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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-03-06 16:43
Like A Love Story Review
Like a Love Story - Abdi Nazemian

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 . 

Image result for throwing book out window gif

 

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. 

(spoiler show)
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-01-22 22:39
Wilder Girls-Review
Wilder Girls - Rory Power

I am overly conflicted about this book. There are many aspects I liked about it : the body horror, the government cover up, and the queer aspects just to name a few, but there are many aspects about it that just fell flat for me. In fact I was quite nervous to finish it because quite certain that however it may it that it was going to ruin the entire book for me. I put off the ending,aka the last two chapters, to the point that I finished an entire Pet Sematary audiobook before I finally went back to finish it.

 

As much as I love darker themed young adult novels, I was really wanting it to be darker than it ended up being . I realize this is a personal issue and had I wanted to read a darker body horror novel there are plenty of adult novels that would have been better suited to my needs. Even so I was still expecting just a bit more from this one.A lot of my issues, though, with this book in particular plot points that to me do not make sense. For instance more than half way through the book an incident with the fence safe-guarding the school from the twisted animals that now roam the woods allows a bear to get inside said fence, and inside the school itself. Under the circumstances, it would still be case for alarm if a normal bear had gotten in. Given that it is twisted by whatever is infecting the island, which turns out at the end to be some parasitic worm thing, it is meant to be a even more terrifying experience was frustrating since Hetty and most of the other girls are able to outrun the bear from room to room and barricade themselves inside said rooms. The latter is at least more believable than the former. During the whole encounter only one girl ,that I recall, actually dies from the whole episode with the bear.

 

I am not saying the author should have killed off more characters, she is not at all shy to kill characters or least some of them, but the fact remains that some how they are able to outrun the bear when people have hard time running away from "normal" bears in the wild. It just all feel too overly convenient. What should have been a high stacks nerve wrecking scene just to me held no tension whatsoever. Mentioning killing characters, though, the author does rack up quite the body count and yet it doesn't hold the impact, least to me, that the author intended. I will like to state character deaths other than a few instances(aka my favorite character in a given work or a death that comes completely by surprise) rarely do much for me. Here, though, the deaths that do occur suffer from particular aspect of novels that really bug me : killing of faceless,nameless, "unimportant, side character(s). Now I am not saying the death of side characters always come off as "safe bets" or meaningless deaths but here it does. Of the characters that do die, the reader only really gets to know the slightest bit of them based on what Hetty has said about them or the few scenes they are present in, which is not enough in to develop them or they were not develop as well as they should have been. Instead in this book , it feels like the reader should be shocked by the number of death instead of who actual has dies. I felt the same way about the two adults that died and then the boy that dies from Byatt kissing him.Given how little time we get to know them their deaths hold little or no impact. If you don't really give the proper time to really know characters than their deaths just don't mean much .

 

The only death that would and could of held any meaning the author took back , which is a trend in books and other media that I hate. Will be the first to admit I am not a doctor, but I was pretty sure with how invasive Byatt is removing the worm thing in her arm, how much blood she loses in the process, a fact that Hetty remarks on when Byatt is finally found, and the fact that Byatt is left alone who knows how long with no medical assistance she would not still be alive .Least it doesn't seem like she should still be alive. I think it would have much more impactful to have her die, have Hetty deal with that grief and pain of not being able to get there in time, which it seems for a moment she is than to be oh no Byatt is actual alive, very very weak by somehow still alive.

 

Another aspect of the novel that sort of threw me was the romantic subplot. I love that there is a queer relationship in this and other than the body horror was an element that made me pick it up in the first place,but I am still confused by the two that get together. From the start, was pretty sure Byatt and Hetty were meant to be the romantic pair given how close they seemed in every scene they shared together and given the book was from their two points of view. I have nothing against power close friendships and given what has happen the students may cling tighter to each other more than ever before,but it just felt like more than friendship between the two of them , least from Hetty's chapters. No, though, seems Reese and Hetty are the ones that get together, which just really confused me. Hetty spends way less time with her, at one point Reese tries to choke here and for awhile seems like they are not even friends anymore and are not not even talking. I can buy that Byatt and Hetty are just really close best friends . Books need more powerful platonic best friendships they really do. The fact still remains that relationship makes no sense between the two that are paired up in this book. Maybe I was missing subtle clues but to me seems they went from sort of again not even being friends because of Hetty getting boat shift, something Reese really wants to try to find her dad, to kissing and suddenly are sort of together. If this was the plan where were there no chapter from Reese to get to know her more and develop her more?

