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In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

416 pages, ebook

First published November 13, 2018

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About the author

Robin Talley

13 books1,473 followers
I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.robintalley.com, and I'm on Twitter and Tumblr.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 746 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 18, 2022
It is with such a heavy heart that I must announce that I'm feeling sapped of any motivation to read this book so I'm calling it a DNF at 65%.

I just really no longer want to force things. I only have energy for things that manage to seize my interest in a tight grip. Sadly, it wasn't all too difficult to squirm out of Pulp's grasp. With that being said, I think this is a Your Mileage May Vary kind of book, so all I can do is tell you what I felt and why.

My initial excitment at Pulp's premise (a queer historical fiction that's “a celebration of 1950s lesbian pulp fiction”) quickly dissolved in a haze of total indifference within the few first chapters. I couldn't fully immerse myself in the story due to its slow build, lack of major plot movement and insufficience in characterization, its struggle to carry an onerously large web of interpersonal relationships and long, lonely stretches of thin motivations and unintriguing narrative details.

The concept of stories within stories usually appeals to me but I found this book uneven in its pacing and structure, and the plot meanders between four different storylines making it hard to keep track of all four, and even more laborious to care. This all sort of bogged down the otherwise marvelous parts of the story: the parrallel lesbian love stories that are 62 years apart, how this book irradiates some important LGBTQ+ history, and how it illuminates the importance of representation and diversity in the media we consume.

I don't think it's a bad book at all. I just wish I was all-consumingly passionate about it.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.4k followers
July 18, 2019
Pulp is a book about Abby, a girl growing up in present-day Washington DC, and Janet, a girl growing up in the same area in the 1950s. Both like girls, and both like writing, and Janet, in the age of McCarthyism, risks it all to embrace her love of both. We follow Abby as she uncovers Janet’s past through a project on Janet’s first, and only, lesbian pulp novel.

Pulp occurs in three distinct mediums, including the aforementioned lesbian pulp novel, which should feel a lot more disjointed than it actually does. It is the strong character work that holds it all together - Janet and Abby are each written as compelling characters (if not as well-rounded as I'd prefer). And yeah, some of the commentary is just a teeny tiny bit heavy handing, and yeah, the writing isn't anything particularly special, but there's something deeply special about this book in how it connects its story to the past.

Our community is created by a decades-long shared experience that is as horrifying as it is beautiful and that is, in basic conceit, what Robin Talley’s Pulp attempts to explore.

The thing I have discovered is that it is so easy to separate ourselves from the reality of the past that has come before us; as I typed this paper, I found myself considering which sentences to use third person pronouns for, and which ones to recognize as a part of my history. Because I was born in 2001, after Stonewall had occurred, as medication for HIV was coming into wide use, after homosexuality had been legalized in the United States. People like Janet grew up in an era where queer people were seen as perverts. Even being suspected of being queer could mean being fired from government jobs (the 1950s Lavender Scare). At the very least, it would mean being kicked out of your house. Being sent to conversion therapy was not an anomaly, but the norm — for some, it still is. And yet people like Janet still ran from home, wrote books about women loving women (though the women always had to die), found love, fell out of love, and most of all, found community.

I think a lot about the idea of love as something dangerous, as something that you have to fight for. And it's only recently that I've realized that has to do with me, and my loving women. I have been very lucky, in growing up in liberal California and in the 2000s. But I received marriage rights in my country four months after realizing I liked girls, and in reading about the past and thinking about the past, I am constantly, daily, reminded how being born ten years earlier would have made everything that much more dangerous, that much more violent, that much more fearful. And so there is something so woefully and violently romantic about the fact that there were people who braved that climate and loved anyway and paved the path, while doing so, for me and so many others.

There is something relentless and powerful about the heart it takes to be queer — to live in the shadows of the past and to work so hard in the present. To love someone in the shadows, to risk your social status and your job and your family simply to be yourself, to be alone no longer, is an inherently brave act; to be in love is brave, but to hide it and fight for it is braver. And yet at some point queerness is no longer about some grand romance, but about the freedom to be.

It is so important to know our histories, but also so empowering to know our histories. I grew up among San Francisco opera singers, a fact that – yes, in fitting with stereotypes – meant I knew older gay people from a very early age. But this book, beyond any other, made me feel connected to queerness in the past and in the present — to who I am, and to my community.

I think I just want to end on this note. To all of those who fought so hard in the 1950s for the lives they wanted, and all of those who fought their battles and waged their wars in the name of community – thank you. To the unnamed people who came before us, who fought wars in public and in private to find their own happiness, who found love and didn’t, who died for loving and who were arrested for being, we remember you, and we honor you: both in thought, and in having the courage to be who we are today. You last. We remember.

Those who came before us could endure. And so will we.

TW: severe challenged homophobia, challenged racism, some period-typical slurs.
release date: 8 Nov 2018
Arc received from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books350 followers
February 13, 2023
Awesome look at the 1950’s and what it was like to grow up having to keep who you really were a secret. Janet, a teen in DC, discovers lesbian pulp fiction and begins writing her first manuscript just as her romance with best friend Marie begins to take off. But her writing may endanger them both. Told through the dual narratives of Janet and Abby, a teen growing up in 2017 who’s working on a school project and stumbles over the books by accident, we see the world through both their eyes.

