Leon’s a slacker taking the easy path, not caring about anything, skipping gym (can’t fault him that) and enjoying kicking it in a den of miscreants masquerading as a job.
“When you get a job you like, you should lock it down.”
He used to be different though and now there’s possibility of Anna, his dream girl placed on a pedestal and incomparable, coming back to town. His low-key dread he’s been ignoring kicks into high gear and he turns to Stan to vent.
Only Stan has other plans for Leon who’s been a good minion, even if he’s not a literal believer. It starts with listening to Moby Dick on 19 audio tapes while driving around town. Leon has no idea how this would help, and neither did I, but his journey had begun.
I was a bit worried going in, but for the opposite reason of most people. I didn’t want to hear preaching and turning towards God or whatever. Thankfully, there’s none of that here.
|+No preaching or attempts to convert|
|+Hilarious & fun|
|+Loved Leon, his journey, and character progression|
|+Realistic teens and activities|
I loved everything about Play Me Backwards. Honestly, I have nothing bad to say about it. Some might object or reject it due to the content, but I found it refreshing and sorely needed, especially after so many slut-shaming books.
It’s an authentic portrayal of teens. There’s sex, disgusting conversations, kicking it while drinking and smoking, video games, metal music, and of course, Dungeons & Dragons. But it’s not hardcore, dark, or dreary. There is romance and sweetness, but it’s not the typical YA fare.
“You do realize your characters would be better off without you, right?”
The story isn’t about Anna. Or a dork dating out of his league. It’s a typical teen drifting through life who starts to try and experience things instead. Along the way he has great introspection, insights, and realizations.
"But I suppose you shouldn't look for symbolism in people's work uniforms."
Throughout the trials and tribulations, Leon is insightful and the writing is great. I loved the short chapters describing one phenomena like dread and love. Not only did I find them funny and spot-on but it’s great building Leon’s character and mindset.
Of course, none of this would happen without S(a)tan. It bucks the Judeo-Christian depiction while including tired tropes against Satanist and making them freshly down to Earth. This Satan is more The Satanic Temple than the Church of Satan. And yes, there’s a huge difference.
He’s the boss at the Ice Cave, a rundown ice cream parlor that’s most popular feature is the den of miscreants in the back. Stan holds court there and in his basement. The amazing thing about those places is the liberation and community among people who would otherwise be outsiders.
Leon likens it to Rudolph’s Island of Misfit Toys only with pride and debauchery. All the background cast have their own personalities and are easily identifiable without John-Green-esque quirks. And you if like Leon’s parents you totally need to check out Cracked series about taste testing old recipes here, here, and here.
I didn’t know what anyone would say or do next. It was a BLAST! Unpredictable and hilarious, Play Me Backwards is nonstop. I did not want to put it down and couldn’t wait to get back to reading.
But like I said earlier, don’t be fooled by the young mischief, there are serious issues that are handled well and are rarely included.
First, while it doesn’t try to convert or de-convert someone, it does include a Separation of Church and State matter. I won’t go into details and spoil the surprise but Stan’s plan is right out of The Satanic Temple’s playbook. If you’ve never heard of their activism you can check some out: Official Campaigns Page, Pro-Abortion 1 & 2, Separation of Church & State 1 & 2 plus a General List.
It's like going to someone else's church: Stand when they stand, sit when they sit, and hope you don't end up getting sacrificed with a big knife or something.
Sex Positivity for Boys & Girls: Rebellion Leads to Liberation
The cynic in me says if Leon was Leona, she wouldn’t have been free to narrate her exploration of sex and insecurities and I hate that. I wish I could think of a similarly freeing and non-judgmental YA book for she-teens.
The good news is none of the girls are slut shamed. No one is made to feel bad for having previous partners or enjoying sex. Dating and moving on the next one is no big deal. The relationship and emotions have weight and significance but sex isn’t a cross to bear for women.
Instead, as easily guessed, liberation is a key theme and they’re free to hang out naked, shirtless, fuck, and do everything guys do. Why the fuck not? It makes sense.
But it’s not all about women, sexism hurts men too. Leon’s previous sexual experiences and insecurities highlight an important part that is often overlooked and turned into women-hating excuses. His exes aren’t painted as evil sluts, just jerks or insensitive. It’s not about their gender, it’s how they treat people.
He doesn’t smear all women or “but not all men” when women complain about sexism. Dudebros should take note. He progresses as a person instead.
And I want a petition to replace Truth or Dare with Permissions.
"So instead of saying 'I dare you to,' you say 'I give you permission to.' And you can either do it or not. It's kind of liberating in a way."
Being in Oak Meadow Mills could be like being inside one of those mirror mazes that they had at the fair.
I continued my basic routine of saying the stupidest shit possible.
There was a chance that I was playing a part in some pretty ugly stuff, in an offhand sort of way, but so is everyone else with a job, if you think about it. Just about everyone who works is earning money for CEOs who may not be the world's greatest human beings.
"I hear that if a guy takes no for an answer and doesn't text you pictures of his scrotum, he's probably ahead of the curve."
"I wasn't getting any sympathy from the devil, though. Stan was laughing his ass off at me."