My Last Summer with Cass – Mark Crilley

I love a story told through good art. I love it even more when the story is as good as the art. Such is the case here. Megan and Cass are two childhood friends who share a passion for making art. They meet every summer, along with their families, at a cottage, where they unleash their creativity in different ways. But Cass’s family falls apart, and those summers are no more. The girls grow apart for a bit, then reunite in New York, the place where dreams come true and every artist can find a home. While Cass seems to have figured out the type of artist she is and where she belongs and with whom, Megan is still unsure of who she is meant to be. Terribly afraid of disappointing her parents, especially her dad, she holds back and plays it safe. Cass can see through her friend, can see her buried need to express her true self, and pushes Megan to dig deeper and be braver. All is well… until she pushes too far, too soon.

I related to this story a lot, especially to Megan’s character. I think we’re all forced to grow up one day or another, but for some of us it takes time. If Cass hadn’t been there to introduce her best friend to new things and show her a side of the world she hadn’t seen before, who knows when Megan would have had the chance to experience these new things. Or maybe she would have, but with the wrong crowd, someone who doesn’t have her back. Cass’ aggressive way of throwing new things at Megan did rub me the wrong way, because I wonder, can you really force growth? Isn’t it supposed to happen naturally, over time? More importantly, should you force it? Too much, too soon can be overwhelming for someone who has lived a fairly sheltered life and has only just recently started voicing her own opinions and standing up for herself. The truth is that, whether you agree with Cass’ actions or not, and Megan’s responses to these actions, you are at least sure to be emotionally affected by them because the author and illustrator draws with intent and meaning. I was glued to this graphic novel until the very end. Con: I finished it in 15 minutes. Pro: Those were some intense 15 minutes that I wouldn’t mind repeating.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons – Loni Love

I can’t believe this was published over a year ago and I only learned of its existence recently! That is such a tragedy. I love Loni Love. It’s very hard not to. I noticed her good heart while watching segments of The Real on YouTube and I absolutely knew I would love reading her words in this memoir. My good feeling about this book was validated immediately as I started the first chapter. While she may not reinvent the wheel—other authors have discussed facing challenges and growing up in a rough kind of environment—her spirit is felt all over the pages and it’s such a positive spirit to be surrounded by.   

Loni Love did not have it easy growing up. She’s had to take care of herself, and while this meant she missed out on being taken care of by a loved one, it did teach her responsibility and independence fairly well. But Loni knows to welcome people and their affections in her life nonetheless, and her good intentions are certainly recognized by the right people. She’s had close people take advantage of her goodness and willingness to give attention and affection, but she’s also learned from negative experiences.

She’s totally right: at any given moment, we have the choice between crying about our own misfortune over and over, or trusting that God (if you believe in Him) has a better plan for us and only asks us to have faith in ourselves and Him. I admit that that’s something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. Even if it’s for a minute, I tend to throw myself different self-pity parties that are at times hard to get out of because no one else is pulling me out and I have to, as I’m drunk to the core, notice my own need to take a breath of fresh air. The good thing is that Loni’s positivity is contagious and her belief that she can make something of herself (which she has!) so strong that it’s hard not to believe her ourselves.

The only downside to this memoir is that it is pretty damn short. At the beginning, she takes it slow, slowly discussing her upbringing and what led her to pursue a degree in engineering. Then, very fast it felt, we were thrown into the period of her life where she was on her way to success. It felt like there were parts missing, but I’m sure we’ll get those parts eventually as this will probably not be her last publication. On the very bright side, I rarely, rarely, if ever, highlight a physical book (because I like to keep them in pristine condition), but I absolutely had to highlight some sentences in this one that made me laugh super hard. Because of its length and the author’s fairly light tone (over the top at times, but hey that’s Loni and I love it), it’s the kind of book that you can breeze through in an afternoon. Again, I cannot believe I didn’t know about it sooner. Thankfully, it’s never too late to hear the words of wisdom of someone you love and respect.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.