Janet was admittedly my favorite. And I really liked the way Robin Talley developed relationships between both girls and the side characters. She populated an interesting world with complicated family histories and backstories, and this was a real treat to read.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,401 reviews1,850 followers
November 6, 2018
It pains me to rate this so low, and infact I wasn't going to rate it at all, particularly because I thought this might be close to a four star read for the first hundred pages. But then there was another three hundred pages to get through..

The premise around this queer, mirrored storyline, that bounces between the fifties and present day, with two lesbian MCs, dealing with very different but also some very similar situations, sounded brilliant. Throw in some relevant topics, some gritty awful true-to-life events from our own recent past, and stories within stories about stories.. it should've been an easy thing to love. But the present day protagonist was a bit of a frustration, I got tired of the constant repetition (probably about a hundred pages could've been cut), and the only thing that kept me going was an unexpected plot twist slash mystery that I wanted to see through to the end.

Talley has a great hook and a great idea, and both are very well written, that I think just loses traction as it tries to include one too many conflicts or situations. The history was fascinating, and horrible, and I learned so much. I'm very thankful for that experience. I just wish I could've been educated and entertained, too.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
October 4, 2018
"This is still a harsh world we live in, but you're lucky you've found each other."

review also on my blog

Pulp is a book that will make you cry, clutch your heart, and scream all at once. Talley has once again blown me away with her meta-storytelling and exquisite character development. I can't wait for others to get their hands on this!

When was the first time you felt seen in a book? How long did it take you to find a main character with the same identity or label as you? Which character made you realise that there were others out there just like you? That's what Pulp is about. Lesbians feeling seen for the first time through the literature they consume. It acknowledges the hardships that those in the 1950s had to endure while suggesting that we still have a long way to go in regards to inclusivity in 2018.

I've never felt more acknowledged in a book. Talley truly hits the nail on the head with her social commentary about the experiences of sapphic individuals in two completely different eras. There's one line in the synopsis that I think encompasses this entire book: "A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go." I'm sure most of us can relate to reading a lesbian romance for the first time and seeing people like us depicted in a relationship. We're fortunate enough in this age to have mainly positive portrayals (though there are still some instances of detrimental tropes like bury your gays or fetishisation), but it's interesting to confront the experiences of those in the 1950s.

2017: Abby has been reeling from her recent break up with her best friend and slow deterioration of her parent's relationship when she realises that she still hasn't chosen what to write for her senior thesis. One day, she's sitting in the senior lounge with her ex-girlfriend and they discover lesbian pulp fiction from the 50's. Upon acknowledging that Abby has nothing to show for her meeting with her supervisor, she decides to write her version of this pulp fiction. Except, Abby is going to turn the negative tropes (bury your gays, everyone was straight all along etc.) on their heads and research the mysterious identity of "Marian Love", who wrote one novel and subsequently disappeared.

1955: Janet is visiting a bus stop when she notices a lesbian erotica novel on the shelf. After reading the book and feeling seen for the first time in her life, Janet writes to the author and thanks her for helping her realise that there were other girls who like girls in the world. When the author replies, she offers to help Janet write one of her own novels, who decides to base it off her experience with developing feelings for her best friend, Marie.

I only have two complaints: the book was too long and there were some racial slurs that I don't think this white author should be using. I know this is a historical fiction novel that attempts to shed light on the experiences of African American lesbians in the 50's, but it's not the place of a white woman to tell (in my opinion). I know Talley has been under fire for doing this in other books, so hopefully, we can have the same commentary from an #ownvoices author in the future.

Talley's writing isn't a stand out from the rest, but it is easy to follow. Despite being told in the third person, I felt a genuine connection with Abby and Janet, where their emotions and feelings were jumping off the page. Pulp also provides a statement on so many prevalent issues. As someone who is quite ignorant of the experiences of LGBT individuals throughout history, it was interesting to acknowledge the struggle they went through to get us where we are today. Being a lesbian in 1955 for Janet means always hiding. It means not being able to speak with the girl you're in love with because someone will report you to the government. It means finding literature with other lesbians represented in it and only ever reading tragic endings. We're also given a look at what it means to be an African American lesbian in 1955, where you can be a successful doctor saving lives, but the government won't let you sit in the same cafe as a white person. Flash forward to 2017, where our main character can do all of those things, but we still haven't reached inclusivity. Abby and her friends are activists that protest building the wall and the ban on immigration. They have the opportunity to speak out against their marginalisation now, except they still endure struggles for being a part of the LGBT+ community. For example, Abby's friend, Vanessa, explains to her parents that they prefer "they/them" pronouns relentlessly, but they refuse. This isn't a race to see who the most marginalised is, but it's important to acknowledge that we haven't reached the finish line yet.

I fell in love with Janet and Abby at first sight. I knew this would be a phenomenal book as soon as I heard their voices. They're both distinct and the same at the exact time. I loved Janet and her ability to thrive, even in a time that tried so desperately to silence her. She's the definition of a brave and heroic main character. Abby is just an old soul. I sympathised with her so much. Whenever Abby cried, I cried. I completely understood her obsession with Marian Love and discovering the truth, especially when she got so attached to it and all of her friends were just writing it off as dumb. The respective journeys that these characters had to go through were inspiring to follow, especially with the bravery that each of them exemplified.

