{Review} Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert|A Coming of Age Story with a Complex Sibling Relationship

 

25062038Little & Lion

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and finda way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

TW/CW: Biphobia, Homophobia, Homophobic Slurs, Self Harm, Racism, Subtle Racism, Bipolar disorder, anxiety

Initial Thoughts

I really really REALLY wanted this to be a new favorite. Like a Black Jewish Bisexual main character? Like um please this is all over me. Although I enjoyed the story as a whole, there were some parts that “irked” me quite a bit. From tropes to some of the characters, I couldn’t justify some of the annoyingly gruesome characteristics of Little & Lion 

RACE

Though I will say again, I enjoyed the majority of the book. Colbert dives into race really well, challenging the stereotypes and subtle racism that black people have to endure every day of their lives. There are scenes where one character will say something that’s not okay, and another will call out and educate the person on why what they said is problematic. I also liked some of the family dynamics, especially between Suz and her “stepdad.” “Both may look quite different regarding their race, but they both still have unconditional love for one another. It reminds me of my relationship with my “stepdad.”

The Representation

The rep in this story is terrific. To start off, our main character, Suz, is a black, Jewish and bisexual. Her brother, Lionel, is diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and is also Jewish. One of Suz’s love interest, Emil is half black half Korean and also is hard of hearing. Her other love interest, Rafaela, is Latina and Pansexual. The list honestly goes on from there with even more side characters with different backgrounds and who are queer. For the most part, this was done beautifully, and none of these identities felt forced or used as a “check mark.” I’m glad more YA books are having more representation in their releases.

Bisexuality Mentioned on Page

OH PRAISE THE BOOK GODS, the actual word “Bisexual” was on page MULTIPLE TIMES. I also appreciated Suz’s internal and external thoughts when it came to bisexuality. Harmful stigmas around bisexuality were noted, and I was happy that our main character Suz shot down those perceptions in a heartbeat. I was also glad that when she was trying to figure out her sexuality, she mentions bisexuality because sometimes a character will go from “straight to gay” in which that trope alone promotes bi erasure. I will say there is one bi trope that I HATE the most but I will get to that later. Overall, from my personal experience, it’s a pretty good representation of bisexuality. Pansexual, lesbian, and gay were also specifically on the page.

Interracial Relationships+Families

I come from a VERY diverse family. We half black, white, Latinx, Dominicans, Filipinos, etc. in my family, so everyone is mainly mixed. For some reason, even in today’s progressive society, it’s still an exotic thing for some people. My mom almost got arrested because someone thought she kidnapped a black girl. Suz considers her mom’s boyfriend as her stepdad, so when she’s out in public with him, she still gets those shocking, weird, worrying stares from other people. The book also talks about merging of cultures and adopting other’s customs. It was nice seeing that topic discussed because it personally resonated with me to the core.

The relationship between Suz and Lionel was also nicely developed, and I could tell Suz was trying to do her best to protect Lionel. From her being upset with her friends who abandoned Lionel to trying to connect and understand his illness, there is an underlying deep emotional bond between the two. I kind of wish there were more flashbacks to fully understand their relationship but I still I loved seeing complex yet adoring sibling relationship. It shows that blood doesn’t matter.

The two love interest also comes from marginalized backgrounds which normalize interracial relationships. I feel like there aren’t enough interracial relationships between two nonwhite people, so it was incredibly refreshing to see multiple in this story.

THE LOVE TRIANGLE OH WHY aka the WORST BI TROPE EVER (honestly not a fan of the general love triangles too)

*sigh* Not everything can be perfect. We, unfortunately, have this annoying love triangle. There is a love triangle that involves {gasp} both a guy and a girl. The worst part of this was the girl is her brother’s love interest so yeah an ADDITIONAL love triangle. Then there’s another girl that Suz is also still hung up on back at her old school…A LOVE PENTAGON?!?! I knew about this going into the book, but if done right, this could have been decent and not annoying buuuuuut it was. The reason why I hate love triangles with a bi people involved is that it’s already hard to convince people we’re not in love with everyone, so the love triangle ordeal does not help our argument in any way. Also, bi people in love triangles are already overused and not needed.    

