Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Review: 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.

Jewel's rating:

Trailer Trash is Marie Sexton's first YA novel. Set in the mid-1980's, it really took me back to my own high school years (I am a year younger than the MC's, who were in their senior year of high school during this book). Honestly, I'm not terribly nostalgic for the 80's. I like a wide variety of music from that era, but the hair and the clothes...let's just not think about that, shall we. None the less, Marie Sexton captures it all perfectly.

The main thing to remember about the 80's, though, is not the ridiculous dress code, or the nonsensical song lyrics, but that it was when AIDS first came onto the public scene. There was so much stigma and misinformation about transmission and risk and with so many gay men and intravenous drug users dying, AIDS was often referred to as God's punishment. Politically, I don't remember much compassion being served up, either. I remember watching the news and being horrified by all of it. And I doubt that there are many people that haven't been touched by it, in one way or another. And I thank all of the scientists out there that have made such strides in HIV education and treatment that it is no longer the death sentence it once was.

So, anyway, coming to terms with being gay in a small town in the 1980's during the initial surge of the AIDS epidemic is where Trailer Trash is set. Teenager's of any era have their own challenges when it comes to figuring out who they are and who they want to be. There are often internal conflicts as well as external, and it's not an easy time for most people, even though looking back on it makes it all seem so trivial. But if you're different than what everyone else considers the status quo, then you're automatically singled out for ridicule. The 1980's was undoubtedly a tough time to come out as gay, especially in a small town where everyone is expected to be a certain thing and secrets are hard to keep.

Nate is new to Warren, Wyoming (population almost nothing), having been raised in the much larger (and less wintery) Austin, Texas. There's lots of unwelcome change in Nate's life -- his parents split up, he gets moved to a podunk little town in the middle of nowhere, there's little to nothing to do and he doesn't even have the sports he enjoyed in Texas to look forward to. To top it off, the new school is so small and very cliquish and not at all what he had. Right when he moved to Warren, though, Nate met Cody at the gas station and they started hanging out.

Cody warned Nate that once school started, Nate wouldn't want to be friends anymore. Where Nate lives in the more affluent part of town, Cody lives at the lower income end of the trailer park. They're worlds apart. Cody is a loner, but not necessarily by choice. He's different and he's learned to not give a damn about anyone's opinion about him. Cody knows who he is and he's more or less comfortable with that.

Nate and Cody dance around each other for months. And a lot of that is on Cody, who preemptive started avoiding Nate so that Nate wouldn't feel obligated to reject his friendship. Cody has had more than his fair share of ridicule from his fellow classmates, so he figures that it's inevitable that Nate will move on. But Nate takes a bit of time to come to terms with his feelings, as well, since he is just figuring out that he's gay and that his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.

Being a YA book, there isn't much steam (and I'm more than ok with that considering the MC's are 17/18 during the course of the book). They both go through so much during their senior year and discovering themselves and each other is only a part. I enjoyed the story quite a lot and only cried once - and it wasn't even caused by either MC, so that's a win. All in all, I'd say Trailer Trash is a solid four stars and I do recommend it!

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