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Little & Lion

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When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

327 pages, Hardcover

First published August 8, 2017

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About the author

Brandy Colbert

23 books1,128 followers
Brandy Colbert was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,735 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
August 13, 2017
I know how easy it is to believe you're doing the right thing if you say it to yourself often enough.

Little & Lion is the kind of book that sneaks up on you. You start reading and it all seems like a fairly quiet story about a sixteen year-old girl coming home from boarding school to see her loving family and supportive friends.

However, it soon becomes apparent that the book is so much more than it first seems. The author uses this warm, seemingly-average Californian family to explore sexuality, identity, mental illness, racism and particularly everyday microaggressions. It is subtle in its seriousness, hitting issues where it hurts but never making this an "issue book", and somehow that makes it all the more powerful.

Suzette has a very strong voice as we explore her experiences as a black girl, as a Jewish black girl, and as someone just discovering her bisexuality. The book examines all the questions normally thrown at bisexual people - but do you like guys or girls more? so you're dating a guy, does this mean you're straight now? - and kicks them in the teeth.

This is also diversity done right. In recent years, there has been high demand for diverse YA books and authors have responded to that, which is great in theory, and yet I see again and again a straight white character with a group of friends serving as checklist marginalizations, never developed to feel like real human beings. Here, there are characters of all skin colours and sexualities and they all feel so vivid and real.

I think the key to this is intersectionality. Colbert doesn't provide us with a stock gay character, followed by a stock non-white character, followed by a stock trans character. It feels so much more natural to show all the ways that marginalizations overlap - Suzette is black, Jewish and bisexual, Emil is biracial (Korean/African-American) and hard of hearing due to Ménière’s disease, Lionel is Jewish and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rafaela is Latina and pansexual.

In can also say that I really related to some of the feelings Lionel shares about his illness and the way his meds make him feel.
“I hate that I feel like nothing good is ever going to happen to me again. And that sometimes I don’t really feel like anything at all.”

This is so true. I do not have bipolar disorder, but I have struggled with depression during my life and experienced the foggy feeling of nothingness that can accompany certain drugs. I always appreciate it when characters put into words a feeling I have personally experienced but is hard to explain.

Honestly, though, if you like YA contemporary that is subtle and clever, never manipulative, and builds relationship dynamics gradually over the course of the novel, it's hard to go wrong with this. Suzette is a strong and much-needed voice.

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Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
February 13, 2018
5/5! Love love loved Little & Lion so much!!

TW: bipolar II disorder, talk of suicide

Little & Lion was fantastic! I’m so pleased I read it. A truly heart-warming story about family, relationships, sexuality, and personal growth.

This novel is a very diverse and unique contemporary YA novel. Our main character Suzette is black (#ownvoices!!) and jewish, and over the course of the story, she comes to terms with the fact that she is also bisexual. I really adored watching Suzette discover her sexuality – it was such an honest, open journey with many missteps, but so satisfying to read. Regarding gender and sexuality diversity, we have multiple side characters from the LGBTQIAP+ community including Suzette’s best friend who is a lesbian, a potential love interest who is pansexual, and many other minimal characters as well. Additionally, Suzette comes from a blended family where her brother has bipolar II disorder. Though I do not have personal experience with bipolar disorder (other than a family member sharing Lionel’s diagnosis), I will say my education in psychology leads me to believe this is an immensely accurate representation of what it is like to live with this disorder. Little & Lion does an immaculate job of portraying hypomania/depression and the complications created by bipolar disorder. I’m seriously impressed by the way this novel successfully captures such difficult topics with grace and accuracy.

Often times with mental illness novels in YA, I’m immensely frustrated by the demonization of medication to treat mental illness. (As someone who has used medication, I do understand that the reluctance to take medication and the intrusive side effects are valid reactions to treatment, but with the already present stigma against medication, I feel it may deter teens from seeking help even more to see characters they identify with feel it doesn’t help or I makes things worse and the ratio of YA books I’ve read with a positive view of medication is about 2 to 20 books that portray it as something negative.) I will say, although this book does include a character who stops taking medication without a doctor’s consent, I think it’s a perfect example of what can come from ignoring treatment, therefore, I have no issues with it.

I also enjoyed how this fact takes a toll on Suzette. This novel truly shows how difficult it can be to support a loved one in their recovery. We want to help, we want to trust them and follow their personal steps to recovery, but there is a point where we must learn that 1. We sometimes need to make tough decisions to do what is best for our loved ones and 2. We cannot allow our attempts to help be at our mental and emotional expense. Coming from a trope I despise, I was surprised to find I really love how well this book executes this difficult situation. The relationship between Suzette & Lionel is honest, realistic, and so important to see unfold.

Overall, I wholeheartedly loved Little & Lion. If you are looking for a unique, diverse contemporary, this is the book for you. (Also the audiobook is narrated by Alisha Wainwright [Maia from Shadowhunters] and it’s fabulous.)
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
June 5, 2020
This was FUCKING AMAZING. A black, Jewish, bisexual main character with a heart of gold. Set in Los Angeles and featuring all of my favorite stomping grounds! Fuck, you guys. YOU GUYS. I have never in my life related more to a main character than I did to Suzette in this book. This was just everything I've ever wanted in a book and more. Throughout the course of this book she deals with so many things that were almost a mirror to my own life and I am just so fucking happy that this book exists.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
August 5, 2020
This. was disappointing.

From the reviews of Pointe, Brandy Colbert's debut and one of my all-time favorite books, I think she could just be a polarizing author. Reviewers tend to find her books either fabulous or kind of messy. Unfortunately, Little and Lion falls into the latter category for me. If I'm being honest, this felt like just another contemporary, and my issues with the bi rep really took this down the drain for me.

Let's get into it.

♔ The complex, multifaceted sibling relationship is a plus. Suzette and Lionel have their disputes, but it's clear they really love each other. I liked that they were a stepbrother and stepsister, because sibling-ish relationships between stepsiblings are so rare in literature and so common in real life. (Signed, a girl with a stepbrother who she loves like a brother.)

♔ There's also a lot of good rep! This is a very diverse book, with a bi and black main character and so many diverse side characters I don't know how to count. The author handles topics of racism, bisexuality, and mental illness without being horribly offensive, which is a lot rarer than I'd like it to be. I had... some issues with the bi rep, which we'll discuss below, but nevertheless, the diversity was definitely nice.

♔ It was generally solid? The writing's good, and Brandy Colbert clearly has a lot of good ideas about the world, and the themes are good.


oh my god, a girl and a boy at the same time? emotional cheating? how shocking and revolutionary for bi people. it's never been done before!! definitely not enforcing stereotypes by doing this in every single fucking book with a bi main character!!
Yes, there is a love triangle, and yes, I shocked everyone by hating it.

This triangle itself is... it's fine. Neither of the relationships within the love triangle are developed that deeply, period. I felt pretty torn about who I wanted Suz to end up with, because they're both sweet, but I never found myself caring much. Or, like, at all. The bigger problem, though, is some content in here that comes close to cheating.

Not every bi character has to be in a love triangle between a girl and a guy - especially one involving heavy emotional cheating.

Let's be completely fair - this isn't entirely the fault of this specific book, but rather the fault of the trend. Over the course of January, I have read four books with major bi characters. Three - Little and Lion, It's Not Like It's A Secret, and Ellen Hopkins' new book - contained major cheating elements, with only the final one - Noteworthy - avoiding. Is that this specific book's fault? No. Does it really bother me? Yes.

But okay, the trope here is admittedly stronger than normal. The ending... is basically the worst. Because pansexual.

I identified as bi for two years. I don't currently. But I would've hated this rep.

Also, while we're at me bitching, this blurb is misleading.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

Why not market this as a story about a bi girl figuring out who she is, rather than marketing it as a romance between two girls? It's just that I thought I was reading my new favorite heart-wrenching romance between two queer girls, when I was actually reading a book in which the pansexual girl feels villainized and the endgame relationship here is a guy and a girl. Which, okay, let's be honest - this characterization of Rafaela felt like a blow.

With so little rep for sapphics in fiction, marketing a wlw romance in the blurb and then villainizing one character is not the move.


♔ I... just... felt... nothing? Little and Lion inspired basically no emotion from me. As a contemporary that's not particularly amusing or entertaining, its true merit should come from its emotional core. But while this book got super intense in sections, I always felt one step removed from the characters and essentially had no reaction. I hated no one. I connected with no one.

The relationships aren't developed enough. The brother/sister relationship is good, but it isn't developed quite enough to inspire deep feeling. On the same thread, and as I've mentioned earlier, neither of the relationships within the love triangle are developed that deeply, period. This is a huge problem in a contemporary that's essentially made to be all about characters.

♔ Overall, though, the biggest issue is that Little and Lion does not seem to know where it's going. There's a story about bisexuality here, and a story about identity, and a story about family, and a story about mental illness, and this... love triangle which SHOULD BE SEPARATE FROM THE BI CRISIS, and all of those should blend together to form this narrative masterpiece. Yet none of the plot threads are really concluded?? In Colbert's debut, Pointe, all the different stories and threads tied together very well for me. But this book doesn't develop any of the stories quite enough for them to fit. Little and Lion ends up feeling like eight novels crammed into one book.

I've seen a lot of reviews connecting the messy story to the diversity, which I think is bullshit. We should have Jewish black bi characters with mentally ill brothers in fiction– that's great and realistic. The problem is that Colbert tries to create conflict in a ton of aspects of the protagonist's life. The whole thing ends up feeling messy and underconcluded.

Underconcluded might be an understatement. By "underconcluded," I mean lacking real conclusion at all. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing! Brandy Colbert writes slice-of-life. But for me, it ended up feeling like nothing happened in this book besides a really, really overdone love triangle. I mean, if you like slice-of-life contemporaries, more power to you and maybe you'll like this more. But for me? Nah.

Messy plotting, characters that to me felt somewhat drab, and a somewhat upsetting love triangle killed this one for me. If you're looking for a great book with no love triangle and a bi woman of color as a protagonist, try Riley Redgate's Noteworthy, Corrine Duyvis' Otherbound, Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek, Amy Rose Capetta's Echo After Echo, or Lauren Karcz' The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. This was just not for me.

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Profile Image for Romie.
1,093 reviews1,272 followers
September 30, 2017
I'm sorry but I don't feel good enough about this book to write a proper review.

I think the bipolar rep was really well done, and so was the Jewish rep, it's probably one of the first times that I really felt like I could see myself, a Jewish person, in a book.

But I disliked the bi rep. I know not everybody felt the same, and me not liking it doesn't other bisexuals who identified with it are bad bisexuals, because they aren't. But I'm tired of having a bisexual character in a love triangle. I'm tired of seeing a bisexual character cheating, because I'm sorry but that's what Suzette did, it's emotional cheating. It is, and it made me feel uncomfortable the entirety of the book, and I can't support that. I just can't. Can we please stop doing that?

The only stars I'm giving to this book are for the beautiful Jewish rep.

Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews158k followers
August 9, 2017
After a school year away at boarding school, Suzette flies home to California to help support her stepbrother, Emil, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But things take a complicated turn when they both fall for the same girl. Little & Lion is a compassionate, honest examination of integrity and love.

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...


Preorder this right now if you are itching for the following: a main character who is black, Jewish, bisexual and lives in an amazingly supportive blended family. Suzette — known as “Little” to her brother Lionel “Lion” — has come home from her boarding school out east after heading out there when her step-brother’s bipolar depression came to a head. It was a way for her to carve her own space and separate herself from his illness. When she spends the summer at home, though, she realizes just how much she loves and misses spending time with him and misses being part of their LA community.

Colbert’s story highlights the struggles that one individual’s mental health can have on a whole family, but more, it highlights the complexities and arguments that exist for and against medication. It does so with respect to both sides, and offers up a lot of food for thought on how one lives with, rather than against, one’s mental well-being. The depiction of bipolar disorder is so, so good; it will be obvious to savvy readers the subtler ways it’s woven into Lion’s character, but for readers who might not be as familiar, the strings come together in the end. This book ALSO highlights physical health and well-being, through Emil’s — one of Suzette’s potential romantic interests — chronic illness and how it has changed his life.

But perhaps the thing I loved most about this book is a little thing: Lion is a huge reader, and his story is peppered with book references. If you look closely at the cover, you’ll even see an homage to one of his favorite reading materials, The New Yorker.

A must-read and easily one of my favorite YA reads…and it will certainly be one of the best YA reads this year, guaranteed. A knock out.

—Kelly Jensen

from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Nic Stone.
Author 39 books4,197 followers
December 13, 2016
I had no idea I needed this book so badly. For one, it features a black Jewish girl (she and her mother converted when she was 11). For another, it gives a wonderful example of how "family" isn't defined by blood or even by marriage, but by love and acceptance and a sense of belonging. For a third, it offered a really seating look into the idea of loyalty and the moral dilemma major secrets can sometimes present--especially if by keeping a secret, someone could wind up hurt.

I loved it so much!
Profile Image for chloe.
244 reviews28.5k followers
November 13, 2018
3.5 stars

I'm still processing my thoughts... There was a lot that I loved about this, but there were also a few things I had issues with.
Profile Image for Aimal .
512 reviews463 followers
August 10, 2017
You can find the full review at Bookshelves & Paperbacks.

What worked?
☆ This is a wonderfully diverse book. Our main character is a black, Jewish, bisexual girl who’s brother has bipolar disorder. Emil, Suzette’s childhood friend, is biracial – black/Korean – who has a hearing aid. Suzette’s best friend is lesbian- in fact, most of the secondary characters in this book are on the LGBQ+ spectrum.

☆ Brandy Colbert discusses ‘casual’ racist micro-aggressions throughout the book, as well as stigmas surrounding bisexuality and mental health.

☆ The characters make this book soar. Each one of them, but especially Suzette and Lionel (her brother) are given distinct personalities and character arcs. They never feel like props to Suzette’s story- they are alive, in and of themselves, so you feel like you’re watching actual people interact within a story, rather than reading a fictional novel.

☆ Nothing screams a good contemporary quite like a wholesome one, which means that the author strikes the perfect balance between the multiple facets of our main character’s life. Scenes with family, her sibling, her friends, her love interest(s), as well as timely flashbacks that give you insight into Suzette’s past relationships.

☆ The relationships are beautifully constructed – especially the familial ones – with the perfect amount of tension, the perfect amount of conflict.

What didn't work?
☆ The only thing I craved more for was Little & Lion’s dynamic. I wanted to see more flashbacks when their relationship was steady, and I wanted to see it deteriorate further. I grew to love them both so much that I couldn’t help but need more of them; if that meant the book was fifty pages longer, so be it. I just wanted more.

Trigger warnings apply for: Anxiety; bipolar disorder; some self-harm; lesbophobic slurs; racist microaggressions; some biphobia

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Profile Image for My_Strange_Reading.
533 reviews87 followers
June 3, 2019
#strangesummerreading No. 2: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert ☀️☀️☀️

The biggest lie we tell ourselves and others when we are hiding something: "Family doesn't tell on each other. They keep secrets. They protect each other." Man, this line broke my heart for Lionel and Suzette.

This book tackles so many important topics: Mental illness/health, sexuality, identity, and family.

Things I loved:
🦁 The raw, true and heartbreakingly-beautiful representation of a person's struggle with mental illness. I loved how Lionel was a quintessential representation of a teenager struggling with finding a healthy life once he has a mental illness diagnosis. His journey was heartbreaking for himself and his family, but so raw and true to reality.

🦁 Lion & Little's relationship even when it was painful, they chose to be family and that is more important than blood. Through all their own brokenness, they are trying to love each other as best they can.

🦁Emil 😍 The boy next door who was sweet and kind and caring and precious.

🦁 Diversity: People of color, people of Jewish faith, people of different sexual orientations. It was a beautiful tapestry of diversity and representation.

Things that bothered me:
🐾 There was so much diversity in this book, but do you ever read a book and have to tell yourself to suspend your disbelief that all of these things could exist in the same family? That was my struggle with this book. You had a bi-racial and Jewish couple with a son who was bipolar and a daughter who was bi-sexual. I'm not saying it's not possible, I'm just saying it was a struggle to believe that much could be going on in one family.

🐾Rafaela. I f*cking hate her. She is a fugly slut. 🤬 "I'm not trying to get between family" THEN WHY DID YOU SAY IT? 🤦🏻‍♀️🤬

🐾Suzette being so wishy-washy. I know this was apart of her self-discovery and journey, but it really bothered me that she was still thinking of Iris, dreaming of Rafaela and kissing Emil. Like girl, it's understandable to be confused and to not know what you want, but don't be with anyone until you know yourself then! 🤷🏻‍♀️

Overall, I'm glad I gave it a chance and I know many of my students will very much enjoy it next year. A great story of hope, growth and the love of family, friends and one's self.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
678 reviews3,946 followers
April 30, 2018
Pros: fast reading, non conventional family, complex & strong sibling relationship, jewish & black rep, fast reading, ALISHA WAINWRIGHTS AUDIOBOOK NARRATION

Not sure on my rating yet, am gonna sit on it. So review to come
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,794 reviews486 followers
August 7, 2017
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really liked reading this book. It handled a lot of tough issues and it handled them very well. I went into this book rather blindly having never read anything by Brandy Colbert before and hadn't really seen any reviews for this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Some of the things that I liked about Little & Lion:

Great Characters - Suzette and her family were really wonderful characters. They have had a lot of things to deal with over the years. Suzette and Lionel have always been close until his mental illness pulls him away but she never stops being there for him. Suzette is really working through a lot of different issues in this book and trying to figure things out. Her

Diversity - This is a very diverse book. Suzette's family is made up of more than one race with Suzette and her mother being black while Lionel and his father are white. This book also includes characters trying to figure out their sexuality and others that consider themselves to be bisexual, homosexual, and heterosexual.

Dealing with Illness - I thought that this book did a fantastic job in dealing with Lionel's mental illness. At the start of the book, everything seems fine but as you get further in the story you start to realize how hard things have been for Lionel and his family. Emil has been dealing with a physical illness and we do get a chance to see how hard this has been for him to deal with as well. I thought that the author really portrayed these illness in a realistic manner.

Realistic Parents - In some ways, Suzette's mom and step-dad seemed a little too good to be true but by the end of the book they seemed very real to me. They are very involved in their children's life and are incredibly patient and supportive. They do get upset but they are able to deal with it and move forward. It was obvious that they didn't think that they had all the answers and really were willing to listen to their kids.

Making Me Feel a Range of Emotions - I reacted pretty strongly to some parts of this book. There was one scene when a decision is made that really put me in mom mode. I could see that it wasn't going to be the best decision but I really understood how the decision came to be. Suzette's confusion over what she really wanted was perfectly described. These characters go through a lot in this story and I really felt the range of emotions with them. There were a few times that I put the book aside not because I wasn't enjoying it but simply because I wanted to think about it for a while before moving on.

All in all, I thought this was a really great read and I do recommend it to others. There is so many things to enjoy in this wonderful little story. I look forward to reading more from Brandy Colbert in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via TheNovl.com.

Initial Thoughts
This book handled a lot of different issues. It felt very relevant and I enjoyed the diversity.
Profile Image for Chelsies Reading Escape.
631 reviews362 followers
October 2, 2017
In theory this should have been a quick read, but I wasnt compelled to pick it up so it took me longer than it should have. The summary for Little & Lion is a little spoilery in my opinion. I wish I hadnt read it because barely anything happens with the plot so the summary pretty much covers it all. This story is about familial relationships, mental health and the main character discovering her sexuality. Maybe its because Im not really into contemporaries, but I felt like not much happened throughout the whole book.

It felt like the books main selling point was the diversity and I personally need more than just diversity. Dont get me wrong I loved all the diversity, but the plot wasnt very gripping. I did like how the author called out the double standard of bisexuals having a crush on 2 people compared to when straight people do, but I still think having the bi character like 2 people was a disservice. I dont think that liking 2 people should ever be a problem as long as theres no cheating involved, but it does reenforce the idea that all bisexuals need both a girl and a boy to be happy, which obviously isnt true at all.

This is a character driven story and I tend to like more plot driven stories, but I did love the complexe familial ties and friendships. The characters werent very exciting but they were realistic. I didnt like Rafaela flirting with Suzette after she agreed to go on a date with her brother. It just made her seem like a shady person. Also her brother shouldnt have put that kind of pressure on his younger sister, but I get it people are flawed. People who like contemporaries will probably enjoy this more than I did. It just wasnt for me.

*received in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,412 followers
January 6, 2018
Little & Lion is a likable YA novel. It's got mostly interesting characters, makes good use of its Los Angeles setting, and isn't afraid to tackle a few heavy topics, including racism, coming to terms with your sexuality, and living with a mental illness. Unfortunately, the main character was a little blah and I wasn't super invested in what happened to her, so this book didn't always hold my attention very well. I almost put it on my pile of books to give away, which is where 3-star reads usually end up, but then it occurred to me to save it for my niece and nephew. When they're in high school they'll probably really enjoy Little & Lion and get a lot out of it.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
January 2, 2017
An incredible story about mental illness and the tolls it can take on a family -- even one that's close and open with one another. Colbert renders Lion(el) through both his highs and his lows of bipolar, and she creates a likable-but-flawed character in his sister Suzette (Little). Little is a bisexual Jewish black girl, struggling with how much of herself to show in her boarding school in Massachusetts, but this summer back in California has taught her the importance of being true to herself in every capacity and owning it, rather than hiding it.

The parents in this book, who are the reason Little and Lion and (step) brother and sister, are so fantastic. They want to protect their kids, but they're also willing to let their kids make mistakes and grow from them.

Colbert explores so many variations of sexuality in this book: there's Suzette and her coming to terms with being bisexual (and finding herself in a relationship with a half-Korean boy who is a long-time family friend while also crushing on a girl she meets at her best friend's party) and Rafaela, the girl who Suzette crushes on and becomes the girlfriend of her brother, identifies openly as pansexual. The scene where she brings this up is perfectly smart and real while also a bit awkward and explain-y, in the way that teenagers coming into their own in these ways just are. Rafaela is a fascinating character through-and-through, in the way that is sort of in the vein of One Of Those Girls You Are Just Unable Not To Be Fascinated By, but her honesty and her past make it clear that even those you find to be perfect or ideal have their own pasts to reckon with. Rafaela is also a hell of a feminist killjoy in the best possible ways. Her rants about men and the way that they're trained from a young age that teasing girls or touching them is okay made me laugh because it was so spot on.

There is an incredibly hard scene Likewise, there's an excellent sex scene with Suze's current relationship, as well as flashbacks to a previous one that haunts her throughout the story. Consent is obvious, as is discussion of birth control -- a thing a lot of readers demand, and it is sewn in seamlessly here.

The real meat of the story, though, is Lion's mental health. Colbert's story highlights the struggles that one individual's mental health can have on a whole family, but more, it highlights the complexities and arguments that exist for and against medication. It does so with respect to both sides, and offers up a lot of food for thought on how one lives with, rather than against, one's mental well-being. The depiction of bipolar disorder is so, so good; it will be obvious to savvy readers the subtler ways it's woven into Lion's character, but for readers who might not be as familiar, the strings come together in the end. This book ALSO highlights physical health and well-being, through Emil's chronic illness and how it has changed his life.

But perhaps the thing I loved most about this book is a little thing I had to keep track of for myself: Lion is a huge reader, and his story is peppered with book references. This is the list I kept from start to finish, in part because I love reading lists hidden within books:
- The New Yorker Magazine (see the cover!)
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
- Shel Silverstein
- Infinite Jest
- Sula
- The Shining
- Gwendolyn Brooks
- Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, as illustrated by Salvador Dali.

Put this book on your to-be-read list if you love contemporary realism, strong characters, books that "get it right" about mental illness, and characters willing to sift through their good and their bad and come to peace with who it is they are. It's so, so good.
Profile Image for Ava.
266 reviews311 followers
June 28, 2017
4.5, maybe?

This was so wonderful.

Profile Image for Olivia Chanel's Stories in Space.
244 reviews14 followers
August 8, 2017
Thank you so much, Hachette Book Group, for my advanced review copy of Little & Lion. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.

Little & Lion is my favorite read this year and truth to be told, I love it in a way that is hard for me to describe. There are some books that you read that you just know will mean a lot to you and Little & Lion was definitely that for me. When I heard this book was being released, many months ago, I just knew I had to read it. My expectations were sky-high and for that reason, I was also scared to start it. However, as it turns out, the book exceeded all of my expectations.

Little & Lion is about Suzette, a black Jewish bisexual girl still trying to figure out who she is, and her brother Lionel, who is bipolar. Suzette and Lionel’s bond was formed as kids when Suzette’s mom, Nadine, and Lionel’s dad, Saul, started dating and then after two years decided to join their families and merge households. Despite the fact that there is a large dose of romance in this book, both for Suzette and for Lionel, Little & Lion is about family and Suzette’s and Lionel’s relationship as siblings. Their relationship is not always easy, especially with Lionel’s bipolar disorder. There are disagreements, secrets, and even distance. However, there is also so much love between the two. It’s clear that Suzette and Lionel’s bond is special and beautiful, which is further highlighted through flashback chapters, and I love that we got to see both the good and the bad of their relationship. It makes you root for them both that much more. Suzette and Lionel are characters you can relate to, and you will definitely question and cheer for decisions both of them make throughout the book. However, despite it all, by the end of it, they are in a good place with each other which is what I loved the most.

“It’s no big deal.” He looks at his feet, sticking up beneath the covers. “You’re my sisters.”

I know that’s what he’s saying every time he calls me Little—acknowledging that we’re siblings, even if we’re not related by blood. But I like hearing him say it so plainly. It makes me think there’ll never be a time when we question our bond.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of romance in this book and lots of drama that surrounds it. There is somewhat of a love square (instead of a triangle) at one point in the story, and I feel like it was done in such a way that it just made sense for the story and the characters. These teens are figuring out who they are, who they want to love and be and what that says about them. Teenage love is new and exciting and confusing, and it deserves to be just that. This also leads to me into Suzette and her bisexuality. First of all, I love how this story called out bisexual stereotypes and misconceptions. However, my favorite part of the story was definitely how we get to see Suzette realize that she is, in fact, bisexual. The reader gets to see Suzette’s doubts and thoughts, where she tries to decipher what her feelings for both girls and boys mean, and I think that will be meaningful for a lot of readers. Figuring out who you are is not always easy or instant, and I love how Little & Lion showed that.

Honestly, there is so much to love about Little & Lion. I love the way it makes me feel, I love that it made me both laugh and cry, and I love that there are so many characters to love in this book. Two people have gone unmentioned so far are the two love interests, Rafaela and Emil. I especially fell in love with Emil, who is black and Korean, because he is literally the sweetest guy ever. Moreover, another aspect I love about Little & Lion is what an important aspect Suzette’s Judaism had in the story. Suzette has to deal with a lot because of Jewish stereotypes that exist, particularly what it means to be both black and Jewish. However, she also mentions how her Judaism is her connection to Saul, her stepfather, and how she’s proud of it, and I thought that was really beautiful.

All in all, I love this story and recommend it to everyone who loves young adult literature (but also if you don’t, trust me, you won’t regret it). This book means a lot to me and even if this review appears to be coherent, I honestly just want to fangirl and scream over how much I adore this book. I will recommend this book for a long time to come and I’m sure I will be rereading my favorite parts whenever I want to experience the joyous feeling this book gave me, all over again. Don’t miss out on getting to know Suzette and Lionel, Little and Lion, and make sure this book is on your radar and TBR.


First thoughts:
I'm in love with Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert and I'm overwhelmed with emotions after having just finished it. This is by far one of my favorite reads this year, even this lifetime to be honest. I love this book with every fiber of my being, it's my everything, and I'm so happy I had the chance to read and review Little & Lion early. Sometimes a book comes along and it just gives you a little happiness, a lot of love and the acknowledgment you've always wanted. If there is one 2017 release you need this year, and one I will continue to recommend long after this year, then it's this one. Full review to come.
Profile Image for solanne.
193 reviews484 followers
December 27, 2020
I... definitely understand why this has such mixed reviews now. emotional cheating & narrative choices that play into harmful bi stereotypes really aren’t my jam 🙃

> 2.5 stars
August 4, 2020
Another really good book by brandy colbert.
I read this in about 2 days and really enjoyed it, I also buddy read this with my friend Sydney and I can't wait to check out more of her books!

Minor spoiler: I just don't know if I understand which LGBT Rep our main character is... Maybe they mentioned it and I just missed it but there are some LGBT Rep in this book.
There's also trigger warnings for: Drug/alcohol abuse, Family seperations/family fighting
Profile Image for Suzzie.
916 reviews162 followers
December 17, 2017
Not bad at all. A good story about a family adjusting to one family member's mental illness. I didn't really connect with the characters in this story though. Usually I have no issue with that but for some reason I just couldn't. There were times I wasn't completely into the plot also. Not a bad book at all though.
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
March 12, 2018
”“They were better when they were alive.’
‘Aren’t most things?””

3 stars
TW: suicide is mentioned multiple times
read full review here
*full review include favorite quotes and a spoiler section

The Writing
The writing in this was very easy to read and allows you to really fly through the book. Suzette is very honest with herself in not having a clue as to what she is doing or who is and that gives this book this raw feeling that you don’t get in a lot of contemporaries. I did feel like Suzette could switch between topics too abruptly sometimes, but that wasn’t really that big of a deal for me and did not really impact my reading experience.

The Plot/Pacing
Here is where most of my issues with this book come in. I hate the fact that this plot revolves largely around the love triangle, with the bisexual person caught in the middle. I’m just tired of harmful stereotypes like this being the center stage for a lot of stories. Hi, I, a bisexual, would just like to state that I rarely like two people at the same time, so the fact that that is the central base for a lot of stories featuring bi main characters rubs me the wrong way. I went into this expecting a plot that revolves around the sibling relationship, but we get maybe five scenes with Lionel and Suzette actually having serious conversations and the rest of it revolves around the love triangle. I have no problems with books like that, but if you are going to pitch it as a book that’s focused on a sibling relationship, make it focused on the sibling relationship. I am not going to discredit the fact that the plot was pretty linear though, so there’s at least that. The pacing felt a bit iffy in some parts, though.

A note, I’m adding in here about what I did love, though because this book discusses everyday racism in a very mature way and I really love the way it was handled.

The Characters
Here is where my issues with this book continue. Suzette is literally the embodiment of one of the biggest bisexual stereotypes and I hate that. Oh no, I like two people at the same time, what am I to do? In addition, the way her best friend joked about the whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way. There is a scene where the best friend says something along the lines of “I wish I could be bisexual so that when I get tired of girls, I can go and fall in love with a guy.” (the friend is a lesbian, by the way.) And that is just so wrong on so many levels and the fact that all she had to do was apologize for that and Suzette never fully explained how bisexuality works and just forgave the mistake without following up with it made ME SO ANGRY BECAUSE THAT’S HOW STEREOTYPES THRIVE STOP IT.

In addition, Suzette’s brother oftentimes felt like his entire personality was just “bipolar II” and there is actually a line like that in the book, and I completely agree with it, though in a different context. I just wanted more from him, but all that Suzette ever saw him as was Her Brother Who Has Bipolar and I don’t know if that’s actually realistic, seeing as I have never had a mental illness like bipolar disorder before or had a loved one who suffered from that illness. Therefore it is not my place to speak for how accurate this representation is, but it just felt wrong to me, so that’s my two cents.

One thing I did like, though was the diversity. We have a black and Jewish main character, a Jewish family, a character with bipolar disorder, a character who uses hearing aids, who also happens to be biracial (black/Korean), and we get a large cast of supporting queer characters.

This book was cutesy and fun, but it suffered from a lot of stereotypes that I cannot get behind and that annoyed the shit out of me. This was a classic case of the idea was good, but the execution was poor at best. However, there were definitely moments where I was flying through the story, so 3 stars it is.
I mean... The story was good, but I have some problems with the stuff discussed in it and the way that stuff was handled.
This is sooo diverse and that includes a bisexual girl and I'm very excited for this!!
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.7k followers
August 1, 2017
California Dreaming
By Judge Katie Cotugno

Little & Lion is a California dream of a book, a must-read for anyone who’s ever felt caught in between—places, people, identities, or two entirely different worlds.

Sixteen-year-old Suzette is home in Los Angeles for the summer after a year at boarding school in New England. Suz and her stepbrother Lionel have always been close, but their relationship isn’t as easy and effortless as it once was: Lion seems distant and unreadable, worried and frustrated that their old friends can’t see past the bipolar disorder he wrestles with daily. Suz desperately wants to repair things between them, but her feelings for Lion’s beautiful new girlfriend throw a wrench into the works. To make matters worse, Suz is the only one who knows Lion’s secret: he’s off his meds.

There’s so much to love about Little & Lion, but what really set it apart for me was its rich and fully-drawn cast of characters. Colbert writes teenagers—especially ones who actually act like teenagers—with such empathy and generosity, and everyone, from Suz’s best friend DeeDee to her kind, quiet almost-boyfriend Emil, sings more than one note. Race, religion, sexuality, and illness all are explored with subtle deftness; the result is characters who feel realistically complicated and ferociously alive.

I kept coming back to words like that—deftness, nuance, specificity—when I was thinking about how to describe Little & Lion. In many ways this is a novel of quiet pleasures: lush, vivid language, sharp-eyed emotional honesty, and a deeply delicious treehouse makeout that had me holding my breath as I read.

Colbert’s use of setting is masterful—I found myself yearning for the creaky Victorians and taco trucks of her quirky, artsy Los Angeles—and her eye for detail is one of the best in YA. Her vivid renderings of deceptively simple images—a bottle of raspberry vodka, the careful preparation of a bowl of pasta, a book about the secret language of flowers—stayed with me long after I was finished. Little & Lion is smart, literary YA at its finest, and I am so, so excited to share.

Read more at https://www.bookofthemonth.com/select...
Profile Image for Sue.
781 reviews1,591 followers
January 27, 2018
I find books that heavily rely on characters to drive the plot to be my kryptonite; I also love seeing supportive family and friends with a little bit of romance on top. In this case, Little & Lion perfectly fit the bill. It’s not a surprise I love it.

The story is told from the point of view of Suzette a Black bisexual Jewish teen, who is back for a summer vacation in LA after spending the whole year in a boarding school. She’s grappling with a lot of things. First, she recently learns that she’s bisexual. There’s not a lot of angst or internalized biphobia that she has to go through; but it’s still a rough uncharted path for her. The plot will explore how she’s going to come out of her shell. I really love that she has a very supportive family and friends. She’s not the only queer person in the story, her best friend is even lesbian. In some instances, the misconceptions and stereotypes of bisexuality are also addressed.

Secondly, even though the book is told from Suzette’s point of view, her stepbrother Lionel is still a prominent character. Hence, the title that signifies Lionel’s nickname for her and his shorten name. The story is deeply entrenched with Lionel’s bipolar and how that connects with the heroine, who’s very close with her brother. I was initially uncomfortable with how meds are therapy are being portrayed in a negative light, but I personally think the ending neatly tied that issue.

Thirdly, there’s romances. The way that I read the whole book is that, there’s a difference with physical attraction, and emotional. Sometimes they intersect but sometimes they don’t. The bottom line is neither one is better than the other, it’s just about what kind of preference do you seek. I’m going to be vague and say the ending for the romance isn’t exactly concrete, I would have preferred if it is, but it also works in some way.

Lastly, there’s also an exploration of religion, which is Judaism, and race. I know some people would say Little & Lion is a product of PC culture because they’re not used at being called out for being a bigot. Well, I’ve got news for you: you’re probably a piece of shit.

Overall: I really love this book as you can already see. I might add more thoughts about this review later on if I’m feeling productive. I would recommend it in a heartbeat.
Profile Image for Brooke.
284 reviews141 followers
March 1, 2018
4 strong stars! I liked this one more than POINTE & am so glad I decided to pick this one up. LITTLE & LION is a fantastic story of family & trying to do the right thing for the ones we love, no matter how hard that may be. I just have to state first that the representation is amazing- we have a black, bisexual, Jewish teen who is attempting to look out for her brother the best way she knows how. Suzette's stepbrother, Lion, is bipolar & decided to tell Suzette that he is now off his medication. The bond between Little & Lion has always been tight & when Lion threatens to take that away from Suzette if she tells their parents, she decides not to for the sake of their relationship. Soon though, she realizes that Lion is unable to take care of himself & by not telling them he is putting his life in danger. But what to do about the promise she made? When is it time to break that promise?

Alright, I went a bit off track here. Concluding the representation, there's also Emil, who has an inner-ear disorder & is cool when Suzette tells him she's bi. Finally we have DeeDee, Suzette's lesbian best friend & Rafaela who is pansexual. Colbert pens all of these characters with voices that ring realistic & fresh. I wouldn't mind a sequel following these characters!

I could resonate with Suzette as she weighs the consequences of her actions while Lionel is spiraling deeper & deeper down into his hole. On the surface, it seems that he's fine without his medication & I could understand when Lionel said he didn't want to be a guinea pig anymore. The stance on not demonizing something that is out of your control & that the medication will help you was appreciated. I could also understand Suzette's loyalty to her brother & how she had to make the harsh decision when to intervene, but in a sense I do wish this had been played out differently. The main point was the relationship between Little & Lion & it's clear that Suzette fiercely loved her brother. This sibling aspect was a pleasure to read, an aspect that I feel YA is lacking as a whole. More YA novels should include these type of family dynamics.

Overall this was a compelling YA contemporary that I'd recommend to fans of the genre. The pacing is consistent for the majority of the book & while I felt the ending was rushed, I still wouldn't hesitate to read more from this author.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,713 followers
January 10, 2018
A poignant, gentle, and powerful book. What a way to start the year - with an excellent first book that sets the bar high for 2018.

- A wonderful character-driven book centered on Suzette, and how she navigates her life after returning home from boarding school.
- Do you know why I love this book? It's because it explores questioning sexual identity. The MC, Suzette, is in a stage in her life where she's questioning her sexual identity. She has an inkling of where she is, but she's still figuring things out - and I LOVED that.
- The book explores sibling relationships, mental health and how MI's affect the individual and their family, sexuality, romance, and race.
- This book asks really, really, REALLY good and nuanced questions about mental health and WHEN we need to speak up. The bottom line: sometimes we need to speak up; sometimes secrets only hurt and cause harm.
- I just. I just loved this book. It's nuanced, sensitive, powerful, and beautifully written.
Y'all need to read this.

Trigger warnings:
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
1,459 reviews
September 23, 2017
Little & Lion is a story about Suzette coming back home for the summer after studying in the boarding school. She's facing struggles of rekindling old friendships, she's figuring out her sexuality and her life back home after being away for a long time.

I enjoyed reading the book a lot! Family-focused character-driven stories are my gem. I appreciated the diversity and intersectionality.

Before I get into more details about this wonderful book, I want to address my initial struggle to rate the book. I couldn't decide between 3.5-4.5 stars. I loved everything about the first half of the book, but after some events, which happened at 50-70% of the book I grew doubtful. Without going in too many spoilery details, the moments that irked me included bisexual character and cheating of sorts (emotional cheating? Nobody promised anyone anything, so it wasn't like a spouse cheated on their partner after 10 years of marriage but I still felt uncomfortable, I felt like it reinforced the "cheating bisexuals" trope). After finishing the book and thinking about it, I don't believe that's the case here. Suzette was figuring herself out, she had crushes on both Emil and Rafaela, which is an ok thing to feel. If she wasn't bi, I wouldn't even pay that much attention to this trope. A character liking several people is clearly not unheard of in media.
The story felt true and I liked the bi rep. I found a lot of myself in Suzette. And yes, she isn't perfect, but she's real flawed relatable individual.
That's it for criticism. I rate the book 4 stars. Wonderful and important book.

Suzette and her family
I adore Suzette. She has great arc and her character development was both realistic, given the short period of time, and admirable. Suzette is Black Jewish bisexual girl, she wears dreadlocks and loves her family.

I loved her family. Saul and Nadine aren't married but they've been together for ages and they are bringing up Suzette and Lionel together. Supportive caring parents in YA? Sign me up. Especially, I loved Saul and Suzette relationship. During the course of the book, they faced a crisis and I loved seeing how mature both of them were about handling it. First and foremost, these four people love each other and it shows in their actions.

Suzette and Lionel are step-siblings. They used to have a very close relationship. We got to see it in several flashbacks from the past, but as of the beginning of the book, Lionel has been diagnosed bipolar for a year and Suzette was sent to boarding school at that time and she just came for the summer. They are trying to figure out their new dynamic or come back to how they've been. This sibling dynamic is the core of the book, needless to say I love it.

I've already mentioned that I liked the bi rep of the book. Suzette had a thing with the girl Iris back in school and it didn't end well so she haunted by what happened and felt guilty about it. However when she's back home, she realized that the son of family friends and her life long friend Emil, Black Korean adorable boy of her age, is cute and he always liked her (also Emil is using hearing aids). On her welcome back party, Suzette meets Rafaela, enchanting pansexual girl. Drama ensues. Later, Lionel starts liking Rafaella and drama intensifies. Important remark: the story isn't angsty or unbearably dramatic sad. It's realistic, with highs and lows. The author wasn't milking drama for the sake of drama which I appreciate.


Glorious. I was happy to read a book with such diverse cast of characters, who just were just pan, lesbian etc etc. So casual and seemingly effortless. I need other writers to take notes.

To add more to what I've already mentioned. Saul and Lionel are Jewish, Suzette and her mother Nadine converted into Judaism after becoming family with Saul and Lion.
DeeDee is Suzette's best friend and she's lesbian. Queer girls can be friends without any romantic tension (gasp!). DeeDee has a girlfriend Alicia.

In conclusion, Little & Lion is thoughtful charming novel about family, about regrets and choices, about Suzette's journey of figuring herself out. #ownvoices for black protagonist rep.
The novel is delightfully character-driven and relatively slow-paced, engagingly written and a true delight to read.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Katy O. .
2,315 reviews723 followers
August 30, 2017
This YA book covers a wide array of issues, including sexuality, race, religion, mental health and family structure, and did so satisfactorily. It will be appreciated by many teens and would be a great addition to large high school library collections. As an adult reader who has read a LOT of YA, however, it was a middling read - no major criticisms, just a bit flat for me and I have to admit that the flashback chapters tripped me up sometimes. I am glad I got this from Book of the Month as one of my August picks since I may not have picked it up otherwise and it gave me a new look at bipolar in teens - I'll be donating my copy to my HS library.
Profile Image for Yesenia Cash.
232 reviews16 followers
February 13, 2020
The potential was there, there were moments when I wanted to give this a 4 star rating but in the end it didn’t take me there. The plot was very interesting but I didn’t connect with the writing style.
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