Relationships

I feel as though Lion and Rafaela being together was rushed and a little instalovey. It was like we were supposed to be anti-LionalxRafaela because they literally had no chemistry, like at all. I felt the only reason why they were put together was too “raise the stakes” or to piss off our main character, but it didn’t seem necessary. 

Then we have Suzette and Rafaela which in my opinion is…trash?!? I’m sorry, I feel like I should want them together but I did not like their relationship at all. This was also almost like insta-love too, and I didn’t see anything there other than their bond over their sexual identities. The party at the end just sealed the deal when it came to my overall feeling about their relationship (ew no I don’t like).

Suzette and Emil was the only relationship that I truly cared about. Emil deserves so much but gets so little. He was always patient with Suzette, cared for and respected her and overall, their relationship had a lot of potentials. When Suz accused him of something in the end that just rubbed me the wrong way.

I also was EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED with this ending when it came to these relationships. Felt like the whole story didn’t really matter.

Bipolar Disorder

The central conflict of the book is that Lionel decided to no longer take his medication for his Bipolar Disorder and only tells Suzette. It was interesting to see the disorder depicted in fiction, especially since I just finished my abnormal psych class and we talked in great detail about bipolar disorders. I already knew where the story was heading when Lionel decided he didn’t want to take his meds, it won’t end well because bipolar disorder is a lifelong battle and I too wish there was an easy solution. I wish there were the magic pill and boom you’re cured. I wish someone can go to one therapy session and feel amazing right after. I wish someone can go off the meds and not face any consequences. We, unfortunately, don’t live in this ideal world and Lionel has to come into terms this realization on his own.

However, a person is never just their disorder, and I felt Lionel was just that, his bipolar disorder. All we know is that he reads and he has bipolar disorder, and that’s basically it. I wish we knew more about him and his personality besides his disorder. A lot of mental illness stories struggle with this, and I felt this wasn’t any different. Who is Lionel? It felt like the reader was just waiting for him to blow up in the end which made me really uncomfortable. 

Final Thoughts

Even though it looks like I hated this book, I still believe it has some merit. No, it isn’t perfect. While listening to the audiobook, I couldn’t help myself but be excited that I saw myself throughout the book. Suz and I are both black and bisexual. Suz and I both come from mixed families. Suz and I love our mixed families. Suz and I both constantly have to defend our race and our sexuality. I can’t ignore the hopeful feelings this book brought me, despite its flaws.

So I’m giving this 3 stars with a grain of salt. I still recommend it, just know what you’re getting into.

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{review}Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters|That’s it?!?!

272315Keeping You a Secret

With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of My young love.

 

TW/CW HOMOPHOBIA, ACCEPTING PARENTS

Initial Thoughts

That’s it?!?!

 

Was the Plot Good?

This is your generic coming out story of a popular beloved high school girl with the equally popular boyfriend but then this new girl shows up and shakes the female protagonist world and discovers her true sexuality.  I understand this was published in 2005 but it just wasn’t engaging and I didn’t care what happens in the story because I already knew the ending. I was bored most of the time and I was close to DNFing the book.

Since this was published in 2005, it definitely seemed outdated such as the homophobia graffiti, lockers, slashing tires, the language in general. Although this stuff may still happened, it just seemed extreme. Though, this could be because I live in a bluer than the sky state and that shit would never been tolerated here.

 

Engaging characters?

Holland was very 2 dimensional and her thoughts were a tad bit questionable.

I felt Cece’s character was just centered around her sexuality and nothing else. Everytime she’s on page, she’s wearing a new gay pride shirt and we are told constantly about her sexuality. I don’t know if this is done to contrast her from the closeted Holland or what but it grew annoying as the reader. It strained the character development because we didn’t really get to know Cece apart from her sexuality (even at her performance because it was mostly Holland gawking at Cece).

I didn’t understand Holland’s mom because her logic never made sense to me. She kicked Holland out, then was like no baby come home but come back home straight please and when Holland refused she said leave but then she was like nevermind come back home. Also Holland’s mom went through a lot of BS in her life yet she’s still holds oppressive ideas????