This is a book you want to read slowly. You want to focus on each and every line to make sure you've fully absorbed the information. You pause at the end of each chapter and reflect what just happened to the characters. It's rare for me to tediously read books that I think are amazing because I want to finish it quickly, but I knew I needed to savour this one. Pulp has very long chapters that follow two different storylines so it can be difficult to remember each little detail that happens within each instalment.

I can't find the words to summarise everything that I just said, but you can obviously tell that I loved this book. It's so rare to have a novel this powerful that invokes so many different emotions in it. I'd definitely recommend this if you're interested in F/F literature and want a unique, historical story that makes a statement.

ARC kindly provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review ☆

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,398 reviews11.7k followers
November 29, 2018
3.5 stars

For better or worse, this was a very educational YA novel.

First, I didn't know anything about the popularity of lesbian pulp fiction in 1950s America. Movie adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's "The Price of Salt” is my only exposure to this genre.

Second, I knew even less about "lavender scare," a mass campaign in the same 50s to find and fire gay people from government jobs, on the grounds of them being assumed to be morally corrupt communist sympathizers.

As far as historical context, "Pulp" has a wealth of information to offer about these two subjects to ignorant people like me.

As for the plotting, although I quite liked the frame of it - it's about two gay girls, one in present time, one in 1950s conneced through a fictional pulp novel "Women of the Twilight Realm" - I wish the narrative weren’t so didactic and so cold. I can see where negative reviews are coming from - the story keeps you at arms' length. It's not very relatable. (It may be the 3rd person POV, I don't know).

Regardless, the book sheds light on an notable period in American history and shows how far we've come, but that the fight for lgbtq right isn’t over by any means. Listening to a podcast series UnErased about gay conversion therapy along the way reiterated this point.

This is the book cover that inspired the author to write this story. The covers of that time were truly cool and deliciously pulpy. Publishers should have pulped up the cover of “Pulp”too.

Profile Image for Kristy.
1,025 reviews141 followers
November 8, 2018
In 2017, Abby Zimet is struggling. Things are tough at home--her parents can barely stand to be in the same room together. Plus, Abby and her girlfriend, Linh, broke up in June. Abby thought it would only be temporary, but now school has started, and here they are: still friends, still broken up. Abby can't seem to concentrate on school or her senior project. That is until she discovers 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. In particular, a book called "Women of the Twilight Realm." Abby becomes obsessed with the author, who wrote under the name Marian Love. If Abby can somehow track down Marian, maybe life won't be so bad after all. Cut to 1955, where eighteen-year-old Janet Jones is in love with her best friend, Marie. It's a huge secret: one that could destroy their lives and that of their families. Marie is trying to get her security clearance with the State Department, after all. But when Janet finds a book at the bus station by an author called Dolores Wood, which features women falling in love with women, she starts to realize she isn't alone. And Janet, an aspiring writer, begins to wonder if there's more out there than the life that's always been planned for her.

"Janet had never understood, not until she turned the thin brown pages of Dolores Wood's novel, that other girls might feel the way she did. That a world existed outside the one she'd always known."

I loved this book so incredibly much that I can't even really explain it. It was captivating and beautiful and tragic and just appealed to me on so many levels. I have always been interested in lesbian pulp fiction since doing a project on it for a Queer Studies class in college, so it was so fascinating to read about Abby's research within the pages of this novel.

Talley effortlessly weaves so many narratives within this one that it sort of leaves you breathless at times. We have Abby's narrative, Janet's narrative, and then excerpts from the book by Marian Love that Abby grows to love so much, "Women of the Twilight Realm." The parallels are really striking between Abby and Janet, as each are discovering lesbian pulp fiction in their own era and using it to grow and learn about themselves.

Even more, we see how much things have changed between the 1950s and 2017. It's horrifying to see what Janet (and the entire gay community) had to endure, and the book really serves to educate on how terrible things were then. While I knew bits and pieces about the Lavender Scare, its ties to our actual characters here really brings it home. I have to say, I just adored Janet. She seems so incredibly real, and I just fell for her and her incredible strength and bravery. I think she will remain one of my favorite characters in lesbian fiction (and all fiction) for all time.

As for Abby, I really liked her too, although in some of her sections, I was more captivated by her research than her story. Still, she presents a poignant tale of a young bisexual trying to find herself, and I appreciated the diverse set of characters with whom she surrounds herself. Abby and her friends stand in stark contrast to Janet in their sexual freedoms, but, in many ways, they aren't so different at heart.

"That was the best part of being in love. The way it set the rest of the world on mute."

I just really really loved this book. It has so much of what I love--lesbians, diverse characters, passionate and realistic storylines, well-done research, literary references and ties. Reading Janet and Abby's stories took me back to a time when I wasn't yet out and when I had first come out--when the world wasn't yet so forgiving (not that it always is, but things were pretty different even 15+ years ago). I remember how much comfort books provided me, how wonderful it was to realize I wasn't alone in the world. I love how well this book shows that fact, and how the books-within-the book are almost their own characters.

Overall, I can't recommend this one enough. It's just a beautiful, well-written story, and, to top it off, it's informative to boot. The characters are lovely, the story is amazing, and it really leaves you feeling a bit awed. Highly recommend. 4.5+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 11/13/2018.

