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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Life Sliding is a young adult coming of age novel written by S.L. Mauldin. Though he had indeed handcrafted the persona that made him the kid everyone wanted to emulate, even Gavin Bailey found the yearbook title, “The Most Looked Up To,” somewhat tedious and a little bit absurd. Still, he accepted his role as a king at his high school and pondered what it would be like reigning in his senior year. Taylor, his long-term friend/girlfriend, had invited him to come with her family to Cabo for the summer, but his father, who had gotten increasingly strict and controlling, had nixed that idea. He had made other plans for Gavin, plans that would put the kibosh on any entertainment for his last high school summer, and his dad had made it clear that there was no point in arguing about it. After the last day of school, Gavin was woken up early on Sunday morning and driven off to the parking lot where a herd of yellow school buses were waiting for the campers to arrive. To make matters even worse, his father had pulled the plug on his cellphone coverage, effectively cutting off any communication with the real world as Gavin knew it. Camp Lift Me Up was created to let kids with special needs just be kids for a summer, and Gavin’s father had volunteered him to be one of the Counselors-in-Training. Gavin viewed it as a wasted summer at first, but he soon discovered it was a life-changing experience.
S.L. Mauldin’s young adult coming of age novel, Life Sliding, is a grand and glorious read about the pressures to conform that shackle children and young adults in school, and one popular kid’s realization that there was much more to life than being the most looked up to. Following Gavin’s metamorphosis from an arrogant and entitled kid to a compassionate and independently minded young adult is a mesmerizing and moving experience. Life Sliding is one of those all-too-rare books that get it. Mauldin seems to have the inside scoop on the angst, self-doubt and insecurity of the young whose issues are often dismissed with condescending platitudes such as “youth is wasted on the young.” His plot is original and compelling, and Camp Lift Me Up is marvelous. I have to admit that I’ve always harbored a wistful envy of those fortunate kids who got sent to camp and became counselors when they were teens. So I automatically looked forward to vicariously experiencing Gavin’s camping summer, even if he didn’t, but, like Gavin, I found it far surpassed my anticipation. Mauldin’s characters are authentic and intriguing, especially Gavin’s lifelong friend, Jacob, and their friendship is a big part of what makes this book work as well as it does. I had a grand time reading Life Sliding; it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Life Sliding is most highly recommended.