Reread this after talking to a friend about the book's representation of affairs and monogamy in the queer comFirst read: 11/14/10 Second read: 1/10/13
Reread this after talking to a friend about the book's representation of affairs and monogamy in the queer community. Still love it.
This was also a good reminder to reread things more often. It was interesting to see how who I identified with has changed. I think in 2010 I was really feeling Mo, whereas this time Ginger/Toni/Lois stuck out more....more
4.5 stars, rounding up to 5. I really adored this one - "Punkzilla" (AKA Jamie) has to be one of the most relatable characters I've found in YA fictio4.5 stars, rounding up to 5. I really adored this one - "Punkzilla" (AKA Jamie) has to be one of the most relatable characters I've found in YA fiction. The bulk of the book is in the form of letters from the young gutterpunk to his dying older brother, and the honesty in these letters is both gritty and beautiful.
Punkzilla is sometimes sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and racist, but (1), I think it makes the 14 y/o boy all the more believable and (2), his stereotypes were challenged right and left. I thought the friendship between Punkzilla and the trans character was realistic and sensitive, and I appreciated encountering a trans* character in a book who's not just a plot device or a prop. Punkzilla leaves the friendship still holding some problematic understandings, but we see his mind opening.
I imagine this one will be challenged right and left once the conservatives find out what's in it. There's sex, sexual abuse, gay sex, drugs, sympathetic gay and trans characters, violence, strong language - basically something "objectionable" every few pages. But hopefully it'll creep under the radar for a while longer....more
As someone interested in both YA fiction and queer history, I felt obligated to read this. My understanding is that this book was groundbreaking whenAs someone interested in both YA fiction and queer history, I felt obligated to read this. My understanding is that this book was groundbreaking when it came out in 1982 - the first YA book to have a happy and healthy portrayal of its lesbian protagonists (before this most lesbian characters were killed, raped or turned straight). Considering the date, I wasn't expecting much, and I braced myself for a formulaic plot, flat characters, and heavily veiled references to sex.
But it was really a lot better than expected. I actually enjoyed reading it, despite the boring characters and predictable plot. It's decently written and the love story is sort of sweet. I had some trouble empathizing because I couldn't stand Annie at all (note: singing angelically is probably one of the biggest turn-offs I can think of. totally reminded me of that terrible Buffy scene in which Tara and Willow sing to each other in Renaissance dresses - gag), but I guess I can't expect every author to cater to my romantic preferences.
I agree with the criticisms that it's a bit heavy-handed, but I think the heavy-handedness is defensible. In a time when there were few out role models and an overwhelming message that gayness = sadness, I think a simple, happy love story had its place.
In response to the critique that it's outdated - I don't know that I agree. I was actually surprised at how well it held up over time. Sure, Annie and Liza would probably find some more support in NYC these days, and yeah, the homophobic reaction of the school board dates it a bit.* But I think teens today would still relate to the love story.
Overall, not as bad as it could have been. I'm looking forward to moving on to some more recent queer YA fiction for comparison.
*Though sadly, something sort of similar happened at my high school about five years ago - a teacher suspected of being a lesbian was sort of bullied out of her job by students and staff......more
The writing and structure of Kari almost make it feel more like "graphic poetry" than a "graphic novel." I was totally drawn into it and moved by it -The writing and structure of Kari almost make it feel more like "graphic poetry" than a "graphic novel." I was totally drawn into it and moved by it - it felt like a dark, beautiful dream. ...more
It ended up being pretty good, though not great. I was impressed with how well the two voices and stories came together, and all the discussions about love and friendship were wonderful. I found Levithan's Will Grayson especially sympathetic - his relationship with his mother and his insecurities about entering a relationship with a mental illness felt complex and realistic.
The secondary characters were disappointingly flat for me, though. I could care less about the love interest of Green's W.G., and we never really got into the mind of a character who did something pretty wretched to the other W.G. And, Tiny Cooper... sigh. Okay, so I liked the relationships that developed with this character, but the character himself was pretty one-dimensional. We keep hearing about how "fat!" and "gay!" he is, and after a short while it felt like those attributes were just being used for comedic relief. There is one scene where the authors try to deepen his character by having him voice the adversity he faces for being so fat and so gay, but it felt very shallow.