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Profile Image for Steph.
540 reviews269 followers
May 10, 2021
told in dual narratives, pulp is the story of two sapphic teens: abby, a young activist in 2017 who's stuck on her ex girlfriend, and janet, a young writer in 1955 whose tentative first love is burdened by the weight of the lavender scare in washington DC. abby and janet are linked via their adoration of lesbian pulp fiction.

maybe i talk about it too much, but last month i read last night at the telegraph club, which is about a chinese american lesbian discovering the secret sapphic world around her in 1950s san francisco. i'm pleased that it's led me to so many other novels, including some of the pulp fiction mentioned within pulp, and (in a roundabout way) including pulp itself!!

typically i love intertwining stories, and at the start, i was wholly engaged in both of pulp's narratives. here are some things i enjoyed:

‣ the story is thoroughly researched and extremely educational. we learn about the lavender scare through abby's naive eyes, and are also immersed in it through janet's narrative. it's an effective combo.

‣ not only does the book mention classic lesbian pulp novels by name, but pulp is packed with subtle references to pulp authors, which is fun!

‣ abby is a hopeless romantic who alternately pines after her ex and pines after the characters in the books she reads. her favorite things in the world are kissing and being held. a girl after my own helpless heart 🥺

AND... her obsession with romance allows for some meta deconstruction of the romance novel itself, and exploration of what makes up romance and love. abby's arc is all about learning to appreciate different types of love.

‣ much empathy for abby's avoidant nature, her fandom obsession as an escapist coping mechanism, and her desire to stave off change. dealing with parents' impending divorce right around your transition to college, and in the wake of your own breakup, is a lot of shit.

‣ abby and her friends are young activists!! super encouraging representation of how easy it can be to work toward change.

‣ janet's communist grandma, who has a history of pacifist activism.

‣ janet's journey to new york, and rapid discovery of the lesbian bar scene. this is where it was really hard not to compare pulp to last night at the telegraph club. both are impeccably researched, but in the case of janet's story, we only get a taste of this lively world.

‣ all the pain that janet suffers.

there's a lot of good stuff, but toward the end, things fall apart a bit. janet's narrative stops very abruptly! just as she is making changes in her life, we fast forward and learn about her adventures only in summary. it doesn't feel like enough of a resolution for young janet.

ultimately, the final chapter rings false. it's when our protagonists' paths finally converge: the moment we've been waiting for. something about it feels sadly artificial and overly-didactic.

another small criticism is that after reading last night at the telegraph club, it was hard not to be disappointed with pulp's lack of intersectionality. abby is jewish and has friends who are poc, and there are a few black side characters. i do appreciate their inclusion. when janet interacts with them, she realizes her own naive racism, which is realistic. but i wish talley had included more racial diversity in the novel. there are so many intersections to be explored.

despite its flaws, i'm very happy to have read this. lgbt+ history is fascinating, and historical fiction is a great way to learn. one of my favorite things about pulp is that it might provide an opening to help readers discover more lgbt+ lit. we should be learning about this stuff!!
Profile Image for Monica.
524 reviews160 followers
November 18, 2018
Published by Harlequin Teen, Pulp is outside my typical genre. A pretty constant fan of YA in general, romance is never a top pick for me. Neither are historical pieces.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself very interested in these characters, especially Janet, whose story takes place in 1955. The challenges that she faced were shocking. Abby, a gay teen in present DC, has the usual family and relationship issues. But she doesn’t have the same fears that Janet faced on a daily basis. Although Abby does grow and mature, she is spoiled and petulant for most of the story.

Overall a 3.5 ⭐️ read for me. Thanks to Goodreads and publishers for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
198 reviews162 followers
May 16, 2018
Thank you sooooo much Netgalley for providing me an advanced reader edition of this title in exchange for an honest review.

