South of Sunshine

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 01 Apr 2016 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2016


Kaycee Jean McCoy has lived her entire life in Sunshine, Tennessee. Sweet tea flows through her veins and "yes ma'am" is ingrained in her DNA. In Sunshine, going to church is basically mandatory, and gay had better be your mood and not your sexual orientation. Kaycee may not agree with the town's socially accepted bigotry, but she'd rather fit in—even if it means letting gross Dave Bradford kiss her on occasion—than make waves. That is, until the beautiful, sexy, impossibly cool Bren Dawson moves into town. Kaycee is swept up in a whirlwind of exciting new emotions and lets her guard down. One night under a fat country moon, Kaycee's best friend catches them kissing, and Kaycee's whole world goes to hell in a handbasket. What is she willing to risk for the sake of love? And what will she risk for acceptance?

Kaycee Jean McCoy has lived her entire life in Sunshine, Tennessee. Sweet tea flows through her veins and "yes ma'am" is ingrained in her DNA. In Sunshine, going to church is basically mandatory, and...

Advance Praise

"Dana Elmendorf is a rich new voice in contemporary fiction. This touching love story takes an earnest look at the courage it takes to love who you love. Adorable, y'all." --Robin Mellom, author of Ditched: A Love Story
"Equal parts sweet and sassy, South of Sunshine explores the struggles and triumphs of self-discovery and first love with a heap of Southern charm." --Jessica Love, coauthor of Push Girl

"Dana Elmendorf is a rich new voice in contemporary fiction. This touching love story takes an earnest look at the courage it takes to love who you love. Adorable, y'all." --Robin Mellom, author of ...

Marketing Plan

* Trade, library, and consumer advertising * ARC distribution at ALA Midwinter and via NetGalley/Edelweiss * Social media campaign across all Albert Whitman & Company profiles * Select author appearances, including ALA Midwinter ** For more information:

* Trade, library, and consumer advertising * ARC distribution at ALA Midwinter and via NetGalley/Edelweiss * Social media campaign across all Albert Whitman & Company profiles * Select author...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780807575680
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

Average rating from 123 members

Featured Reviews

Kaycee McCoy is a senior high school student in a small town in rural Tennessee. Kaycee has been kissed by a lot of boys, but it just doesn’t do anything but gross her out. She literally was happy to be dumped by her last boyfriend. Everything changes when a new girl shows up on the first day of senior year.
Bren Dawson is tall, athletic and has no problem making new friends at her new school. She hails from Boston, and has no problem being who she is, an out and proud. Bren brings up all the feelings and desires Kaycee has been repressing for quite a while. She grew up in Sunshine, Tennessee which is definitely not a bastion of equality and understanding. The only thing is a relationship with Bren is too tempting for Kaycee to deny.
This is an emotional coming of age tale. This story takes you through Kaycee’s journey of first love, admitting who you are, and the fall out of living in a in a society that is pressuring you into who you love. South of Sunshine is a well written YA novel. You will find in full of teen aged angst and coming to terms with being gay in a small southern town. It is also a story of friendship, and how those friendships evolve as real issues are brought to the forefront of their lives.

Was this review helpful?

Was this review helpful?

Lately, I haven’t read too much young adult. It’s a shame, and something I need to rectify, because there are, as there’s always been, some amazing literature in the genre. Dana Elmendorf’s South of Sunshine easily fits in with some of the greats.

The novel follows the daughter of a single mother, Kaycee, who struggles with her sexuality and falling in love for the first time in the small town of Sunshine, Tennessee.

There are many aspects I liked about the novel, but the strongest part was the way Elmendorf doesn’t sugarcoat life for lgbtqia people in a small southern town. Kaycee herself is religious and gay, so it was refreshing to see that there was no either/or that comes up often in pop culture. While I’m not religious myself, I’m glad this had a prominent place in the book because many lgbtqia people struggle with it in real life.

The promiscuous bisexual trope from a minor character was disheartening to read, especially since the character never had a chance to grow or defend herself. I also wanted the parallel between Kaycee being a lesbian to be drawn a bit tighter to other students who are outcasts in Sunshine due to their sexuality, race, or economic standing. Particularly because Bren, the main love interest is both gay and a woman of color, while being from one of the wealthier families in town.

Bren and Kaycee’s friend Van were wonderful to read, along with her best friend Sarabeth’s personal character growth.

Kaycee’s back and forth between being proud and being ashamed of being gay felt very natural to me because it echoed my own life and it probably relatable to a lot of lgbtqia teens. Her difficulties with family, friends, and society were nuanced and heartbreaking. There were a few characters I didn’t want to forgive, and yet by the end of the book, I found myself in tears from Elmendorf’s writing. It’s been a while since a book made me cry like that.

Was this review helpful?

I have enjoyed reading South of Sunshine so much. I cried, laughed and cheered for these kids. The teens really act like teens. They are wild, reckless, cruel, and sometimes wise. Dana Elmendorf expertly walks us through the fears and difficult experiences gay teens go through, and still manages to work in so much love, friendship, beauty, and hope for the future. There are several different characters that are gay, and they have differing levels of support from their families. The predominate message I took from this is that when you come out you are not just exposing yourself to haters, but allowing yourself the opportunity to be truly loved and supported by others. I would highly recommend South of Sunshine to teens and adults. Don't quit reading at the difficult parts. You will be glad you stuck with it till the end.

Was this review helpful?

I absolutely loved this book!

I felt the author did a really good job in creating a story with lovable characters, angst, strength, humour and a great overall story that you never want to stop reading. I thought the emotions and turmoil that the lead character Kaycee went through was very believable and I liked the way she slowly went from a frightened teen who didn't want to rock the boat to a strong lead the way person. Bren was a perfect match for Kaycee, I loved reading the interactions which just flowed well making it difficult to move on from these characters when I finished.

What a great story for LGBT youth and those struggling to accept who they are. The story shows us how far we have come in LGBT rights and acceptance but also reminds us that we have a way to go. That you can't please everyone but being true to yourself will give you the greatest gift in life, love.

