LGBTQIA+, YA

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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If you haven’t read Openly Straight there could be some spoilers ahead. Fair warning. I need to refer to the end right now to explain why I didn’t want a sequel to Openly Straight. I thought the ending was perfect because it was realistic. Rafe has his reasons for doing everything he does but that does not make it right at all. Rafe puts Ben through too much. I didn’t want Ben to run back to him.Ben’s reaction at the end of Openly Straight is so warranted in my opinion and I loved that we didn’t get that happily ever after. I had a strong feeling that would turn around in this book because it happens in things like this.

Ben’s narration is better than Rafe’s. That feels blasphemous to say but I don’t even remember why I liked Rafe’s so much. I think with Openly Straight I enjoyed the story and the discussion it brought up but had some issues with Rafe. He’s really privileged in being able to just switch schools so easily when he wants to change how people sees him. He has to money to just go to this pretty expensive private school and pretend to be someone different than he is.

Ben deals with so much pressure. You could see that a bit in openly Straight but don’t really understand it until you read more on Ben. He has a family that is overbearing. A father that puts really toxic ideas in his head and a mother who lets it happen for years. They are in the running for the worse YA parents on the year award in my superlatives later this year. Don’t think they will win but top three right now.

Be Happy just not too happy. Don’t get a big head or you aren’t allowed to show that you are happy about things you’ve accomplished.Carver’s can’t afford this. Carver’s aren’t vulnerable.Carver’s don’t talk about their feelings. Carver’s don’t need extra help.  Everything in Ben’s life is framed by what his father has told him. Ben is so reserved and pretty bad at sticking up for himself at times and I quickly saw it’s because he believes and follows the things his father has told him completely. Ben has several bad habits he picks up because of his father that are a result of all of this.

Everything in Ben’s life is framed by what his father has told him. Ben is so reserved and pretty bad at sticking up for himself at times and I quickly saw it’s because he believes and follows the things his father has told him completely. Ben has several bad habits he picks up because of his father that are a result of all of this.

Through all this Ben is able to deliver a narrative with some great humor and some other beautiful moments. He’s a really great character. Seeing his emotional journey was compelling. Seeing his personal arc was compelling.

One thing that I’m glad was really highlighted in this book was privilege. I feel like it is talked about a bit in the first book. Ben’s roommate leaves the school for reasons that were somewhat related to being the only black kid at this private all boys school and I remember liking the conversations that happen around it. Ben finally calling Rafe out for some of the things that he says made me very happy.

I didn’t think the book was biphobic but can see how it could be harmful to people because it does contain biphobic comments from several characters.  Ben doesn’t deny the existence of bi people. I’m fairly certain his uncle was bisexual and that is pointed out a few times. Ben just doesn’t see himself as bi or gay. The conversations on labels are being continued from the first book in an interesting way. At the end of the day, Ben should be allowed to label or not label himself whatever he wants and people should respect that.

Rafe and his family do say things that are biphobic. Plus other people in the book as well.Biphobia happens. People experience it. I think every time Ben’s reaction is showing that it is wrong even if the people around him keep doing it. I felt like this worked back into the conversation with Rafe’s privilege really well. It was frustrating in a similar way.  If this book did hurt you I’m really sorry that it did and I’m not trying to diminish that at all.

It was revealed that Toby is genderfluid. I was so excited by this. They really were on of my favorite characters in the first book. I raved about Toby and how I’d want Toby to be my friend in a book tag I filmed recently. Not many side characters stand out to me like Toby has. This made so much sense to me from the Toby I saw in the first book.

Konigsberg also reveals that Toby’s friend Alby is Asexual. Toby states that he is. I’d like more confirmation. There are not enough Ace characters at all. As someone on the Ace spectrum, it was still nice to see. I would love a Toby or Alby centered book honestly. I think I would have been more excited for a Toby centered sequel. Toby had other interesting things going on in the first book that were not touched on here. We just don’t get a chance to see Toby enough because he doesn’t have the biggest connection to Ben.

Speaking of connections to Ben. I do see Ben and Rafe’s connection but am still skeptical about how well the two could work long term. I liked the ending of the first book because it wasn’t that magical fix like I said. I know people shipped it and wrote fanfics of the two getting back together but I never thought it should happen and even as I liked seeing them become friends and close again I still struggle to feel that they are a pairing that could work for long.

