Book Reviews, LGBTQIA+, YA

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

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Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

I really loved this book.Seven students each representing a deadly sin. That got me interested immediately. I love studying the seven deadly sins. The episode with the sins on charmed was one of my faves.It’s just a fun concept. Figuring out which one each student represented was fun for me too. Some are more obvious than others for sure.

I felt like the story made it pretty obvious which student is a part of the affair pretty early. I thought that might take away something from the story,but really you get to see everyone else around that person reacting to them without really knowing them. It was interesting. Especially since one of the seven does know who it is from the beginning.

Let’s quickly go over some of the characters. I want to talk about some of the diversity in the book. Some other things I appreciated as well.

I loved Valentine Simmons. He’s so blunt. He’s not trying to be funny but completely cracked me up at times. Loved his arc. He changes a bit from where we see him at the beginning to where he is at the end of the book. Also, he’s ASEXUAL. They don’t say the word,but he is. Looking for more books with Asexual characters then check this one out.

The other queer character is one that I loved as well. Lucas is Pansexual. He is awesome. I had some reservations going into the book because I was told he was the character that represented greed. Could have been problematic, but it wasn’t. He really represented greed when it came to money and wanting luxurious things specifically. That aspect of him didn’t factor into his being pansexual at all. Loved the conversations around pansexuality in this because it was realistic. It’s not easy to explain to people and sometimes people don’t get it.

I liked the message the book had about how people treat girls that sleep around differently than boys that do. The character that represented lust was overall a really strong character in this book to me.She didn’t let herself care what people thought of her but didn’t let people take things too far either. Also really liked where her story ended up at the end.

Matt is half  latino. His mother speaks Spanish at times in the book I believe. I thought that was really cool. You really see he comes from a mixed background in this. Also really liked his character overall. he had one slip up where I was like that’s not cool,but he actually redeems himself, unlike some people. This leads us to my least favorite character.

I hated Claire. I got to the point in the book where I decided she was irredeemable really early. I didn’t think that would be the most annoying deadly sin to read, but it was. She’s the complete worst.I would not forgive her for the things she did in this book if I were her friends. The attempt of a turnaround for her did not land well at the end. Not enough time to make it work in her last two chapters honestly. I’d rather get another Valentine, Juniper, or Lucas chapter. Even another Olivia chapter, which we didn’t need. We had plenty of those. I’d still prefer more over Claire’s existence.

So I loved this book. I had the one character I hated throughout. A sort of mystery where you wonder when will everyone find out.A few very poetic chapters. Lots of drama. A little bit of romance. Some really great LGBTQIA + characters. A dash of feminism. This book was completely for me. Definitely, recommend that people try it out. This was an Overdrive library read for me. It’s going on the list of books I need to buy because I want to own this book.

 

LGBTQIA+

Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self

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A fantastic, fabulous, funny YA debut from Jeffery Self, one of the gay icons of the YouTube generation, that follows one high school student on a drag race to his future.

Debut YA author Jeffery Self takes us on a road trip with an insecure high school senior who has one goal: to be the first in his family to leave Clearwater, Florida, and go to college. The problem is, he has zero means of paying for school — until his friends convince him to compete in a drag teen competition for a college scholarship.

This book kind of went the way I expected it to for the most part. It was a good humorous story. I think the experiences the friends had on the road trip were some of the best parts of the book. One of the things I love about road trip books is the interesting people the characters meet along the way. JT, Seth, and Heather meet some great characters on their trip for sure.

I think this book took too long to get to the road trip. I say that because I know you are going to the Pageant JT. So the long period of time where he was telling everyone he wouldn’t and couldn’t do it was a little annoying. Especially because of the point here he finally decides he would. I didn’t think that moment would be such a big convincing moment. It only highlighted things he seemed to already know about his situation.

JT’s self-pity and lack of self-esteem probably annoyed me more than it did his boyfriend, but after the midway point in the book, it got a little more bearable. Seriously midway. I was reading the ebook and was at about 54% when it stopped bothering me as much.

Having low self-esteem is a thing. I understand that. It just felt like the reasons for it are kind of dumb in this. JT let things that were really stupid stop him from believing in himself. Homophobic jerks reactions the first time he did drag being one of those things.It just frustrated me. It made no sense. Of course, the reaction would be different in a different setting.

Seth’s big reveal is also pretty frustrating.It was so dumb.His reaction to I’m not perfect is I used to be not perfect essentially.They built it up to seem something really shocking and it wasn’t at all.You are great for being such a supportive boyfriend but get out. This is not that serious.” I think I said that out loud when I was reading the ‘reveal’ at Starbucks yesterday. I’m not even kidding with you I tend to mumble to myself as I read sometimes.Definitely said that part out loud.

