Today I have a super fun post highlighting my friend Kim Oclon’s debut MAN UP. Not only do I have a review and giveaway of the book, but I’m also featuring top ten addictions lists from both Kim AND David, the MC of her book (I think lists from characters’ perspectives are so interesting!). Read on to find out more!!
Man Up by Kim Oclon
Published by Trism Books on 4/22/20
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Source: Purchased, The Publisher
Cover Artist: Erica Weisz
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Bullying and some violence)
With David’s final baseball season starting and college plans still up on the air, he begins senior year on edge. But when his baseball coach, Coach Kelly, wants to know if David is gay, he is left speechless. David knows the answer to the question but was hoping to get through his final year without anyone noticing the hallway glances at Tyler, a star on the boy’s track team, or their rides home together each day. In a school where his friends are turning their backs on him, he finds a new set of allies, that he didn’t know roamed the high school halls. Although he was forced out of the closet before he thought he was ready, what happens next is up to him. David can either cower in the corners or man up.
This LGBT story highlights the importance of taking control of your own destiny and your own narrative. David is going into his senior year feeling uncertain about his future—he needs a scholarship in order to be able to afford college, and baseball is his best chance for that. He’s been one of the star players on his team since sophomore year. But when a teammate goes to the coach with the accusation that David is gay, he has to decide how to handle it. Should he ignore it, deny it or admit the truth? He knows pro sports are starting to be more accepting of LGBT players, but he has doubts about his hometown high school teammates—after all, the guy who basically outed him to the coach has made his opinion about sharing a locker room with someone who’s gay more than plain. And the results aren’t pretty.
It was easy to connect to David and to understand why he struggled to come out to his teammates. Toxic masculinity was often on display in the weight room and the locker room, and you couldn’t blame David for fearing that it would rear its ugly head if he ever told people the truth about his sexuality. It was much easier to live two separate lives—one with his boyfriend, and one with his baseball team—and hope that maybe college would be different. I felt for David, especially in his struggle to decide whether or not to tell his best friend. His fear that the kid he’d known all his life would suddenly see him differently was palpable.
I fell in love with Tyler, David’s boyfriend, who was incredibly supportive of David but also encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone. Tyler wanted to help David, but he also wanted to respect his boyfriend’s feelings and decisions, which I appreciated. Some of the chapters of the book were from Tyler’s POV, so we got the chance to understand his opinions and motivations. I was definitely rooting for David and Tyler to get a happy ending!
David’s journey to finding his own strength and voice was compelling, but he also learned sometimes you have to deal with curveballs that are thrown your way—you may not be able to control what others think or whether or not you’ll get that specific scholarship you were hoping for. But you can choose whether you’ll let those curveballs passively strike you out or if you’ll step up to the plate!
***Disclosure: This book was written by a friend, so I’m not even pretending to be 100% unbiased. I received an ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (though I bought my own paperback as well and read that copy for this review). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Kim Oclon is a mother, creative writing teacher and co-founder of her school’s first gay-straight alliance. She combines her passion for storytelling and people in her writing. Soon to be released is Man Up, a story of coming out and coming up against the backdrop of high school sports.
Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream
When I was first asked to think about my addictions, this was the first thing I thought of, if that tells you anything. If the scoop contains an extra thick peanut butter ribbon, that is GOLD.
I first saw this amazing, underrated cinematic masterpiece in seventh grade. I couldn’t wait to record it off the Disney Channel. My friend made me a cassette tape of her copy of the soundtrack. And then I FINALLY got the chance to see the Broadway production (TWICE) and see the filmed Broadway production in the movie theater. You get the idea. It’s ridiculous. I’m a fansie and proud of it. Never fear, Brooklyn is here!
Good Will Hunting
This movie came out when I was in high school. It was the first time I fully realized that a person actually wrote the words in a movie. I saw it in the theater three times, bought the soundtrack, the screenplay, and the movie poster. After moving with me to seven places, the poster now hangs in my office!
I discovered the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators exactly six years ago when I was about a third of the way through the first draft for MAN UP. I met my agent, my editor, and some amazing friends through this group. I love being a co-representative for one of the networks in Illinois.
(Note from Nicole: Kim’s the co-rep with ME, and it’s an awesome group of people—couldn’t agree more about SCBWI!)
Bill Konigsberg’s books
Bill Kongisberg is probably my favorite YA author. I love the humor in each of his books, the realistic characters, and how he tackles a common theme like identity but makes it fresh and brand new. It’s not very often you can say the sequel or companion to a book is better than the original. OPENLY STRAIGHT was amazing. HONESTLY BEN surpassed it. Loved THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH.
The Things They Carried
I (unwillingly) read this book for the first time as part of a creative writing assignment in high school. After reading it, I KNEW I was reading something special. Just hearing the title makes me swoon, ask any of the teachers I used to work with.
This is Us
I don’t have a streaming service or cable so I’m not up on that many TV shows. Luckily, NBC’s website allows you to watch the episodes online whenever you want. After finding out O’Brien was going to be a consultant for the Vietnam episodes, my addiction status was elevated.
Frank is a musician from London. My brother-in-law introduced me to his music almost ten years ago. His 2018 album was called BE MORE KIND and the one before that was POSITIVE SONGS FOR NEGATIVE PEOPLE. The refrain from my favorite song, “Get Better,” says “we can get better because we’re not dead yet.”
My Novel in a Year Classmates
Through the magic of Story Studio, a writing community that offers classes in Chicago, I met twelve writers in January of 2018. We met once a month for a year in Story Studio’s Novel in a Year class. We meshed in a way I couldn’t have imagined, and we still meet monthly to workshop pages and support one another. We even did a DIY retreat this past February. We did a lot of writing and ate a lot of snacks.
I don’t think I’m addicted (maybe), but I love it first thing in the morning and occasionally in the afternoon.
David (the book’s MC)’s Addictions
David has been playing baseball for over ten years and has loved it ever since. He made the varsity team as a sophomore and is the fastest player on the team. I’ll just leave it at that, as most of his addictions involve baseball in some way, shape, or form.
The White Sox
David has been a lifelong fan, thanks to his dad. His earliest baseball memory is trying to stay up for all fourteen innings of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. (He didn’t make it). He checks stats, speculates trades, and watches every game he possibly can.
Spring training for the major leaguers means preseason workouts are starting up for David as well. It’s when everything is new and everyone has a chance to do something great. Not all the games are on TV or online, but David tries to catch all these games too.
David and his best friend, Mike, go to the batting cages a lot during the off season. Plus, if you can’t play ball outside because it’s raining, you have a backup plan! No need to be all serious all the time while in the cages. Did you know you can adjust the height and speed of the ball without the batter knowing it? It makes for a good time.
David’s favorite baseball movies: The Sandlot, Field of Dreams, and Bad News Bears (the original). He’d like Rookie of the Year more if the kid didn’t play for the Cubs.
Peanut butter waffle sandwiches
David’s go-to breakfast.
White Sox Hoodies
David’s go-to attire every morning in cold weather.
Umping Little League games
Getting paid to do something related to baseball is an awesome way to make some money. Making enough money to buy a (crappy) car is even better. Without that big brown boat of a car, David might have never met Tyler.
Of course, David is addicted to his boyfriend. He’s mainly addicted to giving him a ride home after school. In David’s crappy car, they are in their own little world where no one can bother them. The kiss they share when David drops Tyler off is an added bonus.
No, David is not an artist and can’t go far beyond stick figures. But, he and Tyler have this class together so that makes art his new favorite subject.
I’m offering one winner a signed, finished paperback of MAN UP (US Only) – Can be personalized!