I have been reading M/M romance for about 5 years now, everything from fantasy to contemporary and BDSM. But this was the first YA that made me want to read more in this genre. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy YA, I mean I’m pushing 50 so how can I connect with characters whose main concern in life is what to do on a Friday night? Well, I was surprised to find characters with depth and stories that made a huge impact on me personally.
First of all, there are two covers for The Red Sheet. The first is by the very talented Dan Skinner featuring a young, sexy, and very blond MJ. The second is more inspirational and better suited for the content and its YA audience.
The Red Sheet tells a story of high school bullying through the eyes of a reforming bully. Some of the story elements were tough to read but the story was told with humor, honesty, and compassion. I am always surprised by how Mia captures the teen voice so well. The Red Sheet is written in first person and the inner monologue is humorous and thoughtful.
Bryan is a high school jock who wakes up one morning transformed – from a typical, complacent, selfish teenager into an animal-saving, mom-hugging, socially conscience young man. With the set of red sheets his mother bought, Bryan feels like Superman, ready to save the world. The problem is, he doesn’t know what caused the transformation.
The other MC, Scott, is a lonely boy who has been bullied by his peers for his size, his clothes, and for his sexual orientation. He has suffered verbal as well as physical abuse.
Bryan and Scott discover together that people can change, people can forgive but the process is hard and long. It takes individuals to own up to their prejudices, complacency, and ignorance, but forgiveness is equally important. I really liked Bryan. He’s certainly not perfect. Before his transformation he was that typical super jock and enjoyed the benefits that title afforded him. He hardly noticed others not like him until he met Scott. Bryan was deep in the closet and until that fateful weekend that began his transformation, he was happy to remain there. Scott, who on the outside seem small and weak, didn’t hide the fact that he was gay. There is strength in being yourself when that’s not the norm.
Forgiveness is a major theme in this book. Both boys learned that forgiveness is an important part of healing but forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget. Cody Kennedy says in the Forward, “To say that you will recover from bullying is a myth. You can survive and compensate for it when and if you are able.” And the healing process for both boys involve taking action against injustices that they see around them. I enjoyed all the Mahatma Ghandi’s quotes used in this book:
You must be the change you want to see in the world.
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
In a gentle way you can shake the world.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
My favorite quote from The Red Sheet is said by Bryan to Scott, “‘My life is my message.’ I’ve really changed, Scotty. Just watch me and you’ll see.” And isn’t this true for all of us. We can say the right things but it is our actions that matter in the end.
So let’s talk about sex… This is a YA, so their physical interaction is limited. I hope this doesn’t turn you away from this book. It is carefully crafted and cleverly told. There are so many great YA titles out there so I hope you give this and others a try!
I highly recommend this book and hope that all high school students will read it. I know my son will be reading it.
By Kari Higa
Barnes N Noble