I'm just as obsessed with this book as Abby is obsessed with Women of the Twilight Realm. Seriously. This was my MOST anticipated 2018 read, and I'm so lucky and grateful to have gotten the opportunity to read it before it's released. This book by far exceeded my expectations, and from the moment I laid my eyes on it's synopsis, the highest expectations had already been set in my mind. But this book turned out to be just as amazing as I imagined it would be.
This book is about queer women, 1950s Lesbian pulp fiction, and growth and mourning. There is so much more here than the synopsis would have you believe. This book is brimming with character development. I can't even describe just how much I loved this book, but I can certainly make an attempt.
We've got the main character, Abby, who's mourning the recent loss of her relationship with her "friend" Linh, as well as her unstable family dynamic and the clear tension and lack of presence of both of her parents. She one day discovers lesbian pulp fiction from the 1950s-1960s, and she is absolutely hooked on one book in particular, Women of the Twilight Realm by infamous author, Marian Love. Fuelled by so many other aspects of her life she cannot control, she begins an obsession with the book, and more importantly, with the author, who no amount of googling can dig up anything about. Marian Love has written nothing else since her first and only book, and Abby is determined to find out the real identity of Marian Love.
Meanwhile, we've got a dual point of view with another character, Janet, who is a queer 18 year old in 1955, a time in which was extremely dangerous to be homosexual. Janet, too, finds solace and comfort in a lesbian pulp fiction novel she'd found at a local bus station, a book that showcases to her that there are other women just like her, she feels less alone knowing there are other women that feel the way she does, women who write stories of characters similar to her for all to read. Under pseudonyms, of course. Which is how Janet determines that she wants to write to the author of her favourite book, to let her know just how much her book his impacted her. After getting a letter back from her, she is encouraged to write a book of her own. And so that's exactly what Janet begins to do, with her father's typewriter, alone in the attic during the late hours of the morning. And so this is how the story intertwines Janet's story, Marian Love, and Abby's, dual points of view written in 1955, and one in 2017.
The change of atmosphere between the two time periods is extremely present, we as readers get a look at just how drastically different it was living as a queer person in 1955 than it is in 2017. As usual, Robin Talley did her fair share of research for this novel, to bring a queer historical fiction to our eager hands once more. Thank you, Robin Talley, please never change.
This book is full of culture reference, and I loved the presence of other queer identities, and not just lesbianism. It is increasingly important to be sure other queer voices are heard over the abundance of lesbian and gay voices who have steamrolled over trans, bi identities and the like for years, especially now that the demand for more diversity in novels is increasing. And I can see that this is acknowledged in this book, which I cannot begin to appreciate more than I do.
The characters are a central part of this story, and every side character has a purpose and a personality, no character is out of place and barely any are not integral to the story overall, I really appreciated this. I liked that we were also treated to the trials of other characters besides Abby and Janet, and not only do the main characters go through changes and development throughout the story, but a lot of other characters do as well. (Except Janet's grandma, I'm not going to say I'm sad about how she ends up).
There was just… so much to learn in this book. We got so much ample knowledge. It is also obviously unfortunate to read about how it was to be gay in the 1950s, and the necessary steps in order to be able to write lesbian fiction, now I see where the killing off gay characters trope comes from! It used to be the only way to be able to produce media revolving around queer people, tragedy had to strike, and in most cases the characters had to die, as referred to as "necessary resolutions."
I like the way that love and loss is portrayed in this book. The big question seems to be if love is even real, and if it can survive. The theme explored throughout the book is mourning, and moving on. Change can be good, in some cases even life-saving. I love that most of the character development here revolves around changing life events, both characters have to deal with a life-shattering change of scenery, but both learn to grow and adapt towards it. I love the bigger, underlying message. This book was really enjoyable to read because of the many dynamics and themes explored, this book is so much more than what the synopsis entails.
This is by far one of the best sapphic books I've ever had the pleasure of reading in my life. I'm so beyond grateful our world has adapted and changed for the better, for the most part. But it is still interesting and enlightening to read about what it was like years ago, even more so in a fictional sense. Think of all those who came before us, the lesbian pulp novels that were only allowed to be published at the promise of tragedy, the various people risking their lives every day just to live as their true selves, and be increasingly grateful that we are now able to read books like these with little consequence.
Profile Image for Brooke — brooklynnnnereads.
1,004 reviews243 followers
January 8, 2019
This is one of those reads that prior to picking up, I had no idea that it existed. Even before starting to read this novel, I had my own preconceptions and thought that I wouldn't like it because it wasn't something I would "typically read".

Now, after reading this book, I can only shake my head at how ignorant and naive that I was by unfairly judging this novel before even reading the summary. This book was way more than I expected and way more than I could have hoped for. It's an important novel and if I could, I would have everyone read it.

Firstly, I really enjoyed the different character perspectives that we were given in this story. From the "real" characters to the ones set in their own fictional universes (that will make no sense until you actually read the novel). As well, I appreciated the contrast between the characters of modern day to the characters set farther back in history. Even though I knew prejudice exists, I knew fairly little regarding this specific topic. Especially this specific topic in history. It was both eye-opening and horrific to read examples that were reality for people in the past. Unfortunately, I could also see how this could be reality today for some depending on their geographical location.

Another component of this novel that was educational was the look at lesbian literature throughout history. This was another element that prior to reading this novel, I knew very little about this topic. Even now, I feel as if I know very little regarding this area but this book had me thinking about the difference between how censored this was in the past to how easily accessible this content would be nowadays.

This is definitely a book that I wouldn't put down for a length of time because I could see how it could become confusing with the differing perspectives/fictional works. However, I also found that I couldn't easily put it down. I wanted to know more about the characters (specifically the characters from the past) and I wanted to know how their stories would resolve. Due to the mystery of this novel, it really was a pageturner because I had no idea what the outcome would be for different characters.

I would highly recommend this novel, even if like me, it's outside what you "typically" would read. It somewhat reminded me of something similar to a historical "Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell because a character becomes truly invested in a fictional work. However, this novel seems much more important. Additionally, although the content is heavy, the writing flows easily allowing you to get lost in the story/stories.

This was the first novel that I've read from Robin Talley but I know for certain that I will be looking for more written by her in the future.

***Thank you to HCC Frenzy for providing me with an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review***
Profile Image for Danika at The Lesbrary.
522 reviews1,282 followers
February 13, 2019
I'm so glad this lived up to my expectations. I collect lesbian pulp, and I'm fascinated with its history--plus, I love YA! So combining these into one? Swoon. I loved reading about a modern lesbian teenager discovering lesbian pulp, and the contrast between being a lesbian teenager now and then. I learned more about the Lavender Scare than I was aware of, and how it really affected people's everyday lives.

Aside from the pulp aspect, I also really sympathized so much with Abby, who is in this awful stasis in her life, miserable, but determined to keep anything from changing. I will have a full review at the Lesbrary shortly, but I highly recommend this!
Profile Image for Rachel.
174 reviews69 followers
September 25, 2018
*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I've read a couple of Robin Talley's books and this one is hands down my favorite. It was so amazing! The characters were likable and interesting, the pacing of the story was excellent and I feel like I learned so much. Despite being queer myself, I feel like I don't know enough about queer history and this book was a really eye opening experience for me on that front.

