John Lennon fought for world peace, but sixteen-year-old hippie hopeful Kale Oswald’s only made it as far as tie-dying his T-shirts with organic grape juice. Now he’s ready to cement his new hippie identity by joining a local human rights organization, but he doesn’t fit in as well as he’d hoped.
After landing himself in the hospital by washing down a Ziploc bag of pills with a bottle of Gatorade, Julian Mendez came clean to his mother: he is a girl stuck in a boy’s body. Puberty blockers have stopped the maturing of the body he feels has betrayed him. They’re also supposed to give him time to be sure he wants to make a more permanent decision, but he’s already Julia in his heart. What he’s not sure he’s ready to face is the post-transition name-calling and bathroom wars awaiting him at school.
When Kale and Julian come face-to-face at the human rights organization, attraction, teenage awkwardness, and reluctant empathy collide. They are forced to examine who they are and who they want to become. But until Kale can come to terms with his confusion about his own sexuality and Julian can be honest with Kale, they cannot move forward in friendship, or anything more.
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Heat Level: 1
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Questioning, Pansexual, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: Under 18
Protagonist 2 Age: Under 18
Protagonist 3 Age: Under 18
Tropes: Coming of Age
Word Count: 53,000
Languages Available: English
I suddenly need to be alone, which isn’t one of my typical needs. Usually I need to know stuff like what ant poop looks like and if tongue prints are unique to every individual. I’m surprised by my overwhelming need for personal time and space, and my exit isn’t as graceful as I’d hoped. “Gotta pee like Seabiscuit.”
And I’m out of there with the speed of a racehorse.READ MORE
Side note: “Pee like a racehorse.” I use this expression quite frequently, so naturally I became curious about its origin. Do racehorses really pee so much? According to my research, yes, they do, and then some. Horses produce almost two gallons of pee per day. And from what I gather, when horses urinate, it’s quite an impressive sight. In my research, a peeing horse has been called “dramatic” and “a spectacle.” And throughout history, racehorses have commonly been given diuretics so that they pee excessively before a race. A racehorse can be ten pounds lighter after taking a leak.
My bedroom seems overly quiet, which is ridiculous since when Hughie’s in here, he hardly says a word unless questioned directly. And then he delivers a guarded reply, always keeping it short and to the point. Hughie never rambles. But maybe he has stuff to say, and he shuts up because he knows that I wouldn’t care about any of it. He knows that I’d say something like, “Whatevs,” and resume telling him about the wonders of the Woodstock Festival.
Things need to change around here.
I need to change.
I pull off my tie-dye T-shirt and jeans, and kick off my moccasins. And here I stand. The real me.
Not so hipster at all, am I? Just a skinny sixteen-year-old boy in tighty-whities.
The time has come to take a long hard look at myself.
And how is it I know this?
An easy question to answer—it’s because my guilt has grown so thick it feels like a second skin I need to shed.
I’m a hippie-imposter.
The most legendary hippies of all—John, Paul, George, and Ringo—declared in song that love is all you need. But I refused to give Hughie so much as a like. And doesn’t a certain popular Beatles’ tune declare that we get by with a little help from our friends? I left my cousin hanging alone in the wind. And, according to my research, hippies are comfortable living in communal dwellings; I have trouble sharing my bedroom.
I may look like a hippie with my dreadlocks and tie-dyed T-shirts, but I’m just an average kid who cares about stuff like being popular at school and getting accepted into a decent college. Hippie is the laid-back, chill identity I hide behind.
Hippie. It’s really just the personal theme I’ve adopted so I can pass as cool and avoid having to think about who I really am.
Holy crap—I’m a fake! I’m the Walt Disney World Hippie Theme Park of teenage boys in Crestdale!
And maybe I have no idea who I really am, other than a guy who professed to be pro-human rights but who looked the other way at the human being in desperate need who lives in my frigging bedroom with me.
I’m drawn to the mirror above my bureau. As I stand here, it’s like my fingertips grow tiny minds of their own; they start ripping away, pulling apart, and separating my dreads. But I get nowhere fast. In fact, my head has become a disaster area—a frizzy, knotted, semidreaded rat’s nest.
I refuse to become more upset over my stupid hair than I am over my missing cousin. Wrapping a T-shirt around my head, I sneak down the hall. In the bathroom, Mom’s toenail-scissors rest on the vanity, all shiny and silver, beckoning me. I grab them and pick out my first dreadlock victim. Snip. For just a moment, I wonder what to do with it—I could wrap it in toilet paper and stick it under my pillow for safekeeping—but I quickly realize this is not the answer. I toss it in the trash and move on, snipping away at Kale Oswald, the pseudohippie, dread by dread.