I felt like Heather’s issues made the most sense.You saw what they were rooted from over the course of the book and it was logical. You saw people in the book not treating her the best they could. Her reactions to that were realistic and her reactions to that made me scared for her. I didn’t know what would happen with her in this book and still aren’t sure about where she’d progress to at the point where this book ends even with the hopeful tone at the end for all the characters really.

Not knowing what is in store for the future and living in the moment is one of the themes in this book, though. It’s something JT really needs to be able to do. You see really quickly it’s something he is going to struggle to do. Still thinking about past embarrassments or worrying about his future.

Things wrapped up okay at the end.Not exactly as you’d expect , though. One aspect of things didn’t make that much sense to me. I may have to reread some interactions down the line to see where the turnaround came from more. I really don’t like unrealistic 360’s in books.

Overall a good book. Sort of campy. Think it would make a great movie. The humor suits watching it well. Some jokes would land better hearing or seeing them out loud than reading it in a book for sure.

Book Reviews, LGBTQIA+

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

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Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

I listened to this audiobook in one day. Most of the time I was trying to clean my apartment,but ended up just stopping to listen to the book a lot of the day. There were so many things I liked about this book and I had some problems with it too. Midway through the book I was invested because of how complicated and interesting the dynamics in the relationships were. Lisa, Solomon were each really interesting characters.

I did not expect to like Clark as much as I did. I usually don’t like characters like Clark very much. He was just different, though. It’s why he fit so well with Solomon really. He felt like a really genuine character. I liked it all a lot. Their friendship is one of my favorite friendships ever. I was jealous. The whole plot with Clark and Solomon in the book was really familiar for me. It was relatable in some ways.

Lisa is something else.I honestly found myself laughing at Lisa’s life when I shouldn’t have been. Like the entire last half of the book. The situation she causes with her own insecurities. I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I could see what was going to happen and just had to.

The book is one of those where it all starts off because of questionable and immoral decisions of one character. Books like that can work, but often don’t. This works because people are telling Lisa that what she’s doing is wrong each step of the way. There is always a tension building as you think about when Solomon will find out what she did or if he even will.

Solomon’s grandmother is amazing. I wish I had a close relationship with one of my grandmother’s like what Solomon has with his. It’s really great to see.I loved their conversations in the book.

One more side character. At first, I didn’t like Janice. I still don’t but I don’t hate her. Janice isn’t the best person in the world, but neither is Lisa. Their friendship actually makes sense to me, which is crazy. It did not for a while there. Then I woke today and it just made sense. People who are sometimes horrible people being friends makes sense.

Solomon isn’t in therapy for his agoraphobia. I really liked that his parents saw that it wasn’t helping. Therapy isn’t for everyone. I liked that the other two characters went to that as a solution first telling him that’s what he needed because people really do that. It was realistic and didn’t have any affect on Solomon. Them saying that didn’t make him run to his parents and ask for a therapist. He understood what worked for him and someone telling him what they thought he needed didn’t change anything about what he thought.

If you don’t like when characters joke around mental health.Maybe don’t read this. Solomon does it himself and so does his parents. I mostly felt fine with it in this. Why?

  1. His family’s sense of humor made sense to me.The family unit in this book seemed like one that really worked.I feel like Solomon’s parents understood him.
  2. I know a lot of people who joke about their conditions in the same vein for whatever reason. My sister used to all the time. I have.

Still, there were moments where things made me felt a little off. It depended on who was using the language. So if Lisa, Clark, or someone else like Janice did it I didn’t like it much.You could argue that Lisa and Clark become as close as family,but there are things said really early in the book by them that I didn’t like.

It’s a book about friendships and being oneself. It had its problems , but I still recommend it. I feel like at the end Lisa is at a point where she realizes her actions were wrong. That’s what you would hope for. I’d like more there. I’d like her to really recognize the specific things she did and said that were wrong. Her attempts at different kinds of therapy when she is not a psychologist yet. I’d want her to understand even more how the things she says to people matter.

You know what the problem actually is. The last chapter. There is a line from Lisa that really annoyed me. I think the one line drops the book a little. It was just not good. I really questioned if she really got it in the end because of it.If I ignore that then I’d say I liked the ending a lot more,but it’s hard to ignore. I’d still recommend people try the book like I said. The characters are really great. John Corey Whaley does a great job of pulling you into the story.