ARC review: DROPKICKromance by Cyrus Parker

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I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

Summary: A collection of autobiographical poetry about healing and learning to love again from professional-wrestler-turned-poet, Cyrus Parker.

The first half of DROPKICKromance focuses on a toxic, long-distance relationship the author was involved in for several years, while the second half focuses on his current relationship with poet Amanda Lovelace. Ultimately, the collection tells about a profound journey of healing.

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Release date: March 6th 2018

TW: abuse by a partner

★★★★✩

This is a poetry debut I was highly anticipating and I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t really know how to rate and especially how to review modern poetry other than by gut feeling, and this collection/memoir was so honest and raw that I couldn’t help but empathize with the author and what he went through. No matter who you are or what medium you use, it takes courage to open up as much as he did, especially when it comes to the first part of the collection.

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The story begins while the author is in an abusive relationship with a woman and through his poems he describes all the phases they went through and how he was constantly made to feel like he was not enough and he still hoped that everything would fix itself.

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He clang to the happy moments and the promises that this woman made, he kept forgiving her for the things she did and putting up a strong facade for the rest of the world while he worked as a pro wrestler.

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I also think at least part of the relationship (if not all) happened long-distance, and a few poems also touch on that aspect.

After many years he finally managed to leave her for good, and as with all relationships ending his world was completely changed, plus he came to fully realize how much this woman had abused him and his feelings. At some point during this fase, he met the now-poetess Amanda Lovelace and they fell in love, and the rest of the collection is about the initial part of their relationship.

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Reading this second part was cathartic because although it’s by no means says that “love fixes everything”, it does describe that, through a healthy relationship, they both managed to face their demons, together or on their own, but always supporting each other and being open about everything.

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I don’t really want to judge the style of this kinds of poems because I feel like it’s not my place, besides I think they manage to get to the point and they’re powerful that way and more accessible to anyone. I did find that a few were a little too simple, but overall it was a great and honest collection.

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Review: How to Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton

I was sent this book as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★★ 

(maybe more like 4,5 stars)

Goodreads synopsis:

A funny, sad and serious memoir, ‘How to Be Happy’ is David Burton’s story of his turbulent life at high school and beyond. Feeling out of place and convinced that he is not normal, David has a rocky start. He longs to have a girlfriend, but his first ‘date’ is a disaster. There’s the catastrophe of the school swimming carnival – David is not sporty – and friendships that take devastating turns. Then he finds some solace in drama classes with the creation of ‘Crazy Dave’, and he builds a life where everything is fine. But everything is not fine.

And, at the centre of it all, trying desperately to work it all out, is the real David.

‘How to Be Happy’ tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.

First off, let me start by saying that if this had been fiction instead of a memoir, probably my rating and my feelings towards this would be slightly different. But because the events in this are real, I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge or even comment on the author’s actions and thoughts, especially when he was a teen.

I really liked the way this was written. It was very straightforward and easy to read, even when the themes it featured were all but light and easy.
I’m not the best person to write a complete list of trigger warnings for this, but I feel like if one’s going to read this, it should be clear that self harm and suicidal thoughts/attempts are mentioned in this book.

The reason why this is not a full 5 stars for me is that the title might be a bit misleading. I never expected this to be a guide on how to be happy, but I feel like, given the title, the part that actually talked about happiness (or not) should have been slightly longer. Instead, it felt a little bit rushed, but it was certainly informative and it made for a good epilogue and offered valid pieces of advice.

Something that could bother someone is the lack of a definite label on the author’s sexuality. I don’t know if he now has found a label he can identify with, but all attempts of labelling himself in the book resulted in actually mislabelling. By the end of the book, he didn’t mention any sexuality-related terms anymore, and I feel like this could be confusing for someone reading this and expecting to find a set definition of the author/character’s sexuality. I understand if that’s how others feel, but as someone who believes that sexuality is (or can be, for some people) fluid, it actually felt refreshing to me to see how one can decide not to stick to any set rule or label if they feel like those don’t apply for them.

Keeping everything I said in mind, I’d certain recommend reading this book. It might surprise you just as much as it surprised me.