Ball Caps and Khakis, by Jo Ramsey
Series: Deep Secrets and Hope, Book 6 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press (Dreamspinner Press)
Release Date: February 25, 2015
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Read First: This is a novel that deals with the aftermath of rape from the rapist’s point of view, and includes references to a situation where a young man had sex with young women who did not outright consent, and later revealed that they had been too scared to say no. A quote from the first chapter explains the situation: “He was dating each of the girls and assumed they wanted to have sex with him because they didn’t say no. He’d told me he never realized not saying no wasn’t the same as saying yes.”
Man-Shik “Manny” Park, grandson of strict Korean immigrants, is trying to protect his friend Jim Frankel from bullies who don’t think Jim should be allowed to live in Ludington, Michigan, let alone have any friends. Manny is determined to stand by Jim, even if Jim isn’t willing to defend himself.
But Jim’s problems aren’t the only ones facing Manny. Against his parents’ wishes, Manny yearns to be an artist. He’s also more attracted to guys than girls, and he’s asexual. Only Jim knows these secrets, and Manny knows a few of Jim’s too.
Bonded by their shared confidences, Manny supports Jim after he’s accused of sending explicit Facebook messages to middle school girls, including Manny’s sister. While Manny sets out to prove Jim’s innocence, things go from bad to worse. Soon after the incident, Manny and Jim receive intimidating messages, and Jim is put in danger. To help his friend, Manny risks everything to try to learn who’s behind the threats and why they want to destroy Jim’s life.
Coming of Age
TW: Sexual Harassment
This is a YA novel following two boys from opposite walks of life, and it deals with some extremely difficult issues. Rape, consent, sexual harassment, and bullying all feature heavily into the plot. I love that Jo doesn’t shy away from what Jim did, and doesn’t let anyone gloss over it… not even Manny, who is Jim’s staunchest defender and only friend. And I really loved reading the emotional connection between them, the way they trust each other as friends.
While the information regarding Jim’s crime was spot-on, and I was impressed to read it in a YA novel, I do think it read almost like a textbook… or a tumblr post. Instead of the information coming in the characters’ voices, it often read as an information dump about what consent means.
I was also disappointed by the lack of plot revolving around Manny, who too-often felt like a stereotype instead of a complex character. This was definitely Jim’s novel, even though it’s from Manny’s POV*, and the bits and pieces of Manny that we see are always overshadowed by his involvement in Jim’s life. It was extremely refreshing to read a novel with an asexual character that’s not a romance, however! But Manny’s asexuality often felt like an add-on or an after-thought, because the focus was more on Jim’s past and present than on Manny’s life.
* Jim is a central thread in the Deep Secrets and Hope series, and Book 5 is actually a prequel to this one from his POV.
This is a novel that takes on some weighty issues, and handles them with sensitivity and care. I think it’s a very important novel to show what consent means, and to show how public perception of a crime can grow and turn dangerous. But I wish there had been more focus on the characters, instead of on the issues surrounding them.
Jo is a new author for me, but I found her writing style extremely enjoyable. She has written several other books for young adults, all of which seem to feature LGBT youth!
You can find Jo on her website (http://joramsey.com/) where she blogs and vlogs, and on various social media sites.
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.