(Review) South of Sunshine

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Pages: 272 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 2.5/3 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love? And what will she risk for acceptance?

In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.

Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.

My Review: 
This book was hard for me to get through. 

I liked the premise of it, and I know it's a difficult subject to tackle sometimes, but part of me feels like it was too much in one book. 

The book starts off with Kaycee breaking up with a boy and not soon after that we learn that Kaycee only dates boys because she's secretly into girls. She's never dated a girl before because it's pretty much taboo in her small, close-minded Tennessee town. Her best friend Van is out, though, and has been blessed with supportive parents that Kaycee doesn't have. 

When Bren shows up it's like a lightbulb goes off in Kaycee's chest or brain or...forgive me, my brain is fuzzy, but she feels something. 

The connection with Bren is kind of quick, which makes sense for a YA novel. Kaycee constantly second guesses herself in her new found relationship and then eventually just gives in and, in the process, lets go of pretty much anything else. 

We spend a lot of time in Kaycee's head and I found her kind of annoying. She's a selfish teenage girl who doesn't really care about anyone except herself. I know that she's testing the waters and finding out who she is, but I felt like she could have been better. At some points it was like she didn't even care about Bren, considering the way she tried to hide their relationship. 

The book follows a pretty familiar formula: character messes up, character does something huge to fix it, happy ending. 

I liked the supporting characters enough to be happy with the ending. Sarabeth and Van are good friends to Kaycee, even though she kind of treats them like crap. They pull together at the end to stand up for their friend(s) and to fight the bigotry in the town. I know that's mainly what the book was about, and I got it. Some of the language was hard to get through. It's not (hopefully) stuff that you read or hear everyday, but understandable in this context, I suppose. 

I wish we would have seen more growth with Kaycee, like we did with her mother. There was a point with the two of that made me tear up, but was quickly lost again at the close-mindedness.  

The underlying message of this book was a good one and I hope it gets across when others read it. 

Thanks to Edleweiss and AW Teen for the ARC.