Cover Image: Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution

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Member Reviews

Kacen Callender is one of my favorite YA authors. His tender, beautiful, emotional first-person narratives, poetic language, and sometimes magical blend of the real and imagined world are what continually draw me to their titles - Felix Ever After and King and the Dragonflies broke my heart and built them back up again. I know that Callender has had a fraught relationship with social media, and all their complex feelings are reflected in their new book Lark and Kasim Start a Revolution. Lark is a nonbinary teen with a large Twitter following—something they feel they have to do in order to get the attention of literary agents and publishers. Their dream is to be a published author, and we see their journey and missteps unfold through their eyes. We also see them learn to move on from their close friendship with Kasim, a friend with whom they had a falling out. Lark and Kasim have never quite put the pieces of themselves back together after their fight, and we see each struggling with the society trauma of being trans teens of color. While they're both in the same after school and summer writing program, they have different ideas of what it means to make it. For Lark, becoming a published author is the only way to authenticity, while Kasim is happy to be himself and sit in his words, and let those he's closest to enjoy and believe in them. 

I appreciated some of what I perceived as a self-insert here—the pressure to be a certain person online, to be who others think you should be, all in the name of following your dream, and the damage done in pursuing it. However, the titular "revolution" never came for me. I'm not quite sure what it was—Lark and Kasim finally figuring it out? (And like, are they polyamorous? Are they friends? Lovers? More?) Lark realizing they don't need to be anybody but themselves to be a writer? Or is it that we don't need social media to validate us as human beings? The message got muddled for me in the drama of Lark and Kasim's various intertwined relationships. This one missed the mark for me a bit, which is disappointing. I never really latched onto either Lark or Kasim's character, and they ended up each annoying me for different reasons with their unnecessary complexity throughout the book. 

While I hope that Callender continues to reflect the lives of LGBTQ+ teenagers in their tender and accurate way, I just hope the next book has more sympathetic, complex characters that we got in Lark and Kasim.
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4.5 stars
A captivating, reflective and emotional story about learning to love yourself and owning up to your mistakes.

Defaulting to people-pleasing to ensure their safety, hiding their feelings and avoiding conflict, Lark - a non-binary, Black, trans and neurodivergent teen - remains isolated and misunderstood by most. But once a Twitter post on Lark's account (which they didn't write) goes viral, it sets off a chain of events that will bring about changes they desperately need in their life.

Lark and Kasim's story gripped me from the start. The main characters felt real and truly relatable, and I loved the journey Lark went through to find courage, start creating boundaries and learn to love themselves. From racism, ableism, mental health issues, healing from trauma, bullying, taking accountability for your mistakes, systemic oppression, power of introverts and many more, this novel was powerful, emotional and sometimes difficult to read. The only issues I had with it is that the discussions felt repetitive and preachy sometimes and some reactions were quite exaggerated in my opinion. Apart from that, I resonated with this story and recommend it to anyone who ever felt discriminated against.
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Lark's voice is very vibrant throughout these pages. Their voice is young and fresh, naive at times, but so loving and open. I really enjoyed listening in on their thought process, especially as they navigate these modern teenage years. I finally feel removed enough from early High School for Lark's experience to be completely different from mine. I loved how much queerness was happening in these pages. I loved hearing about how COVID was affecting their experience. I loved that there was an emphasis on reading and writing. 
At times, Lark's voice did feel a little whiney, and I had a hard time connecting to their self-doubt. I know this is a personal experience, as I have been wanting to move past insecure characters for a long time, and I know many people will be able to relate. 
I particularly loved how many nonbinary characters there were, particularly nonbinary people of color. I feel these voices are underrepresented in literature and media as a whole, which was a theme throughout the book as Lark navigates their relationship on social media. 
In many ways, the trajectory of this book was set up in a very traditional style, with an overarching message that the characters are trying to convey through various scenarios in which they play out their mistakes and finally arrive at the foregone conclusion. I didn't hate this very classic exposition juxtaposed with how much social modernity also filled the pages, although at times it did feel a little incongruent. 
Overall, the book was easy to read and very beautiful. I find myself looking forward to reading more from Callender.
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This book really hits hard and is one that I think teens (and adults!) can relate to and learn from. I'll be honest, most of this book was painful for me -- it was painful to watch the characters make mistakes and it was painful to see the bullying, both in person and online, that Lark experiences (Twitter *shudders*). But this pain is relatable because we've all been there, which is what Lark and their friends and classmates learn - we're all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need to learn and grow and take accountability. While the plot focuses on Lark's Twitter interactions, writing classes, and friend drama, there's also great conversations about the intersections of race, sexuality, gender, neurodiversity, as well as examinations of mental health and trauma. I really love that all of the characters are Black, and most of the teens are queer and many are non-binary and trans. This book is both timely and important and I'm so glad it exists!
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This was a little chaotic for me. I had trouble connecting with and not getting irritated by some of the characters. And ultimately felt kind of exhausted by them. 

