WARNING this review turns more into a rant and is super long mostly because I am super torn on this book. I started off really liking it and just am always excited to read new lgbtq+ especially from lgbt authors. There were some aspects, though, of the book that really make me want to scream. To the point that I picked up something else because I was pretty sure I was not going to like how it ended and certain plot points were still grinding my gears.
I am going to try to start off positive because I didn't out right hate it but will be honest in saying the things that I did not like or that did not sit well for me still sort of taint the enjoyment of the book as a whole. I might come back and change my rating to a two because omg are those certain points really bothering me but for now will leave it at a three. Nope, never mind those details bother me way too much.
At the start I liked all the characters and I liked how the overall story was going.Will admit and say I am not the biggest fan of books told from multiple perspectives. Sometimes they are amazing, but most times I end up enjoying on thread more than the other ones and the other points of view come off as a slog to get through. I thought the author dealt with a difficult time in Lgbt history with maturity and made it more about appreciation of people who lived as their true selves then focusing just on the amount of lives lost. I liked that he dealt with the worries of coming out especially when doing was already difficult and challenging but also adding especially Reza's cultural background, which since had he still being living in Iran when he came out could have meant a literately death sentence. I was also happy that he dealt with teen sex maturely. There was talk of using condoms and just safe sex in general, which seems to never even get mentioned in most adult books to be quite honest. Going in I was hesitant about the premise, though. I am not a fan of books whose plot is based on dating someone no matter you sexuality only to not really be attracted to them, but instead be interested in someone else. I got it here because Reza was certain him being gay would be a disappointment, which for his mother it is and still is by the end of the book since most of the book his mother acts like it isn't true, to his family and was quite certain if he just dated a girl than maybe by some chance he could "turn" himself straight. So I get it. I still am not a fan, though, but I get it. I do like that the author does deal with the consequences of that , though. Things are not good after because what he does hurts everyone involved.
Now to what bothered me. The first is a minor story telling point then will get into the actual plot details that I didn't care for. The pacing really made me mad. I get that authors have to make time jumps or else every book would be as long as say something like War and peace. I just think here the time jumps were jarring especially after Art and Reza get together. One second we go from Art or Judy's perspective, can sadly not recall which, and then when get back to Reza's point of view with him and Art having been dating for months...And I am just..It felt lazy to me to just basically cut out those starting moments of a relationship since a big part of Reza's storyline is him being nervous of finally being out and coming to terms with not only being out , even if it is to a select group of people, but also having a boyfriend as well. Instead of being logical skips in time to move the story along it more felt like oh don't want to actual build to certain moments so will just skip ahead and get right to them. It was a annoying as all hell.
Judy's character annoyed me the most and parts of her story line really really rubbed me the wrong way. Starting off I didn't think she was a bad character. I liked that she was depicted as a bigger girl who was still very much into to designing her own clothes, doesn't care what others may think of her and has a lot of self love even though her mom and other characters make passing remarks about her weight. It was all well and good til Saadi , Reza's aka one of the main character's stepbrother, makes various jabs at her weight , which ok he's an ass whatever it was bound to happen from someone but ..oh ..it got so much worse. Later on he starts flirting with her and writes off his comments about here weight as him really liking her . Going as far to say that most American girls are too skinny and he prefers a girl with meat on her bones or something like that. I sort of wanted to throw the book at that point. Guys being mean to girls while secretly liking them is beyond a trash concept. It's not cute . It's fucking trash.I will never get the oh he is just me to you because he likes you. Stop fucking telling young girls this fucking bullshit!! It pissed me off that the author thought to include it but tried to make it out as a positive thing. As a guy I am pissed when guys think this damn behavior is ok. But am more pissed that another queer guy that that straight guys treating women like this is fucking ok when it is not!Not only that Judy goes as far to basically help Saadi jack off , tell Art about it and instead of questioning her on it or being wtf he is basically praising her for getting with someone . I wanted to scream because I thought the author did a good job making her out to be a person that had alot of confidence and selflove and then just to be oh this sort of behavior is ok, which again it is garbage. I was really hoping she was going to slap him when he said that he actually liked her but no. I am glad that at the end they were not still together but damage is done .