This is a feel good story where you do go through some bumps along the way which makes the sweet moments even better. Great book and I highly recommend the read!

Was this review helpful?

Kaycee Jean McCoy is over dating boys, but knows it is the best way of hiding in plain sight in Sunshine, Tennessee. Her best friend, Van, is gay and everyone knows it, but so long as no one mentions it, everyone can pretend otherwise. Her other best friend, Sarabeth, has been happily dating one of the star footballers for the last two years. Theirs is a tight group of friends in a town where the biggest events are listed on the church calendar.

Bren Dawson, the new girl in the school, is exotic, smart, tall, and on a basketball scholarship. Most of the school is enamoured of Bren, none more so than Kaycee. In a town that is largely run by the church, falling in love with a female classmate is the worst thing she can do.

This is a coming of age tale, well written by Elmendorf. The fluctuating emotions and heightened feelings of Kaycee’s first love, and fear of losing her mum, her friends, and her future are all well described. There is more than a hint of the believable on the pages, and I suspect this will be avidly read and reread by teens struggling to come out in fear-ridden towns.

Realistic about the difficulties of homophobia in parts, there is a fundamental seam of hope running through the book that provides a breath of air in what could have been claustrophobic and oppressive. I really liked the characters, and the way the story gave room for Kaycee to grow into her strengths, and accept love and support from some surprising characters. This is a well-written blend of some of the difficulties and the joys of being LGBTQI in a small town.

Was this review helpful?

I absolutely LOVED this book! I couldn't put it down. Even though Kaycee got on my nerves a bit, I could understand where her struggle was coming from. The things that she had to go through, even though most of them were in her head or of her own making were awful. I was pleased with the ending, but would have loved to read just a bit more about her, Bren, Van and Sarabeth.

Was this review helpful?

There were several things about this book that I enjoyed. Elmendorf tackled some very difficult topics and themes such as ignorance and small town mentality, family, friendship, and finding the courage to love who you love without reservation. All of this was handled well and in a manner that never felt overwhelming but rather authentic. Additionally, Kaycee’s inner voice is painstakingly honest and while readers sympathize with all she struggles with, she also has a voice filled with sweet Southern charm that creates a nice balance between the dramatic elements and the sweeter aspects of teenage romance. It’s also wonderful to see more YA books focusing on lesbian relationships. There are definitely great titles out there, but it’s fantastic to see more! Overall, this is an excellent and integral addition to every YA collection.

Was this review helpful?

Really sweet! A lovely read with friendships and relationships I enjoyed following.

Was this review helpful?

This is a really nice novel in which we follow Kaycee, a 17-year-old girl trying to keep her emotions locked up inside. She lives in a small community with very conservative people ready to judge whomever defies their beliefs, whoever is different, be it for their social status, race or sexual orientation. So she dates guys to avoid paying attention to her true feelings and keep everyone else happy. And it seems to be working until a very tall and fascinating new girl joins her school. And Kaycee soon discovers it's a bit difficult to keep blocked the part of her she tries to ignore, when Bren's nearness causes a turmoil inside of her.

The story, what Kaycee goes through, her relationship with her mother and friends, their behavior, everything... felt real. To be honest, Kaycee annoyed me a little bit in the beginning, with her constant over-thinking and referring to other girls as "skank" (which still annoys me), but I soon found myself liking her and sympathizing with her. I really liked getting to know her, understanding her fears and insecurities, and seeing her grow into the person she is by the end.

I really love flawed and realistic characters, so in that respect I was not disappointed. I liked a few for different reasons, including Van, one of Kaycee's best friends, and his awesome mom! And Bren... She's too realistically perfect for me to find even one thing I didn't like. It's so nice to have a character so confident in her shoes and so understanding of other people's feelings.

And I'm just so happy this book was written. Homophobia is still very present in so many places, and we see its ugly face here (and the story also touches a bit on racism/xenophobia), but South of Sunshine carries a message of hope for those afraid to be who they are and love who they love, afraid of their future. And even if there are, fortunately, a few other books dealing with the same subject, this is without a doubt one of the most well-written, believable, positives, charming and engaging books I've read.

Was this review helpful?

I received an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. First of all, the cover art for this novel is stunning. It matches the story's sweetness and charm and immediately attracted me to the story. As for the story itself, I truly appreciated reading it. I couldn't put it down once I read past just a few pages. Kaycee's character and struggles are immediately relatable, and I will certainly recommend this book to my students. On top of the charming characters of not only Kaycee, but also Brenn, the author paints a scary and believable picture of how small minded people and hatred can potentially lead to a teenager's self doubt and destruction. On the other hand, it shows how far even the smallest acts of love and acceptance will go. All this is told through the lives of people living in the small,charming town named Sunshine. In the end, the story is satisfying and hopeful. A solid 4 ⭐️

Was this review helpful?

Really cute. I'm not Southern or Christian, so this was a really interesting perspective for me, in terms of LGBT YA (which I've been reading a lot of recently.) The story itself, in terms of the romance, was pretty standard (but still very cute, as I said), but the setting made it unique enough that I will remember it. I'll post a Goodreads review when the pub date is a little closer.

Was this review helpful?

This book is going to matter, and it's going to matter a lot.

I can already see the people getting frustrated about "instalove" because it's hip and cool to dismiss a book in that way. But it's not love that hits Kaycee, it's infatuation, a crush that's bigger than she is, and the undeniable mix of hormones, fear, and "oh my god I want to kiss her."

Kaycee has been pretending to date boys to stay under the radar in her small backwater town full of gossips and anger. But when Bren and her family come to town, she grapples with a reality she can't ignore: she's gay, and she's not quite proud yet, but she'll probably get there, and her friend Van, who is gay but doesn't talk about it much, is there to help her. Begrudgingly.

Big crushes take over our heads and hearts and Bren and Kaycee are sweet and like each other--and they TALK! They get to know each other, they share their experiences and they support each other through the gossip and whispering of a town full of people who, when they find out there's omg THOSE people around, declare they must run everyone like that out of town.

