Reviews

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell: Awesome Bi Rep and Musicians

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell (Tour Dates Book 1)Title: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell
Author(s): Avon Gale
Series: Tour Dates #1
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Published:
(originally) September 23rd 2017 (re-published) July 8th 2019 by Carina Press
LGBTQAI+: main F/F relationship between bi and lesbian main characters, bi side character, ace side character

Indie rocker Victoria “Vix” Vincent knows a good thing when she hears it. The moment Sawyer Bell picks up her fiddle, magic happens. Beautiful and wildly talented, Sawyer is the perfect match for Vix’s band—and, just maybe, for Vix. The dynamic in any group is a delicate thing, but with Sawyer and Vix thrown together on tour, it’s not long before the line between bandmates and lovers gets a bit blurry.

The indie rock life is not what Sawyer ever saw for herself. She worked hard to get where she is—in her second year of Julliard, with a bright future in classical music. But instead of spending her summer working and rehearsing, she’s on tour with her secret high school crush. And even though it was only supposed to be temporary, Sawyer feels like she’s finally found a place she belongs.

This summer with Vix has been like a dream. But every tour must come to an end, and when Julliard comes calling, Sawyer will need to make a choice: continue on the path she’s chosen, or take a leap of faith and follow her heart.

4.5 stars

Yes, I know I’m super late to this party, but the book is getting re-released so it counts, okay?

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell is a wonderful F/F New Adult romance between two girls who just really love music. Although Vix has hookups and I know some people might find this bad rep, but it is made clear on several occasions that this is not because of her bisexuality. Personally, I loved the bi rep, and I especially loved that while there were some ignorant comments, they were all addressed and dealt with.

Meanwhile, Sawyer is just realising that she is a lesbian, while also figuring out that her prestigious, super competitive school is not making her happy. This was so important and nice to see, because often what you dream of and really want to achieve can turn out to be bad for you as well. Just like Sawyer, you need to recognise it and walk away.

Vix and Sawyer go from hooking up to falling in love. The book has a lot of sex scenes, but even as a sex-repulsed person I wasn’t as bothered as I usually am, because the sex scenes were full of consent, dialogue, jokes, and just generally felt like two real people who really like each other wanting to please the other.

There was also a side friendship between a bi girl and a bi guy, which is one of my favourite dynamics and I really need more of it. If you have any books like this, recommend them in the comments, please!

My only complaints are that 1) there was a brief comment where Sawyer is worried that if Vix can’t get her off then she is “defective”, which sounded pretty anti-ace to me, 2) while Sawyer’s jealousy is addressed, I felt like it wasn’t REALLY addressed that biphobia contributed to it. Like, it was kind of brought up but I still found it lacking?

Still, there was a lot of addressing of stereotypes, communication and consent, and despite some arguments this is still mainly a lighthearted and music-filled romance.

~ Alexa

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Reviews

Gender Queer: The Memoir Teen-Me Needed

Gender Queer: A MemoirTitle: Gender Queer: A Memoir
Author(s): Maia Kobabe
Series: 
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
Pages: 240
Published: 
May 28th 2019 by Lion Forge
LGBTQAI+: memoir by a genderqueer bi/asexual author

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

5 hundred stars

While reading this graphic novel, my most common thought was “holy shit”, usually paired with “that’s me!”. It was like the author reached into my brain to pluck out my thoughts, memories and experiences, and turned them into drawings. Only, of course, e was doing the same with eir own memories – which happened to be hauntingly similar to mine. I firmly believe that if I had read this book before I was 18, I would have found my identity much sooner.

120Gender Queer is a memoir that tells a story of a person growing up questioning both eir sexuality and gender. It addresses many issues that are described in the blurb, such as coming out to friends and family, feeling ignorant around your peers who seem to have more experience than you, relationships and being ready to be in them, listening to David Bowie, wanting to have life experiences as research for fanfiction, feelings about menstruation, having children, and much else.

Maia tells the story of eir childhood with beautiful illustrations, and honest even about the uncomfortable truths. Like most teens, Maia also used to be ignorant about some issues that e now knows better about, such as the dangers of using ace bandages. The only thing I would have appreciated more critical thinking on is the erotic gay shipping that is often used to fetishize gay men. There are several scenes where Maia and eir friends write fanfiction, including about real people, and mention several popular gay ships – and again, I don’t judge em and eir friends for these, but I still would have appreciated a couple of sentences about this shipping can be toxic as well as validating.