I've always known things aren't as good for queer people as they are right now (and we still have a long way to go!), but reading about someone's life during a more repressive time really makes things more real. Especially when it's contrasted with modern life where it seems like most people are accepting and so many people are gay, queer, etc.

Okay, enough of my queer history geek fest! Back to the story.

The characters were fantastic! They really act like teenagers and think like teenagers. Abby really reminded me of myself a few years ago when I was eighteen and I loved seeing how she started to grow up in the story. The character development was really strong for both Abby and Janet. I also really liked Janet and how much she grew through the story.

But what I loved most of all was the messages about love towards the end of the story. (This is where the spoilers come in!) The fact that Abby comes around to the fact that someone doesn't need to find a fairy tale romance to live a full and satisfying life just made this book for me. I almost cried. Honestly. It's such a good lesson and I'm so glad that YA books are finally getting around to teaching that being in love isn't the end all, be all.

If you like queer books, history, and fabulous character development then this book is for you. Just be warned, you'll probably want to start learning a lot more about LGBT history in the US

Rating: 5 stars

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

my blog
Profile Image for Eleanor.
556 reviews112 followers
November 14, 2018

There is so much to love about this book, and I did really enjoy it and it did open up my eyes a lot, but some things fell a little flat for me. I think this is a really important book and I am so glad that such a diversely packed book is going out into the world. I hope you all read this when it comes out. And it is super cute as well! If you want to read a lighter contemporary still full of amazing representation which I believe is own-voices! There is also so much for any reader to love in this book, so even with my criticism, this is still a really great book, and I still highly recommend it. I have read another book by this author - Lies We Tell Ourselves...and I definitely preferred that one. But anyway. This one is still good!


- I absolutely ADORED the premise for this one. It is basically all to do with Lesbian pulp fiction in the 1950s, which I didn't even know was a thing? There are two threads to this story - one set in the 1950s, and the other in the present day, when Abby is majoring in Creative writing and is writing her own version of these lesbian pulp fiction, and reading the book of the character from the 1950s, while struggling with her own problems. So basically, this book is about girls who love girls, books, writing and authors. What more could you want in life? I found so much of it relatable, and I especially loved the writing element of it.

- Okay, but I do think that the characters just needed a little more development. I started to see that more towards the end, but before that the two main characters were still a little one dimensional, and I felt that I never really got to know the side characters at all. I did lose interest a little towards the middle just because the characters were not very compelling. I definitely preferred Abby over Janet, mainly because Janet was so naïve and it kind of annoyed me sometimes? Like I understood, but it was still annoying . She did improve as the book went on, but, still.

- I also found the writing a little cheesy in places? Like not cringy, just not that interesting. It was fine, but I really love to have interesting writing that makes something of every sentence. I think this was another of the factors that made my interest wane a little as I got to the middle of the book. For some reason I found it more cheesy in the '50s chapters, but, I mean, it wasn't terrible. It wasn't really a huge negative. Just something I picked up on.

- The book was super slow in the first 60%. If it had been as good as the last 35-40% all the way through, I think my rating would have been a solid four stars. But nothing was really happening in the first half. The last half was actually really good and I was just starting to get into it when it ended. Janet's chapters became a lot more deep and interesting, and I do think that I could have grown to like her more. I wish we had started at a slightly later point in the book, and continued on in the characters' stories for a little longer.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I really want everyone else to read it. Or read any of these authors books, because they all seem to have great diversity. There was other diversity in here aside from girl/girl romance - there was a non-binary character, and characters of different ethnicities. Again, I reiterate that I personally think that this is a really important book and I really hope that it goes places in this world. It deserves it. It has such a cool concept and I did really like it! I would definitely read more by Robin Talley.

Arc receive via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Wendi Lee.
Author 1 book469 followers
November 16, 2018
*3.75 stars*

I was so excited when I approved for a Netgalley arc for this book! Robin Talley's work has been on my radar for a while now, and I even own a few of her books on my Kindle, but haven't had the time to read them yet.

Pulp is about two girls separated by decades. Abby lives in current day America, reeling from a recent break-up and the strange way both her parents and little brother are acting. She's supposed to be filling out college applications, but instead she finds herself immersed in the world of lesbian pulp fiction from the 1950's.

Janet Jones lives in 1955, in the time of McCarthyism and rampant homophobia. She too has recently discovered lesbian pulp novels, and wants desperately to write her own -- but she's afraid her secret (as both a lesbian and a budding writer of lesbian fiction) will get herself and those around her hurt and backlisted.

I think Talley did a FANTASTIC job with Janet's chapters, bringing the cultural attitudes of the 1950's to life, as well as the unbelievable restrictions on all young women's lives at the time. I don't know a lot about McCarthy's reign of terror, but I definitely want to read more about it after this novel.

I had a little more difficulty meshing with Abby. She's a bit more of a stereotypical YA character and sometimes I wanted to tell her to stop and calm down!! Her issues are definitely ones she needs to work through, but they seemed mild. In comparison, the stakes for Janet are very, very high.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Robin Bonne.
629 reviews143 followers
January 8, 2019
Is it a little slow? Yes, however I enjoyed the story and listening through to the ending. Pulp checked a lot of boxes for me: LGBTQ characters, aspiring writers, mid century pulps, and coming of age stories. The narrator of the audiobook did an excellent job reading the different characters and keeping me engaged with the story.