They live in the town where all those Facebook comments come from. And it's frustrating to see them come to life on the page, but holy hell is it accurate. Not just about gays, but Hispanics. The town is better much the "you can't come here and make us treat you like humans when you threaten the sanctity of marriage!!!" type and it will make you mad and you will think "god this is heavy handed" but then you remember wait, there really ARE people like that.

Kaycee's inner turmoil and fear of being found out comes to a very expected head, but she tackles it the best way a teenage girl can.

Don't pick up this book expecting a YA story to be full of smart, sophisticated, worldly teens who never make a single mistake and always speak with eloquence. The teens in this story are young, rough around the edges, thrumming with hormones, and real.

Yes, it is a coming out story.

Yes, it is one that matters so much, that will hit you right in the heart (in that space where you still remember that first all-consuming crush and how badly you wanted to smell them, be near them, have their attention), and need to be in the hands of every young girl with questions and every old grump with a fear about /those/ people.

This book is gong to be big. I hope.

Was this review helpful?

OOOOhh my goodness, y’all. This book was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Kaycee lives in Sunshine, a little town filled with some majorly conservative folks. This girl, she’s tried to like guys; she’s kissed them and been left by them and in general she’s fine with that. As long as she pretends her little secret isn’t actually real she’s able to deal with, well, everything. And that’s what she’s doing until the new girl, Bren, rolls into town with her 6’ figure, tales from her world travels, and her eyes that boldly stare back at Kaycee. Having never encountered another like her Kaycee finds herself torn between embracing her sexuality and living the life she’s comfortable, but not really happy with.

I put the book down quite a few times because, oh my sweet goodness, things happen. Do they ever happen. And it makes me smile and laugh and break my heart. The minor characters (like the school librarian and the surprisingly nice…) help hold this story together.

I’ve created a short little playlist of song that I think go with the book along with the specific lyric that made me thing of the song in particular.

Everlong // Foo Fighters
“And I wonder / When I sing along with you / If anything could ever feel this real forever”

SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is Kaycee’s self-embracing story. She doesn’t know what she wants other than the idea that she wants to be accepted. Bu her mother, by her best friend, by the people she calls her family, and by Bren. She has to learn to accept herself, however.

Coffins // Misterwives
“You said you’d stand even if this would all fall”

In the beginning of Bren and Kaycee’s hush hush relationship, Bren (who is the most understanding girl on the plant, I love her) come to realize that Kaycee’s mom doesn’t know that her daughter is into girls. Instead of wanting her to run and tell her and shout their relationship to the world, she does the sweetest thing. She promises they’ll get through it together. This is where I fall for her a little bit. In a few books where a character is coming out, the love interest is angered at having to keep their relationship out of the public eye. Bren is the opposite, I mean, yes, she wants the world to know that Kaycee is hers but she also understands that this is hard for Kaycee. She lets her go at her pace.

Falling Apart // Papa Roach
“I refuse to believe the apocalypse inside of me/ I can’t even trust myself”

This song reminds me of Kaycee’s struggle with her mother’s, and her own, faith and how God viewed her regarding who she can’t help but feel attracted to.

The Fighter // In This Moment
“I will fall and rise above / And in your hate I find love”

In this ultra-conservative southern town, our main girl feels like the world is against her. Or at least how she loves. I think the rest of this lyric is mighty self-explanatory.

What’s amazing about SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is that these are actions that I could be myself making, and reactions I could see myself mirrored in. It may not be the same situation, but when you’re trying to figure yourself out it’s pretty much impossible to not make any mistakes. I love how real the characters are.

Little Toy Guns // Carrie Underwood
“I wish words were like little toy guns / No sting”

You know that saying “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Yeah, that saying is a complete lie. Words hurt, and its psychological damage that we don’t see even if it there for the viewing.

And goodness high-schoolers are mmmeeeeean.

Was this review helpful?

This was an emotional coming of age story. It takes you throughout the journey of first loves, finding out who you are, friendship, and most importantly the pressure that society puts on everyone to love who you love. I am straight, but I appreciated the strength, courage, and love that Kaycee shows. South of Sunshine was a really sweet book, well written about coming to terms with who you are and gaining the acceptance of others.

Was this review helpful?

Being from the South I appreciated that it held true and wasn't a "fake" southern story. Being from Tennessee made it even better.

Was this review helpful?

Kaycee was an okay character. I felt quite sorry for her at times because of the way she was being treated.

The pacing in this was a tad too slow for me, so the book felt longer than what it was. It was an enjoyable read overall though.

Was this review helpful?

I downloaded an advance copy of this book from Net Galley. There might be some minor spoilers in this review.
I have a particular interest in YA novels with queer themes and characters, which is why I chose this book in particular. It's a subgenre that can be pretty hit or miss most of the time, and luckily 'South of Sunshine' fell squarely into the 'hit' section. A small Southern town serves as the backdrop to protagonist Kaycee's awakening. It starts out as the typical small-town atmosphere - church as the center of social life, a new family moving in that has the whole town buzzing, the main character drawn irresistibly to the new girl - but this isn't a book you've read before. The characters are fleshed out, and even the ones I had decided were predictable managed to surprise me by the end. There seems to be a new group of queer YA novels that are straying from the old set of themes where the main character realizes they're gay, comes out, and is sent away or disowned. Instead, these characters realize they're gay, come out, and receive unexpected support from friends, family, and neighbors who they had written off as bigoted and small-minded. I love that we're moving past the 'coming out as tragedy' themes and moving toward a world where queer kids come out and just live their lives.

Was this review helpful?

I. Adored. This. Book.

It's been a while since I've read a contemporary, and I'd forgotten how great the genre could be. Though fantasy and paranormal books are amazing, they don't hold that sense of reality that a contemporary does (which it is supposed to), and sometimes it's lovely reading a real-life situation book.

Having personally only read one LGBTQIA book before (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell), and having it be a fantasy, I was hoping this book would give an insight into gay people's lives in a real-life context.

And it did - in a really great way.