When I return to my room, I’m a nearly naked nonhippie with uneven, inch-long blond spikes sticking up o my head. My mushroom days are over. I have morphed into a pineapple, minus the leafy crown.
I lie down in bed, pull the covers to my chin, and turn out the light on the bedside table.
What is happening to my crunchy life?
This question is quickly replaced.
What is happening to my cousin, Hughie?
The last thing I do before I close my eyes is lift my phone from the lamp on my bedside table and send a group text to my new friends, Anna, Kandy, and Julian.
Kale: Thanks for all the help. I appreciate it more than you know.
Maybe I haven’t the slightest clue who I am anymore, but maybe this is okay, because I’m finally being honest with myself and the world.
Kirkus Reviews on Kirkus Reviews wrote:
Sometimes a book comes along that is so outstanding words fail a reviewer. My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick is one of those books. A quick glance at the cover might lead you to think this is just a fun book for teens. But you’d be wrong. While My Crunchy Life is indeed aimed at young adults, and much of the time is delivered with humor, its focus is very serious and addresses a key contemporary, actually timeless social issue: gender identity.
At the center of this delightful and beautiful story are Kale and Julian. Mia Kerick alternates the narration between these two teens, good kids with loving parents but caught up in their own issues, though Julian at least has been able to be fully open with his mom: Julian has known since he was a child that he is a girl in a male body. He hates it, has confided fully in his mother, and with her endless support is transitioning to a woman.
Kale is all male but confused. Could he be gay? He feels attracted to Julian but doesn’t have a clue that Julian wants to be Julia. He avoids confronting his own issues by embracing different lifestyles: he tries to be a hippie, eat vegetarian only while his father serves up hot dogs and pulled pork, and has the hardest time being kind to his “brosin”, Hubie, his brother/cousin who lives with Kale and his dad after a troubled earlier life with his own mother. Kale is constantly doing mental gymnastics as he tries to sort through all his problems.
Another contemporary teen issue which both Julian and Hubie face is bullying from the unkind mouths of their schoolmates. Kerick does a superb job of capturing that nastiness, and the heartache it causes the victims in a language teens understand. Teens will find themselves reading My Crunchy Life and wondering if Kerick knows them personally: it’s that accurate. Perhaps Kerick’s ability to nail teen creed and teen thinking in so many areas comes from the fact that she is the mother of 4 children. Or maybe, it’s simply because this is an author who sees deeply into the hearts and minds of people and is gifted at delivering all the accompanying emotions on paper.
Through incredibly witty plays on words, humour, and lots of empathy, Mia Kerick has written a book that is not just for young adults, but for parents who truly care about what their children might be struggling with, but are hesitant to discuss with anyone. My Crunchy Life opens doors to allow communication to begin. Kerick has written several books addressing important teen issues, and won deserved awards for doing so. If these issues matter to you, this is an author you need to know about and whose books should be on your bucket list.
"A funny, heartwarming YA novel." Kirkus Reviews
In Kerick’s (The Weekend Bucket List, 2018, etc.) YA novel, two teens navigate gender and other identities.
Julian Mendez—or Julia as she hopes one day to be known at school and everywhere else—recently tried to kill herself with a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. Everyone at school assumes it was a cry for help (including Julia), so now she’s seeing a therapist who specializes in trans teens. Julia is placed on puberty blockers, and her therapist recommends that she join a club and try to make some friends in order to “expand [her] social base” before the treatment takes its effect on her body. At a meeting of the Rights For Every Human Organization, Julia meets Kale Oswald, another youngster going through a transformation—from nonhippie to hippie. Julia isn’t much impressed by Kale’s recently acquired dreadlocks and tie-dye, but Kale finds that he is feeling an unexpected attraction to Julia, whom he perceives as a male. Could Kale be gay, he wonders? As fate further entangles the pair, they discover that they are more similar than they originally thought…but can the relationship survive the revelation that Julian is really Julia? Kerick’s narration toggles between Julian’s and Kale’s perspectives. Both brim with angst and snark: “Since I left my makeup bag on my bed in the frenzied morning rush,” Julia tells her unwanted therapist, “I had no powder to do touch-ups, so my face is as greasy as Colonel Sanders’s crispiest chicken breast. Don’t you like the way the suckage of my day came full circle, right back to my late start?” Despite its serious topic, Kerick eschews the melodrama common in today’s YA lit, opting instead for a lighter, jocular tone that mostly focuses on perennial teen issues: student rivalries, bullying, families, and crushes. Julian’s and Kale’s situations and feelings of discombobulation are strikingly relatable. The book ends up about where the reader expects it will, but the well-drawn and emotionally engaging characters make this novel a fine place for a teen to pass the time.
A funny, heartwarming YA novel.