All the other characters seemed forgettable, I forgot Holland’s sister’s name oops!

 

Relationship

I was disappointed with this relationship. I was expecting something adorable and enduring. However, the relationship seemed unnatural and a little unhealthy. I liked how it was one of those slow burn relationship since those bring light into my ever so cold world but once they proclaim their attraction towards one another, BOOM INSTA-LOVE. “I love you” was said after 5 minutes into the official relationship, alright okay.

This relationship also made me feel icky because Cece told Holland how she followed her to/in school. work, home, dates with Seth and Holland is like “OH SHE LIKES ME YAY” Like no, she’s stalking you. Cece in general was manipulated and I just couldn’t ship them at all. I didn’t really care if they were going to last till the end because they were just MEH and again it was a little bit toxic.

Messages/Themes

 Alright let’s get started

Bi rep: I’m bi myself so when I see the actual word “bisexual” on page, I get a little excited. However, I do wish this was delved into a bit more because Holland dismissed the idea so fast.

Coming out: Being a coming out story, this topic was apparent throughout the story.  There’s no right way to come out, even if someone says otherwise. Though, I could have not done the whole “someone else pushes me out of the closet” trope but you get what you get. Even though Holland’s was a little extreme, these stories are important. That being said, I still haven’t come out to my family (friends know though) so reading this and having basically having the same type of family members as Holland, this scared the shit out of me.

Cheating: Holland kissed Cece while still in a relationship with Seth. So yes, Holland cheated on Seth even though she was going to break up with him the next chapter. It’s pretty easy to break up with Seth BEFORE she kissed Cece but nope this happened because SUSPENSE.

Girl Hate: Holland hates all the girls in the story except Cece and maybe her irrelevant friend Leah. There was so much slut shaming and unnecessary hate. Holland literally imagined her killing on a character because she was talking to Cece. Holland just hated all girls (even her “friends”)

Homophobia: I don’t know what Peters was trying to accomplish when depicting homophobia. We have Kirsten, the typical homophobic of the story. When she said homophobic things, no one really called her out on it. Holland would just get mad and complain about it but like, I don’t know SAY SOMETHING?!?! Even at the end, Holland still never said anything. Kirsten probably thinks her homophobic beliefs are valid because no one told her why she’s wrong, like NO ONE. I understand that someone might be scared/anxious to go against someone like that but there was no redemption arc for Holland or Cece or Kirsten. Even with everything else when the guys try to “convert” Cece. Holland was like “go away” and that was it. Like okay?!?! Nothing was accomplished and that’s what annoyed me. HOWEVER, I will give props to the novel for giving resources on what a teenager should do if they have overly unaccepting parents (clinics, homes, etc).

 

Would I recommend?

Yes and no. Some people say that closeted people should read this but I’m going to say maybe no?!!?!? Or yes?!?! I don’t know. As one who is basically half in and half out of the closet, this book made me put one foot back in the closet.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, I just feel like this wasn’t for me. I couldn’t identify with any of the characters, the plot was meh, and I just had problems with it overall.

There are better f/f romance out there and I encourage you to read those and perhaps pass on this one. OR not, maybe someone might gain something from the book but I gained absolutely nothing.

 

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{review} The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka|A Compelling Mystery With an Even More Compelling Bisexual Protagonist

The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary, #1)The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka [Goodreads]

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.
Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

TW: Murder, Rape/Sexual Assault, Alcohol/Substance Abuse

Initial Thoughts

I had no expectations when it came to The Last Place You Look. I never heard of the author, never seen a single review on Youtube or on WordPress, and honestly only found it because I looked up “LGBT mystery/Thrillers.” The Synopsis looked compelling enough and luckily, my library had it available.

After finishing this, it’s astonishing that no one ever talked about this series, like at all.

This was fast-paced, where we were immediately pulled into the plot. Brad Stockton is sitting on death row after being convicted for murdering his girlfriend’s (who is also missing and assumed dead) parents. Roxane gets hired by Brad’s sister after claiming that she saw Brad’s girlfriend at a gas station, hoping that Roxane can prevent her brother’s execution. When she looks at her father’s unsolved cases, she makes a connection with one of them, wondering if they can be related. From there on, the story goes full speed.

