Cover Image: Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution

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Member Reviews

I'm guessing I'm not Kacen Callender's target audience for this book, but it's still a good book to recommend to middle grade or YA readers. Kacen is always an interesting writer!
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I have always enjoyed Callender’s books and this was no exception. I loved how realistically the characters were created and developed throughout the story and the story itself was engaging. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their LGBTQIA+ shelves.
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First impressions: my first Kacen Callender book! About a ND nonbinary Black Teen!!

What this book does well:
I think there's important conversations about generational trauma, the issues with using social media making yourself to be less authentic because certain things get likes and certain things don’t. Linking your self esteem to follower count/likes & the way trolls can twist you into someone you're not. The conversations on how Black folks are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or Autism and just be labeled violent and difficult so self diagnosis is sometimes necessary was really important but I wished that was further explored.I also really liked the commentary on being a writer and how publishers just miss the mark of understanding. Saying things like, there can’t be so many characters with they/them pronouns because they’ve never met one person who uses those pronouns. Like way to be small minded & I heavily disagreed with what those rejections were tryna say.
I loved sable and birdie, they were the sound of reason to me.
The way the characters were introduced was helpful to keep track of everyone and even though there is a large cast of characters they were all pretty distinct.

On the fence:

I am not sure how I feel about the poly representation. I'm glad this conversation is being had with teens. And when things Do end up working out with Kasim & Lark & Sable it's pretty cute and not vulgar at all. But I kinda wish that was the main focus of the book. Its a cute subplot but i'm not sure enough was said to get a full picture on polyamory. I know how easily teens can latch onto phrases they don't fully understand to seem more grown up as a former teen who did this and a teen librarian. 

What i didn’t like:

If you don't like reading pop culture references and song lyrics you will not like this book. I got most of the references because i'm pretty sure me and this author are on the same side of tik tok (28-32 YO Black non binary adult who likes to read and write tok). There was a lot of information which oftentimes felt like scrolling on tik tok and I wish less was said so it could be delved into more. There's a lot of base level knowledge shared that IMO requires more nuance. Especially the conversations about weed. While Callender wasn’t wrong with their points (white folks smoke and get away with it and open cannabis shops while black folks get locked up for nonviolent carrying offenses which isn’t right.) I think I just needed this topic to be given a lot of importance considering our teens are smoking younger and younger. Once again I’m a teen librarian and while i know the teens are engaging in those activities (bc they literally don't even try to hide it ) I don't want them reading a half explored truth to continue using weed as their ONLY coping mechanism, because trust me they are not quick to consider others. 
Patch & Micah were the actual worst and why didn't anyone step in to stop them from bullying Lark?! Not the teacher, not Kasim until the end (which eye roll) Eli was the only one who was half trying to see the good in them until that went left because they were thirsty for twitter likes. They knew that Lark didn’t literally mean all people(including racists and transphobes) are good, they were just exploring a thought about humanity, how from those peoples perspectives they are the good guys, they deserved to be questioned for clarity but called out and bullied was ALOT. Why didn’t the teacher listen to that interview that Patch gave Lark and think hmm this tone is aggressive maybe I shouldn’t publish this forced personal confession to the school newsletter…
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This is a lovely YA about a Black, nonbinary, neurodivergent lead learning how to navigate friendship, desire, romance, and storytelling all while existing in 2021 through a global pandemic and also the internet. It felt a bit choppy at times and I found myself wanting more focus on the central romance, but that's just me. 

This feels like a very current, political book, so I recommend picking it up if you're interested in thinking about what it means to be a marginalized teen in today's wacky world.

Thanks to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids for this ARC.