I was also not a fan of Judy's friend group after she learns that Reza is gay and her best friend lied to her . First, I get she would and needs to distance herself from the two of them. No matter what it is still a super shitty thing that Reza did to her. So I will give her that. The thing I do not understand though is that after that she suddenly is friends with the popular people of her school. Ok..but said people in that group not only still taunt and tease her ex best friend , but beat him the hell up. So..I'm confused . Granted I get she is pissed at Art but why in all fuck would you be friends with people that were and still are , least some of them, massive homophobes? It makes no damn sense to me. Also, I am not quite sure why they would suddenly want to be her friend either. She has stood up and was best friends with the only out and proud person in the whole school but suddenly they are all welcoming to her ..just again it makes no sense.I get wanting and needing to expand your friend group but why are you friends that act that way?
Getting into that at one point in the book Judy is at a party, a party with the almost sex crap with Reza's stepbrother happens, but oh it gets worse. Being stupid teenagers they course play party games , which ok whatever . The thing that bothers me about this scene is sort of two fold. One two girls kiss during spin the bottle . Two straight girls mind you . Now I get that this happens and I get why it does .It bothers me that a queer author would feel the need to include it and yet during all the protests I can not recall one actual lesbian character. Not even among the feminists characters out in support for the gay men. It was like the author sort of forgot that lesbians exist, but thought hey lets include pointless straight girl kiss. Also a petpeeve but am not a fan of Judy calling girls she is friends with her girlfriends. I get that for alot of people it is just something they call eachother and that no offence is intended to lesbians but it is still annoying.
While I am again glad the author dealt maturely in regards to teen/young adult sex when alot of authors are like no fade to black or let's just not discuss it. Even so I was not a fan of some of how sex was discussed mainly on Art's insistence that Reza and him should be having sex by a certain point in the book. I am more than ok with Art being frustrated and wondering why Reza doesn't want to have sex with him, but again Reza just came out and given that this book takes place during the Aid's epidemic he is terrified. They do talk about it but is more Art just telling Reza he can't get HIV/AIDs if neither have had sex with someone else that was positive, which is basically just don't worry about it and not helpful at all to getting to the root of Reza's fear. The fact though I feel Art doesn't do much to really quell Reza's fears about it or really understand his fear. This wasn't Reza just being a bit nervous this was full blow everything he knew about being gay or gay sex was that he would get sick and die. A sad reality given the time. Had there been a more open conversation about Reza's fear and also Art's worry that Reza didn't want him, even if that was not true, it would have made more sense. That doesn't happen least not between the two of them. Art shares his worries to everyone but the boy he is dating and again pretty much is outright dismissive Reza's actual worry.
Finally, I am not all that found of the ending. I am glad Reza has a husband and Judy is with someone other then Reza's stepbrother , not that we know anything about them. It was another instance of the time jump annoying me , but admit this one is maybe more just me not liking that massive of a time jump or least not caring for it here in this particular book . The other thing that bothered me about the ending was Art's ending. More due to the fact that the ending in general just feels a bit slapped together and rushed in my opinion. Art ends up HIV+ . How, no idea, which may bug me more than it should.There doesn't and I didn't want graphic detail but there is one line about him being positive and course talking about the medicine there is and how it is not the death sentence that it once was. I am not sure how to phrase this correctly and I don't want to come off as offensive. The fact that Art is positive is not what bothers me it's that to me it feels like a throw away and just came across of well Art was the only other very openly gay and very very passionate about it character and this is his fate. I am not saying that is what the author intended but since again there is no back story of he accidentally sleep with a guy without using protection or said protection failed or what have you it just ...I don't know again not sure how to phrase it correctly. Art is also the only one that is alone or least it is applied that he is . So not only was there a conscious choice that Art would be Hiv+ but that of the three main characters he would be the only one alone.
It is fine that Art is single and happy but to me the ending doesn't come off that way. It is fine that even though his friends are married he is not. That is all fine. I just find it odd that again the one out and proud gay character is the one to end up all along of the three main characters.He doesn't need a happily ever after . That is not what I am asking for just I find it odd that out of all the characters Art's ending feel again the most unsatisfactory. Maybe I am reading too much into it and will admit that may be the case. Just will be honest and say it reads like if you are very openly gay you will wind up sick and alone , which throughout the rest of the book the author totally avoided so it was I guess why that ending for Art stood to me at least.
The main take away is that I think starting off the book was great and I was glad that the author wanted to deal with a difficult time in lgbt history just some of his choices that rubbed me the wrong way.