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Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite
After reading Michela O’Brien’s Playing On Cotton Clouds, you’ll not only wish you were a child of the 1980s, you’ll reconsider everything you thought you knew about coming-of-age during this era of fluorescent clothing and punk rock. Told over two and a half decades of friendship, tragedy, and loves won and lost, we follow Livy, Seth, and Aidan as they sprout from awkward teenagers to complex and flawed adults. Each of the main characters are real people rather than caricatures of an archetype. Livy is a bit naïve but the knowledge gained in adulthood came at a painful price, while Seth’s struggles are heartbreakingly honest.
Playing On Cotton Clouds is not your typical coming-of-age story because it is gritty and raw and real. Sure there are first kisses and first loves and first heartaches, but there are also painful addictions, deadly illnesses, and the unbearable love of love unrequited. Those are the emotions evoked with nearly every page Michela O’Brien has written. Growing up for these characters isn't just a montage of happy memories and mild pain while an ultra-cool soundtrack plays in the background. Each year is punctuated by events that will shape the lives of Livy, Seth and Aidan as well as those they love, hate, and feel indifference toward. Touching on a wide range of topics without bashing the reader over the head with them, O’Brien does a fantastic job of illustrating the timeline through the issues, whether it is drug use, casual sex, illness, or marriage versus career.
While the characters are in no way stereotypical, it will be easy to see your own friends and foes mirrored in the lives of Livy, Seth, and Aidan. And that is a story that can touch every reader.