Saturday, March 26, 2016

Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.

Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.

Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.

Warning: This book contains teenagers doing all the things we did as teenagers but which we now pretend teenagers never do.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Trailer Trash was like a time-warp, no doubt for all of us who are not the age of the characters. I was a small child in 1986, but I remember the dark way the world felt in that time period, as well as the products, bands, and the news of the time during that era. If those the age of the characters read this title today, it will be an enlightening experience versus how their world is now.

Trailer Trash shows the dynamic between those with no money and those with disposable money in rural America in 1986, and most of those rules still apply in 2016. A coming-of-age, boy from the wrong side of the tracks romance between the trailer trash boy and the preppy cop's son.

I'm a huge fan of Marie Sexton – the way she creates diverse, developed characters who seem plucked straight out of reality. The stories are always slow-burn, friendships built, with the pacing on the slower side of steady.

The world was a different, more intolerant place in 1986. Pre-internet, with the internet drawing all parts of the world into an accessible school of knowledge, rural folks especially could only understand what was in their small vacuum. Ignorance is not a lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of education in a specific area. Mix ignorance with a lack of compassion and fear, and violence erupts.

Cody and Nate's journey in Warren, Wyoming in 1986 is true-to-life, heartwarming, tragic, and a swift kick in reality to show how much the world has changed. Today, we're all so worried about being offended by everything, to the point we don’t realize how much has changed in my lifetime of 37 years – how much the world will change in another 37 years, hopefully for the better.

Just in my life, I was frustrated with Cody and his mother, wasting money on vice. When my mom isn't working, she's at the bar. With nothing to do around here, I sit around and chainsmoke, then go without food because we have no money." This illogical way of thinking is a plague on the ignorant. This is true-to-life on how the cycle continues, but no less frustrating to read.

When the boy would go to the cupboards, only finding peanut butter and no bread, but the mother was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, I wanted to shake Cody. I want to go outside of my home and shake all of those in my area who do this to this day. Cody was no better until he grew near the end, realizing how ridiculous it was to waste his money on cigarettes when it could be spent on resolving his problems instead of creating more.

My only major issue I take with Trailer Trash was the price of products. Today, buying major brands, I still don't breach $3.00 on a jar of spaghetti sauce, and I buy Bertolli. I also shop in thrift shops because I'm a bargain huntress. In 2016, much less 1986, a coat wouldn't take months' worth of saving up all of your earnings to buy a coat. Cody couldn't afford a coat, but he was able to pay a handful of bills and the rent, with most of the money saved up to buy said coat, until he had $10.00 left. Which he bought cigarettes with, while thinking he wanted to buy a pair of snow boots. In 1986, even 10 bucks would have been enough to buy a coat, or boots, and those gloves he said he couldn't afford, which would have been cheaper than one pack of cigs – the gloves. Now, I'm going by rural America prices, when in 1986 we were poorer than Trailer Trash and had a $40.00 a week limit on our grocery bill for 4 people. So 3 bucks for pasta sauce, when I don't pay that today, struck me as way off.

Showing the AIDS crisis while it was running rampant through the US was a refreshing thing to read. Disturbing in how it made the bias and bigotry worse than ever, but a useful part of history those who didn't live through it need to learn. Reading the facts is different than watching beloved characters have AIDS thrown in their face as a mark against why their love was wrong. On the same token, with the ignorance and lack of information, even in the medical field, I could understand how a parent would be petrified.

Trailer Trash held a plethora of darker emotions, without much light. So I was thankful for a small piece of humor. Uptown gave me an endless stream of entertainment. As a rural girl, we also say I gotta go up town. But since I'm in the Northeast, it's said as two separate words, rather than one word. Or we say I'm going to town. Thanks for giving me a good chuckle and showing how areas have slight distinctions.

I recommend this book to fans of the MM romance genre, especially those who love slow-burn, reality-based, character-driven stories. I also recommend for young adults going through the coming out process, because it will highlight how those before them paved the way in their efforts to remove ignorance. They're not alone – they never were nor will they ever be, no matter how horrible it may feel in the moment. The world is a more tolerant place today, and we need to appreciate the time it wasn't while trying to eradicate it entirely.

I'd read Marie Sexton's grocery lists, so obviously I look forward to whatever she publishes next.

Young adult age-range: 14+ due to violence and sexual situations.

Nate moves with his father to the small town of Warren, Wyoming, the summer before senior year. He meets Cody and they become friends. Cody gives Nate the rundown of how things work in the town for kids their age. But Cody thinks that once school starts, Nate will learn things about Cody and their friendship will be over. The divide between the haves, who live on the wealthy side of town, and the have nots like Cody, who live in a trailer park, is huge and in Cody's mind, cannot be breached.

We follow Nate and Cody through their senior year of high school. Through friendship troubles, discovering feelings for each other, through tragedy, and ultimately, to end of their school year. I was particularly moved by Cody's home life. The absolute poverty in which he lives broke my heart.

Trailer Trash is dual point of view and I felt every emotion that these teens go through. It is an intense journey and at times there is such bleakness and despair I struggled to find the light and wondered how these boys were ever going to get out of this dying town. I spent so much of this book in tears, I was emotionally drained by the end and I have a major book hangover.

This is an amazing story. I connected with it in so many ways. Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I loved looking back and remembering what it was like. I'm surprised at the similar issues faced by Cody growing up in small town Wyoming and my own experience growing up in the inner city in a country on the other side of the planet. The way the kids were in different cliques, how it was so important to make sure you were wearing the right brand of jeans or shoes, and the boredom that leads the teens to trouble, was all so familiar. Little details like playing cassettes and making a mix tape, the fact that it seemed like everyone smoked, having to go to the library to look up information rather than hitting Google, all added to the authenticity. I loved it all. Trailer Trash is a must read. It is outstanding.

Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along.

Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton to read and review.

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