However, I’m not the target audience for this book and I think it’s important and people should read it. I loved the representation and that really drives the story. There’s not a lot of plot here but I kept reading because of the diverse world. I enjoyed the polyamorous romance. 

Ultimately, the author is a little heavy handed in speaking through the characters and I found myself just kind of going through the motions here. I think teens, queer teens and neurodivergent readers will appreciate the representation and the way the narrative sines together.
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This YA novel covered a lot of hot button issues of the current nascent decade: the experience of the pandemic, racism and police brutality, lgbtqia identities, trans rights, and polyamory, among others. It was set in a true to life Philadelphia, which was delightful. I think you'd already need to have well established knowledge and ideas of the issues in the novel, and maybe to have had similar experiences and feelings to the main characters to really vibe with it; it wasn't an introductory or explanatory kind of text. I know the right audience will love it. I don't doubt it could be a new generation's The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
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4.25 Stars

Thank you to Amulet Books and Netgalley for an earc of this one!

Lark is trying to get her twitter followers up so they can sell a book, and they miss their best friend and wish that they didn't always fight with Kasim now. But when he accidentally posts a status about unrequited love to Lark's twitter instead of his own, the post goes viral and Lark decides to lie and say it was their story. The lie spirals and things don't turn out the way they hoped.

This was so good! I love Kacen Callender so much.  This is super introspective and the writing style was really different from usual YA contemporaries. I think it really worked, especially as coming from Lark's pov and the way they described their own writing. Lark is a super interesting character and I really loved the way they saw and explained the world. I definitely think this different writing style worked within its context.

Okay I love Kasim. He is such a good side character/love interest and I really liked the way he acted as a foil for Lark. And Sable was amazing!

There is so much love for the societal "other" in this book. Queerness and Blackness and Neurodivergence. So good!
Content Warnings
Graphic: Bullying and Toxic relationship

Moderate: Mental illness, Gaslighting, Panic attacks/disorders, and Racism

Minor: Suicidal thoughts
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I was so excited to read this book! I loved Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender and was hoping that this book would have a similar writing style. While there were many things that I loved about this book (the queer, poly, trans and nonbinary, and neurodivergent representation), I was disappointed by the majority of the story. I found Lark, the narrator, very hard to connect to because their very extensive monologues were incredibly exhausting to read. I felt emotionally drained after each chapter because of the choices that Lark made, which meant that it took me two months to finish this book. I was not a fan of Birdie’s character, and I truly believe the story would have flowed better without them; I was never sure what their purpose was as a character. The main conflict also felt very unrelatable– I felt as though my relationship with social media prevented me from being able to find meaning within the conflict, which is centered all around social media. All of that being said: I think this is a great book for educators to have in their classroom libraries because I do think that many younger readers will see themselves represented in these pages. There was a nice best friends to enemies to lovers plot line, and again, I really appreciated all of the representation that this book offered!
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What a great, very timely novel from an author I already adore. I loved the relationship of the characters and all of the things they went through together to become stronger.
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This book is going to be exactly the right book at the right time for a young, queer, Black reader (and hopefully many of those readers as well as other young readers who are allies.) Reading it as an older straight, cisgender adult, I was underwhelmed. But this book wasn't written for me. I appreciate what Callender did in calling out Goodreads reviews as part of the book because I feel like whatever I write in my review, it will never be adequate
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Lark and Kasim Start a Revolution by Karen Callender is a book I was totally excited for. I fell in love with Felix Ever After and have since said I will read anything they write. This story follows Lark, a neurodivergent nonbinary teen that is looking to grow their twitter account in order to seek representation for a book that they are writing. When their on again/off again friend, Kasim accidentally posts to Lark's twitter account, it blows up with thousands of more followers and a slew more personal problems. But it's all about social media and the followers you have, right?

Initially, I really enjoyed the representation all around in this book. The BIPOC and variety of queer characters is exactly what we need to see in more books, especially YA where we have a lot of kids questioning their identity and just trying to figure out who they are and to be accepted. The story itself seemed a bit messy between Lark, Kasim, their friends at the community center and their family. But was this intentional? Because the lives of teens are messy and flawed and the story definitely reflected that. Another plus was the way life was represented in post pandemic America. It was realistic and relatable. 

