Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: Ray of Sunlight by Brynn Stein

Ray of SunlightBlurb:

 Russ Michaels has his whole life ahead of him but no plans beyond dropping out of school as soon as he turns eighteen. He’s been in and out of juvenile detention for the last four years and thoroughly expects to end up in an adult penitentiary at some point. He hates life and everyone in it, especially this latest community service that he earned in lieu of juvie yet again.

CJ Calhoun has big plans. He wants to bring joy and happiness to sick and injured children for as long as he can by performing as a clown. The problem is, he has stage-four cancer and a horrible prognosis.

When circumstances throw these two polar opposites together, they find they have more in common than they imagined. CJ discovers Russ’s talent for art and arranges for Russ to create a mural in the hospital foyer, which leads to a tentative scholarship to the Art Institute. As life changes in ways neither of them could have expected, Russ must work harder than ever to better himself as CJ struggles with his deteriorating health.

Todd’s rating:

Gah, this book! It was extremely touching and utterly heartbreaking for me.

Seventeen year old, bisexual Russ is a very troubled teen, in and out of juvenile detention due to his anger at the world and lack of self-control. For his latest outburst of aggression, he's sentenced to 500 hours of community service at a children's hospital and he is not happy about that in the least.

Until he meets an upbeat clown named CJ.

CJ was beaten and kicked out of his home at 15 when his father found out that he was gay. Then, to add insult to injury, he's diagnosed with stage 3, inoperable cancer, which is how he ends up at Children's Hospital.

Russ is immediately drafted to help CJ with his clown shows that keep the kids in the oncology, burn and neurology wards both entertained and working on their physical therapy goals.

Then the strangest thing began to happen to Russ. He started actually caring, which hasn't happened for a very long time. And people begin genuinely caring about him in return.

As the boys get to know one another, Russ' angry, callous soul begins to heal, slowly, one hour of community service at a time.

CJ's influence in Russ' life changes everything for the better. Russ, the straight "F" student, gets a full ride scholarship to an art college and that's all due to CJ's prodding and help.

Eventually, the boys did become a couple, with the full support of everyone who's actually important in their lives, but then CJ's health began a steady slide toward the inevitable.

I don't feel like this is a spoiler, as the book made absolutely zero qualms about it, but I was a bit shocked that the story never offered even an ounce of hope for CJ's recovery. He was going to die. Period. And he did. At only 17. And it freaking killed me when it happened.

But it was oddly beautiful, and romantic, the way that it happened. We should all be so lucky, when that time finally comes.

Even before CJ's passing, there are *several* other scenes in the book that will either have you either tearing up or full on crying, but the CJ scene and the chapter that follows were ugly cries for me.

This story reminds me a lot of Fearless by Chris O'Guinn, which I actually preferred a bit more (READ IT NOW); however, unlike Fearless, which ended a bit abruptly for my tastes, Sunlight does sort of lead you through the grieving process, even providing an Epilogue.

I could have personally done without the epilogue, as we get a peek at Russ' life 10 years after CJ's passing, but that might just be me.

As I mentioned, If I had to pick a favorite between this story and Fearless, I'd have to go with Fearless, but I did truly enjoy both stories. Neither book had your typical HEA; however, Fearless was just so hopeful for me, so I prefer it, of the two.

So 4.25 *that's-what-makes-you-beautiful* stars this time around for this story of a bad boy finding love, which changes his life forever, even 'after.'

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

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