Although this short summary may seem like a simple case, Roxane discovers that it’s going to be a lot harder to find the answers she seeks. Every other 2 chapters there is a new discovery that throws Roxane and the reader completely off and the case becomes even more complicated. It’s a page turner and I was never bored.  

I also liked that Brad’s race wasn’t ignore and Roxane even admits that him being black may have a role in the entire case.

The Twist

In every mystery/thriller there’s going to be an unexpected twist, especially near the end. Of course that is what happened in this book. The ultimate twist at the end kind of shocked me but at the same time, I sort of saw it coming. The journey getting there was executed really well and everything made completely sense. 

Our Main Character

I’m a Gillian Flynn fan. She creates these anti-hero, aloof, morally gray characters and that’s what generally like in most of my mystery novels.

However, with our main character Roxane, she’s quite the complete opposite. Yes, she is on the brink of a serious alcohol problem, has the complicated relationships and her father’s death definitely put a huge toll on her, but overall, she’s an amiable go-getter private investigator. She’s very cooperative with the police but also doesn’t let them push her around. Her father’s death is always on her mind, especially since she believes that he wasn’t proud of who she became. She originally took the case because she needed the money and was tired of sulking but she didn’t half-assed her job, even if at times she wanted to. She finds things and she’s great at it. As I read, I want to both be and be with Roxane because she is such a kickass character. 

Roxane is also bisexual! I loved seeing representation in the novel since I never read a mystery book featuring a bi main character. What I liked about bisexuality in the book is that no one questions it. Maybe because Roxane isn’t a teenager but it’s awesome to see other characters understand rather them stereotyping Roxane. It’s prominent that Roxane is bisexual but it isn’t really part of the plot which is honestly really refreshing.

Tropes/Themes

This book does have one of my least favorite bi tropes: the girl/girl/guy love triangle.I will say that it isn’t that in your face where the main character contemplates who she really wants to be with in the end. This love triangle is  definitely not part of the major plot or even the major side plot. It’s a tiny part of the story but doesn’t deter the narrative or Roxane’s character which I can appreciate especially from a non-romance book.

Aloof PI/Detective Female Character: Another trope I’m glad this book did not fall victim of is the typical woman in a mystery/thriller novel. For some reason, a lot of thrillers have women seem to always be involved in casual sex, who are aloof and sarcastic I mean, hey, I love those characters but it’s nice to see some variety in characterizations and personalities, especially in adult thrillers. 

Race: Although this was not the vocal point of the story, it was not ignored. Brad is black and the author dives into the prejudices that people may have towards black men.  The conversations of dating outside ones race and attitudes of black men in jail was done well, even if it wasn’t a black #ownvoices book.

Negatives

There isn’t really a lot of weaknesses. The only minor flaw I found is that there are a couple of mental health/psychological terms used to describe someone who does not fall into that mental illness but is just used as an insult/adjective.I hate that a lot of crime thrillers have these terms so it’s one of my personal pet peeves. Other than that, this story was pretty solid.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the best mystery thrillers I’ve read in awhile. The characters are full of depth and the story is fleshed out without any plot holes. I’m glad to that there’s more books in this series and I can’t wait to read the rest! Highly recommend The Last Place You Look. 

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{review} Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn|A Likable Book Full of Unlikable Characters

Gone GirlOn a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

 

“Friends see most of each other’s flaws. Spouses see every awful last bit.”

Gone Girl is one of those books that I’m not sure where I lie in the spectrum of loving a book. Do I “LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH 10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND” or do I “like the book…yeah it was pretty good.”

This is the first book that I’m not rating a 5 star by Gillian Flynn and it honestly makes me so sad. I still liked the book, I don’t think I loved it but I liked it. The characters were aloof and flawed, just like I like them and the plot in general was intriguing.

However…

This took me years to read. No, I’m not kidding! This took me about 3 years to actually finish the book. I love Gillian Flynn, especially her strongest and in my opinion, her grittiest book, Dark Places. With Gone Girl, the beginning is extremely slow, almost unbearably slow. I finally decided to listen to the first 100 pages or so on audiobook and oh boy did that help tremendously! After listening to the boring stuff, I switched back to a physical copy and I couldn’t put it down!