 

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, YA

History is All You Left Me Review

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History is All You Left Me by Adam Silver is the second book chosen for The Rainbow Library.A landslide in the voting. A lot of members were excited about the book release.I’m really glad it was chosen as well. I was a big fan of More Happy Than Not and had the History Is All You Left Me book pre-ordered. I was going to wait a bit longer to dive into but I’m glad this group gave me the push to do it now.Apologizing now if this review gets too scattered. I took lots of notes.

This story intrigued me right away with the setup. You jump into the story and realize that the chapters will alternate between the present and the past.History and Today. We have a main character that is flawed in some ways too. I’m  talking about the way he handles a lot of the relationships in his life. I could see that it wasn’t the best right away. Especially after seeing how great Griffin’s relationship with Wade and Theo is in the first few history chapters. It’s so interesting trying to connect the history Griff gives us to his present. I was always looking for the clues to see how things came to be this way. Trying to figure out who is at fault for things before history could catch up with the present more.

I have to say I was surprised by how much I loved the history chapters. They start the day that Theo and Griffin admit their feelings for each other,  goes through their relationship and ends on the day that Theo dies. There were so many beautiful moments in their relationship and it really was bittersweet to read knowing that they eventually break up and that Theo dies. The first few history chapters really drew me in and I was excited that I was going to really enjoy those flashbacks.

Early on I wondered how reliable Griffin was as a narrator for not only the history sections. It was a small moment during the funeral of Theo that made me think it. It was just a perspective thing. The way he saw Jackson and how I could tell he blamed Jackson for Theo’s death to some extent. It made him think that other people might see Jackson similarly when that wasn’t the case. It was the first point where I realized there would definitely be some bias with anything revolving Jackson in the history or today part.

One really interesting thing about Griffin as a narrator is that he’s talking to Theo. The whole story is Griffin going over his history with Theo and also telling Theo the things he didn’t know. The things he wanted to but didn’t get a chance to. The “you” he references in the today sections is Theo.He models his actions toward Jackson based on what Theo would want him to do. If Theo would be disappointed in him. I saw it as another way for him to process Theo’s death. Believing that somehow Theo might be out there listening to him. A little odd considering that it’s pointed out that Griffin isn’t religious like Jackson.

Griffin has OCD. I really can’t comment much on the way it’s written besides that it feels accurate. I have a family member that has OCD and I grew up watching them deal with their compulsions. Compulsions that are very different from what Griffin’s are, though.His compulsions dealt with counting and even numbers. He always had to walk on one side of people or he became anxious. I liked the way it was shown throughout the story.I liked the way the people in his life reacted differently to it as well.

This story had what I call the January problem now. It’s where you only see a character through flashback and don’t always get the info you want. January from Last Seen Leaving was a character I had this kind of issue with. Theo can’t tell his story. Griffin has to tell it for him. Jackson and others can share stories of him but they can’t tell us what Theo was thinking. I really just wished I could get in his head. I got to the point in the history chapters where I had some questions. Theo, what are you doing? Do you really think you can stay friends with Griffin and be with Jackson? Do you not see how messy this situation is? Why are you a mess? Plus so many more questions as I realize things that Theo did or said. It’s not a problem that takes anything away from the story for me. I just will have those questions forever.

The last sixty or eighty pages I would read a page. Then stop to process because I needed to before reading another page.It was a long process. Sometimes I would lean against a wall or pace. Adam Silvera takes you on these really emotional roller coasters in his work. The situation between this group of guys was so messy and that was before Theo died. It really just gets worse. There were definitely some cringe moments because I didn’t want to think about how I’d handle the situations they were going through.  Pg 225 I for sure wasn’t ready for. I could not. I still cannot.I didn’t even know how I kept going toward the end right after that.

I really can’t knock this story rating down for anything that happens. There are things that were frustrating but it wasn’t frustrations that would affect the rating I’d give the book.If the situation was different these things would. I’m never a fan of people doing things to emotionally hurt people. Griff definitely does that at points in this story and I feel like Jackson does as well.Griff makes some bad decisions in his History with Theo that might make him unlikeable for people. Theo might be unlikeable for you.However, this was a story about people grieving over the death of someone they loved. It’s completely true that there were moments where I definitely have a problem with things done. Especially by the main character Griffin but all his emotions and actions were valid.This form of grieving was valid. Not right necessarily but it was valid. He’s in a rough spot and you see that throughout the entire book. I went along on this journey with Griffin knowing that he was going to possibly make some bad decisions.