The dual storylines had enough parallels that they came together to make a cohesive book. I’m usually not a huge fan of this method of storytelling, but this is an example of both stories blending together smoothly without feeling disjointed.

I liked it, and I’d recommend it to readers with similar tastes. I rarely enjoy romance books, and thankfully this isn’t really much of a romance for most of the book. Marketing this as ya romance is probably why it is getting fewer stars than it deserves. I am definitely the audience this was written for, but I almost skipped over this one when I saw the romance tag.
Profile Image for Ian.
76 reviews26 followers
November 19, 2018
Pulp is a strong read for a young adult. If you're a regular adult who just happens to read young adult books from time to time, you'll enjoy yourself, too. Just not completely so.

The story, which is a coming of age story as well as a bit of a mystery, is really two stories: Janet, a closeted queer girl in the 50s, and Abby, an out and proud of it queer girl in 2017. The book begins when Abby discovers online an article about lesbian pulp fiction from the fifties era. Abby attends a private school where each kid has to do a year long project/assignment and she ends up selecting to write her own lesbian pulp book for the project. She ends up falling in love with one of these books, which was written by an author named Marian Love.

Marian Love is really a pen name for Janet, and so interspersed with Abby scenes we get Janet's story of growing up 70 years or so before. We get to see the sheer difference between what it was like growing up queer in the 50s versus now.

In the book, Abby does not have the internal struggle with her sexuality that Janet has. She is out to her friends and family. And as far as I can remember, she really does not face outright prejudice in this book (prejudice is hovering here, though: Abby is very passionate about causes and she volunteers on Danica Roem's campaign-- Roem is the now Virginia legislator who defeated a homophobic, prejudiced incumbent legislator last year). Abby's part of the book is really about issues beyond sexuality. She comes from a well to do home, but her parents' marriage is falling apart. She also is very conflicted about her relationship with Linh, an ex of hers who Abby still has feelings for.

I thought the book was a little bit draggy during the Abby parts -- just because I've read a lot of books about kids dealing with divorce and although Talley does a perfectly adequate job of telling her story -- it didn't feel like it was doing anything that I hadn't seen before in print. I also felt like I would have liked to learn more about Abby's friends, including her ex-girlfriend Linh, who is Vietnamese American and spent a summer in Vietnam recently. If I'm remembering correctly, in the beginning of the book, Talley hints at some sort of cultural struggle that Linh faces while she is visiting Vietnam, but never revisits it with this character. Instead Linh just sort of nags Abby a lot about when she's going to get her act together in regards to college and her schoolwork and things don't get much deeper than that.

On the other hand, I was completely absorbed in Janet's story (particularly her relationship with best friend Marie and her grandma). It is harrowing, compelling and quite touching. And I found myself being surprised (pleasantly so) in small ways as to the choices Talley made in her narrative. Sometimes in YA books I can sort of see things coming, but with this book, I didn't find that was the case. The characters all were really well fleshed out and it just felt very authentic to the time. I also didn't know about the ugly period called the Lavender Scare in Washington DC (although I did know all about McCarthy), when innocent/decent people were being forced out of their government jobs because of hatred and homophobia. Plus, the book is plotted really well, and the dual time periods storytelling really does gel.

Profile Image for Rita.
415 reviews29 followers
June 26, 2019
Thank you Netgalley and HQ Young Adult for providing me an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

I must say I was interested to read Pulp because of the dual perspective between this young woman discovering she's a lesbian in 1955, and another lesbian girl in current time, going through her problems. And it was definitely my favourite part of the book, to see those different storylines and finding out how they would intersect.

The thing is I was much more into the storyline happening in 1955. I'm sure Robin Talley did a lot of research to write this book (which she proves in the aknowledgements as well) and it shows. I also really felt Janet's struggles and fears, and I admit I teared up a few times. It was really difficult to be queer in the 50's and, unfortunately, it still is in a lot of places.

On the other hand, Abby's storyline didn't touch me as much, even though I could relate to her family struggles. I think the problem is that, for a long time, the plot didn't seem to be going somewhere and it was obssessively focusing on the same stuff, over and over again, which felt repetitive and overdone, even though I got the point. I actually don't think I even got to know Abby's friends besides knowing they're all queer and/or POC, they were so underdeveloped.

However, clearly, my struggles with one of the perspectives didn't completely ruin the book for me. Not only I loved Janet and her story, I also found interesting to get to know more about lesbian culture in the 50's and pulp lesbian fiction. Besides, I quite enjoyed the ending. So, in the end, I couldn't give Pulp less than 4 stars and I'm interested to check out more of Robin Talley's books.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 5 books1,211 followers
December 3, 2018
I loved how much queer history is packed into a story that is, ultimately, not a history lesson. I knew nothing about the Lavender Scare, and vis a vis Janet and Abby, it becomes palpable and terrifying. I also absolutely loved that lesbian pulp -- which I did know about -- was woven in as the thread binding both Abby in 2017 and Janet in 1955 together.

That said, neither character was especially developed. Janet felt really flat and the challenges in Abby's life felt too underdeveloped to have any emotional impact. I almost wish there'd been a nonfiction companion about queer history published alongside this, since that was really what sucked me in.
Profile Image for kayleigh.
1,734 reviews87 followers
October 13, 2018
4.5 stars.

