An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale

SKU 978-1-77339-351-3

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When your whole world is falling apart, what are the chances you’ll find love in the most unexpected of places?

Livvie feels like she’s losing everything: her two best friends have abandoned her for their boyfriends, her mother continues to ignore her, while her sister, Jules, is sick again and getting worse by the day. Add in the request Jules has made of her and Livvie feels like she’s losing her mind, too.

Her only escape is in the art room, where she discovers not only a refuge from her life, but also a kindred soul in Bianca, the school “freak”. Livvie’s always felt invisible, at school and at home, but with Bianca, she finally feels like someone sees the real Livvie. As the relationship deepens and it comes time to take the romance public, will Livvie be able to take that step?

Livvie’s about to find out if she has what it takes to make the tough decisions and stand up for herself—for the first time in her life.

14+ due to adult situations and sexuality



Bianca pulled up in front of my house, which sat in darkness, not even the porch light on to guide me. I must be late. Mom always switched off the light at midnight, whether we were home or not, letting us know she was aware we’d missed curfew. I’d hear about it tomorrow. Or maybe not.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said. “And … thanks. Again. Like I said, you’re always rescuing me.”

“Maybe I think you’re worth saving.” Bianca wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes were turned to the open window. The words sounded simple, but they weren’t. They lay across the seat between us, pulsing in shades of pink and red.

“Thanks?” The word felt awkward in my mouth. Would she still think I was worth saving if she knew I was thinking of ways to kill my sister? I shoved the thought away as I climbed out of the car. “See you in school.”

“Yeah. See you.” Bianca turned, her eyes glittering under the streetlights. “Hey, Livvie?”

“Yeah?” I ducked my head back through the door.

“I really like your painting.”

I jerked back in surprise, knocking the back of my head on the door. “My painting? You mean the still life?”

She nodded. “Yeah. It’s really good. It’s like everyone else is painting the surface of the things, but you’re painting what’s underneath. The real apple. The real flowers. It’s got—” She stopped, searching around as if she’d find the word she was looking for hanging in the air, ripe for plucking. “Well, it sounds totally corny, but it’s got soul.”

My face grew warm. “Thanks,” I mumbled. “But yours is way better.”

She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “No. Mine’s clever. It’s thought out. But there’s no passion in it. Yours has that.”

I giggled. “Passion? For a bunch of fruit and flowers? I hope not.”

She smiled, too, the flicker of movement so small I could have missed it. “Well, yeah. It’s not the most exciting subject. But if you can inject that much life into something so stupid, just think what you could do with something you really care about. Like that thing you did with the song. That’s something special.”

I sank back into the seat, the springs wheezing beneath me. My ears blazed, and I knew my cheeks were just as red. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Even Mrs. DeWinter dismissed my music pictures as irrelevant swirls of color, while Mom considered all painting and drawing to be a frivolous waste of time.

“Thanks.” I stammered again.

“No, thank you.” Bianca lit another cigarette, the fiery end punching a hole in the darkness.

“What for?” Smoke burned my eyes, making them tear. At least, I thought it was the smoke. I couldn’t remember the last time someone complimented me or made me feel special. I brushed at a wet spot on my cheek.

She took a long drag and turned to her open window before exhaling into the night. “I’ve always been the best at art. I never had to work hard to be the best either. Now I have something to work for.”

“Oh.” I admired the ease with which she admitted to being the best. “Okay.”

Silence filled the car, but it was a warm, comforting silence.

“I have to go.” The reluctance in my voice surprised me, and I realized I didn’t want to leave. And not just because Bianca’s words flattered me. I recognized the truth in them. “I have a curfew. And I’m late.”

“Sure. Wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.” She turned the key and let the engine struggle to life again.

I watched the way the light gleamed off her shiny red lips. Surprised, I realized I wanted to lean over and kiss them, wanted to see if she tasted of the raspberries I always tasted while in her presence. I scrambled out of the car, putting distance between us as fast as I could. My heart raced in my chest.