CW: Covid-19, food insecurity
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed reading Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution. While the content of the book was much more character-driven than I expected, each character was so well-developed and the representation was so excellent that I didn't mind at all. I don't think I've ever read a book where so many identities were represented at once (there were Black, queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent, and polyamorous characters, most of whom identified with multiple of these), and I really, really loved that. Lark was easy to root for as a main character, and I was entertained by how the story felt so self-aware. The writing style did take a couple chapters to get used to, but it made perfect sense and felt like I as the reader was right in Lark's mind the whole time. I also really liked Kasim and several of the other side characters. Additionally, I think this is one of the few instances where I thought a story used pop culture references well -- I am the kind of person who randomly inserts song lyrics and Tiktok audios into my internal monologue, and it was fun to see Lark doing the same. Overall, I think this is a very necessary piece of YA fiction to have on bookshelves and in libraries, and I hope it can act as a model for multifaceted representation in future novels. If you like young adult fiction, please please take the time to read and enjoy this book!
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This book takes a long hard look at cancel culture and makes the reader really think about the difference between holding someone accountable and punishing someone for their mistakes.  As an adult reader, although the initial mistake that Lark makes seems blown way out of proportion by many of the characters in the book, for teenagers like the characters in the book, I can see it being a big deal. Callender really makes Lark's struggles feel real, even if I couldn't relate, I could definitely empathize.
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This book was an incredibly authentic narration of a non binary and neurodivergent main character. Lark's struggles were painful yet relatable, leaving me emotionally spent after every sitting. But the fact that I was so affected indicates that this book is incredibly potent and realistic. I loved the imperfections of the characters, the tension, and the raw honesty of being a teenager.
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As someone who teaches high school age students, I read a lot of YA lit. I firmly believe that some YA is written as well, and if not better, then “adult” fiction and I think adults can learn a lot about the way teenagers think and feel by reading these books. I have loved everything that this author has written, it is always a new and different writing style, and such amazing characters and the representation in their novels never feels forced or performative. This book was different for me because much of the book is dialogue between characters, deep dialogue that often goes on for pages about issues that teens, marginalized and neurodivergent people encounter. I thought that as someone who doesn’t fit in any of those categories, it was really an important read because it allowed me to see the world from their perspective, if even just for a short time, and that feels critical as a way to grow and learn as an individual. However if you are somebody who is looking for a action filled novel, this is probably going to feel frustrating to you, because the content in the plot of this book is driven by these conversations between characters. This is a book that deals with so many issues and has left me with so many things to think about, I took so many pictures of specific passages I knew I was going to come back to and think about in the days and weeks to come. I know that there will be certain of my students, and my colleagues, who will really enjoy this book and I look forward to putting in my classroom library.
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This was beautiful. In true Karen Calendar fashion I sobbed and swooned and just fell involve with our characters. Brilliant.
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This book tackles what feels like all of the social issues at once, it can be a little overwhelming at times. Racism, bullying, anti-trans and anti-queer (especially within the community itself), social media, depression, anxiety, how we deal with trauma...and more are all touched on at one point in the story. With all of the issues the writing was still so intriguing and vivid. I personally did not care for the Birdie character and though that they could have been removed and nothing would have been lost from the story.
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This is a really great story and beautifully written, however it’s just not for the older crowd. I’m okay with that because I refuse to take awaken from the greatness of this book because of the disconnect with the older generation. 

I really look forward to see how this book wins after it’s release.
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There are so many ideas in this book, and I loved the exploration of online culture, public shaming, and the personas we create for a few likes. It was also fun to read a love story with a Black enby main character and their diverse cast of friends. Finally, there's the aspect that Lark is also a writer querying agents and trying to build a following -- all very relatable in the authorsphere. Great read!
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Thank you ABRAMS Kids, NetGalley, and Kacen Callender for granting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution is a coming-of-age novel that explores themes of unrequited love, the messiness of being a teenager, and growing into yourself during the tail end of a pandemic. The cast of characters is an intersectionally diverse group sharing the experience of growing up, drawing from the perspectives of people of color, LGBTQIA identifying people, and neurodiverse people. Callender does a fantastic job exploring different perspectives on social issues such as racism, criminalization of drugs, and complex emotions in a way that would be easy for a young audience to digest. 

Callender's style of representation lets characters from marginalized identities simply exist without being held to extreme highs and extreme lows, which is an incredibly refreshing way to read marginalized characters. However, Sabel, the autistic character, was not written this way. Lark has a moment when they perceive Sabel as not human before correcting themselves to agree that Sabel is human. Lark seems to have an obsession with perceiving Sabel as powerful in a way that reads as if the one autistic character is being held to higher standards and not existing for the sake of existing. 

I did find the use of the character Birdie to be a bit confusing. I felt as if the character was not clearly introduced. Early on in my reading of the book, I found myself confused by their additions to either dialogue or Lark's internal monologue. As the great debate on pop culture references in books wages on, I am personally not a fan. 