Nick’s wife, Amy, randomly goes missing on their anniversary. Flynn alternates point of views, one being Nick and the other being Amy’s diary entries prior to her disappearance.Honestly that’s all you should know about the book in terms of plot because it’s a wild ride from there.

Initial Thoughts

Again, the beginning was brutal because it was mostly the background of Nicks and Amy’s marriage. From when they first met, their families, their jobs, their financial troubles, it was difficult to get through most of those part because I simply didn’t care. I wanted to get into the nitty gritty, the investigation! It took about 150 pages to get to that and it was so excruciating, Again, it took me literal YEARS to complete this book,

When we got more into the investigation, when more secrets were revealed, that’s when the novel truly became a page turner. We learn more about the characters, main and side, and everyone’s true intentions. We think we know a character but they do something so shocking that changes everything.

It’s difficult to talk about this book without spoiling because so much happens in the second half but I don’t want to give much away.

The Characters

The characters is what really makes the novel shine. Nick is the one of the most unlikable characters in the story and a little bit of an unreliable one at that. His reactions to his wife going missing is sketchy (smiling during a press conference about the case) and his behavior is questionable (constantly lying to the police). Of course Nick is going to claim that he had nothing to do with his wife being missing but as the reader, we question his real story. Also, to be frank, Nick is honestly just an asshole. He talks badly about women and is not afraid to call them every sexist name in existence. He says he’s misogynistic to one woman but the way he mentions any woman is very negative and cruel. It was really difficult to fully root for him.

Amy is a character that was also hard to particularly love. Amy is famous from the Amazing Amy books that her family created. She’s ultimately is a privileged white woman who complains that her family is taking away her trust fund since they ran out of money. I mean, I get she might be a little salty because the family profited on her existing through the Amazing Amy books but it was still just annoying. Other secrets are also revealed in the novel and I will just say she is a big time narcissist.

We also have Nick’s sister Margo aka Go who also develops nicely. Then there are the  detectives of the case and we wonder if they are the good or bad guys. We have a bunch of other side characters/suspects with questionable integrity. Overall, it was a nice cast of characters who were all developed to have some type of unique role in the story, both little and big.

A Few Negatives (super brief because spoilers)

The inconsistencies in characterization: We are told some characters act a certain way but near the end,they totally change abruptly. We are not really given much of a reason why they do change so that was kind of confusing.

The ending:  The ending was…weird. It went by a little too fast. Wish there was a little bit more of an explanation so that I can understand more of the decisions that were made.

Nick’s father: At least in my opinion, he provided nothing to the story both plot and character wise. I think I get why he might have been added but the execution was just poor.He was just underdeveloped and he could have probably just been written out completely and nothing in the story would have changed.

The Twists

Based on Nick’s character, one of the main twist wasn’t that surprising. Nick mentions the ever so popular “it’s always the husband” cliche/trope but another popular trope also presented itself in the story as well. The biggest twist actually took me by surprise! I feel like it’s one of those things that maybe I should have known based on past reviews and people’s overall attitude towards certain characters but all those hints went completely over my head.

Some Memorable Themes

Marriage Dynamics: What this book does well is dive into the complications of marriage dynamics. Amy is more into adventure while Nick rather stays put. Amy is more of a problem solver while Nick is a problem avoider or rather do stuff easy way. In their younger years, Amy didn’t work that much because of her wealthy family but Nick reveals he had 3-4 jobs at age 14  to help provide for his struggling family. From these contradictions, it’s difficult to see how these two people could connect in a personal level. The book shows the clashing of Nick and Amy because of their differences but Flynn also reveals some type of common ground that makes it work in a unique way (is it healthy? That’s the reader to decide).

Reality vs Fantasy: The characters struggle between the difference of reality and fantasy, especially with Nick and Amy. Both characters paint a different picture on what their marriage was really like (hens again, both unreliable characters) and it was interesting to see their own perceptions and experiences. Even the reader is tricked from time to time on what’s real and what’s deceiving.