There were chapters early on where I wished we could see more of Wade. I think it’s because I loved Wade in the chapters in the past. He was a great friend and added something to those scenes before Theo and Griffin start pushing him out a little unintentionally.I also wondered why he became more distant. What did Theo do or say to push his best friend away? Another question I had. Later in the story, we do finally get to see what’s going on with Wade. I have to say that there are things about Wade that I related to in a this is hurting my soul kind of way. I really wish we could have seen more of his character. Jackson and Griffin get to m0urn together for a big portion of this story. Wade mourns his friend alone and that is really rough.

I have to applaud Silvera on somehow throwing in a subtle twist that was just as jarring as the twist in More Happy Than Not even if on a smaller scale. More Happy Than Not had a sci-fi element.The thing that shocked me there was a big deal. History is All You left Me is just all real and still had these emotionally jarring moments that are so brilliant and unexpected. Adam Silvera is really becoming one of my favorite authors really quickly.I’m excited for his next book They Both Die At The End.I know I will likely be a complete emotional wreck after that one but I don’t mind that when it’s an Adam Silvera book. This story comes out to a 5-star read for me.

Comics, diverse books

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

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This comic was pretty amazing.It was intended to be one of my short reads for #Diverseathon but was pushed to this month. I’m so glad my library had it. I never heard of the comic before. it was just a great comic I found on my shelf. Gene Luen Yang recreates the story of the first Asian American superhero The Green Turtle.loved getting a little history on the character int he back of this collection.I’m really happy to see that mantle being taken and shown in a much bigger way here.The origin of the hero of this collection is really rooted in Asian culture.

You first see how our hero Hank’s family got to America.You see the struggles his mom has in the country since hr family first immigrates there when she is a child. You see how she met her husband and the rut she falls into after that. I thought it was a great decision to focus so much on the mother. She really pushes her son to be a hero even when he has no reason to want to be a hero at first. No powers or any desire to do more than he’s already set up for his life. She’s misguided in a lot of ways. She puts him in danger but shows that she loves her family by the end.

As for Hank. He’s out trying to be a superhero before he even gets any powers. Just for his mom really and I love that.he cares about his family. The origin of his father bonding with the turtle spirit was awesome.We get that story in the first few pages. The turtle spirit has to live in a human shadow to survive in our world. The turtle is really wise in a different way than you’d expect and he nags a lot too. So that was pretty funny.

Hank makes some really dumb moves in this story, though. Like one, in particular, I won’t spoil.I just knew immediately it was a bad idea. Still, he is able to make some important decisions for himself. The decision to be a hero, by the end is ultimately something he feels he needs to do. He has become the Green Turtle.He also makes the decision on what kind of hero he should be. I do wish we’d seen a bit more of what he went through internally. He’s almost too good really. I wanted to know if he had any doubts about one decision he makes but I also like to think that maybe he didn’t. He’s just that good.

I don’t know how many of the comics are collected in this edition. I hope there are more out there. I was really entertained. I definitely recommend you pick up the collection. If you started off with the first section I’m not sure it would be enough to pull you in. It takes a while for Hank to really get started as The Green Turtle but I found all the set up really interesting and loved following his family. Definitely, check it out if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

Comics, LGBTQIA+

Shades of A Webcomic Review

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This is a story about a guy named Anwar who is asexual. His friend drags him to a kink party. He’s uncomfortable and doesn’t want to be there but meets a crossdresser (Vixen/Chris) there who he befriends. Anwar keeps running into Chris after that night and it slowly builds a relationship between the two guys.

The story does a pretty good job of accurately showing the certain aspects of the BDSM/kink community unlike some things out there. The members of the community are shown in such a wonderful way. There is a variety with the members shown apart of that community.They aren’t all the same at all. It’s so well done. Plus the story overall shows a large variety of characters from all different backgrounds in this story.