It was interesting to see how our main character, Kaycee, reacted to how she was treated just because she was gay. It was incredibly sad at times, and I do admit I nearly cried. It was so disgusting how gay people were treated in Sunshine - I'm not going to lie, there were moments where I wanted to throw the book across the room because of some people's ignorance - and I find it horrible that this happens in real-life.

People shouldn't be defined by what gender they love, and should be able to be proud of who they are. It was lovely seeing Kaycee finally accept herself for who she is, and watch her personal growth through-out the book, to the point where she finally started to stand-up for who she was.

The plot and writing were great, though I will say I found that some bits were a bit lengthy that maybe didn't need to be - however, this was nothing major, and it wasn't done in a bad way at all! I could have found it lengthy just because I was reading it on my iPhone, and it feels like you've turned a million pages on there when in fact you've only read one page in a physical book.

In all honesty, I did find the ending quite rushed. I was hoping for a bit more than that - I mean, I loved the last chapters of the book, because it was Kaycee finally accepting who she was. But I would have liked a little more detail at the end, as it felt like we rushed from one thing to another, unlike the rest of the book where we got plenty of detail.

This book was very sweet, and extremely enlightening. The plot was very interesting and the characters - I just fell in love with them. Our author, Dana, has done such a great job with this one guys. I recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary books, romances or who generally like reading awesome books!

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this book! I've read a few LGBTQA+ YA novels but none quite like this one. South of Sunshine conveys some very important messages in a great way, which I'll talk about later in this post!

The really easy to read and follow. I couldn't stop reading this book, and whenever I was away from my phone I would catch myself wondering what was going to happen next!

The characters...were actually really relatable. I was concerned that as a straight girl I would find this hard to read and relate to, but it didn't change my veiws of the novel at all!

The writing...was also easy to read, and perfect for this type of light-hearted romance.

Something I the clear message this book gives that 'You don't have to be gay to have gay pride'. This is honestly something I hold very close to my heart, and I found it really meaningful.

Something I didn't like...I'd have to be really picky to find something - but probably the fact that in a few places I found like the book had suddenly jumped. Like the sentences didn't flow perfectly. It was only a couple of times, but I did notice it.

My rating is...

☽ ☽ ☽ ☽
4 out of 5 moons


Was this review helpful?

I enjoyed this book

I think if I was a bit younger I could relate more to it. I will.recommend it to the young kids at my school.

Was this review helpful?

I loved this book. This is a coming of age in small town America story, but it's also a story about learning to love yourself.The main character Kaycee starts out not only hiding who she really is out of fear, but also out of shame. Afraid to admit even to herself and her best friend, who is also gay, that she is a lesbian, until her feelings for new girl Bren force her to stop hiding from herself and those closest to her. The budding relationship between Kaycee and Bren is very sweet to witness. As their relationship builds, Kaycee's other relationships become strained. Not everyone in her life is happy with the changes in her as she starts to be who she really is. As someone who grew up in a family and place where being gay is no big deal, i found it fascinating to read what it can be like for others who don't have that privilege. This book left me with a big smile on my face and i would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read stories that make them feel good.

Was this review helpful?

“South of Sunshine” by Dana Elmendorf is not an easy book to read. One may look at the beautiful cover, at the Young Adult label, and expect nothing but a happy ending. To be fair, that is usually what you get from such a combination. However, “South of Sunshine” is much more than its ending. Its beginning, its middle… they are important.

I must confess that at the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to get along with Kaycee, the main character. There was something that bothered me about her and it was starting to get on my nerves. I was about ready to roll my eyes at her permanently when I realized what I was doing. I was judging. You see, Kaycee was educated in a certain way, brought up in a town with certain expectations. Even though she, as a human being of her own, has a say, it’s not easy to question your own roots when they seem to be the only thing keeping you from falling. That and the fear of disappointing others, specially when family is concerned, can drive one to say and do insane things. At some point self-preservation will kick in, but till then… You will call your girlfriend an experimentation, you will call your best friend a hypocrite, you will throw your phone out the window and explode, setting everything and everyone around you on fire. Then hope is born from the ashes. Without the weight on your shoulders, you decide you can do it, that you must do it for your own sake. That’s when magic happens.

The only real issue I had with this book was that it seemed to start out of nowhere. The general pace is slow, but the beginning feels like we are inside a ship to Mars during the lift off. It’s rocky, a bit too fast and confusing. I think we should have been given a little more background between the whole meeting Bren thing and the relationship status.

That said, I believe it’s really important to talk about Kaycee’s mother. She takes her time, yes, her steps are baby steps, yes, but she is not giving up on her daughter. I think this is an important message. People should hear this, read this, give each other a chance.

Written in a rather humorous and simple way, “South of Sunshine” is a charming read. Visits some commonplaces, yes, but they have become common for a reason. An “Annie on My Mind” for younger audiences, I would say.

ARC provided by Albert Whitman & Company via NetGalley.

Was this review helpful?

This was a great read! Very energetic and each page kept me interested!

Was this review helpful?

This is a story of a young girl living in a small town in America figuring out who she is. Kaycee is a young woman with a God loving mother living in a town where being gay isn't exactly something someone shouts from the rooftops.

In comes Bren, basketball star, beautiful and pretty open about her sexuality. This tips Kaycees balanced world on its axis and she finally starts to accept her not so straight self. Throw in spiteful teenagers, unhappy parents and general teenage angst and you've an interesting story.

I must admit I find these stories that focus on this part of America interesting, just to see the types of things people are still dealing with today.

I'm not a huge fan of YA novels but I enjoyed this. Watching Kaycee trying to decide whether to follow her path or the "right" path, the one expected of her by family, friends and those in her town.

Was this review helpful?

The ending of this novel gave me chills. I never expected this ending and to find herself in that situation, she had to be speechless. I fought my way through this novel, literally fighting with the main character as she tried to take a stand with herself. She was scared to be herself, scared to look at herself, for who might be in the mirror. Who might she disappoint in the process and who was she really looking at? It’s tough being original and it’s hard not being part of the crowd but it’s also difficult to be someone you’re not. I loved the game of cat-and-mouse which the characters played in this novel as I felt like a player in the game. Holding on tight, I felt elated in this game for it was dangerous and fun but I wanted out when it stopped.

