RELEASE: A Book Review

If you like slice of life stories with a bit of a twist, then you gotta read Patrick Ness’s Release.

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People will tell you that not much happens in this book (untrue). I almost want to say that too much happens– because a lot happens within less than 24 hours– but that’s the point of the story: it’s about the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our protagonist, Adam, begins thinking that today is going to be just another day. Instead, Adam is torn apart, bit by bit, as every piece of his life is unraveled until he finally reaches– you guessed it– release.

It’s kind of great.

What makes this greater is that there are actually two narrative storylines going on in this text. Ness played with the idea of the phenomenal story being told in the background in The Rest of Us Just Live here, and he plays with it again in Release. While Adam is living a “normal” day (it’s not normal) something extraordinary is happening in his sleepy little town, but he’s entirely unaware. It makes Adam’s story seem a lot more special in some way, and when the stories eventually link up (because you know they do), it makes everything feel…. magical. Fulfilling. Like this was how it was always meant to be.

This book is a character study. Through it, we learn all about Adam Thorn, and we don’t learn much else. I love that. I love the focus on the singular, and I love how it’s not told through a very personal, diary-esque first person narrative. Instead, we read the story of Adam, or at least, as much of it that can happen within a day.

The best chapter is the first chapter, but it’s also the worst chapter. I say this because I am a fan of Mrs. Dalloway, and the first chapter is very Virgina Woolf. It’s superb, and anyone who has read Mrs. Dalloway is clued into it right away (parallel opening lines, anyone?). However, it is also the worst chapter because I feel like the text hasn’t found its voice yet. If you’re reading the first bit, and not getting into it, I strongly suggest you keep reading. It gets easier, and better, once both Ness and Adam find their narrative voice, and the text stops being a homage and becomes something unique and special.

Because all Ness novels are unique and special.

Now, I guarantee someone, somewhere, is going to try to ban this book. There are sex scenes and they are somewhat explicit. It’s something that probably would have made me uncomfortable as a young teen, but it’s something that by sixteen or seventeen, I would have loved to read, just to have it represented. Especially gay youth. SUPER important representation for them.

Overall, I thought this book had the trademark Ness quirky-ness but in a much more sophisticated voice than a lot of his other works. I definitely recommend it to fans of the every day and to people who don’t have it quite figured out just yet, but are working hard towards that moment of release.

3 stars out of 5.

GEEK LOVE: A Book Review

Note: this book is not about comic con geeks falling in love.

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The best part about reading Geek Love is getting to tell people what it’s about. “I’m reading this strange book,” I’d say. Then they’d say “Oh? What’s it called?” “Geek Love,” I’d reply as I watch their noses crinkle. Then, I would clarify, “It’s about carnival freaks.”

But is it really fair to say that’s what Geek Love is about? Yes, the novel is about a husband and wife who decide to breed their own carnival freak show. Yes, it features a child with flippers for limbs, a set of conjoined twins, a “albino, hunchback dwarf,” and a child who appears to be a “norm” but is anything but. Yes, there is some squicky relationships and family love that goes far too far and unhealthily deep. Yes, Geek Love has the most bizarre and terrible characters you will meet, and yes, you will be uncomfortable and disgusted, and yes, it is everything it sounds like it will be, but it is also so much more. 

Geek Love is a disturbing novel about what it means to be “human” and the lengths people go to in order to feel special. Essentially, Geek Love is one of the most fundamentally human books I have ever read. Which means that, yes, you will find yourself relating to it more than you ever thought you could.

The novel is a reflection of both the desire and the disgust for difference that exists within us all. We love the absurd because it allows us to feel normal; but what the novel shows us is how we hate the normal because it makes us feel purposeless and useless.

What I loved most is how every single character is despicable and unlikeable in their own ways. They all do horrific things, things that no human should ever do, yet they seem to do it without a second guess. The choices they make are different than what most people would make because of the world they have created for themselves. Yet, these choices feel if not acceptable at least logical in their world. Perhaps the most disturbing part is how easy it is to love these characters, and how people who do disgusting things can be so close to your heart. I cried for these people. But what’s worst is that I forgave them, even when I knew what they did was wrong.

Everyone I talk about this book with says they want to read it. I will admit, this is probably because I absolutely adored it. The writing can be a bit dry at times, dense with words, and the plot is slow, but it’s this slowness that lets you sink into the world, lets you understand the carnivalesque, lets you feel almost… almost like you could be one of them. But you’re not. And the novel never lets you forget that.