Final Thoughts

I can see why people may think this is Flynn’s best work. It’s different from her other mystery thrillers and the ending was definitely out of the ordinary. I liked it but from the slow beginning and the minor flaws this was not my favorite. I  still highly recommend, the writing was still great, the characters were three dimensional and the twists were o point. I’m now a Gillian Flynn completest and I will say she’s one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future!

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Hunger by Roxane Gay|A Raw and Authentic Narrative About a Women’s Body

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) BodyIn her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Trigger Warnings: Rape, Eating Disorders, Anorexia, Bulima, Fatphobia

Initial Thoughts: “YES”

REVIEW

Oh this book.

It’s raw, it’s real, it’s a book that I haven’t read before and I honestly don’t think I will ever read again.

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay for a while. Granted, I only read one of her books, Difficult Women, and I instantly fell in love. The stories were well-crafted, the emotional aspects and complexities of her characters were evident and I honestly just saw so much heart into these narratives.

However, despite proclaiming Roxane Gay to be my favorite author, Difficult Women was the only book I’ve read by her. So I decided to give one of her newer books a go and oh boy this went a little too close to home for me.

While reading, some of Gay’s daunting and cruel thoughts about other people and herself, I literally kept saying “Oh God, I’m not the only one!”

Roxane Gay narrates her body’s journey, from her sexual assault, school, family, college, TV shows, and public places. Her body has had a lot of painful experiences, especially from a society who values a women’s figure rather women themselves. She talks about relationships such as with her past romantic partners, her family, diet/fitness gurus and her body. This isn’t a self help book where the fat person loses 100+pounds and tells you the ways of a healthy fulfilling “skinny” life. No, this is a story about what is like to live in a body that you loathe so much but is also scared to go away.

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

What I love about Hunger was that it was brutality honest and doesn’t sugar coat anything. When it comes to her rape story, she calls herself the victim rather than the survivor because she doesn’t want to empower her experience since it was so horrible. She mentions people with eating disorders and how she’s actually jealous of people who have them because they are so discipline but feeling bad you have these feelings. She talks about people in society views fat people (especially TV shows such as the Biggest Loser) and how society can make you think you don’t deserve love.

Gay makes an extremely valid point on the attitudes of being fat. People don’t understand that it’s a constant struggle and almost being anxious at every social situation. From public bathrooms (using the bigger stalls) from worrying about something so trivial like chairs, and from stairs being almost a public horror display, being fat is not easy.  There is some stigma with fatness. “Why don’t you just get up and lose the weight?” “Dieting isn’t that hard” “Get a gym membership.” Gay isn’t a stranger to these comments and even does everything they say. However, in Gay’s point of view, her body has become her protection due to past experiences and difficult to give up that protection.

I’ve personally struggled with my weight for years. When I was a kid, I didn’t weigh much but when I entered middle school, I gained so much weight (I believe I might have been close to 200 at the time) A lot of middle schoolers complained that they weren’t “big enough” for the JR/teen section at department stores but I was already deep into that size of clothing. I became jealous of them that they have something to complain about. I became so insecure of my body that the only article of clothing I wore was jeans and a hoodie and no joke that’s all I wore. Noticeable in high school, people would always comment “why are you always wearing a sweater? It’s almost 90 degrees?” And I was just say, “eh it’s my style.”  I couldn’t show my arms, my legs, my skin, the outline of my belly because I was so insecure about myself. I hated going to school, with people looking at me, with my whole self on display.

Like Gay, I tried to “fix the problem.” I tried motivating myself by watching the biggest loser, tried all the diets out there, and I even started binging and purging. The binging/purging didn’t last super long though because frankly I was super bad at that. I hated my body so much that I wanted to punish it. When Gay talked about punishing herself, I almost went into tears because I was once that person too. Instead, I use a razor in order to punish myself for not even being able to binge/purge. I’m still struggling with my weight today. It’s a physical and mental roller coaster. Trying to be happy in a body that other sees as dissatisfying puts a toll on someone.

Gay teaches us that we shouldn’t punish ourselves for being who we are. We shouldn’t punish ourselves about not satisfying society’s standards of physical beauty. We shouldn’t punish ourselves at all.