When Bren walked into their social scene, everyone noticed. She carried herself with confidence and she was different. Being the new girl, she had stories that captured everyone’s attention and her life was filled with excitement and spark. Kaycee watched her from a distance, there was something about her that intrigued her but she just couldn’t bring herself to approach her like everyone else did. Sarabeth and Kaycee had been best friend for years. As Kaycee approaches Bren, something occurs between them but Kaycee can’t quite understand the feelings behind it. The more time that she spends with Bren, the more comfortable she feels and the more she questions exactly what type of relationship the two of them have. Sarabeth tries to keep the two girls apart which irritates Kaycee, as she sees what her best friend is trying to do. Kaycee begins to wonder about her sexual orientation and as Kaycee and Bren spend more time together, their relationship deepens. Sarabeth wants Kaycee to talk with her about everything especially what is occurring between her and Bren but Kaycee is not sure that Sarabeth is the right person to talk to. Finding Van, Kaycee is able to find a friend she can share her thoughts and concerns with. The story deals with some tough issues and the teens must air their feelings and reflects to make the right decision for themselves. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Albert Whitman in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

SOS is a fun read.

The dancing around each other bit between Kaycee and Bren was cute. All throughout, I felt the emotions from the characters, be it anger, regret, tenderness, etc.

The stuff here could really happen/has happened somewhere in the world, so that's a plus. How people sometimes hide in plain sight (neither confirming or denying anything), some stay in a perpetual state of denial (while hiding who they are) and others being hypocrites about it (denying but their actions speak otherwise), there are others who have to keep each other a secret.

It won't be a bad thing if we were shown the aftermath of the parade. How this book ended leaves a nice opportunity for a sequel though. So.. if ever y'all decide on giving that a go... *thumbs up*

Was this review helpful?

The pacing was a little uneven for me, but on the whole a really enjoyable novel. Yay for happily ever after for girls. We need more of those and I'll be recommending this one very much.

Was this review helpful?

If you're concerned that this will be a sad lesbian book, don't worry it's not. Although there is a brief moment where I thought it was going to be about sad lesbians it got resolved quickly. I wanted this book to be more of a cutesy romance, but I think the theme of self-acceptance is an important one. I also appreciated that this Southern small town felt authentic because I can't tell you how many times (especially in film and TV) people get it wrong and focus on the stereotypes that people think of. I appreciated that not everyone was wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots and rode a horse everywhere. Although the setting felt authentic and I enjoyed the use of Southern slang throughout it did feel like the characters were stock characters and any character development felt like it happened rapidly and out of nowhere. It didn't help that Kaycee is the narrator so she doesn't really see the changes until it's too late, but I would've appreciated more interaction with the other characters rather than her just internalizing everything. I really enjoyed that once Kaycee comes out there is varying degrees of acceptance because it made it more believable that some people would still love her completely for who she is and others would completely reject her. I also liked that although her mom still loves her for who she is, she still has worries and goes about solving those worries in the wrong way. It showed that there is hope for their relationship, but at the same time shows that she has a long way to go. You also can't do anything set in a Southern small town without religion and I enjoyed the fact that Kaycee was still allowed to be religious and a lesbian and that she could still believe in God and think that the pastor had it all wrong in his sermon. Overall this was a cute book even though it wasn't exactly what I was expecting and I appreciate that at its heart it had a lesbian character because f/f relationships are lacking in the YA section.

Was this review helpful?

The coming out narrative is a well-trodden path in LGBTQ fiction, but South of Sunshine handles the topic with sensitivity, flair, and Southern charm. Kaycee is a senior in high school, and she's buried the secret of her sexuality deep. She knows nothing of love, only of the disgusting, slobbering boyfriends she's forced herself to date in order to keep up her image as a good straight girl. Self-preservation outweighs expression of her true self until she can get out of Sunshine for good.

Of course, a beautiful new girl shows up and throws a wrench in Kaycee's plans. Kaycee quickly becomes infatuated with the athletic, friendly, and flirty Bren. Bren is much more confident in her sexuality, and she does nothing to hide herself from others. As Kaycee's romance with Bren starts to grow, she must confront the issue of her sexuality head-on.

What I thought was particularly amazing about this novel was the depth of all the characters. The book does not focus solely on the romance. It explores Kaycee's complex friendships and family relationships as well. Sarabeth and Vander are great supporting characters that add to the story in their own ways, and each of their friendships with Kaycee grows and changes over time. Kaycee's mother is a complex character as well, and she develops over the course of the novel as well. There's even an awesome librarian character who gets some well-deserved spotlight. Character development, to me, is where this book truly shines.

Parts this book might be hard for some people to swallow. It can be difficult to read about a character who is ashamed of herself and about friends and family who can be ignorant. I'll be the first to admit that many of the insults thrown around in the book stung. However, I want to stress that this isn't a tragedy, and characters can change over time. Ultimately, the growth and hope in this book outweigh the negativity.

I only have a couple criticisms towards this book. First, it does occasionally fall victim to using awkward attempts at teen-speak (at one points Kaycee says "amazeballs"). The writing style also lacks a bit of punch towards the beginning, but it seems to improve as the story builds up. Finally, Kaycee is guilty of being judgmental herself sometimes. While she overcomes most of this by the end of the book, there is still one character she relentlessly calls a "skank," which rubs me the wrong way. These aspects of the book are what brought did down from five stars to four; still, I enjoyed the story quite a bit, and I was rooting for Kaycee all the way.

For someone who lives in the upper Midwest, it was also interesting to see a story about a small Southern town. The story overflows with local color, which is one quirk that makes it stand out from other, more generic stories. Its use of setting was one of the best I've read in YA lately.

Overall, I'd say this book is worth the read. I would recommend it not just to any LGBTQ readers but anyone who has ever felt the need to hide part of who they are. Although it faces tough issues, this is a wonderful and sweet coming-of-age story.

Was this review helpful?