Product Reviews

Score: 5 out of 5 (based on 11 ratings)
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Written by Night Owl Reviews on 14th Feb 2018

Livvie made me want to cry. To be so young she had so much going on in her life. So much guilt, pain, responsibility, fear and most of it shouldn’t have even been put on her. Her mother tried her best but I personally thought she could have tried harder. She had two daughters, not just Jules. When Jules request something from Livvie, her world changes and things get a little more complicated. Bianca is going through her own thing and is kind of the school outcast. When Livvie initially meets up with her it’s tentative at best. Livvi's disorder was interesting as well. To see music like that is fascinating but I can also see the down side. The fact that she was able to find a kindred spirit and someone to talk to about certain things without being judged was just awesome. "An Unstill Life" will make you think, what would you do for the person you loved? Even if the situation or request could land you in prison. Are you willing to risk the wrath of others to be with the one you love? Or will you hide in the shadows and whither away? "An Unstill Life" is a coming of age story that will make you cry, scream, laugh and want to hold somebody. I truly do recommend this great read.

I couldn't put this book down. So well written ...
Written by Amazon Customer on 10th Feb 2018

I couldn't put this book down. So well written. Exactly capturing how a teenager feels. The story tackles so many issues young people face. All with teens in their sphere need to read and learn. Thank you Kate. So insightful.

Great book!
Written by Stormy Russell on 10th Feb 2018

Loved this book! The conflict was at every turn and the romance was authentic and sweet. I highly recommend it!

An LGBT positive read!
Written by XAN on 10th Feb 2018

Gah! I hated so many of the characters in this book and my heart broke for Livvie and Bianca. A beautifully written and poignant story dealing with more than one controversial issue, I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a contemporary issue-driven read. I only wish there'd been a clearer hint at setting so that I had a better understanding of the context of this story. That said, this story is all about the characters so setting really isn't all that important. A great LGBT positive read!

Everyone should read this book!
Written by Tania on 10th Feb 2018

After reading Kate Larkindale's debut book, An Unstill Life, she has a new fan, and I'll be putting her on my auto-buy list. Larkindale has an amazing talent of drawing the reader into the story, and her writing style is mesmerizing, filled with gorgeous descriptions. Livvie is a rebellious teen who is dealing with some pretty emotional situations, and you can't help but feel sympathy for her from the get go. The story grabbed hold of me and took me on its emotional roller-coaster to the point where I kept wondering how Livvie was keeping sane in the middle of everything happening around her. Can't recommend this book enough.

Great Read!!
Written by Bridie Blake on 10th Feb 2018

Okay wow, I finished An Unstill Life a couple of days ago and needed to take a moment before writing a review. This book will make you feel. It will make you angry, frustrated and cry. That's a true testament to the author. Livvie has so much to deal with in this book and Kate Larkindale handled some very sensitive topics with great care. The relationship between Livvie and Jules was beautiful and their moments together were gut wrenching, and then when you think you're settling in for a sob fest you're thrown into the sweet relationship growing between Livvie and Bianca. I highly recommend picking up a copy of An Unstill Life asap! And grab a box of tissues while you're at it!

So much raw emotion. So compelling
Written by Lori Hall on 10th Feb 2018

As the story begins, Livvie is a teenage girl with a little bit of a rebellious side. She and her friends are getting tattoos, talking about boys, and having pizza at the mall. The thing that sets her apart, and the narrative from her POV, right from the start, is her synthesia, and seeing the world through her eyes. And then Livvie’s entire world crumbles. Her sister’s cancer is back (consuming all of her mother’s attention and affection), her friends are discovering boys and are too busy for her, and she begins to realize boys might not be her thing. Every thread of this story is so intricately interwoven, that I couldn’t help but be drawn into Livvie’s head and heart. I felt it all, and it was euphoric, and heart-breaking, and gut-wrenching. There are moments in the story (as Livvie deals with the consequences of coming out, as her sister confesses she doesn’t want to live through the pain of cancer, as her mother completely turns her back on her), that I was so torn apart as an outside observer, I had no idea how Livvie was surviving. This book is more than just a romance, or a coming of age novel. And there’s so many layers to it that you’ll be drawn in and drown along with Livvie.

