Living Truth in Candidly Cline


Candidly Cline

By Kathryn Ormsbee

Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Middle Grade Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: No

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Cline knows what she wants. She wants to be a singer/songwriter, like the great ladies of the country genre. When an opportunity to take a class for young people who want the same thing she does arises, Cline is willing to do whatever it takes to take it. Even if it means lying to her mother. And her best friend. And taking a job at a church she doesn’t go to. But things aren’t always so simple, and Cline’s life is quickly becoming more complicated. Her grandmother’s health is deteriorating; one of Cline’s closest friends isn’t speaking to her; and, oh yeah, she has her first crush. On a girl in her class. With everything going on, can Cline find space to be her authentic self?

A Little Bit of a Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that this was an ARC in no way changes my review or how I felt about the book.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Middle Grade is such a fun genre. Because children are so open to new things, it tends to be a sandbox for all kinds of fun, interesting, and hopeful stories that you don’t get in Adult Fiction and even sometimes in the Young Adult Fiction genres.

Imagine a story of a young woman who wants to be a country singer in adult fiction. I’m sure it would be something of a downer, with the character having lots of crises, most of them existential. The book would leave the reader wondering about the price of pain. That story probably exists, but it isn’t Candidly Cline. Does Cline have moral dilemmas? Certainly. Does she have existential crises? Sure, a bit. But the story  at its core is one about the freedom we find when we are able to be our truest selves, and how those selves can experience amazing things in life.

Cline’s life is far from perfect. Her mother works long hours, leaving Cline alone with her grandmother more often than not. Not that Cline really minds, because her grandmother, unlike her mother, believes in Cline’s dreams of becoming the next great woman country singer. But her grandmother’s memory is deteriorating rapidly, leaving home on shaky legs. Meanwhile, her best friend, Hollie, is falling in love with boys and church, two things Cline doesn’t understand. Cline isn’t sure how Hollie will react if she found out Cline likes girls, not boys.

Her only solidity in her life is the songwriting class she’s going to behind her mother’s back. There she meets another young woman named Slyvie who will change everything for Cline. When everything is falling apart, there is always music and Slyvie. The class gives her new-found confidence to make changes. But sometimes, you take a chance and get hurt. 

Throughout the course of this book, Cline takes a whole lot of risks. From sneaking out every Monday night to drive into another city, to telling her best friend her truth, to singing a song she wrote in front of people. These risks don’t always result in happiness. Hollie stops talking to Cline after she comes out, her grandmother wanders out when Cline is supposed to be with her, and her mother grounds her for lying.

But despite the negative consequences, there is so much reward, because Cline isn’t risking these things for the sake of being risky. She is learning her own truth, coming into her own, and discovering what she’s willing to take a chance on. Telling others our truths, candidly, is always brave, though it shouldn’t be. Cline shows bravery in every truth she tells.

Ultimately, Candidly Cline is the kind of story that is perfect for Middle Grade Literature. What better age to teach young people how important it is to live their truth? While this book might be marketed at children, it is certainly one that we could all use.

Candidly Cline is out this November, so why not preorder it from your favorite indie bookstore? May I suggest Dog Eared Books, a queer owned bookstore?

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Candidly Cline? Leave a comment telling me your favorite woman country singer. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.

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