Tuesday, March 1, 2016

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf // Love in a Small Town (with song lyrics)

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf
ARC via Netgalley
Published April 1, 2016 // Albert Whitman
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads // Amazon


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. 

OOOOhh my goodness, y’all. This book was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Kaycee lives in Sunshine, a little town filled with some majorly conservative folks. This girl, she’s tried to like guys; she’s kissed them and been left by them and in general she’s fine with that. As long as she pretends her little secret isn’t actually real she’s able to deal with, well, everything. And that’s what she’s doing until the new girl, Bren, rolls into town with her 6’ figure, tales from her world travels, and her eyes that boldly stare back at Kaycee. Having never encountered another like her Kaycee finds herself torn between embracing her sexuality and living the life she’s comfortable, but not really happy with.

I put the book down quite a few times because, oh my sweet goodness, things happen. Do they ever happen. And it makes me smile and laugh and break my heart. The minor characters (like the school librarian and the surprisingly nice…) help hold this story together.

I’ve created a short little playlist of song that I think go with the book along with the specific lyric that made me thing of the song in particular.

Everlong // Foo Fighters
“And I wonder / When I sing along with you / If anything could ever feel this real forever”

SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is Kaycee’s self-embracing story. She doesn’t know what she wants other than the idea that she wants to be accepted. Bu her mother, by her best friend, by the people she calls her family, and by Bren. She has to learn to accept herself, however.

Coffins // Misterwives
“You said you’d stand even if this would all fall”

In the beginning of Bren and Kaycee’s hush hush relationship, Bren (who is the most understanding girl on the plant, I love her) come to realize that Kaycee’s mom doesn’t know that her daughter is into girls. Instead of wanting her to run and tell her and shout their relationship to the world, she does the sweetest thing. She promises they’ll get through it together. This is where I fall for her a little bit. In a few books where a character is coming out, the love interest is angered at having to keep their relationship out of the public eye. Bren is the opposite, I mean, yes, she wants the world to know that Kaycee is hers but she also understands that this is hard for Kaycee. She lets her go at her pace.

Falling Apart // Papa Roach
“I refuse to believe the apocalypse inside of me/ I can’t even trust myself”

This song reminds me of Kaycee’s struggle with her mother’s, and her own, faith and how God viewed her regarding who she can’t help but feel attracted to.  

The Fighter // In This Moment
“I will fall and rise above / And in your hate I find love”

In this ultra-conservative southern town, our main girl feels like the world is against her. Or at least how she loves. I think the rest of this lyric is mighty self-explanatory.

What’s amazing about SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is that these are actions that I could be myself making, and reactions I could see myself mirrored in. It may not be the same situation, but when you’re trying to figure yourself out it’s pretty much impossible to not make any mistakes. I love how real the characters are.

Little Toy Guns // Carrie Underwood
“I wish words were like little toy guns / No sting”

You know that saying “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Yeah, that saying is a complete lie. Words hurt, and it’s psychological damage that we don’t see even if it there for the viewing.

And goodness high-schoolers are mmmeeeeean.

Y'all need to go get yourselves a copy. Do songs pop into your head when you're reading? 


  1. Ah, this sounds great - and it's always wonderful to have more diverse books on one's radar! Will definitely keep my eye out for it. (Songs never pop into my head when I'm reading, but sometimes I'll have background music on when I do, and forever after that, when I hear the song, I'll associate it with the book!)

    1. This is SUCH a good book. I can't read with background music--I'm more focused on the music than the books when I do that!