179

But really, what really struck me was how much I related to these experiences. Some scenes, like realising other girls shave their legs and I don’t, not being able to describe what haircut you want and then hating it, having a conversation with a mother about having children, wearing pants to graduation, and even playing a boy character in drama class brought up memories that happened to me, occasionally ones that I haven’t thought of or related to my gender journey.

Overall, Gender Queer is a beautifully written and drawn, honest account of a genderqueer bi/asexual person’s life. It’s special to me because I related to it so much, but I think anyone can enjoy it, and many queer people regardless of identity can find relatable moments in it. (There were also a lot of aro-relatable moments, although I’m not sure if the author identifies as aromantic as well or not.)

  • “It was everyone else being silly, not me.”
  • “This seed put out many leaves, but I didn’t have the language to identify the plant.”
  • “Friendship is NINE THOUSAND TIMES better than romance!”
  • “I’d be constantly resenting my kid for taking up all my time. I’m way too selfish for parenting.”
  • “I wish I didn’t fear that my identity is too political for a classroom.”

59

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Queer International Romance We Deserve: Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White & Royal BlueTitle: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author(s): Casey McQuiston
Series: 
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 432
Published: 
May 14th 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
LGBTQAI+: bisexual & gay male leads; bi, gay, trans and pansexual side characters
Other representation: biracial Mexican/white lead, Latino side characters

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

5 (thousand) stars

There was so much goodness in this book, I barely know where to start.

Red, White & Royal Blue is written from the perspective of Alex, the biracial son of the first female president of the United States. His parents are divorced, but his Mexican father is still a supportive presence in his life. Along with his older sister and their bisexual friend Nora, they form the White House Trio. And of course, there’s Prince Henry – grandson of the Queen of England, who has been Alex’s rival for years, and he’s all boring and white and not handsome or cute, not at all, not even a little bit.

Henry and Alex go from rivals to forced friends to real friends to secret lovers, separated by an ocean, as well as the expectations of their families and their entire countries. Through long-distance calls, pop culture references, quotes from love letters by historical figures and a painting of Alexander Hamilton, this romance is one history will remember.

Interwoven with the romance, there is also heavy criticism of British imperialism, corrupt and predatory politicans, racism and homophobia in history, the price of trying to keep a traditional image, and more. Henry and Alex are surrounded by families and friends who love their respective countries and wish to see them flourish, but without ignoring the bigotry in their past and present.

Also: give me more New Adult fiction with 20-something protagonists!

In short, this book is easily one of my favourite reads this year.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Play it Again: Long-Distance Romance Between Youtubers

Play It AgainTitle: Play It Again
Author(s): Aidan Wayne
Series: 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Published: 
April 22nd 2019 by Carina Press
LGBTQAI+: M/M relationship between a blind, Jewish bisexual guy, and a homoromantic asexual guy with anxiety. (Aro)ace side character.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Seattle-based blind YouTuber Dovid Rosenstein finds Sam Doyle’s Let’s Play channel, playitagainsam, he’s instantly captivated by the Irish gamer. Everything about Sam is adorable, from his accent to his personality, and Dovid can’t get enough of his content.

Dovid’s glowing shout-out on Don’t Look Now, his own successful channel, sends Sam’s subscriber numbers skyrocketing overnight. He has more comments than he can read. And while the sudden surge in popularity is anxiety inducing, Sam decides it’s only right to dedicate his next episode to Dovid…which soon leads to a heart-pounding exchange of DMs.

They may have never met in person, but Dovid’s never felt this close to anyone before. What they have feels worth exploring—no matter the distance. But is it possible to already be in love with someone who’s half a world away?

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

3.5 stars

Play It Again is a M/M romance by a nonbinary author that involves YouTubers and social media, and one of the main characters is blind – at least that was how much I found out based on the blurb and the author’s bio. As the story went on, I was very happy to find out that Dovid and Rachel are Jewish, along with Rachel being (aro)ace and Sam being ace. (Rachel is only called sex-repulsed ace in the book as far as I remember, but it’s implied she’s not interested in romance either.)