This is one of those books that I’m probably am going to end up buying in the near future (although I don’t buy books anymore). I’m glad someone finally wrote a book that talks about being fat in a humane and honest way instead of trying to motivate the reader to “fix the problem”

There’s so much more to unravel with this novel but I will leave you with this. Open your mind and read this book. Set aside past prejudices, the glamorizations of losing weight, and all the typical things society wants us to do. Just read and learn.

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American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

 

Review

TW: Violence, Drug Abuse, Cursing, Misognistc/Racial Slurs, some girl hate

Own Voices: Yes

Favorite Quote:

But then I realize that everyone is climbing their own mountain here in America. They are tall and mighty and they live in the hearts and everyday lives of the people.

And I am not a pebble in the valley. 

I am a mountain

I was extremely hesitant going into this book. Since it’s release, I’ve been both requesting and deleting American Street from my Overdrive because I’ve heard pretty mixed reviews. On Goodreads there’s people praising the book but on Booktube, a lot of people gave this a low rating.

So finally, I read Amercian Street and I was suprised to find myself enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Our main character, Fabiola aka Fab had such beautiful, authentic voice. I love how she stayed true to herself and her Haitian culture throughout the book. It was interesting seeing her how she navigates the life of American customs but also never forgetting her own Haitian traditions. It was refreshing to see a character that wasn’t “feisty, sarcastic” but who also wasn’t weak and bland. I just adored Fab and her willingness to do anything for her loved ones, especially her mother who was detained in the airport.

Then we get to Fab’s cousins aka “Three Bs,” Chantal, Pri and Donna. They bring Fab under their wing and try to make her the 4th B.

  • I do wish Pri (the brawn) had better character development though. I would have loved to read more about her since she was probably the most riveting out of the three. She also likes girls!
  • Chantal (the brains) is also an amazing woman. She seemed like the “mom” out of the three Bs and used logic and common sense when it comes to situations.
  • Donna (the beauty) fell flat to me. It seemed like her character was mostly built by her boyfriend, Drey.

What I liked about the relationship between all of them is that it wasn’t some sort of Mean Girls situation where Fab loses herself within the group/tries to fit in. Fab still calls out on their shit and even if they do make fun of Fab’s way of life, she still holds their ground.

In addition with Fab’s mother being gone and navigating the American life, she has to deal with Donna’s abusive boyfriend, Drey, who is on thin ice with law enforcement, Fab’s aunt desiring her sister was with her rather than Fab herself and Fab developing a relationship with Drey’s bestfriend, Kasim. There’s so many plots and themes in the story but for some reason, I feel like Zoboi made it work.  I loved how this was a family heavy and some mystery with only a dab of romance.

The “girl hate” didn’t really bother me as much as I thought it would because I see these situations happen, especially when I was in middle school (though Fab is in high school). I feel like there really wasn’t a whole lot of girl hate anyways.

We also get a mini chapter for all the side characters which I really enjoyed. You are able to be in their heads and discover their justifications of all the decisions these characters make. We get to read about their backgrounds and know why they hold certain beliefs. I thought this really added to the overall story.

Some people say that they didn’t like how Fab’s mother was written out of the story. I’m actually confused on what they mean because her mother plays a crucial part of the book. Literally everything Fab does is because of her mom. If Fab’s mom was written out of the story, the ending would have never happened because there would be no conflict. Fab devised plans in order to have her mom released and freeing her mom was her number one priority. I think Zoboi was trying to convey what people would do for the ones they love, even if it’s possibly betraying another love one.  The grey area conflicts really sold this book for me.

American Street made me think about a lot of things such as police brutality classism, drug abuse, etc. I also have been thinking a lot of America’s immigration system due to the current political climate and how I had to debate about sanctuary cities recently. When the other was detained, it made me angry that they force to separate a mother and a daughter for no life threatening reasons. If this quote doesn’t make you think I don’t know what will.

So trying to come to America from the wrong country is a crime?  

Overall, I think this one is worth the read.

What did you think about American Street?

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli| yes, yes and yes

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I feel like there has already been a lot of great reviews surrounding this book but I will still put in my two cents.