Also, I wasn't a fan of the ending. It was corny to the point that I felt embarrassed and guilty reading it....more
Though I didn't love her writing, I really respect what Stinson was doing here. She's got 14 stories of sexual desire from a very diverse lineup of chThough I didn't love her writing, I really respect what Stinson was doing here. She's got 14 stories of sexual desire from a very diverse lineup of characters, including characters with cancer, Down Syndrome, and a variety of orientations. Sometimes the stories felt a bit didactic (especially in terms of pregnancy and "seizing opportunities"), but most were sexy, heartfelt, and/or interesting. ...more
I kind of loved this. So maybe the characters weren't the most interesting, and maybe some loose ends weren't tied up, but the situations, feelings anI kind of loved this. So maybe the characters weren't the most interesting, and maybe some loose ends weren't tied up, but the situations, feelings and dialogue just felt so so real, it's hard not to relate.
The story is about three girls who grew up as besties, and while one is away at summer camp, the other two start to date each other. We get into the minds of all three girls: Mel, who's coming out as a lesbian to mixed reactions, Avery, who's confused by her attraction to Mel and unwilling to make the relationship public, and Nina, who's struggling to be supportive and accepting of the relationship while feeling like a third wheel.
All three resonated with me, and I appreciated the non-cliched characters and nuanced emotions regarding sexuality, gender presentation, and relationships.
Definitely recommended for those looking for YA books on friendship, relationships, and/or queer teen experiences....more
I came upon this book in my search for fiction about friendship and chosen families, and while it didn't contain what I'd hoped to find, I ended up beI came upon this book in my search for fiction about friendship and chosen families, and while it didn't contain what I'd hoped to find, I ended up being moved by it anyway. There's something very chilling about the observations Cunningham makes, and I'll definitely check out more of his stuff in the future.
Downside: this doesn't feel like a wholly memorable or remarkable book, and I worry that this will fade in my memory to the point of being indistinguishable from the The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. But let the record show that I liked this one a whole lot more....more
This book was shelved in the adult section at the library, but it felt pretty YA to me. Maybe people would be uncomfortable with the borderline prostiThis book was shelved in the adult section at the library, but it felt pretty YA to me. Maybe people would be uncomfortable with the borderline prostitution, crystal meth, and lesbian sex, but I feel like teens who like edgy non-problem novels could be into this.
I enjoyed the book. Tea's writing is sparkly and funny. She captures really well that feeling of being a teen and hanging out with someone just a little more dangerous than you. 3.5 stars....more
Not quite my type of book, but really wonderful for what it was. I think I actually exclaimed "WHAT!?" at the reveal of the first twist, though the onNot quite my type of book, but really wonderful for what it was. I think I actually exclaimed "WHAT!?" at the reveal of the first twist, though the ones following didn't surprise me quite as much as I was expecting deception....more
Definitely a welcome addition to the queer YA canon. I really appreciated Dole's dedication to representing a wide variety of genders, sexualities, anDefinitely a welcome addition to the queer YA canon. I really appreciated Dole's dedication to representing a wide variety of genders, sexualities, and races, and she wrote about a community she seems to know intimately- the Cuban-American community in Miami. There's a lot in this book to get excited about.
I did think the plot meandered a little too much, but the messages were solid, and I imagine this story and these characters will be healing for many readers struggling to reach self-acceptance. At first I found some of the behavior and communication of the characters a little unbelievable, but the more I read the more I decided to chalk it up to cultural differences....more
This was a quick and fun queer retelling of Cinderella. I found it lacking in several respects, however:
1. Tension: Maybe part of the problem was thatThis was a quick and fun queer retelling of Cinderella. I found it lacking in several respects, however:
1. Tension: Maybe part of the problem was that I knew from the beginning that Ash would end up with the Huntress, so I never read Ash's relationship with the fairy prince as a threat. It felt like the heroine was never really struggling with decisions - things just kept falling into place for her. 2. Characterization: I wanted more details on the Huntress. I never really felt or understood Ash's attraction to her, and their relationship moved along just a little too smoothly.
I'll definitely check out more by Malinda Lo though, since I really enjoy reading her thoughts on her blog, and I could sense potential in this novel.
PS To all the homophobes on Goodreads who somehow got duped into reading/buying this book: You really thought you could avoid the queers? HAHA NO WE GOTCHA. And we'll continue to seep into your spaces and your stories, carrying the sinister threat that one day you might empathize with us....more
I've generally avoided any YA fiction with trans characters, because I'd heard pretty negative things about the 5 or 6 available titles. But then a feI've generally avoided any YA fiction with trans characters, because I'd heard pretty negative things about the 5 or 6 available titles. But then a few thoughtful people on the internet wrote reviews saying that I Am J was different, and that it actually felt realistic, complex, and sensitive.