Overall, Play It Again is a sweet, low-conflict romance that deals with internet fame, as well as living while disabled, or having emotionally abusive parents. If you are looking for a comforting read and aren’t too bothered by the toxic parents, this could be a good pick. I also loved how Dovid and Rachel review restaurants and venues based on accessibility as well as their food, taking into consideration not only blind people, but wheelchair users as well. Dovid also mentions a wheelchair user friend at one point, although disappointingly she doesn’t actually appear.

I admit that I didn’t always enjoy this book, although you might have guessed this from the fact that I didn’t give it 5 stars. There were some scenes that gave me intense second hand embarrassment, and sometimes the long discussions about how to handle internet fame and YouTubing were just boring to me. I also admit I have no experience with similar matters, but Sam becoming a sensation and actually getting PAID enough to be able to leave his job so fast felt unrealistic to me. I know realism isn’t the most important, but it was still a little frustrating.

Dovid and Sam are also in a long-distance relationship, with all the troubles that brings – including that most of their scenes aren’t physically together, but through phone or chat conversations. There is a lot of discussion of consent and boundaries, which I really appreciated.

I also couldn’t figure out how old the characters are, but I’m guessing early twenties, which would actually put this as New Adult? It’s definitely not YA, although it doesn’t have explicit scenes.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Ollie Oxley and The Ghost: A Middle Grade Ghost Adventure

Ollie Oxley and the Ghost: The Search for Lost GoldTitle: Ollie Oxley and the Ghost
Author(s): Lisa Schmid
Series:
Genre: Paranormal, Middle Grade
Pages: 184
Published: June 18th 2019 by North Star Editions
LGBTQAI+: 

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Twelve-year-old Ollie Oxley is moving — again. His mom is starting another new job, this time at the Bingham Theater in Granite City, California. Moving all the time means Ollie has struggled in the making friends department, but he quickly connects with a boy named Teddy. To Ollie’s surprise, though, his first friend in town is a little more… unique than those he’s made in the past. Teddy is a ghost.

Befriending someone who lived during the famous California Gold Rush sure does make things interesting for Ollie. But when the school bully, Aubrey, targets Ollie, and it looks like the Bingham Theater might close, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Can Teddy and Ollie work together to take down Aubrey, save his mom’s job, and solve a mystery years in the making?

Rating: 5 stars

I’m just messing with you. My sense of humour didn’t die with me.

Sometimes, all you need is a fun, easy-to-digest middle grade adventure. With a snarky ghost.

I was drawn to this book by the cover, and the promise of mystery and ghostly adventures, and it didn’t disappoint. I’m going to be honest, at first I groaned at little details such as the main boy character hating the colour pink, or the stereotypical bully stealing lunch money (seriously, who does that? if anyone kept stealing my actual MONEY every day, my mom would have went in and kicked everyone’s asses from the principal to the bully’s parents. Is this something that actually happens?). However, even my little annoyances were subverted or fixed by the end of the book.

The best part of this book is very obviously the ghost kid, Teddy. I adored his snarkiness, his jokes, and his puns about being a ghost, even if Ollie was often annoyed by them. I also liked that while he appeared as a kid, he was old enough that one of his friends that he met as a child was actually an adult, but they still acted as friends.

Also, there’s a ghost cat, so, you know, automatic extra points.

In short, if you’re looking for a middle grade book for yourself or maybe a kid in your life, I definitely recommend picking up this one.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Once & Future: King Arthur in Space and Also Queer

Once & Future (Once & Future, #1) Title: Once & Future
Author(s): Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Series: Once & Future #1
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 368
Published:
March 26th 2019
LGBTQAI+: main F/F relationship, main M/M relationship, nonbinary side character, ace side character, and more. trans/nonbinary authors.

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

4 stars

“I, um, come from a society with a history of gender assumptions based on physical markers, aesthetics, et cetera.”
“Ew,” Ari said.
“That’s wicked sad,” Kay added.
Merlin, at least, looked deeply ashamed. “You have no idea.”

I… don’t know what happened to me halfway through this book.

It started out brilliant, and sucked me in almost immediately. An adopted queer teenage girl with Arabic background, a gay wizard who ages backwards and uses songs to do magic, both of them being in same gender relationships, a nonbinary side character, an ace side character, same-gender adoptive parents, and a wonderfully diverse cast in terms of both race and sexuality. A fresh, beautiful take on Arthurian myths that somehow mixes both the past and the future, reenacting the myths of old, but in space. Also, the big bad tyrannical empire this time is not actually a government, but a corporation, and if that isn’t relevant then I don’t know what is.

