Adapted from: GoodReads
Sometimes you read a book and it’s entertaining for an hour, and sometimes you read a book and it shakes you to the core, Sunshine is Forever falls into the second category. The combination of narrative voice, suspense, and insight into mental illness is spellbinding. It’s a contemporary fiction that somehow feels magical. Be warned though it gets pretty real at times, especially towards the end.
Note: This review is based on an advanced text of Sunshine is Forever by Kyle T. Cowan. TRIGGER WARNINGS: Depression and suicide.
Before we get into the review, I’m pleased to share that we were able to connect with the author of Sunshine is Forever, Kyle T. Cowan, and get a few questions answered about the novel, and tips for first-time authors. Enjoy the interview, I know I did! ;)
Questions with Kyle T. Cowan:
Photo Credit: Colton Newman
1. What inspired you to write this story?
A friend inspired Hunter’s character. I noticed that this person was constantly casting blame. I would say it was the most toxic friendship I’ve ever been involved in because I was new to both the situation and this type of depression. Depression is infectious. I found myself getting depressed and casting blame, too.
I did some soul searching and started writing Sunshine is Forever. I wanted to write a book about a character that refused to deal with his depression. Rather than address his issues, Hunter is constantly casting blame and deflecting. I think my advice for Hunter is that he should reflect on his actions and how they affect those around him. Happiness comes from within and the first step towards recovery is accepting that we are all accountable for the way we receive the world around us.
2. You create suspense and build intrigue so well throughout the novel, can you speak to your creative process for piecing everything together?
I originally wrote Sunshine is Forever as a screenplay. I think the structure of the book emulates the screenplay format—that’s how I was able to keep the pacing up. I realize the beginning of the story is all about character development, but after the first hundred pages the book is all plot based. I understood that with a novel, where you don’t get the benefit of seeing these kids on a screen, I really needed to explore all of the characters emotions deeply before I got into the fast-paced nature of the end of the book.
3. This is your first novel, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
If you want to be a writer my advice is to read and write a lot. Set out time to write one thousand words a day and to read twenty minutes a day. This type of goal is achievable for everyone. A writer is only as good as the amount of effort and time he/she/they puts into their craft.
And now, here is my review of the book!
Sunshine is Forever grabs the reader by the heart with its sincere narrative voice. Hunter is at time uncouth and awkward and at times ridiculously poetic and keenly observant and the oscillation between the two is artfully balanced.
Kyle T. Cowan’s Sunshine is Forever is the story of a teenage with depression who has attempted suicide, and sees little to no value in his life, and is shipped off to summer camp to try to “cure” him. The premise is dark I won’t deny that. But Hunter (aka Kyle T Cowan) is such a good storyteller that he finds small ways to add humor to his narrative, he finds ways to make his time at Camp Sunshine palatable for himself and by extension engaging the reader with the complex acceptance and resentment about being there.
The plot centers around Hunter’s time at Camp Sunshine, but really it highlights the relations he forms while he is there and the learning he does about others, himself and humanity as a whole – truly a nice micro to macro back to micro storyline.
Suspense builds throughout the book with regards to plot in a number of ways, the escape plan, the mysterious Corin, Hunter’s theory about how to cure depression all come to a point simultaneously, and things get dark for a while, SPOILER: but the sun comes back by the end.
In my Opinion
I was not too sure about this book going into it, didn’t really have expectations, but I was not expecting much and I was totally blown away. From the start I was hooked by the delivery and the intrigue of what Hunter did that caused him to feel such deep dark emotions. While I have never struggled with the degree of mental illness Hunter experiences I found I was able to relate to him on a human level. This novel was insightful in it’s explanations of the characters, which actually didn’t feel too preachy; as well as inspiring, Hunter’s realizations at the end of the novel are so crisp.
I loved the flow of the story. I felt like there are really great build up, and a nice denouement to accompany it. SPOILER: I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and while the read was grey the ending felt really sunny, but not in an unbelievable way, just in the way that sometimes something happens that helps things become clearer, and makes everything a little easier.
Sunshine is Forever is not just a book, it’s an experience. I read it over the course of a few days and every time I sat down to read I felt I was physically re-entering the story. Kyle T. Cowan, through his poignant narrative voice and suspenseful story building, creates an immersive atmosphere for the reader to withdraw into.
What’s the last book you read that really captivated you? I love that kind of read; give me recommendations in the comments, please!