I will warn you,  as I warn everyone I talk to this book with, it is highly disturbing and not for those with weak stomachs or hearts. There is a lot that is messed up, twisted to the point where you can’t believe people would do such things and yet… you understand their choices exactly.

Because, Geek Love shows us, we’re all monsters, and if we aren’t, we all crave to be one.

A LIST OF CAGES: A Book Review

Wow… Just… wow.

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Sometimes, you find a book on a whim. You see it at the bookstore, read the synopsis and put it back, whispering “next time.” It took me 5 months before I bought A List of Cages but I am so glad I did. I had heard nothing about it, but the girl at the bookstore got excited when she saw me with it, saying that she had heard it’s supposed to be fantastic. Rightfully so: this book definitely deserves more hype, because it is a gem.

Okay, first off, this book deals with some SERIOUS topics, but it does it in a very genuine way. If you’re like me and you read the publisher’s summary, then you know exactly what this serious topic is (and here we go, I’m about to tell you, cover your eyes if you don’t like spoilers!!!!!!!! … it’s child abuse). There are lots of stories dealing with this issue, but A List of Cages is special to me because everything feels so real: the pain, the confusion, but also the happiness and hope. This isn’t a “they all get better the end” type of story, but rather a story where the effects of pain are addressed, with a hopeful outlook in the end. There’s so much life in this book too, so that even when the story ends, you know there’s so much more left in the lives of Adam and Julian. And while I would love to see a slice of that, I’m glad we don’t. Let my boys heal together, and love together, and be the family they always should have been.

Both Adam and Julian are fantastic characters, each with their own issues that are addressed but not entirely solved. There’s a lot more healing both need to do, and I know that they can do it together. There’s so much love in this book, so much that it feels almost like it can heal you too (which is nice when you’re clutching the book to your chest so the pain you feel for them doesn’t seep out everywhere). They’re both so lovable, it’s hard not to fall into their story and desperately wish for the best for both of them. They deserve the world.

(Also can I say that Adam’s voice– of the popular, extroverted kid with ADHD– is actually one I’ve never read before in fiction and I’m highly grateful for it? He’s so fun, and I love how he has his problems too. He’s sunshine, while Julian is the stars being washed out by the moon).

I don’t want to say much in fear of saying too much, but this book is phenomenal, and the ending had me screaming and falling onto the floor. It’s incredible story, dealing with serious topics in a gentle, but realistic, voice. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes YA and sad (but ultimately uplifting!) books.

5 (thousand) out of 5 (thousand) stars in the sky.

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE: A Book Review

Historical LGBT+ is the best genre, sorry, I don’t make the rules.

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Ah, what can I say about The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? I could say that it’s an important book, not because the protagonist is a bisexual male, but because it bothers to show this side of history at all. LGBT people have always existed, hidden within the pages of history, and this book lets them thrive even while showing how, yes, it was a very dangerous and scary life to live at times.

(Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending).

I could say it’s a fun book, filled with adventure and sticky situations. Maybe it’s not as crazy adventurous as I expected it to be; instead, it’s a bit more realistic in its insanity, and the situations they find themselves in seem rather plausible. It’s a great roadtrip-style narrative, one that you feel like you could love. And with just a touch of magic, the story flies off the page. I found myself easily flipping through chapter after chapter to get to the end to figure out how they get through the mess they’ve created for themselves.

That mess includes one of the best romances I’ve read in awhile. Is there anything better than double unrequited love? Monty, the protagonist, moons over his best friend, Percy, and is very open to the reader about his affections– which he considers unrequited. HOWEVER it’s very clear to the reader — and any character with eyes– that this love might not be as unrequited as Monty thinks…. It’s frustrating to watch these boys stumble and hurt over a love they think could never be returned, but deliciously so. Their love story is one for the ages.

Monty, I should mention, is a conceited asshole, but of the type you can’t help but love. Percy is soft with rough edges. And Felicity is a beautiful genius who deserves the world. The only thing better than these characters is watching them grow into their skin and develop to become even better people. It’s beautiful, frankly.

So in case you haven’t noticed, I really loved this book. I’d like to personally thank Mackenzi Lee for writing historical lgbt+ YA fiction– the world needs, needs!, more books like this.

I have no bad words for this book.

5 grand tours out of 5

PETER DARLING: A Book Review

When I first heard about this book, I laughed. I’m not laughing now.

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Okay, so, when I first found Peter Darling, I kind of laughed out loud when I read the premise. It sounded kind of ridiculous: a love story between Peter Pan and Captain Hook? What kind of book is that? Then I read the summary again and… wait. Peter is Wendy? I shook my head and closed the tab.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I had to read it.

