Kyle Stilleno is the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad Greymark is the baseball star of Foster High. When they bond over their mutual damage during a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks maybe his life has changed for good. But the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you're gay and falling for the most popular boy in school. A coming of age story in the same vein of John Hughes, Tales from Foster High shows an unflinching vision of the ups and downs of teenage love and what it is like to grow up gay.
©2012 John Goode (P)2014 Harmony Ink Press
This was a truly enjoyable high school coming out/coming of age story. Think of it as a gay John Hughes film. The author is a real fan of John Hughes and obviously cares a great deal about the challenges gay teenagers face in high school. Some would say this isn't a YA book. I have to disagree. The sex scenes in this book are no where as graphic as in traditional gay romance. And if I remember correctly, nothing that the average teenager not only knows about, but much milder. It wasn't a perfect book and the narrator doesn't give a lot of diversity to the characters, but he does do a good job at lending depth and emotion to the story. But be warned, he does sound like a high school kid, which is what the story needed. Absolutely worth a credit.
Maybe With A Chance of Certainty (book 1)
I bought this book (and the rest of the series) and obviously started with this one first - duh! I read and LOVED it. Then I had the chance to listen to the audio version. And WOW!
If I thought I enjoyed the story the first time round, the audio version just improved on it. The narrator, Michael Stellman, enhances the story and takes nothing away. It was so interesting to compare my thoughts on the story from my own reading experience versus my thoughts from the listening experience. Sometimes the narrator's voice and style doesn't match the characters I have built in my head but this one hit the nail on the head - brilliant! Michael Stellman's voice captured Kyle perfectly with a real sense of youth and emotion.
I loved the style of writing and characters were totally wonderful. I loved the emotion and challenge of growing up. I loved the nerd and the jock facing life head on. I loved public confrontations and grand gestures. But most of all I loved the strength and honesty.
I wouldn't usually come right out and recommend an audio book over the ebook or print edition (I'm a bit old-school that way and prefer the characters in my head) but this is the reverse for me. I actually originally rated the written book as a 4/4.5 but it is now a definite 5 and moving to my favourites shelf!
End of the Beginning (Book 2)
This is the second book in the series and part of the Tales From Foster High audio book so I listened to rather than read this book. As with the first book, I LOVED this is it's audio form. The narrator's voice was just brilliant, catching the teenage voice of Brad.
Here we have Brad's point of view as he agonises over the events of the past couple of days. Coming out in front of the whole school was a spur of the moment decision and Brad wonders if he made the right choice. It was sad to watch him go from the top of the school social ladder to pretty much the bottom but his strength lay in how he handled himself.
It's such an interesting look at the real person behind the facade. Brad may have had the looks, the status, his sporting prowess, a big home and a nice car but this didn't make him happy in his heart. I loved the character development in this story.
Raise Your Glass (Book 3)
When times get tough, you really find out what people are made of and in this book Brad and Kyle totally shine, particularly Kyle who is no longer a wall flower and very much the centre of attention.
The experiences the boys go through as they return to school are heartbreaking. As to be expected, the reaction from the other students is not positive and Brad and Kyle are tormented for their sexuality. But it is the reaction of the adults - the teachers and authority figures - that is the most shameful. This is tough look at what life can be like for young people who don't conform to what other people deem as being acceptable - bullying and lack of support. But there is a positive ending as support comes from some unexpected places.
I liked the message from the author at the end of the book, an anti-bullying message, to remind people they are never alone and remind us, the reader, that although this story is a work of fiction, bullying is an all too common occurrence that can have tragic consequences.
I cannot speak more highly of Michael Stellman. He did a wonderful job of narrating Tales from Foster High and I believe his voice is perfectly suited to the telling of a YA story.
John Goode has an agenda: to stop bullying! Besides some clever references to pop culture sometimes spoken with acid sarcasm, Tales From Foster High also manages to fight at least one stereotype: victims of bullying never fight back, because they do in this book. The #1 emotion expressed most frequently is teenage angst, some of it over-baked. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story. My one niggle with an otherwise excellent narration done by Michael Stellman (oops, make that two), given that the story takes place in a small Texas town, we never get any hint of a Texan drawl from any character. It could have taken place in Arizona or California and maybe that was intentional. Also, my copy of the audio at times had some annoying reverb, again, not the narrator's doing, just a technical glitch I suppose.
Tales is a series that, now having read the first three, I can't wait to continue. The story reminds the reader that the struggle for acceptance, tolerance and even safety for gay youth is far from over. Kyle as a character speaks to kids that feel they have to hide because of the dangers involved physically but are already used to being ignored and marginalized. Brad is the sports hero that everyone adores and wants to be, who can lose it all upon coming out. But what are they gonna do? If you fall for someone it's only a matter of time before you have to go for it or be miserable. Here they go for it and meet a lot of misery thanks to a small Texas town. It is well written, coming from Kyle's point of view. The books that follow alternate viewpoints. Each of the guys are interesting in their own way and are expressed as deep, rounded characters. I want to read more!
There were too many unsolved problems in this story for me to give it more than 3.5 stars. The performance from Michael Staleman was pretty decent, but I felt really let down by the ending. The story touches on a lot of key issues and felt very current, but instead of feeling like I wanted more...I was left feeling empty. Almost like I spent seven hours listening to some school boy summarize his high school career for a term paper. No emotion, no resolution, no life. Just a bunch of bits of information thrown together. It has the potential to be so much more and then just stopped. Almost like the author has a heart attack and the never got around to finishing the story before meeting his demise. Too bad.
"Life in a box"
Well at least the story seems to have been recorded in one, a tin box with sharp reverberation that too often gets in the way of a performance that was rather flat anyway.
The story is very average coming-out at high school fare, a little shallow and a little predictable and a little cliche with a money loving father, drunken mother, dim "jock" and put upon "geek". That said, life can be cliche and as the author reminds us in notes at the end, all that is in this book happens, and often with far worse consequences.
Not very positive I'm afraid, and coupled with the overdose of cynical teen hyperbole I found little to recommend it beyond being harmless and positive in as much as it contributes to GLBT YA reading.
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