REVIEW

I loved this book. Becky Albertalli has a way of constructing these relatable hilarious characters. I found myself saying, “yes, this character is me” to basically all the characters.

Like Molly, I was also a fat teenager. Strangely, it felt like I was reading my own autobiography because Molly’s thoughts were basically the same thoughts I had. Like Molly, I felt slightly jealous of the other girls who were getting in relationships, I noticed most of them had under size 7 bodies. I felt jealous for the so-called “sluts” because they were getting laid and they had rock hard bodies and I thought there were some type of correlation between the two. I felt guilty for thinking this throughout high school and I honestly thought something was completely wrong with me.

Some people have critiqued this book for such “another self-conscious fat girl who wants a boyfriend” and frankly I find that hilarious.  I’m going to give an example:

” Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies–not really–unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.”

This line may see this line as an “woe is me” type of thing but I see this as a commentary of the lack of authentic positive body representation in media/entertainment. That’s just me and some may interpret such differently

Anyways, I liked how this book was the journey of Molly trying to find confidence in her own skin. However, I also liked how it’s expressed that confidence isn’t something that’s easily handed to people and it takes time. By the end of the book, Molly doesn’t become some overly cocky woman who can take on the world. She still has her insecurities and she embraces them  and I think that’s something anybody can learn from.

Molly’s twin sister, Cassie, was also a delight. She’s a lesbian, outspoken and deeply cares for her sister. I loved her relationship with Molly and it almost felt like it was sort of their story rather than just Molly’s so that was just fucking awesome. I also just admired how how she outspoken on patriarchy and LGBTQIA+ issues and generally was just a kickass character.

“Um, let’s just start with the implication that becoming a woman has anything to do with whether or not you’ve had sex”

The relationship between Molly and Reid was adorable as shit. My favorite character relationship trope is when both characters are extremely awkward, especially when it’s first love. Frankly, first love relationships are awkward as hell and I’m glad that was portrayed in the book. I hate when books make first love like both characters know exactly what they are doing but both Molly and Reid are like “what are we supposed to do?” “I don’t know, honestly.” Like yes! It’s authentic cute dialogue that makes me squeal in delight (I never squeal but this relationship did)! And ohhh the fan art can we please. Check out this fan art because yes.

Before making my rating, I was thinking about the ending and the overall message that it might send to some readers. The whole “fat girls finds love and now she has confidence” trope. I thought about this and even considered lowering my rating. However thinking about it more, I don’t think it even presents that trope.

Usually when we see this trope in books, we have these classic lines:

“he can have all the girls in the world but he chose me”

“he likes me for me”

“he doesn’t care that I’m fat, he likes me for who I am”

I can honestly go on all day but these phrases never present themselves (at least I’m aware of, hopefully I’m accurate lmao). I honestly don’t think the main love interest, Reid even mentions her body is any way (even the other love interest, Will). Yeah, the main character is nervous about sex when because of her wait but I honestly shared those same struggles in high school too. So for those reasons I simply don’t see it. However, I do understand those who do and more if you are a fellow fat girl.

Becky also somewhat addressed this issue on her twitter here if you guys are curious.

At the end of the day, I see a book where a girl finds first love.

I applaud the healthy conversations about sex and importance of birth control. Anything that I sex positive earns an A+ from me.

Now, this doesn’t account for my rating but I think it’s good to note that this is an #ownvoices book when it comes to Molly’s underrepresented body type, her anxiety and her being Jewish. Molly and Cassie also has two moms (one of them being Jewish and the other being black),  Cassie’s girlfriend, Mina is Korean-American and pansexual, and  Reid the love interest is also Jewish. There’s a shit ton more such as POC and LGBTQIA+ wise but you get the picture.

Although the diversity aspect didn’t account for my star rating, I did take .5 away due to the fact that I wished more character arcs were explored such as the dynamics of Molly’s parents, Cassie’s girlfriend Mina, their Jewish religion, etc. I am going to give credit to the wonderful character development of Cassie though.

I wished this was published when I was in high school. This could have possibly helped me get through some tough times.

Great book by a beautiful author, would recommend.