I absolutely loved Merlin and his memories of all the Arthurs, the feeling that this is really an unending cycle, that they are all so different and yet still have the same soul, the same story, the same end.

So why did the second half leave me uninterested and kind of disenchanted? I really have no idea, but somewhere around the one-year timeskip I felt myself losing interest and becoming numb to the twists.

It might have had to do something with the character deaths (not telling you who, obviously, but damn I didn’t like that), or the fact that these apparent teenagers are going around having sex, getting married, and having literal babies. Not that those things don’t happen to teenagers, but it’s far from the norm, and just in general, this felt like it should have been a New Adult novel. We already have so few of those, so the missed opportunity made me kind of bitter.

I also feel like there might have been a symbolic reason behind Ari, Val, Lam and Kay all having names with three letters, but having the last three be so similar was indeed kind of annoying. I wondered why Percival couldn’t have been Percy or Perce or something instead. This is just a minor pet peeve, but still.

I am both scared and intrigued by the hints we have for the sequel (you, because you’ve never imagined it, and you because you believed you’d escaped it), and duologies are my favourite format that are also rarer than I like, so I’m still excited about next year.

NOTES:
– This should definitely have a content warning for genocide of a non-white people.
– The ace side character is only referred to as ace, but the way she describes it implies she’s supposed to be aro as well.
– There seem to be three recognised nonbinary genders in this world, referred to as “fluid”, “set” and “non”. This was a little strange, but not necessarily bad.

~ Alexa

Reviews

BLOG TOUR: Wicked Saints – Dark Fantasy with Magic, Grudging Allies and a Dangerous Romance

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)Title: Wicked Saints
Author(s): Emily A. Duncan
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Gothic
Pages: 400
Published: 
April 2nd, 2019 by Wednesday Books
LGBTQAI+: lesbian side character

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

WickedSaints_BlogTourBanner_BEFORE 4.2

5 stars

You know what I love? People who are supposed to be enemies grudgingly working together, and growing to like each other no matter how hard they fight it.  Also, an examination of what it means to be a monster, and how human monsters can be. So, really, it’s no surprise that I ended up adoring Wicked Saints.

The series title is Something Dark and Holy, and I think that describes the feeling of this book perfectly. It is deliciously dark, and yet I didn’t feel like it had any of the unnecessary violence that repulses me in many dark fantasy books. It is also focuses heavily on gods, saints, heretics and how whether something is one or the other really depends on your point of view.

The three main characters in Wicked Saints (two of them with their own POV in this book, unless we count the epilogue) are all powerful, dangerous, and possibly as likely to destroy the world as to save it.  And yet, they are also broken, charming, awkward, in love, and so many other human words. They are all enemies, and yet they all have the same goal, or at least a goal similar enough to force them to work together. Also, they all want to save their own respective countries, which doesn’t always seem possible without destroying the other.

I loved the worldbuilding in this book, but what really pulled me in and kept me going was my deep attachment to the three main characters. Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz are all complex characters whose loyalties are tested in this book, and whose fates seem to be entwined despite their protests.

After that ending, I am a little scared what the sequel will bring, but I am definitely curious.

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

~ Alexa

Reviews

She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters

She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary ResistersTitle: She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters
Author(s): Robyn Ryle
Series: 
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 400
Published: 
March 5th 2019 by Sourcebooks

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you’ve ever questioned the logic of basing an entire identity around what you have between your legs, it’s time to embark on a daring escape outside of the binary box…

Open your eyes to what it means to be a boy or a girl — and above and beyond! Within these pages, you get to choose which path to forge. Explore over one hundred different scenarios that embrace nearly every definition across the world, over history, and in the ever-widening realms of our imagination! What if your journey leads you into a world with several genders, or simply one? Do you live in a matriarchal society, or as a sworn virgin in the Balkans? How does gender (or the lack thereof) change the way we approach sex and love, life or death?

Jump headfirst into this refreshingly creative exploration of the ways gender colors every shade and shape of our world. Above all, it’s more important than ever for us to celebrate the fact that there are infinite gender paths — and each of them is beautiful.