All in all, this story was a nice read that felt authentic to the teenage experience, especially in a mid-to-post pandemic world.
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This is a NetGalley advance readers copy honest review etc

I really enjoyed this book--most of the cast of characters (who were a mix of trans, queer, and non-binary polyamorous queer people of color) as well as the plot about social media stress, cancellation and accountability, how we express pain and empathy.

This was not my favorite Kacen Callender book because it was a bit more internal and less plot-driven than i often like, and also the emotional jump to being partners with people and in love with them in like 30 seconds felt like too much whiplash for my old person brain. But overall i am so excited for it to come out so that i can recommend it all over the place!
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Wow, this book hit me like a ton of bricks. I love Kacen's writing and the character and representation were absolutely fantastic. This should be required reading.
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ARC provided by NetGalley. This title releases September 27, 2022.

This was an honest thought provoking book with characters who were captivating and challenging to read about while learning from their experiences. The conversations had in this book about self-improvement, accountability, and change were explored through the lens of a group of Black queer teenagers taking a writing course. 

This story follows Lark. Lark identifies as nonbinary, queer, and neurodivergent. They are a seventeen year old student taking writing classes. They are working on their manuscript to be a published author, and they have a large twitter following. A twitter thread mistakenly goes viral from Lark’s account that they did not write, and Lark faces backlash from that twitter thread. The story takes off from there.

The characters are the highlight of this book. Callender does it again just like in Felix Ever After with their character work. The characters are so individually their own person with their own traumas, their own identities, and their own unique dialogue. 
More things that stand out about this book:
-All characters are Black and queer; many are nonbinary or trans
-Callender allows the characters to be messy, flawed, vulnerable, and work through their mistakes
-I enjoyed being in the characters' heads. The main character Lark addresses that they are not likable and not easy to root for. I was invested in Lark’s journey of self-improvement and accountability, not in whether or not I liked them or was rooting for them. 
-My favorite scenes were the group scenes in the writing class where the teens talk about complex topics such as “what makes a good story,” “what makes a criticism versus a critique,” and “what does it look like to hold others accountable.” 

Read this book if you want to read about:
-representation of Black, neurodivergent, queer, non-binary, and trans characters
-productive conversations about taking accountability for one's actions, communicating difficult feelings, and navigating complicated friendships and relationships
-being challenged and learning from the main character despite their mistakes
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’m not sure I have much to say because the longer I read through this book the more I realized it wasn’t for me. It is a fantastic book, but for someone else. Lark is ND (or at least they think they are, it’s kinda unclear) and their monologues ramble for sometimes several pages between two points of dialogue. As an autistic person, I can agree that this is realistic, however as I am also sorting through my own 10 pages of inner monologue, sorting through Lark’s at the same time just made me very exhausted. 

Overall, I feel like this is a book that people need to read, as the portrayal of teenagers and their complex emotions that us adults don’t quite understand is very realistic. These kids were messy and imperfect and I couldn’t quite understand why Lark lying on social media was a huge deal to them, but I believe that is the point. Everyone should read this because I believe everyone can take something from it.
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I have never read a book with so many trans and nonbinary characters. Has this convinced you yet?

Lark is an aspiring writer working on their first novel, when a twitter thread professing unrequited love is posted to their account that they did not write, and it goes viral. Pretending to take authorship credit of this thread, how will they affect those around them?

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution is really so much more than that though. Lark is Black, nonbinary, and neurodivergent. We see so many intersections of their identities and we see them find understanding with the other Black, trans/nonbinary, and/or neurodivergent characters. We also see Lark make many mistakes, struggle to realize that they messed up, and grow and learn how to take accountability for their actions. We see this process through almost every major side character as well. It brings a very raw and real atmosphere to Callender's writing which I love.

There are so many amazing things this book does, which I'll summarize here:
• Discussions about race, racism, and the trauma lived by Black people;
• The high rate of misdiagnosis of Black neurodivergent people;
• Representation of neurodivergent people who do not conform to the ND stereotypes;
• Many important conversations about accountability, cancel culture, intent vs impact, gaslighting, and toxicity; and
• Usage of they/them pronouns for people who Lark does not already know pronouns for.

