Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: Kyland by Mia Sheridan

Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk.

Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.

Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They're both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?

Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

THIS IS A STAND-ALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY TAURUS. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

4.5 Stellar Stars!

Review by Jen Hagen 

I simply adore Ms. Sheridan’s writing.  How can she make her next work better than the first?  Shouldn’t she soon be hitting a dry spell?  These are questions that run through my head after completing each of her books and I hope I never find an answer.  My wish is that Ms. Sheridan will keep writing until the end of the time. 

This story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, where poverty is the norm and cupboards fully stocked are a rarity.  The town’s main employer is the coal company.  These are hard jobs going into the underbelly of the earth and coming out with only the whites of your eyes visible beneath the black soot.  But for some, this is the only way to make a decent wage to provide food on the table and a roof over your head. 

Tenleigh is a senior in high school and lives with her older sister and mother in a rickety old trailer where  Tenleigh’s bed is the couch.  Tenleigh and her sister work to provide money for necessities and medication for her mother, as her mother is incapable of providing income due to her mental illness.  Her mother lives in the glory days of when she won a beauty pageant – bringing out the sash when the high of being off her medication kicks in.  Tenleigh lacks the stability of a parent providing for the child, in her case it is the other way around, and it wears on her.

I had to wonder, should a seventeen-year-old girl be so tired?  Just tired down to my bones…weary in my very soul?

Kyland is also a senior in high school.  He blends in well with everybody else never wanting to call attention to himself, always keeping his head down and staying out of trouble.  Kyland has it extra rough – not only does he have hunger to battle but he also has loneliess to conquer as he walks into his home every day and greets a mother that will never speak out loud to him again.  Kyland’s dreams for the future include getting out of this town and leaving it all behind. 

From the very first paragraph Ms. Sheridan lets it be known that this is going to be a read that will tug at your heartstrings, want to wrap up each child in your arms and rock them, all while wiping your wet face.

Our eyes met, he flaring briefly and then narrowing, as again, I looked away, my cheeks heating as if I’d just intruded on a deeply personal moment.  And it was.  I should know.  I’d done it myself.  I knew the shame.  But I also knew the achy emptiness of  Monday morning after a long, hungry weekend.  Evidently, Kyland knew it too. 

Tenleigh and Kyland have more in common than just hunger pains.  They are both competing for the coveted scholarship given out by the coal company.  This would be a one-way ticket out of the mountains and into their dreams.   Tenleigh and Kyland forge a friendship following an instance that will forever change the course of their lives.  Before this, they didn’t speak…now they are constantly aware of the other’s presence and searching out companionship when the nights are lonely.  Kyland makes one thing perfectly clear…he is leaving whether he wins that scholarship or not.

“I’m going to leave here, Tenleigh.  Nothing is going to stop me.  Not you, not anything.  Not anyone.  Do you hear me?” 

From about 45% and on my heart was hurting.  It wasn’t a break-your-heart cry, although that would come later, but rather a sympathy cry for what these 2 have endured – especially Kyland.   These two kids have dealt with so much but yet have so little to their name.  They are good kids -- kids that any parent would be proud to have…that is if the parents were capable of feeling a sense of pride because of their children.  Kyland is a strong man and he makes wise decisions and choices.  Even when the choice he makes hurts like a bitch, he knows it’s for the best.

I looked next to me at a sleeping Tenleigh, her beaty soft and vulnerable under the early morning sky and I knew what I had to do.  I knew it was wrong, and I knew it would shatter me to do it.  And I knew that despite all that, I would do it anyway.

I want to keep talking about how wonderful Kyland is, but that would give away too much of the story.  Once you start, you will not be able to set this book down.  Even now after I’ve finished it, my heart still weeps for these children.  Even in the face of adversity they manage to climb out.  Even when it means doing something you don’t want to do…

He stared down at me for several long beats before he rasped, “I do go to hell.  Every day.  For you.”

I’m usually not a fan of high-school love struck kids, but in this case these teenagers were well above their years.  They have life experiences to back their motives and I never once thought about how I was reading about teenagers.  My mind was too caught up in all that they had had to endure in their young lives.   The writing is excellent and I loved how we got to hear from both Kyland and Tenleigh in their points of view.  I do have to mention why I didn’t give this book 5 stars when it really is well deserving of it, but there was one factor that I could not get past and it drove me nuts and I spent a whole lot of time fixating on it while I was reading.  There is a huge incident that changed Kyland’s life but it wasn’t until I neared the end when I was able to finally place it on my mental timeline.  That one little factor shouldn’t be a big deal, but to me who needs things precise and orderly in a book, it did effect my rating.  Perhaps the author has a reason for this, but I am an impatient person and needed this info sooner. 

Life wasn’t easy for these kids in the mountains, but the one thing they kept intact was hope. 

I opened my eyes. “What keeps your fire burning.”

“The hope that life won’t always hurt so badly.  The belief that I’ll get out of here someday – that I won’t be cold or hungry forever.  It keeps me going.  It’s my fire.  It helps me do the things I need to do to survive, and it helps me hate myself less for doing them.”

Oh, Kyland…

Until that moment, I didn’t know my heart could be filled with awe and grief, joy and sorrow, all at the exact same time. 

I felt the same emotions as Tenleigh while reading the book…awe, grief, sorrow and finally ending with joy.

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