A while back I was commenting with Kat that I hadn’t read any book about a F/F relationship. Yes, I read books that had lesbian relationships in the background, such as The Mortal Instruments or More Than Fashion, but I still hadn’t read one book where the F/F relationship took front and central. That’s why, when this book became available on Netgalley, I was super excited and requested it instantly. I had high hopes for it!

Unfortunately, despite the very strong issues touched on this book, and the occasional tear jerker moment, the most dominant feeling I had while reading it was: RAGE!

Yes, I was enraged for like 50% of this book. It didn’t feel good. I was messaging Cátia the whole time, and my most used expression was “WTF??!!“. I wanted to throw my phone away and yell at the skies and I even let out an occasional “OMG!” outloud and the occasional scream of frustration… yeah… this book was an experience, all right.

Let me first tell you a bit about the plot, because I feel like the blurb is not all that illuminating… Kaycee likes girls, she has liked girls since she can remember, she was never confused or in doubt, she is gay, she knows it, she just never admitted it to others or to herself. Her plan was to get through high school, have a few boyfriends, go to community college, save money and then get the hell away from Sunshine. Her plan was also never to tell a soul in her life about who she truly is, not even her mother. Then a new girl arrives at school and it’s a bit of instacrush… Kaycee can’t keep her eyes out of Bren, and Bren is also interested, but Bren has no problems with who she is, though she doesn’t flaunt it, she also doesn’t hide it.

Things get tricky as their relationship progresses. Kaycee being raised religious, is torn between her true self and what people at her small southern town and her church deems acceptable – that is: homosexuality is a NO NO! In a town that it’s socially and racially segregated, Kaycee is afraid, so she hides herself. Until her relationship with Bren comes out, that is, and Kaycee has to decide what is more important to her.

Now, see, isn’t that a good premise? I think it’s fabulous. My problem was the execution…

The writing took me a bit to get into, mainly because of the southern colloquialisms and expressions that I’m not familiar with. Eventually I kind of got used to it. But the pacing was slow, oh so slow, and honestly, after finishing it, I felt like the whole direction was a bit lacking.

I had a LOT of problems with Kaycee, our main character. I won’t even begin to understand how hard it is to come out of the closet in normal circumstances, much less in a small and small minded town, but I wanted to slap this girl in the face a few times… ok, many many times. I understood the fear, I swear I did, but her denial of herself and those who loved her hurt. The things she did and said to try to extricate herself from some situations was too hurtful and nonsensical. The fact that after an unpleasant situation, she turned the tables around and did the same to a person who was one of her best-friends was the worst.

In the end I felt like she grew a little, but not nearly enough, and her motivations weren’t the right ones. You should do things for YOU and not because you’re in love. Speaking of the romance, it was another thing I wasn’t totally sold on. I loved Bren, I just kept wishing that she would find someone better, because Kaycee didn’t treat her like she deserved.

I know that I live in a pretty idyllic place. It’s not that bullying and bigotry and so on doesn’t happen here, because it does, but definitly not in the dimension that is portrayed in this book. But some things that are said during this book totally turned my stomach around, because they’re just so wrong! I know this happens, I know it happens a lot and in a lot of places, but I don’t think that most of the book should have had this theme, where people said the most offensive things, and Kaycee or Van just went with them, because it was easier I guess… no, I didn’t like it at all. Some examples:

“You and your troublesome friends need to git your asses out of my theater. This ain’t no homosexual social club. You take your gay crap to California where all them other liberal hippies live. Law or no law, you’ll never be equal in my book. And you ought to be ashamed. You all disgust me. it ain’t normal, I tell ya. You gay people are destroying marriage and family values across the country. We don’t tolerate that around here.”

This is Kaycee’s BFF talking to her…

“I thought if you finally admitted you were gay, then somehow, I’d lose you. That I wouldn’t be able to be your friend because you’d hit on me or something, and then everybody would think I was gay too.”

This is the same BFF and one clueless dude…

“It’s the only gay shirt I’ve got.”

“Just because they’re gay, doesn’t mean they all wear pink. Do they, Van?”

I mean, I can’t even! I think the themes treated in this book are so important, but unfortunately I don’t think the execution appealed to me at all. I was rooting for the characters simply for my sense of morals and right and wrong, and nothing more, because these weren’t likable characters. Ultimatly I managed to reach 3 stars of rating because of this, because this type of books ARE IMPORTANT and because this book made me feel (though not very good…).

Was this review helpful?

I thought that Kaycee's struggle with her sexuality was well-written, especially with her upbringing and the society she lives in. Yes, I was disappointed with the way she handled certain situations but I can't say I was surprised. The author wrote compelling main characters and secondary characters that you either loved, hated or even redeem themselves by the end. There were also nice little tidbits here and there that I thought was sweet.

I definitely recommend this book to the young adults out there as this story touches on a myriad of topics, for instance: homophobia, religion, racism friendship. It is about coming of age, self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Was this review helpful?

South of Sunshine is about a girl named Kaycee Jean McCoy who lives in Sunshine, Tennessee. The town is typically southern and church and football are the most important things there. When new family moves t town and Kaycee meets their daughter, Bren, she starts falling for her, but she's terrified about what her family, friends and the rest of the town will think.

I think the author did a great job with the characters and descriptions. Sunshine's Main Street sounds just how I'd picture a main street in a quaint town in the south. Some characters are a bit cliché (big, bigoted football star, super religious preacher, snotty church ladies), but some of them surprised me in the end. I enjoyed the main character and the three main side characters (Bren, Van and Sarabeth).

The way Kaycee feels stifled by her small town, her upbringing and peoples' expectations of her felt very real. I love how her relationship with Bren progressed. It was slow and sweet with some hiccups along the way. I love when I get a sense of who the characters are and what they're feeling rather than having them jump into bed with someone.

After Kaycee is outed and it seems the whole community is against her, including her two best friends, she really has to find herself and figure out who she is and what she wants. Watching her try to hide who she is was heartbreaking. I just wanted to hug her and tell her that things would be ok for her. And they were. The end of the book was great! Kaycee finally start living for herself and she found some friends and allies. I like that it ties things up, but still leaves room for the reader to make their own conclusion about where the characters end up.

