambition of getting into her dream historically Black college that so many members of her family also went to. Speaking of family, there are definitely some complex, and often times complicated, family dynamics in this book, but there is also so much love for family and the role it plays in Josie’s life. We also see her dealing with failings and things not quite going her way but realising that some things don’t work out but it’ everything turns out well at the end, which I know will be truly heartening for so many teens to read.
The relationship at the heart of this book was so, so sweet and healthy and it was truly a joy to read among the tougher topics tackled in the book. As you start reading the book, you get a hint of who Josie is interested in and seeing that flourish and grow was lovely! Josie’s new friendships throughout the book also added to the calmer, sweeter aspects of the book and I still adore seeing strong female friendships in YA contemporary after years of seeing so much girl hate.
As for the main topic tackled in the book, sexual assault and the #metoo movement were handled so well and so sensitively. It’s a topic that has been really prevalent recently and I think that talking about it in a YA contemporary is so important. Two particular discussion points brought up in the book really resonated with me, the first is related to Josie’s own experiences. When she is in middle school she is sexually assaulted by a classmate, but she and other adults write it off as just ‘boys being boys’ and not so serious because of her age. Seeing her come to realise that, actually, that was a big deal and it was sexual assault was really cathartic for me to read, as someone who went through something similar. Another aspect that I found really important to read was the discussion of male sexual assault victims. A lot of the time when this subject is touched upon, it is brought up almost as a ‘gotcha’ when women and nonbinary people are talking about their experiences, but it was the complete opposite in this book. The male character in question is very respectful of these women coming forward and his experience is not treated in a way that feels insensitive, and I really appreciated that.
Overall, this was a really great book that I cannot recommend enough. It does tackle some sensitive topics, so I recommend being aware of the trigger warnings for sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape, as well as being in the right mindset before picking this one up, if you do think that it is for you. It’s such a powerful read that still has its sweet and heart-warming moments, and it’s a real shining star among recent contemporary YA releases.
About the Author:
Camryn Garrett was born and raised in New York. In 2019, she was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 and a Glamour College Woman of the Year. Her first novel, Full Disclosure, received rave reviews from outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, the Today Show, and The Guardian, which called a “warm, funny and thoughtfully sex-positive, an impressive debut from a writer still in her teens.” Her second novel, Off the Record, will be released May 18, 2021. Camryn is also interested in film and is a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.