ARC Review: Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas

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My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Contemporary/Mystery
Pages: 448
Pacing: Average/Normal
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published:  June 4th 2019

Trigger Warnings: Bullying, Grief, Death, Violence

 

In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence’s name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro’s citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.   Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he’s either known as the “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.

When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families’ pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward? – Synopsis from Goodreads. 

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“He turns so freaking pink.  Look, I’m pretty queer, but hell if blushing boys aren’t the cutest thing since frolicking kittens.”

Did I just read a book with healthy sexual and disability representation and a completely platonic friendship between a female and male? Why yes, yes I think I might have.

Wild and Crooked follows two young people.  One is a young woman named Kayln, whose father is in prison for murdering a man when she was a baby.  The other is young man named Gus, whose father was the one that happened to have been murdered by Kalyn’s father when he was just a baby.  Kayln has moved back to her hometown, which means the town that her father committed the crime at and starts back at highschool under a different identity.  She soon befriends Gus, not knowing he is the son of the man her father murdered and they become very close friends.  Obviously, once they find out who the other is, problems are had and need to be figured out and to put an even bigger wrench in things, it turns out that Kayln’s father might be innocent so now they are also searching for what really happened the night both their father’s life essentially ended.

We get a lot of amazing representation in this book.  Gus has Cerebral Palsy,  I do not have this disability so I cannot speak on the complete accuracy of it but I can talk as someone who is chronically ill and the feelings that he expresses and the role he takes because of how society acts towards him often.  I thought it was done authentically, sometimes brutally but completely sensitively.  I also loved that this was not the focus on Gus’s story, it was a part of him – it was never ignored but it also didn’t get turned into something for an able person to become a hero from.  Thank god.  Wild and Crooked also has very strong sexuality representation, while this book has ZERO romance, Gus is pansexual and Kayln is a lesbian.  It is talked about and discussed but again, it’s not made a huge deal of – it’s just who they are and they love and accept each other for it instantly.  It made my heart so very happy to see this beautiful, flawed, PLATONIC friendhsip between Gus and Kayln.

We also get a third character into the mix more and more as the story goes on and that is Phillip,  and he’s an oddball.  He’s incredible socially awkward and talks as though everything is a movie or a role-playing game – it’s the only way he can relate.  No, he does not have Autism – it is noted in the book that he didn’t quite make the cut but he did have a head injury as a child and that seems to have affected him.  I don’t want to say too much about him, he’s a very interesting character – love him or hate him, again he feels pretty real.

This contemporary story won’t be for everyone.  I think we’ll see a lot of people DNFing it actually.  This is completely character driven.  Yes, there is a murder mystery plot going on and at times it does get a bit tense and you will probably never guess it all until it all gets revealed near the end but it’s not the heart of the book.  The heart of the book is these characters and their lives and their growth and relationships.  It also clocks in at over 400 pages, so if you aren’t into character driven books – this isn’t going to be for you.  I thought it was incredible,  I feel completely in love with these characters and the disability representation in particular just meant so much to me.  If you think this one sounds like something you might enjoy then be sure to check it out!

Thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for an e-arc of this novel, in exchange for my honest review.

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19 thoughts on “ARC Review: Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas

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