3 stars

Reading this book was… exhausting. I did two full paths, as well as several detours where I checked out another path, and many dead-ends. In the end, I’m sure there are still chapters I haven’t read (I might return to them later), but I feel like I have a good enough idea to write a review.

Here’s the short version: as an information resource, this book is pretty good. As a choose-your-own-adventure book that emphasises nonbinary people on the cover, it fails terribly.

1) Let’s talk about the information first. Most of this book is about binary gender roles in Western culture, with a US focus. It addresses race, class, and has some chapters on transgender healthcare, as well as a few chapters on other countries, and explanation of gender roles in some indigenous cultures. It also deals with some statistics, and gave information about gender in Olympic sports that was really interesting to me. Obviously, I can’t speak for the accuracy of all this information, but I appreciated the intersectionality, and the focus on issues that I didn’t even think of.

So, why does this book absolutely fail to deliver what the cover and blurb seemed to promise?

2a) A quick word about the formatting. I read an e-ARC that had links to every chapter in the contents, but at the end of chapters (where it gives you the choices and tells you which chapter to go next) there are no links. There are also no page numbers, which (especially in a paperback copy) would have been much more useful in my opinion than chapter numbers. This book required a lot of jumping around, as all choose-your-adventure books do, but the actual activity of jumping around was so inconvenient that after my second read-through it just got frustrating.

2b) And now let me talk about my personal experience trying to read this book as it was intended, as a nonbinary person.

On my first read, I picked that my assigned gender didn’t match the gender I felt I was. So far, so good. Next question is whether your parents accept your gender identity or not. I picked no, so I was taken to a chapter that forced me into “pretending to be a cis person for now”. And then… the gender questioning thing never came up again. I actually knew about this because another reviewer pointed it out, but it was still a really dysphoric experience, and a pretty big oversight. There could have been a chapter there about transitioning as an adult, or leaving your parents, or ANYTHING. But no, I guess if your parents don’t accept your gender then you’re out of luck forever.

On my second read, I picked that my parents accept my gender identity. This allowed me some options, like choose to be a transgender man, a transgender woman, nonbinary, or agender. (Yes, nonbinary and agender are separate.) I picked the nonbinary option, and there was about… one chapter about nonbinary experiences. Then at the marriage part, the route merged with the previous path, and I was forced into a binary of picking between being a man or a woman.

Other things I noticed:

1) If you pick the asexual option, you can be either alloromantic or aromantic, but if you pick to be allosexual, there is no mention of aromanticism.

2) I mentioned this above, but I’d just like to emphasize that for a book that emphasises nonbinary people on the cover, all the medical, sports, work and other information is only for men and women. I understand that Western society is binarist, but at the very least it could have been phrased as “you are perceived as a woman” or something similar, as opposed to “you ARE a woman”. There are also very few chapters specifically about nonbinary experiences in non-indigenous cultures.

3) There are several chapters where man vs trans man and woman vs trans woman are used, as opposed to cis man vs trans man or cis woman vs trans woman. There is also a chapter where the sentence “they have lived their lives as normal women” (as opposed to intersex) is used.

In summary, the information in this book focuses on a lot of issues and includes a variety of experiences – however, it heavily erases nonbinary people in non-indigenous cultures, and treats cisgender people as the norm, which was really disappointing after that cover.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Roam: The Story of a Homeless Teenager

RoamTitle: Roam
Author(s): C.H. Armstrong
Series: 
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Published: 
February 5th 2019 by Central Avenue Publishing
LGBTQAI+: a gay side character
Other representation: homeless main character

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen year-old Abby Lunde and her family are living on the streets. They had a normal life back in Omaha, but thanks to her mother’s awful mistake, they had to leave what little they had behind for a new start in Rochester. Abby tries to be an average teenager—fitting into school, buoyed by dreams of a boyfriend, college, and a career in music. But Minnesota winters are unforgiving, and so are many teenagers.

Her stepdad promises to put a roof over their heads, but times are tough for everyone and Abby is doing everything she can to keep her shameful secret from her new friends. The divide between rich and poor in high school is painfully obvious, and the stress of never knowing where they’re sleeping or where they’ll find their next meal is taking its toll on the whole family.

As secrets are exposed and the hope for a home fades, Abby knows she must trust those around her to help. But will her friends let her down the same way they did back home, or will they rise to the challenge to help them find a normal life?