Was this review helpful?

In South of Sunshine we met Kaycee who is living in small town Sunshine and who is trying to figure out life and most importantly trying to figure out who exactly she is. Kaycee has been trying to suppress her true feelings and emotions when it comes to her sexuality all until new girl Bren walks into school. When she sees Bren she knows she’s a goner and is instantly smitten with Bren and although she tries to keep her distance there comes a point when neither one can deny that there is something definitely there.

What I loved most about this book was that it wasn't just about her sexuality but also about discovering the person she wants to be. Kaycee knows that she wants more in life than just her small town; she wants to explore and make something of herself. I think in Bren, Kaycee saw that she could do things in life and be more than she ever thought she could be. Bren was that light that showed her anything was possible. But not everyone is so happy for them she does face prejudice and that makes her doubt herself and if she is really ready to be out. She doesn’t know if she is strong enough to handle everything that comes with being her true self.

This is a great read no matter if you are gay or straight it’s all about being your true self. It shows us that we are stronger than we think, and to always take pride in who we are and that if you lucky to find love no matter what that’s a beautiful thing. South of Sunshine is wonderful coming of age story one that demands to be read.

Was this review helpful?

This is the story of Kaycee, who has been hiding who she really is for some time. While living in small town, she does not think anyone is going to be accepting of her sexuality. To hide her true self she is trying to date boys, even tho its the last thing she wants. But it doesn't seem worse then the fear of everyone finding out that Kaycee really likes girls. Even her closest friends have no idea. But when the beautiful, sporty and new Bren turns up at the school Kaycee is forced to face her feelings and the truth. At first she tries to stay away from Bren, but she is drawn to the girl.

While Kaycee and Bren are getting closer her fear of discovery grows. What will her mum do when she finds out. Kaycee tries everything to keep her relationship with Bren hidden. But will she go to far? Could she be pushing away the people that really matter?

I really liked this book. It painted a very real picture of a teenager on their journey of coming out. It shows all the aspects, be it Kaycee's fear, be it the beautiful acceptance and even the ugly side of it. Its sad to think that in this day and age it is still so hard for some teenagers and even worse that there is still people who react in such a negative way.

This book is about love, about coming out to your friends and family, about being true to yourself and its about friendship. There is many surprises within the story and I really liked all the characters. Most of all Kaycee's friend Van.

Its a lovely love story and really warmed my heart. The story flows really nicely and never gets boring. I believe there should be many more books about same sex relationships and not just stories about the struggle to come out. All in all this was a lovely book with a inspirational end. A good YA read that I am glad I had the chance to review.

Was this review helpful?

(I received digital ARC from Netgalley, in exchange of review )

When I first came across this book while I was on Netgally, what caught my attention were the title and the cover. SOUTH OF SUNSHINE what a beautiful title and as a reader you can’t help but wonder about it. I was. Once I read the description I had a feeling that this would be a book that I was going to love. Once I received the ARC I was excited about the book and I wasn’t disappointed. SOUTH OF SUNSHINE was a beautiful story about love, friendship and acceptance. It featured so much more than love; it had everything from anti-gay, racism and so much more. I have read few books about lesbians but nothing like this. SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is one of the most realistic coming out stories that felt real to me. What Kaycee and Bren went through, and the way that Kaycee struggled with herself, is what I can see happening in real life. I couldn’t get enough of Kaycee & Bren’s story and the emotions in this novel were astonishing.

Bren & Kaycee: I loved the relationship between the two of them, watching them fall for each other was magical. I could tell that from moment that Bren came to town, to Kaycee’s school that there was something there. I could almost feel the emotions that Kaycee was feeling when she first saw Bren, even though she wouldn’t admit it then, but she knew that there was something there. Relationship between the two of them was different but real, even though Kaycee had trouble accepting what two of them had, most of all she had trouble accepting her sexuality herself. Kaycee was trying to hide it. That was the difference between the two of them, Bren was out and open about but to Kaycee, it was new. I imagine that it couldn’t been easy for Bren to have a girlfriend who had hard time accepting herself. That what made their relationship real. From moment that two of them got together, I found myself rooting for Kaycee to accept herself so two of them could be together, without having to hide.

SOUTH OF SUNSHINE is not just a book about love but it’s about acceptance, heartbreak, hate and hope. There were so many subjects covered in this book, and there were times that you couldn’t help but feel bad for Kaycee with everything that she went through. All that she had deal from community, her mother and classmates once the truth about her sexuality came out. I was just glad that she had her friends to help her through it all. That’s true friendship and considering what they helped her with at end, that was astonishing and breathtaking. There were slow parts in book, in the beginning for me, it seemed like it slow paced for me but once it picked up, I couldn’t put it down. An astonishing debut novel by DANA ELMENDORF I can’t wait what story she has in store for us next.

Was this review helpful?

Sweet coming of age story, but a little slow paced for me. I know a few friends who would adore this book though!

Was this review helpful?

South of sunshine was a short novel based in a small town in western Tennessee. Being in a small town, people can be unwelcoming to different people, beliefs, race, etc. from what they don't know. This short novels delves into a life of a senior girl figuring out her own truth. She has known she was gay, but doesn't adventure into her real neig until a new pretty girl comes into town. I really enjoyed this novel. I can relate to this because I live in a small Tennessee town where I moved to when I was a senior in Highschool. People can be rude. But, I think people will understand once they understand. I think this novel touched base with this. It was great to see Kaycee grow in this novel. Her relationship with her friends, her mother and her peers was a learning experience. I really liked this perspective.

Was this review helpful?

Kaycee McCoy just wants to keep her head down, find a boyfriend she can maybe stand for a more than a few weeks, finish her senior year and find some way to , even eventually, get out of Sunshine, Tennessee. Until then, she's going to have to ignore certain things. Well, certain things (like feelings, attraction, the truth about herself) and one girl in particular: Bren Dawson.