 

Overall I enjoyed it enough to finish even if I put off finishing it but I wanted more from it. I really enjoyed the body horror aspects of it and when they were the focus the book was really exciting . I just really wanted more of those aspects I am not faulting it for not being as dark and gritty as I first thought. I get it is young adult and the darker elements have to be toned down in some way for that target audience. Even so what it did do in that respect was great and just again wanted more of it. I was not a fan of the lack of any explanation for the Tox. I was not expecting a full exposition dump since that would have been over the top and annoying , but was expecting something more than was in the book. I get diseases are confusing in real life but was expecting some sort of explanation to parts of it at least in this. Finally as much as I love open endings , when they make sense, the ending felt rushed and abrupt.Was overall just disappointed in a lot of the aspects of this novel. The cover is gorgeous,though

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review 2020-01-21 05:05
Wilder Girls - Rory Power

Image result for disappointed gifs

 

*Full review to come.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-01-07 06:57
I Wish you All The Best- Review
I Wish You All the Best - Mason Deaver

I enjoyed that that this was an own voices novel about a nonbinary teen, something even in lgbt Young adult books that is not written about or talked about as much as it should be. Especially not AMAB who is non-binary, or least I have sadly not read many books where that was the case. I enjoyed that even though the books has lots of various queer experiences non of them feel forced for the sack of diversity alone and non of the characters feel like they are just to be tokens nor do they feel like their whole personality is their sexuality or gender identity. Even Nathan , the love interest, who is revealed to be bisexual toward the end of the book, a revelation that feels honest to the character and the story and not just a "choice" by the author to make sure their characters can end up at the end.

Mentioning the romance by the end I was rooting for them to get together because it was a journey to get there. It was obvious that they had feelings but it always felt like their friendship mattered way more and that they were not certain the other felt the same. Too often friendship is thrown aside because the romance matters more or that an author rushes through the friendship stage to get to the romance. It was nice to see that often moving from one stage to another takes time and that not only is it worth it but the time before becoming more than friends is important that that it matters.

I like that the book deals with the messier parts of coming out and that sometimes the best option at the moment to to distance yourself from those people that can not except you even if they are family and even if you know you still love them. Too many times it seems to end up with a happy ending an author will have characters that are not accepting suddenly be overly accepting by the end. In particular novels and if it makes sense in terms of character development the the plot this can be a good thing but too many times it comes off as rushed and unrealistic. Life is messy and as much as it would be wonderful if everyone would finally accept their lgbt+ family in some cases that either takes time or in some cases just doesn't happen. So I really appreciate that author didn't attempt in the final few pages to tie everything up with a nice red bow by having the parents magical come all loving and accepting. Again real life is filled with "endings" that are not always nice and clean and happy.

I also like that therapy is presented in a positive light without being an instant cure all. That it is actually present as work from both sides . That and that medication is not some wonder drug that cures all your problems. I like that it took time for Ben to be comfortable wish their therapists and that at times they were not comfortable sharing certain things til later on in the novel.

I also really liked that the author did not shy away from saying that bisexual and pansexual people freaking exist since so much in Young adult novels if someone likes more than one gender their sexuality either gets skirted around to avoid using one of those labels or it's "I don't use labels", which is fine if that in itself is discussed but usually it is a get around to avoid using bisexual most often or just pretending both pansexual and bisexual people don't exist. Mentioning the no labels thing feel it is important to mention that I like that even though several labels are used for various people Ben , though comfortable with their non-binary label, is not as firm on a sexual label and is still figuring it out though they do preferring more masculine presenting people. I believe they say bisexual with a type or something of that , which I feel is even more rare in books in general so that was nice to see as well.

I think my only gripe about this book is that I am still a bit unsure exactly how Ben and Mariam are friends. Get that Ben watched their videos and that they are both nonbinary and course talked and found out they have several interests in common but just that getting to know each other is not really talked about. From the sounds of it Mariam is a popular uploader , so popular in fact that they get to met celebrities are during the course of the books going on tour to give various speeches about their experience . I am not saying it is impossible for them to be friends but just if Mariam's channel is as popular as it seems I am not sure I buy that one day they say Ben's message out of the possible hundreds or even thousands of messages they receive and they just so happen to decide to reply to Ben's . Just I can see various other teens who are also nonbinary message to say how Mariam's videos spoke to them and such. It is a small gripe , though and maybe Ben messaged when Mariam's channel was smaller .

Overall though think the book is is a wonderful coming of age story of finding yourself, first love, and trying to make the best in a world or family that is not always loving or understanding

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review 2020-01-04 21:25
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) - Lev A.C. Rosen

Content warning for stalking, victim blaming, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, on-page drug use and drinking, and graphic discussions of sex.