I still had my reservations going into this book, knowing that it was a white(?) cisgender woman writing about a biracial trans teen guy. But I ended up feeling pretty good about it by the end (of course, I may not be the best judge, not being biracial or a trans man). I believe that allies can write about experiences of marginalized people, so long as they admit their position of power and distance, do their research, and have some sort of connection to the community beyond just as a site of research. And Cris Beam (foster mother of a trans daughter and partner of a gender variant person according to her note at the end) did well on all of those counts, and even had a scene in the book addressing cis people appropriating trans experiences for "art."
The book kind of followed the classic "coming out" trajectory that I know many other readers loathe, but I have a soft spot in my heart for problem novels and coming out books (sharing space with my soft spot for self-help books). This does mean that the book occasionally feels like it's more about being trans than it is about the protagonist himself, and that at times it takes a didactic tone and goes out of its way way to "educate" the reader on the diversity under the trans umbrella. But whatever, we need at least one of those in the YA canon before we can start complaining about there being too many of them, right?
I also appreciated that J is a flawed character - he struggles with his misogyny and homophobia, and sometimes he's sort of a jerk. And his allies mess up a lot, too.
Overall, a pleasant surprise that I won't hesitate to recommend to middle and high school readers. I'm still hoping for YA about and by trans people of color to come down the pipe soon, but it's good to know that at least there's something that I feel OK about putting in the hands of readers.
It's true that it follows a predictable trajectory in some ways (girl feels a little guilty about getting it on with other girls, girl is outed, girl is sent to ex-gay boarding school), but it's free of the usual after-school-special-vibe that is so often found in the subgenre. Danforth does this by choosing a narration style that's a little more distant and less angsty than a lot of your standard YA, and by creating a story with no obvious moral or takeaway message.
Apparently the author has had people complain that she didn't go far enough in denouncing ex-gay therapy, but I think that to have done so would have betrayed the main character's voice. I appreciated the mixed feelings that Cameron had about conversion therapy and about the people who believed in it. And because Cameron was never blunt or completely aware of her feelings and motivations, the reader can use her own imagination to try to understand Cameron's reactions.
Note: this didn't really detract from the reading experience, but I did find myself wondering how this girl got so much tail in a town of under 10,000.
I would totally read any sort of spin-off or sequel to this book. Hope to see Danforth write more queer YA. ...more
Perhaps a good deal of this book is only worth 4 stars, but there were a few mindblowing passages that really hit it out of the park for me. I'm not rPerhaps a good deal of this book is only worth 4 stars, but there were a few mindblowing passages that really hit it out of the park for me. I'm not really a book-buyer, but I'd consider shelling out some cash to solidify my connection to what I read.
This is one of my 5-star books that, despite being absolutely dear to me, I wouldn't necessarily go around recommending to everyone. Lately I've been really fascinated with stories about how people navigate conservative religions and any kind of sexuality (see Blankets and The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University), and so this may just be a case of the right book at the right time. But it's a short book (178 pages), so if the themes of religion, family, and sexuality also interest you, I'd say go for it.
It's also interesting to note that Winterson wrote this when she was 24, which: 1. impressed the hell out of me and 2. could have made her insights resonate with me all the more, being the same age.
I want to respond to the negative reviews of the book more than the book itself (which I enjoyed to an extent). Of course if you didn't enjoy the bookI want to respond to the negative reviews of the book more than the book itself (which I enjoyed to an extent). Of course if you didn't enjoy the book, you didn't enjoy it, but here's me defending it against accusations of poor storytelling.
First, there's the critique that this book did not deliver the story/theme it promised; that there was too little focus on the little girl that was killed. I admit that the advertising may have been misleading, but I believe that the writer did stay true to the theme of "carrying the one." It wasn't just about carrying the dead girl - Alice and Carmen also carry Nick, the three siblings carry their childhood, etc.
And to the critique that the characters weren't sufficiently remorseful, I actually found their responses fairly realistic. Remember that we're following them over two decades after the accident, so of course other things in their lives should take center stage from time to time. And the effects were sometimes subconscious for the characters, which is much more interesting to think about anyway?
I guess I can't respond to the reviews that complain about too much lesbian sex, shotgun weddings, weak male characters, and "casual" drug use. But it does make me a little sad that this detracted from people's ability to empathize....more