The tropes and conventions found in YA literature are pretty universal: alienation, school, discrimination, bullying, self-esteem (or lack, thereof), and identity (whether the search for, the finding of, or the staking of one’s claim to an identity) – which is why they resonate so well with tweens and teens (to wit, the young adults for which the genre is named).
As such, Taylor Saracen’s new YA novella, His Own Way Out - based on the life of Blake Mitchell (who collaborated with Saracen on the telling of his story) - is already creating a wonderful buzz among teenagers (and their parents) who encounter ostracization on a daily basis, in high schools all across America; and it was only released, last week.
Mitchell, a well-spoken advocate for sex-positivity* and an ardent activist for equality, is - on the cusp of his 24th birthday - best known as a marquee model/actor for Helix Studios (a Las Vegas-based gay adult film production company). And while the larger story of how Helix has completely disrupted its industry (and continues to do so), is a fantastic one; the first novella published by the studio’s parent company, 13 Red Media, and its subject, are my focus, today.
Being outed as bisexual, as a 15-year old wrestler, attending public high school, for the first time (and in Kentucky, no less) – is not an easy thing to overcome; as Mitchell (via Saracen) explains in the book. Surviving the enmity of his classmates and fellow members of the wrestling team, recognizing it for the ignorance it was, and using the platform he’s been given to educate others about sexual identity and inclusivity, while delivering a healthy dose of sex-positivity – this is the crux of His Own Way Out. It's also an important message, not just for teens, but for parents, too (not to mention anyone who's ever been made to feel different, or lesser, for any reason).
Don’t get it twisted: This book (which, like most YA literature, would receive a PG-13 rating, from the MPAA, if made into a film) is in no way a treatise on encouraging young people to enter the adult film industry. In fact, there really aren’t any sex scenes, per se, as Saracen has the narrative fade-to-black, and lets the readers' imaginations take it from there.
Rather, His Own Way Out tells the reader (in a very frank and candid way) that in addition to not being “other,” you can take pride in who you are and what you do (or vice-versa), and have a successful life (which, in Mitchell’s case, has meant a career with a company that values him as a human being, a home, loving relationships with both the family into which he was born, and the ersatz-family cum support-system he’s found with Helix Studios, and the wherewithal to jump in his supped-up Dodge Challenger, and take a road-trip – with his beloved dog, Bandit, riding shotgun – whenever the mood strikes him).
Yesterday, while interviewing Mitchell, at the Helix offices, one of the company’s other executives (fellow Helix model, Kyle Ross) emerged from his office wielding an email written by a fan, about the ways the book had touched her life, and how relatable she found Blake's story. “This is the most amazing part..!” Mitchell excitedly proclaimed, before explaining that knowing he’s been able to help people who might feel alone or different is not only one of the great joys of his young life; but also a responsibility that he's honored to shoulder, on behalf of those without a voice.
Now, Mitchell and Saracen have embarked on their national book tour, and will be signing copies of the book, and speaking with fans, at appearances this coming weekend, in the Midwest – at City Lit Books in Chicago, IL (Saturday, August 4th); and at Barnes & Noble East in Madison, WI (Sunday, August 5th). They hit Southern California, a couple weekends thereafter – Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa in San Diego (Saturday, August 18th); later, that evening at Manfest in Hillcrest; and at BookMonster in Santa Monica (Sunday, August 19th); before appearing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, in Mitchell’s hometown of Lexington, KY, on Saturday, August 25th.
So, if you’re in one of those neighborhoods, and want to see what all the well-deserved fuss is about; stop in and say howdy: They’d love to see you.
His Own Way Out | RISE UP Series: Book 1
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Get into it!
[Editor’s Note: The sex-positive movement embraces and promotes human sexuality and sexual expression, with emphases on safe and consensual sex; while advocating for comprehensive and accurate sex education, and safe sex practices. The sex-positive movement makes no moral distinctions among the types of sexual activities practiced, considering these to be matters of personal preference.]