Wish we could see more moments between Anwar and his mother in this story. Anwar’s mom loves quoting star wars. She’s so supportive. We see her for a few panels and loved her immediately. Anwar’s father is dead but you can see that he still thinks of his father a lot when making certain decisions. Especially decisions about school and what he wants to do with his life.

I loved the conversations Anwar has with Chris in this story. Communication is such an important part of a relationship. They understand they care about each other and have a big romantic attraction but need completely different things sexually. I love that they talk about it and come up with a plan that works for them. The trust that is there by the end of this story is good.

Best side comments ever. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Gray and don’t plan on it.In some of the comments under the comic pages, the author would point out if a scene was a direct parody of something in that novel. Sometimes they would call out the inaccuracies 50 Shades of Gray presented about BDSM at the bottom as well.I also read over some people’s opinions in the comments for each page. It’s cool to see what people thought who were waiting for the comic to come out page by page. I love that stuff with webcomics.

At the point that this ends I had a very ‘that’s it’ feeling. I felt like more needed to happen. Anwar is kind of irritating for a lot of this story. He’s hung up an ex. I’ve been there. I feel that. The problem was he is pretty focused on his self and his problems throughout this. I felt like I wanted to see him caring for Chris and see him thinking about that relationship more. I don’t know how far apart the end of this first comic and the release of Shades After, the sequel. I’ve gotta be honest and say that if it just ended with this first one I’d be disappointed because I don’t feel like Anwar has made enough progress in this one. Excited to read Shades After and I’ll definitely be talking about it right here. Go check out this comic at the link below if you’re interested.

http://www.discordcomics.com/comic/shades-cover/

Comics, LGBTQIA+, YA

Lumberjanes Comic Review | Volume 1

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I liked Lumberjanes more than I thought I would.I’d heard bits and pieces about the series but never decided to pick it up. After reading Nimona which is also by Noelle Stevenson I thought it might be time to pick this up from my local library. I love Nimona. It was one of my favorite reads of last year so I hoped this would be something I enjoy.

It’s a group of girls off at summer camp trying to earn their badges and solve the mystery of this crazy place.There are three eyed things lurking in the woods, water monsters, yetis, and a lot more. It’s pretty wild from start to finish. Lumberjanes starts with some of the troop lost in the woods a page before encountering three-eyed foxes.

If I wasn’t looking at a picture with the characters names on it right now I would not be able to refer to any of the characters by name in this review.I still won’t probably. About midway through I tried to go back and see if I could figure out who was who but still was confused honestly. The only ones I was sure on was Rosie the Camp Counselor we only see once in this volume.I think she knows things. Then Jen the Roanoke cabin’s scout leader. Jen yells at the girls a lot for disappearing and breaking rules.She probably should have taken an internship at space camp instead of being stuck in the woods as a scout leader.Too late Jen. Too late.

I did like a lot of the main cast of girls. I loved their friendship. They build each other up. They each have different skills they bring to the table and work well together to get out of the situations they get stuck in. They are great friends and a great team. I love girls supporting each other in books.

Lumberjanes is tagged as LGBT  but no one was completely pointed out as queer in the story. There are hints of a possible relationship between some characters or at least feelings, though.Mal and Molly are the characters names I’m pretty sure. There is also sort of a kiss in the story but extenuating circumstances so I don’t know.The queer subtext is there and I hope it is explored more in the following volumes. Especially if that is with Mal and Molly. I ship it.

The sign for the camp has “Hardcore lady types” stapled onto it. It was pretty cool to see that for sure. I also liked the way they did the oath and the girls would say things like “What the Joan Jett?” It was cute.Really enhanced that girl power message but let you know if was for all girls too. I appreciate this comic a lot.

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I liked the artwork. The creatures they encountered look really cool and there is a lot going on in each page. I love the pace of the story. It’s a quick paced comic and was great for when I was stranded waiting for my boyfriend’s car to get fixed. I just wish there was more going on with the character development to keep me invested. I still want to get the next volume, though and have already put a hold on it at my library.

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, The Rainbow Library, YA

None of The Above by I.W. Gregorio

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None of The Above was the first book chosen for The Rainbow Library. On the Rainbow Library, you can see member reviews of the book the entire week starting January 23rd. We chose the novel because it focuses on a part of the LGBTQIA = community that we don’t often read about or see people talking about.