New girl Bren's arrival in Kaycee's life makes it so much harder to pretend, though - and Kaycee may no long want to.

I loved the setting of South of Sunshine. There were quite a few things about Sunshine, Tennessee and its residents that I did not love, but I did love the portrayal of them, Kaycee's place in the community and what it all meant to her and who she was (and who she was willing to appear to be). There's a passage in the beginning that lets readers know how well Kaycee knows the town, that she knows this person and that shop and you can see how much she really loves it there.

There are things, of course, that she dislikes, has to ignore or wishes could be different. As much as she wants out of Sunshine, Tennessee it is still her home.

This novel is a very honest look at a teenage girl struggling with being gay, in the South. She doesn't believe being gay is wrong, but she also isn't proud of it or willing to admit it. She knows where she lives, who her mother is and what people would think. Or thinks she does.

I really appreciated that Kaycee's faith, her church attendance, and the role religion played in her life was so much a part of the story. She has spent nearly every Sunday morning of her seventeen years in a church pew. I love (love) that for this book accepting being gay was not synonymous with eschewing religion and/or God. Not only do I give Kaycee (and the author) points for making note of that there are other Levitical Laws, not just the oft cited one about homosexuality, but I thought she had some very astute thoughts on homosexuality and God.

I do have to say that, while I really enjoyed South of Sunshine, I don't think it was a pivotal book for me. I liked the characters, found them relatable, honest and enjoyed their stories but I don't know that it changed me. I can absolutely see, however, that for people in a different situation, South of Sunshine could be an important read.

Kaycee, Van, Bren, their friends and classmates, Sunshine, the high school, thee adults of the town, the racial, socioeconomic and sexual orientation divides are all very honest and true. Things aren't sugar-coated, Kaycee isn't just blown away by how, really, secretly, everyone is accepting and embracing of anyone gay. This book stays honest even when it's painful, but still somehow offers hope at the same time.

Was this review helpful?

South of Sunshine is set in Tennessee so I was definitely excited to read this book when I saw it. This book is about coming out of the closet while living in the south since it is pretty much unacceptable being gay (or just different honestly) in the south. I will say I think this book conveys Tennessee perfectly especially about people who are LGBT. In the south, religion is a huge reason a lot of people are not accepting of being gay. Although I do think people are being more accepting of people’s choices more now. I wouldn’t say it is more liberal exactly than say the 90’s…just maybe a little more accepting. I’ve always wondered how other people choices directly effects them anyways but that is a whole other topic. 😉

This books covers a lot of difficult topics like homophobia and racism – typical issues in the south. I think the thing I loved most about this book is that is for sure feels like I am reading about my home state. Everything from the descriptions to the attitudes of people. The author did a fantastic job at describing how living in the south is! Kuddos to her!

Anyways, Kaycee is a senior in high school and is quite grossed out by boys. She is tired of putting on a show and pretending that she is into guys especially when Bren comes to town because they have an immediate connection. One of her friends is gay but him being gay just isn’t spoke about much. He does eventually encourage her to be herself and helps her come to terms about who she is when he realizes she is fighting the connection between her and Bren. The problem is the community is not accepting of her being gay and so basically the town turns against her. Kaycee is afraid she could lose everything.

I think this is a well written book about being gay in the south and just accepting who you are! It is a quick read but it is full of angst and emotional turmoil.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Kaycee is a teenager going through the rite of passage that is her first major crush. The butterflies in the stomach, the nervous excitement when you see them across a crowded room, the fear of making a total fool of yourself. Tick, tick and tick! The only difference for Kaycee is that her crush is on another girl.
She's grown up in Sunshine, Tennesee, a small town with small minds and big opinions, always afraid to be herself. But now there's someone worth being herself for and that is the new girl in town Bren. Bostonian, black and very much out and proud can Kaycee face her demons and embrace the real her to be with the girl she loves?
The word that constantly sprang to mind throughout this book was "cute". It is such a sweet story, reminiscent of those high school crushes we've all been through whether gay, straight or somewhere in between. It gives you a feeling a warm fuzzy feeling to see this relationship blossom and a bitter-sweet nostalgia for your own teenage crushes whether they amounted to anything or not.
A sweet, innocent portrayal of how one person can come along and turn your whole world around and make it a sweeter place, somewhere you want to wake up to every morning. If you're gay you're going to recognise more than most those feelings of knowing you're different and the uncertainty of whether you'll be accepted. Kaycee's journey of self-discovery is poignant and most definitely worth a read for anyone who wants to be reminded of those giddy days of teenage romance. 4 stars.

Was this review helpful?

This review is in video form on my YouTube channel here:

Was this review helpful?

I felt the author did a really good job in creating a story with lovable characters, angst, strength, humour and a great overall story that you never want to stop reading. I thought the emotions and turmoil that the lead character Kaycee went through was very believable and I liked the way she slowly went from a frightened teen who didn't want to rock the boat to a strong lead the way person. Bren was a perfect match for Kaycee, I loved reading the interactions which just flowed well making it difficult to move on from these characters when I finished.

What a great story for LGBT youth and those struggling to accept who they are. The story shows us how far we have come in LGBT rights and acceptance but also reminds us that we have a way to go. That you can't please everyone but being true to yourself will give you the greatest gift in life, love.

This is a feel good story where you do go through some bumps along the way which makes the sweet moments even better. Great book and I highly recommend the read!

Was this review helpful?

A strong addition to the LGBTQ bookshelf.

Was this review helpful?
Not set

I have really wanted to read more LGBTQ+ books, and this checked that box. I also do have a soft spot for books set in small southern towns, and I still don't really know why. This book made me really angry, reading about such small-mindedness that adults were showing and negatively influencing younger generations to follow in their bigoted footsteps. I think a lot of teenagers will be able to relate to this book and I am so happy it has been published.

Not set
Was this review helpful?

I loved this book. I love the idea of southern hospitality and knowing that life is not easy, coming out is definitely easy but when you decide to take chances and live your life that in the end, it's all worth it. I loved this book, it was such a good read, I could not put it down.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed the book when I read it! Would recommend it.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: