Filth is a raw and powerful book about courage, acceptance, pain, fear, love, hope, and strength, with the underlying theme of gender. How do 4.5 Stars
Filth is a raw and powerful book about courage, acceptance, pain, fear, love, hope, and strength, with the underlying theme of gender. How do we identify ourselves? How does the world identify us? Does it matter what words we use to define ourselves? Why is there this constant pressure from society to decide which part of the spectrum we fall under? These are questions that plague Toni and Kel.
This isn't any easy story to read. Toni and Kel live a tough life. It’s gritty and dangerous. They live in a world of drugs, prostitution and poverty. Their journey together is full of violence and abuse, both emotionally and physically. This is a highly co-dependent relationship. Toni is emotionally all over the place. He flies off the handle over everything; he’s insecure, needy and doesn't always know what he wants. He was always told he wasn't a manly man and now Toni feels like she’s not woman enough, even though at times she doesn't completely want to abandon being male. Kel is Toni’s rock. He makes Toni feel safe. He’s strong and seems to be the voice of reason. He’s always there for Toni, whether it’s paying for Toni’s electrolysis or putting up with Toni’s best friend, Danielle. He loves Toni, but he’s struggling with Toni’s transition. He’s not only trying to accept Toni, but he’s also dealing with his past, his present made up of turning tricks and his uncertain future with Toni. He tries to be supportive, but his frustration gets in the way.
As I mentioned above, in the beginning, it looks like Kel is the pillar of strength, but we learn that Kel is just as insecure and needy as Toni. Kel doesn’t outwardly express his emotions like Toni does. It’s subtle, but Kel depends on Toni just as much as Toni depends on Kel and when Kel faces a crisis that could tear them apart, it’s Toni who steps up to guide them through it. Kel is aware of how much courage Toni has. His inner-strength is what keeps him going each and every day.
This is an intense read and despite the depressing situation, Toni and Kel always looked ahead. They want a future and they dream. It’s realistic without the typical melodrama thrown in to drag it down.
The writing sucks you in. There’s no snappy or witty dialogue. In fact, there is very little dialogue at all. It’s an introspective look into their lives. It’s chaotic at times, but also hopeful. Kel is insightful and is aware of his faults. Even through all their confusion and sometimes my own, I always had a sense of how authentic their feelings were. Nothing felt forced.
The story alternates between Kel and Ton’s POV, along with the constant changing of the pronouns. Both Kel and Toni use them interchangeably. Like everything else in this book, it’s not clear cut. It reflects acceptance and confidence, but also confusion and pain. They are such simple words, but the weight they carry is clear and I love how King brings this to life.
The ending was simply beautiful. The awareness and realization was simple in a sense, yet very profound. It was such a deeply personal moment between Toni and Kel. The journey is no where over between them, but I believe their strength will get them through whatever lies ahead. ...more