The brilliance of Peter Darling is the idea that Peter Pan is the true identity of the boy the world insists on calling Wendy.  Trans Peter is absolutely beautiful, and makes complete sense in the world created within the pages, where Neverland is a refuge for the rejects and outcasts of the world. It’s the only place Peter felt like he could be Peter, and not Wendy everyone insisted he was. It’s beautiful. 

There’s so much that goes on within this short book. There’s this soft trans narrative, the pain of growing up and becoming who you really are, and, of course, the love story. Now. I was surprised with how delicately and naturally the love between Peter and Hook emerges. It feels genuine and sweet and honestly? I kind of love it. A lot.

Yes, this book is short, and that feels like its biggest flaw. While I would have loved more, at the same time, I’m glad it ends where it does. The pacing can be fast, but it still feels real. Nothing felt “sudden” or unexpected to me and I felt that what needed to be said was said, and said beautifully, within these short pages.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved Peter Darling, but I am. This book accomplished what every rewrite wishes to: it makes me few it as equivalent to the original, and potentially canon, too. Trans Peter is definitely a ship I’m hoping on; just call me captain.

4 fairies out of 5.

NOWHERE NEAR YOU: A Book Review

Rendered speechless from this work of perfection.

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How do you review a book you consider absolutely perfect? Nowhere Near You is the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, one of my favourite novels. Now, BYNMM did not require a sequel: it ended in a way that felt satisfying and yet open, so the characters could live on in your mind. In fact, I loved the ending and praised it, even when those on Goodreads didn’t. Yet, when I saw Nowhere Near You in the store, I jumped around and clutched it to my chest, over-eager to read it.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me didn’t need a sequel, but I’m so glad it has one.

Nowhere Near You picks up right where the first left off and doesn’t miss a beat. It feels less like a sequel and more like a continuation. Everything I loved about the first carries on, and most of it is elevated. There’s so much more in this one: more love, more friendship, more mistakes, more mystery. More confusion. More hope. More heart.

I loved everything. I loved the plot. I love the adventure, and the secrets that creep in the corners of the pages. I love the mistakes Mo and Ollie make, and I love how their friendship evolves into something beyond. I love the new characters: every single one of them shines bright and is lovable in their own unique way.

I love the ending.

If I thought Because You’ll Never Meet Me ended perfectly, I was wrong. This is the ending Mo and Ollie deserve. I’m crying thinking about it.

Perfection, perfection, perfection.

This might be my favourite book of 2017.

Sorry this review was so lame. My heart is full of too much love and adoration to see any flaws this book might have.

There is nothing better than a satisfying ending to a beautiful story.

5 letters out of 5. 

PLANK’S LAW: A Book Review

*I was given an advance copy of this book through LibraryThing’s early reviewers program*

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There’s a lot to love about this little book by Lesley Choyce. The first thing is, in fact, because it’s so little: with less than 200 pages, Plank’s Law is a very quick read. It reminds me a lot of the books I used to find in my high school library. They were short and thus full of quick action in order to encourage students to read. I can definitely see this book fitting among them; because it’s short, there’s not a dull moment. Of course, this can be a problem too. Due to its length, it seems like a lot of major things happen way too fast. I feel like an extra 100 pages could have really helped stagger the events and flesh out characters a bit better. While I loved Trevor and Plank, I felt like a lot of the other characters were rather blank and flat.

Trevor, our protagonist, has a great narrative voice. He feels very much like a teenage boy, and I found myself relating to him and how he feels about his own life. Trevor holds a “brave face” throughout the narrative, but there are moments of sadness, where something much deeper slips through. One of my favourite parts of the book, in fact, is when Trevor talks about religion, and how he selected which religion he wanted to believe in. He mentions how he chose Buddhism because all he wanted was to be born in a body that isn’t sick. This hit me in the gut, because it sounds exactly like something a child would want. His exact life, but without the sickness. Moments like this, where some subtle fear, or pain, or sadness seeps through are definitely some of the highlights of the book.

What I really loved was how death appears in the book. Everyone is dying in some way, and I think that’s a really smart move to make in a book about death and life and regret and finding that seed of happiness. Death exists in many different forms, and touches us all, but that doesn’t mean we have to die: we can follow Plank’s Law and search for life in our lives.

The ending I felt was rushed, but I guess that’s what happens in short narratives. While I liked this book, I really do believe it could have benefited from being longer so that themes and characters could be better explored, but I do think it’s a book that people who aren’t big readers will enjoy.

3 laws out of 5.