Jack is a gay teen who likes casual sex and isn't interested in being in a committed relationship. Maybe one day - he isn't completely ruling it out - but definitely not right now. While he enjoys having sex, he doesn't enjoy people gossiping about his sex life, and for some reason his sex life is a hot topic among the gossips at school. When his friend Jenna suggests that he write a sex advice column for her personal blog, he reluctantly agrees. Maybe if he works in some true stories about his sex life, the rumors about stuff he's never done will go away. And the posts will be semi-anonymous, written by "Jack of Hearts," so there's no way some future college or employer will google him and see them.

For the most part, the advice column goes surprisingly well, but things take a turn for the worse in his private life. Someone keeps putting notes in his locker. At first they look like love notes, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jack has a stalker.

I got an ARC of this at a conference a while back and only just now got around to reading it. The book came out in October 2018, so that gives you an idea of how long I've had it. It looked good, but I was a little afraid it'd have more sex in it than I wanted to deal with. Now that I've read it, I can say that, yes, the advice columns were extremely explicit and did mention, in graphic detail, some of Jack's past sexual experiences as context for whatever advice he was giving. However, even though Jack has sex multiple times in the story, there were no on-page sex scenes. I appreciated that. The advice columns were one thing, but first person present tense on-page sex scenes, especially in a YA novel, would have felt voyeuristic and gross.

Okay, I'll start with the good. I thought that most of the advice columns were well-done. I could imagine the topics and explicitness crossing lines for some folks - I, personally, thought that the last one about roleplay and BDSM would have been more appropriate in a book aimed at adults than teens - but for the most part I liked the way the topics were handled, with an emphasis on communication and consent. There was even one column addressing the fears of a letter writer who was probably asexual, as well as a column that discussed the fetishizing of gay men by straight women.

I liked Jack reasonably well, even if he occasionally made me want to scream in frustration, and I thought his friend Ben was an utter sweetheart. Although most of the prominent characters in this book were very much into sex, usually casual sex, I liked that there was an effort to say "it's okay for teens to not want to have sex, or to want to wait until they meet the right person or feel like it's the right time." And the story's pacing was good and definitely kept me hooked.

However, here's where I get into the things I wasn't as wild about. The stalking plot had several moments that made me incandescently angry. Yes, I understand that there were teens who would not want to tell anyone if they were being stalked, who, like Jack, would want to just wait and see if the problem would go away on its own. And yes, I understand that there are horrible adults out there who'd react like Jack's principal and not do anything particularly helpful. However, it just kept going on and on and becoming more and more awful. The message the book was communicating boiled down to "there's nothing that could possibly be done to make your situation any better, no one will help you, and even the people who try to help you won't be able to accomplish anything." It did resolve in a positive way, but it felt like a stroke of luck on Jack's part, and even then it almost didn't work out. Things got so bad that I was worried the book was going to end in Jack's suicide.

Jack was so frustrating. Every time one of his friends suggested going to someone for help, he trotted out reasons why that wouldn't do any good or just plain said no. No cops, no telling his mom. Considering the principal's reaction when he was first alerted to the problem, I could understand, but as the notes got darker and more threatening, I had a harder time seeing why he wouldn't try again, with a different adult. His mom would have been perfect, but no, he didn't want to worry her. Jack and his mom often felt more like roommates whose paths occasionally crossed than like parent and child. Giving your son space to grow and figure himself out is one thing, but Jack's mom didn't seem to have any rules beyond "don't get blackout drunk and make sure you practice safe sex." And what good was having a "cool" mom, anyway, if Jack still didn't feel comfortable enough to tell her that a stalker was blackmailing him and making his life hell?

The high school experience depicted in this book was more like what I see in movies than what I remember of my own high school life. It seemed like everyone was having huge parties, drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. Yeah, there were mentions of kids who wanted to take it slower, like Ben, and that asexual letter writer, but the bulk of this was just...are there really people out there whose high school experience is like this?

And while I do think it's good that sex positive YA books exist, there were certain things in this one that crossed the line. For example, there were multiple instances where Jack admitted that he'd used Grindr to find partners, that he'd lied about his age, and that at least one or two of his partners were probably adult men who didn't realize that he was still a minor. The problems with this were never addressed. Honestly, the "hooking up with older men via Grindr" stuff could have been cut from the book without hurting anything - Jack had zero problems finding people his own age to hook up with via parties.

Anyway, it was a quick read, but I definitely had issues with it and am not really sure I enjoyed it. I could see the advice columns being helpful to some readers, though.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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