This book follows a teenager named Kristen who finds out that she is intersex during a trip to the hospital. Kristen has to deal with what that means for herself personally. She has a lot of fear and confusion about her diagnosis.She confides in her friends and family. However, things really blow up when her secret is leaked to the entire school.

I enjoy the story. I just have some problems getting into it. I think the novel explains what intersex is and what it means to be intersex really well.You also learn about AIS and DSD.If you are looking for a book to get you more familiar with what intersex is I definitely recommend this. The novel has me interested in reading more books with intersex characters as well.

The book contains resources where you can get more information. I always have to point out when a book does a great job at doing that. You never know who will be needing those resources and it’s great that the book contains several. There are some fiction and non-fiction book recommendations that include and intersex characters and talk about what intersex is in the back of the book as well.

One of the main reasons this book didn’t hook me is because Kristen can be really annoying in this story at times. So can her friends and boyfriend. This is before she even finds out that she is intersex.The story is first person perspective from her perspective. She’s 18 I believe. There may have been just the age gap thing. The way she thinks about things or talks about things was a bit much sometimes. I thought she was much younger than 18 at points in the novel.

I didn’t feel bad when things go sour in the novel with the boyfriend because I really did not like him from the beginning. The way he said certain things rubbed me the wrong way. Again before Kristen even finds out she’s intersex.It really only gets worse from there. So I found it hard to think it was the end of the world like Kristen seemed to feel over the breakup.

You get more and more angry as the book goes on because of how much Kristen goes through. I felt like the book picks up through the middle for me. Kristen experience so much hate and bigotry and I think the way she handled it was realistic considering the fact that she’s never experienced anything like this before.

One really great thing is the relationships with some people in her corner. She has a solid support system there even when things are falling apart around her. Even if she doesn’t see how much they are there for her at times. Favorite parent of the year award so far goes to her father figure in this. I’m only 8 books into this year but that’s still pretty good.

The romance was kind of meh. It was pretty obvious where things were going. Plus Kristen being way too hung up on her first boyfriend and annoyingly never being sure of what she wants.She makes some decisions for the wrong reasons in this story. She doesn’t think about herself when she should be making decisions for herself. I felt like the end of the story was abrupt but the last part did make me smile.

 

Book Reviews, Readathon, YA

The Sun is Also A Star Review

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

2017 is off to a great start when it comes to my reading at least. I didn’t think I was going to like this story nearly as much as so many other people have. I heard all the amazing things about the book but I was skeptical. One reason was because within the premise and the way people were describing the story I was concerned I would be reading some serious instalove in this book. Another reason might have just been that I honestly haven’t read a contemporary that didn’t focus on queer characters in a long time. Many many books ago. However, this book turned out to be something I really loved.

Daniel does feel a connection to Natasha quickly and even if she does feel something. It is not ‘love’ right away. Natasha doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She doesn’t even really believe in love at all. She isn’t feeling Daniel as deeply as he is her. I was with her on that. I really didn’t like Daniel right away. As they got to know each other Natasha slowly falls for him and I was too. I was starting to like Daniel then starting to love Natasha and Daniel as a couple.

Natasha wants to be a scientist. She looks at things logically. Daniel is more of a creative type. He’s an artist. He’s about passion even though he feels like he has to follow the path his parents have laid out for him. They are different in a lot of ways but also really similar.You see why they connect as they spend part of their day together.

Nicola Yoon’s writing is really fantastic. Right away the back and forth between the two perspectives seemed effortless and that continued throughout the story. Then there are sections which give the history of different things. Always tied to something the characters have encountered or said. I feel like that was such an interesting addition to the story. It pulled me in and made me think about things I never questioned before.

Then there is the fact that you get other perspectives besides Natasha and Daniel in this story. You get snapshots of the people they encounter. The security guard at a place Natasha goes to for example. It can be someone they barely interact with but it’s all connected somehow. All these people connect to Natasha and Daniel in some way. Sometimes they connect to each other at some point during the day. It made me think about when people say we’re all connected in some way. I found it really subtlely beautiful.

I fell for this book pretty hard. I literally had to stop reading it in public at one point because I could not stop myself from reacting to everything. When Daniel did something cute or awkward or when a situation got dramatic I could not contain my reactions. This is a sign of a great book. Highly recommended by me.