4 stars

At first glance, Roam is your typical high school romance story: new girl arrives at the school, popular boy is immediately interested in her, popular boy’s bitchy ex-girlfriend goes on to bully new girl for the entire year… You know how it goes. Only this time, the new girl happens to be homeless, and next to worrying about homecoming, she also has to worry about her little sister getting enough food and not freezing to death in the van they’re living in.

Roam was tough to read at times. Although we have never been homeless, some of the financial struggle and awkward lies Abby tells were familiar to me. No teen should hear their parents desperately trying and failing to provide for them, and yet many do. There was a constant anxiety in the book – I as the reader knew that sooner or later Abby and her family would be caught, her secret would come out, she would have to deal with that fallout. And of course, it eventually happened, although it was very different from what I expected.

What I really appreciated in the book is that so many people meet Abby and her family with kindness. There were people willing to help everywhere, despite the awful situation they were put in. While it’s much less positive, I also liked Abby’s flashbacks, and the way completely innocent things sometimes reminded her of the trauma she was put through in her previous school.

I’m going to admit here that I really, really hate the mean girl bully type. Maybe I was just insanely lucky in my high school years, because while I didn’t get through them completely bullying-free, some of the stuff fictional bullies do just goes way over what I can believe. Still, in this case (while I can’t say much without spoilers) I felt like Trish’s case was handled nicely in the end.

Overall, Roam is a mix between your average hetero high school romance, and a story about a girl living homeless with her parents and little sister. It is an emotional read, but thankfully it has both negative and positive emotions, and ultimately ends on a positive note.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Love Beyond Body, Space and Time: An Anthology of Indigenous LGBT+/Two-Spirit Stories

Love Beyond Body, Space, and TimeTitle: Love Beyond Body, Space and Time
Author(s): Hope Nicholson (editor), David Alexander Robertson, Cherie Dimaline, Gwen Benaway, Richard Van Camp, Nathan Adler, Daniel Heath Justice, Darcie Little Badger, Cleo Keahna, Mari Kurisato
Series: 
Genre: SFF
Pages: 117
Published: 
August 24th 2016 by Bedside Press
LGBTQAI+: Indigenous people of various non-allocishet identities

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman undergoing an experimental transition process to young lovers separated through decades and meeting in their own far future. These are stories of machines and magic, love and self-love.

Stories featured are by an all-star cast of writers including:
Cherie Dimaline (The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy, Red Rooms)
Gwen Benaway (Ceremonies for the Dead)
David Robertson (Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, Tales From Big Spirit)
Richard Van Camp (The Lesser Blessed, Three Feathers)
Nathan Adler (Wrist)
Daniel Heath Justice (The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles)
Darcie Little Badger (Nkásht íí, The Sea Under Texas)
Cleo Keahna

This book has been on my TBR for a long time, so I was enthustiastic to see it was available on NetGalley. I have already read two of the stories before, Transitions by Gwen Benaway and Né łe! by Darcie Little Badger, and I loved both. Né łe! is about two lesbians in space with a lot of dogs, while Transitions is about an indigenous trans woman dealing with transition.

The anthology starts with a letter from the editor, then two different introductions/essays about the history and present of real-life two-spirit people and their place in their communities. After this, there are eight short stories and one poem, all by indigenous authors, and all with protagonists who defy hetero- and cisnormative rules.

Other than the two stories I read previously, there was another three that really stood out to me:

  1. The Boys Who Became Hummingbirds by Daniel Heath Justice is a wonderful and colourful story about being yourself, often despite being afraid, and the beauty that it brings.
  2. Imposter Syndrome by Mari Kurisato is… you know, I’m not entirely sure what this story is about, but I loved it anyway.
  3. Valediction at the Star View Motel by Nathan Adler has two girls in love, sisters beign protective, and other family relationships.

My individual ratings are the following:

Richard Van Camp: Aliens – 4/5

Cherie Dimaline: Legends Are Made, Not Born – 4/5

David A. Robertson: Perfectly You – 3/5

Daniel Heath Justice: The Boys Who Became Hummingbirds – 5/5

Darcie Little Badger: Né łe! – 5/5

Gwen Benaway: Transitions – 5/5

Mari Kurisato: Imposter Syndrome – 4.5/5

Nathan Adler: Valediction at the Star View Motel – 5/5

Cleo Keahna: Parallax – 3/5

Which averages at 4.2 stars.

~ Alexa