With the combination of representation, social media and relevant times, I think this book will sit well with the age group it is intended for. I just felt it lacked more depth and a strong focus for me. Plus, Lark wasn't my favorite character. Since this story is told completely from their POV, I feel like I got to know them well and would've liked for a more honest and open character. But they did grow and they do figure out themselves throughout. I think that was one reason we had Birdie there too. They were like the voice of reason (that Lark didn't always listen to).

Overall, this was an okay story that had the potential to be great. I would've liked it to be more cohesive, but the messy lives of teens was done well along with the variety of representation. Even if this wasn't my favorite, I'm excited to see what Karen Callender will write next.
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Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution is a young adult literary fiction with romance elements. One of the things I appreciated about this book as a writer is the reality of trying to obtain representation from a literary agent while trying to navigate through social situations. There's a push-pull romance between Lark and their former best friend Kasim, who is trying to sort out their feelings for Lark and their underlying depression after so much loss. While Lark and Kasim make many mistakes in conducting their thoughts and feelings through miscommunication, they ultimately find their way back to each other. The essential theme of the story is to be true to yourself and your feelings, and not be pressured by society to do things that don't make you comfortable. I was happy that everyone found their happily ever after in the end as expected in a Romance.
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I feel so conflicted about this book! While I believe that young people can have mature, respectful, deep and well articulated conversations, the dialogue, which was the driving force of the book, felt forced or false or otherwise fell flat often. If the characters had been aged up to millennials - lot of the references seem more suited to that generation - perhaps it would have been a bit more believable. That being said, I loved seeing a black queer non-binary newly poly human winning - healed a little piece of my black queer non-binary heart. I loved Felix Ever After to pieces and I think both of these novels could’ve used tighter editing to get more concisely at the heart of it all.
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All Lark Winters wants is to be a writer. They know that part of that process is building a social media presence, so that's what they've been working on. After all, if they've got a big enough following, agents and publishers will have to pay attention, right? At least, that's what they thought at first.

Until Lark's ex-best friend, Kasim accidentally posts a Twitter thread about unrequited love on Lark's account. And it goes viarl. To protect Kasim, Lark takes the blame. But as Lark's social media stats start to explore, they realize that living a lie isn't as easy as they thought. Lark tries to be the person everyone thinks they are, but the costs of being perfect are high. Maybe, it might be better just to come clean.'

Thanks to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids for an advanced copy of Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution to review! Kacen Callender is a favorite author of mine, so I'm always excited to see what they come up with. You're always sure to get a book with great characters and a strong message, and this book was no different!

While this might not be my favorite of Callender's books (Felix Ever After still holds that spot), there's so much to love about this book. Particularly, Lark's own struggles getting publishing and having an "authentic" teen voice. More often than not, the voice is what separates YA from adult books to me, and Lark is a literal teeanger trying to publish a book. But time and time again, they are rejected for being "too teen" or "not Black enough." Their process getting publishing triggers a kind of identity crisis for them, and I imagine it reflects Callender's own struggles getting published.

I can just imagine the Goodreads reviews now that say that Lark isn't the most likeable character at the beginning, but that's 100% the point of the story. It's about their journey realizing some of the stuff they were doing was problematic, and figuring out how to unlearn those things. Let teenagers just be teenagers in YA without criticizing the way they think. I'll say it again: THEY ARE TEENAGERS.

Anyway, the main reason this isn't getting a full 5 stars from me is because I wanted so much more of the relationship between Lark and Kasim. It's the title of the book, and yet not a whole lot of the book is dedicated to the two of them. They actually have very few scenes together. Their dynamic was one of the most interesting in the book, and I just wish we got to see more of that.

All in all, if you love introspective, character driven stories with a side of social media commentary, this is definitely the book for you!
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution follows nonbinary neurodivergent teen Lark, an aspiring author who is working hard to build their social media following in the hopes that a platform will help their writing career. When their former best friend Kasim accidentally posts to Lark's twitter about his secret crush, Lark is thrown headfirst into Twitter fame. To protect Kasim, Lark feigns that they posted the thread on accident instead.

There was a lot to like about this book, particularly the rep. Lark is Black, nonbinary, neurodivergent; Kasim is Black and trans; and multiple other characters are also BIPOC and poly. The ultimate message of the story was one of introspection, of self-love and people-love, and especially the idea that people are capable of growth and change. I also enjoyed Kacen Callender's writing style quite a lot.