These are all done so very well, and are very simplified in order to avoid spoilers. In short, it's a book I believe everyone should read. Whether you can relate to any of Lark's identities or not, you will learn so much more than you could've imagined by picking it up.

It's also one that you should be in a good mindset to read. It gets tough, it gets real, and it does not hold back. Which makes it AMAZING. It's also low-key set during the pandemic, so if this is something you're not ready for in a book, I would recommend coming back to it. I say low-key because it's not the main focus, but there are mentions of masking, vaccines, and fear of the virus.

The only critiques I have are minor, and while they did somewhat pull me out of the story, I greatly enjoyed the book anyway. First is the way Lark talks about themself possibly being autistic. In every case where them or the other autistic character being autistic is brought up, it's written as "have autism" instead of "am autistic" when the autistic community says they prefer "am autistic." It happened enough times that it noticeably stuck out to me. Second is how a couple characters are mentioned as sometimes using multiple sets of pronouns, but are only referred to by they/them when multiple pronoun users say it's best to alternate pronouns unless the person tells you otherwise. The only sort of explanation we get is the character bios which say something along the lines of "they/them but sometimes [insert second or third set of pronouns]" which, after watching readers ask why Sunil in Loveless was only referred to by they/them after saying their pronouns are they/he, it left me thinking a better explanation could be used in Lark & Kasim as to why multiple sets of pronouns are introduced but not used.

Rep: Black, nonbinary, trans, bi/pan, polyamory, autistic, ADHD, anxiety, depression

CW: racism, gaslighting, manipulation, transphobia, toxic relationship, pandemic, panic attack, bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts

Rating system:
5 - absolutely love, little-to-no dislikes that did not impact my reading experience

4 - great book, minor dislikes that did have an impact on my reading experience

3 - good/decent book but for some reason did not hook me or there were some problematic things that just were not addressed or greatly impacted my reading experience

2 - is either a book I did not click with and did not enjoy, problematic aspects are not addressed and severely impacted my reading experience, or I DNF'd but think it has potential for others

1 - is very problematic, I would not recommend the book to anyone
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Kacen Callender DOES NOT MISS! I love everything they write because they write with such passion, generosity, and grace. Lark and Kasim quickly become endeared to me and their journey was beautiful to follow.
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"That feeling when you read the last line of a book that you love? I can't think of a lonelier feeling in the world." 

Wow. There is so much to say about this book, but I can only begin by saying that I really felt at multiple points just so, so privileged to be reading it. The representation alone and authenticity of the characters is enough to make me want to suggest this read to everyone I know. 

With that, I’m going to get right into it…

Some thoughts: 
-Lark was a really likable character, and I ended up seeing SO much of myself in them. I loved their internal monologues so much, and as a neurodivergent person this was the first time I’ve ever felt like that aspect of my identity was accurately portrayed (in that it felt authentic to my personal experience and was relatable) in any form of media, EVER. (!!!)

-I think queer people reading this book will have a hard time not feeling represented by at least one (if not more) of the characters. AND THAT IS AMAZING!

-The MC is black, neurodivergent, enby, & poly! There were SO MANY identities represented, even a trans person not physically/medically transitioning. Different types of poly relationships were portrayed. So much intersectionality, and none of it felt forced or out of place. It felt like it was always supposed to be this way.

-The way the pandemic was talked about/handled felt very natural and relatable. 

Some more thoughts:
-At times the book felt very sluggish and it did not feel like it moved at an even pace until about halfway through - and then I couldn’t put it down!

-Birdie was confusing in the beginning because there was no real introduction to them as a character and took a few chapters for me to realize what that whole deal was. There are a lot of really weird Birdie moments, and one really hilarious one towards the end of the book (that caused me to laugh out loud in a break room full of people at work.)

-The bullying/cyberbullying was a bit triggering for me and tough to read at times but I appreciated that no one was bullied for their identity. This book tackled a lot of topics such as transphobia and racism, but there were no examples of this in the book thankfully.

-The book kind of (maybe unintentionally) portrayed woke twitter culture a little too realistically at times. I know it already had a number of topics to tackle, but I almost wonder if they could have expanded upon the topic of online activism a little more. 

Overall, I would rate this a 5 out of 5 stars personally and I can't wait to share this one with my friends/followers this fall! Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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