Title: Pale Winter Sun Author: Michael R. Collins Print Length: 215 pages Publication Date: August 17, 2016 Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Family, Bisexual Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KM83DD0/

This is a good debut young adult novel which hits on several important issues. Often when we talk about homeless LGBTQ+ youth, most people probably imagine kids in big cities and have some stereotypes of survival. It's rare to find a story about homelessness in rural areas where there are limited resources. Not just in terms of shelters or safety; it can be impossible to locate even the most basic items to satisfy physical needs.

What stood out to me here was Mark's inner struggle to be authentically himself without alienating the one person he could trust throughout their ordeal. Mark's internal conflict is expressed brilliantly on page in his observations of his friends and through his various relationships.

What I liked best is that at no point is Mark forced to "pick a side" in order to be true to who he is as a person. The people around him definitely have some ideas about how his bisexuality should be addressed and how it should look, but Mark is unapologetic about it. By the end of the story, he's grown into himself and is on a better path toward discovery.

The stark setting, between the cold weather setting in and the harsh religious attitudes, makes a nice contrast with the warmth of the personal relationships Mark enters and develops throughout the story. We see these juxtapositions in several places: Mark's brother and aunt vs. his parents; Trevor's mother vs. his father; the store owner who hires Mark vs. the farmer whose land they borrow. Mark and Trevor provide contrasting views on their situation, and within Mark's psyche we see this dichotomy as well. It lends a nice symbolic overall tone.

The writing is definitely less polished than I'm used to, and it's clear this is a first effort. However, the storytelling more than makes up for the raw writing. I'm hoping this is indeed first young adult novel and not an only one because there are more stories to be told and more youth waiting to see themselves on the pages.

For a compassionate tale, a conversation-starter about our rural youth, and a book in which young people can find themselves or people like them, this gets 4/5 stars.