What I struggled with was the ways in which this book attempted to be modern and relevant. On the one hand, this is one of the first post-COVID books I've read that actually handles life after a pandemic well, which was exciting to see. On the other hand, the teens in this book don't feel like post-COVID Gen Z teens. Lark, especially, felt like a direct product of the 2014 Tumblr era, particularly due to the constant Hamilton references (Hamilton, after all, hit Broadway in 2015, when neither Lark nor their friends would have even been teenagers. Though I understand and acknowledge Hamilton's continued influence on pop culture today, modern teens generally seem to have a more nuanced and critical take on the musical, which didn't really feel reflected on the page). Another contributing factor to this was the use of Twitter. There are plenty of teens who use Twitter, sure, and a lot of the tweets did read accurately to modern Twitter, but it's hard to believe that a Gen Z main character would read as so generally Twitter illiterate, to the point where they're being directly told why people are upset with them, and they still don't understand what they did to upset people. Because these choices didn't feel genuine to a modern teen to me, important plot moments like Lark not understanding why people are mad at them and Lark's misguided apology end up feeling like they were simply tacked in because that's how Twitter cancellations happen, not because any of these choices were necessarily true to the character. I don't think that's necessarily wrong, but I do wish that more work had been put into crafting Lark to where I could believe that they genuinely didn't understand what was going on, or at least understood their perspective enough to feel conflicted over their situation. 

Despite my struggles and reservations with this book, I do think it was good and important and had a fantastic message, and I think fans of Kacen Callender in particular will thoroughly enjoy this read.
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First, thank you to the publishers and to NetGalley for an e-copy in exchange for a fair and honest review!

While I'm not the target audience for this book, I'm super glad I read it. I really wish it would have been there when I was younger and growing up and feeling all the feelings and collecting traumas like the porcelain dolls your grandmother always pushed on you that you never actually wanted and tried your best to refuse but had to carry them anyway because that's what was expected. I would have loved it, held it close, cherished it like I believe it needs to be cherished, read it over and over until the spine was worn and cracked. It's an important read, and I recognize that fully and the book has all my support!

That being said, it wasn't a hard read but a slow one, a lengthy one. It was hard for me to stay focused because some things just dragged. Lots of things felt... almost unresolved, despite the length of the novel. It meandered. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. For me, it was hard to stay immersed in the world Kacen Callender was creating.

I'll give it another go when I have the time because I really love the premise and I enjoyed it overall!

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I’m not sure how to rate this book. While it wasn’t an enjoyable read, it was definitely an important one. It gave insights into the queer black community that as a cis white woman, I would never know. I really appreciate the chance to learn so much about a community that so deeply needs to be respected and understood. This book felt like a very intense therapy session. I feel lucky to have read it, but am also overwhelmed by the intensity.
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I am a big fan of Kacen’s work overall and I liked this book about learning to love yourself. I think that it did move too slowly at times and there were a lot of subplots that felt underdeveloped, but it was a good read overall.
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3 stars 

Kacen Callender is a vital presence in the wonderful worlds of YA and middle grade, and I enjoy their work so much that it can even be found in my profile pic. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to find myself underwhelmed with this most recent effort. Unfortunately, that's the case. 

The standout feature of this novel - and the one that will have me undoubtedly recommending it to students despite my middling feelings overall - is the representation. Respectively, the titular characters are nonbinary and trans, and Lark is neurodivergent. Both characters' intersectional identities shape their experiences with each other and in the world, and I will never turn down a novel with this kind of expansive representation. 

For me, the book moves too slowly. Lark is a p-r-o-c-e-s-s-o-r. Readers spend a lot of time in Lark's mind, and while that provides insight into the thought patterns and perceptions of a neurodivergent character, it also happens so frequently that it feels distracting. Along with the pacing, I also struggled with some aspects of the plot that felt underdeveloped and/or in need of more explanation. I was on board with the concept all along, but I never felt the development, connection, and engagement that I've been used to in Callender's previous works. 

To be clear, this is absolutely a worthy read, and I'll be recommending it to students specifically because of the representation. That noted, I'm hoping that future books from this author remind me more of _Felix_ and _King_ than this more recent effort.
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As a huge fan of Kacen Callender’s middle grade fiction, I was really looking forward to this book. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good fit for me. I will say that the characters were amazing. It was refreshing to see LGBTQIA++ characters represented with love and acceptance. I will be pleased to purchase this title for my HS library because many of the students will see themselves in this book. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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