A well-written, realistic portrayal of a teen girl's struggle to be herself
Written by S Himsl on 4th Feb 2018

A well-written, realistic portrayal of a teen girl's struggle to be herself in a world spinning out of control. Livvie's sister Jules is dying and their mother is too mentally unstable to accept what's happening. Livvie's two best friends, who might have been more supportive, are suddenly too boy crazy to be of much help. Livvie finds herself alone and isolated. She doesn't share the same attraction to boys, although her friends keep trying to set her up. When Livvie finds comfort with an unpopular art student, Bianca, the friendship grows into something more and the relationship blossoms. Kids begin to notice and the gossip flies, dividing the school down the middle in their acceptance of the gay couple. I have never read an LGBT genre book before, so admittedly this was out of my comfort zone, but that said, I thought it was a good story.

Long and Short LASR
Written by Stargazer on 15th Dec 2017

How far can you be pushed before you give up your quiet life and take a stand? An Unstill Life is a deep journey into the life of Livvie, a fifteen-year-old girl with more than her share of life’s problems. Her sister Jules is sick with cancer and Livvie’s mother is preoccupied with the medical diagnosis. Hannah and Mel are Livvie’s two best friends, but boys become the major obstacle and distraction that tears the three apart. Livvie finds herself isolated and overwhelmed with everything going on. An Unstill Life is a perfect view of how fast everything can spiral out of control. Kate Larkindale balances difficult topics with true to life emotions. The descriptions of events, emotions and reactions that each character has is directly on point and plays out smoothly within the situations presented. Issues of bullying, discrimination and even deep rooted domestic frustrations are cleanly addressed in an honest way. The story, while told from the point of view of Livvie, really is something that could happen in most families. Events from both home and school are intricately interwoven to provide a great immersive plot that draws the reader in and makes it difficult to put the books down. Each event that piles onto Livvie’s daily life, is reflected in the change to her personality. The author takes great care in showing the transition and shifting of Livvie’s personality throughout the pressure, frustration and difficulties that she endures. The dialog between characters is strong and flows naturally. Each character has a strong back story that unfolds throughout the story, including the mysterious Bianca. Each secondary character has strong personality development throughout the story as well, showing a depth to the storytelling that Kate exhibits. If you enjoy an enveloping psychological look at life and how fast things change to shape and mold who we are-make sure you don’t miss An Unstill Life.

Couldn't Put It Down
Written by Christine R on 31st Oct 2017

I’ve never read a book where the main character has synesthesia. That alone was enough for me to want to read An Unstill Life. The concept of tasting colors and seeing sounds is unique and exciting! An Unstill Life identifies and demonstrates the complicated nature of love, even when we find love easy to fall into. The love for a sibling. The love for family. The romantic love for a partner. There are always complications. An Unstill Life takes two deeply emotional and life-changing experiences, and shows us how difficult each circumstance can be on their own but also in relation to the other happening. I enjoyed every minute of the emotional ride, rooting for Livvie as she gained confidence in who she is despite what others think. At the same time, sharing in her ups and downs as she sought to find herself and deal with the heartache of watching her sister’s condition worsening. Feeling helpless to the illness. An Unstill Life is filled with real moments and harsh realities, which compelled me forward with a desire to discover and understand the extent of what was happening until its bittersweet end.

Vibrant story of tough grace against hard odds
Written by Karin Williams on 25th Jul 2017

When her beloved sister falls desperately ill, a teenage girl must overcome her mother's anger and the bigotry of her classmates to do the right thing for her family and herself. This powerful, emotional and heartfelt novel follows a vulnerable young woman coming to grips with serious issues of life, love and death. The writer tackles big issues of sexuality, bullying, mental illness, cancer and mortality with honesty and bravery. Livvie Quinn is a strong but vulnerable heroine who faces potentially overwhelming obstacles with resiliance and courage. Despite tragic circumstances, hope shines through this story like the vibrant colours Livvie experiences in her synesthesia.