“Real! She tossed the word around in her mind. She was ready to be real, to feel real.”
YA Contemporary is one of my all-time favorite genres. When I was contacted by Lora Richardson to read Outspoken in exchange for a review, I knew that I wanted to see what a new writer in the genre could do with it. Although my rating is 3 stars (though it’s really more like 3.5), I enjoyed a lot about it and wish I could give it a higher rating.
Penny Beck says yes a lot, no matter how much she wants to say no. Meaning, she kind of just does what everyone else wants her to do and doesn’t speak up. To get away from saying yes all the time, Penny decides to take a cross country trip to visit her grandfather. I absolutely loved that idea. I liked that instead of just sending Penny somewhere completely alone, Richardson sent her somewhere where she could deal with her own personal struggles and also be near someone who she could trust. She’s also there to be there for him, but she doesn’t move into his house and she is completely self-sufficient, getting an apartment and a job. That has to be a big feat for someone used to letting other people run her life. Personally, I think that Penny deserves a round of applause for taking charge so quickly.
Something that surprised me about the book was the amount of characters! I expected it to be mostly Penny, her grandfather, and Archer. Oh, was I wrong. There’s Gwen, Marissa, Irene, Steph, Vera. There are more characters than even that, but it was a great surprise. I typically don’t find books in this genre that focus on more than just the main character and their love interest. I definitely wasn’t expecting a large cast of characters, but the friendships ended up being my favorite part of the book. My favorites were Gwen, Steph, and Vera. Learning more about them would have been awesome.
And that brings me to the romance in the book. I really liked Archer, and I liked his and Penny’s relationship and how it developed, but their feelings for one another came quick for me. It didn’t take away from the book, though. Even if it felt a little rushed at times, I think that the set up of the book was great. There were so many scenes of Penny without him and with other people, so I like that the book doesn’t revolve around the romance. Penny had her time to deal with her personal feelings, for Archer and about other things, and become friends with others.
There are several issues in this book that I felt were handled extremely well. Penny’s grandfather, Cal, is dealing with dementia and, although I only know a bit about it from family members when I was younger, I do think that I learned a bit about the episodes and it was handled with a lot of respect toward the sufferer. I’m glad that this was a big part of the book. Another serious topic discussed in the book is rape. It is mentioned a few times outright and discussed at length with the victim. But I was relieved to read no blame thrown toward them and that they were given the time to express their own feelings about it. A few other topics explored throughout the book are postpartum depression, drugs, and blindness. There was a lot going on in the book when you take all of that into account, but I think that it added a lot to it. That is part of life and I appreciate when a book doesn’t gloss over issues and, as it is a young adult novel, it’s important to write about serious issues.
Overall, Lora Richardson is a talented author. She writes characters really well and I love that there were so many of them in this book. For the first half or so of the book, I was highlighting lines in my Kindle almost every other page. The second half of the book began to lose my interest, though I did want to know what was going to happen with Penny, Cal, and Archer. My main problems with the book was that, because there were so many characters, it felt that not everyone had the same or almost the same amount of development. Steph and Gregory were one of my favorite subplots and I wanted more of them. Even so, I’m so glad that Lora Richardson contacted me about reading this book, and I would love to read whatever she publishes next. I would highly recommend this novel to someone who is between the ages of 14-20. I’m quite a bit older than that, so maybe that’s part of the reason it didn’t blow me away, but I do think that it could help some teens and young adults to see a character taking their life into their own hands.
More information about Outspoken can be found on Goodreads.