“Even more had read it and discovered, for the first time, that they weren’t the only non-straight people in the world. That there was a whole community out there. It was weird to think that being gay used to mean being that isolated, but it was exciting to think a book could be so important.”

Pulp follows two different women in different eras, who have lives connected across generations. In 1955, eighteen year old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares for her best friend Marie a secret. It's not easy being gay in Washington D.C., especially in the age of McCarthyism, but when she finds a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in her. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a terrifying danger.

Sixty two years later, Abby Zimet can't stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby's life are lost to the fictional desires and tragedies of the characters she's reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and is determined to track her down and find her true identity.

Oh, I loved Pulp even more than I thought I was going to. This is the first book I've read by Robin Talley, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. It was a book that made me feel a lot of emotions, and I was far more connected to the characters than I thought I would be, which was wonderful. The writing was so engaging and easy to follow, and I really loved the third person—it ade the story a lot better to follow, especially considering the two narratives.

“She knew pulp books had to have tragedy in them to get around the censors, but Abby had already read so many books and seen so many shows and movies where the gay characters wound up dead or distraught that the last thing she wanted to do was read about it again.”

I connected with Abby and Janet almost instantly. I'm not a lesbian, but I am bisexual, so it was very easy to connect with their feelings and voices in this book. While they both had a lot of similarties, their voices were so distinct and fun to read about and fall into their respective worlds. It was so interesting to read about their journeys (especially Janet's, because she's from such a different time than the time I'm from), and to see how much their worlds were connected, despite the generation difference. On top of that, it was nice to see the differences in politics and what it means to be a marginalized person in 1955 vs 2017. I thought Talley did a great job at including those differences.

I'm not a huge fan of dual narratives, but I really loved it in this book. It added so much to the story and to the overall effect, and made it even better than it would've been otherwise. My love for history probably plays a big role of why I loved having a narrative from 1955 so much, but it really did make for an even better story. As I said before, it was so engaging, and I think that has a lot to do with the characters and how developed and wonderful they all were. It was so easy to fall in love with them and get lost in each of their stories.

Overall, Pulp was a fantastic, lovely read. There was so much history and wonderful characters and character development, and it was so well written. Despite the book being just a little too long for the story that was told, and I do think Janet's story should've been told by a black lesbian woman (since that's who Janet is), I'm definitely excited to read more from Robin Talley in the future. I also can't wait for this book to be released next month so everyone can read it.

“This is still a harsh world we live in, but you’re lucky you’ve found each other.”

ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨.
1,076 reviews631 followers
January 29, 2019
Two women find each other across time through the magic of the written word

✨Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019✨
✨✨You favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge✨✨

I had such high hopes for this book - unfortunately, they were dashed.
Actual rating: 2.5⭐️

Abby is a senior in high school. Her parents are living separately and she is still in love with her ex-girlfriend, Linh. On top of that she has to think about college application and her big assignment for her creative writing class. On a whim, she decides to write book in the style of the 1950's lesbian pulp fiction. She stumbles acress the book 'Women of the Twilight Realm' by the author Marian Love. The book was hugely successful when it was published in 1956, still, that was the only book to ever leave the hands of Marian Love. Abby is instantly drawn to the book and to the mystery of the author, who seems to have vanished.

In 1955, Janet is realising that she has feelings for her best friend, Marie. And Marie has feelings for her as well. When Janet discoveres a book called 'A Love so Strange' about two women in love, she suddenly feels like she is no longer alone. This book voices all of her feelings. But being gay in the 1950's was not accepted - and with Marie working for the State Department their situation is even more precarious. They run the risk of being labeled communist sympathisers simply for being gay. And when Janet starts writing a book of her own, she puts them both in even greater danger.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the cover - I was instantly drawn to the graphicness, the colour and the vintage feeling. And when I then found out that this book was about a lesbian romance in the 1950's I was sold. I love history and I have recently gotten into LGBTQ books (thank you Adam Silvera!), so this book really spoke to me on many different accounts.

Maybe I had too high hopes for this book. Anyway, I was disappointed. I had two main reasons for this disappointment.

The characters
Ask me to describe any of the characters. Go ahead, ask me. I cannot do it. I can't say any describtive words about any of them. I can't tell if they are sweet, intelligent, secretive, open, evasive, outgoing. I have no feeling for any of them. It bothers me to no end, I simply don't know who they are! They are not even underdeveloped, they are just blah.

The relationships
Not only were the characters underdeveloped - so where the relationships. This book is about two romantic pairings, Abby and Linh and Marie and Janet. I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of each of their relationships without any introduction to how they got to where they were, and for that reason I had a really hard time liking them. I didn't understand their dynamics because I didn't understand them. Again, the relationships felt non-existent because they were more implied than actual.

Sorry, but this book just didn't do it for me.

I have a mission - to create a world of book lovers. Will you help me?
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,429 reviews234 followers
October 22, 2018
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Two young women living in the nation's capital discover lesbian pulp fiction. Though their circumstances are quite different, they were both inspired by these books, which helped them gain a better understanding of themselves.

• Pro: Talley expertly navigated the dual timelines, and the results were very successful. She achieved suspense, tension, and great impact via the story structure.

• Pro: Abby's research grabbed me and kept me captivated. I wasn't completely clueless about the questionable things that went on during the 1950s, but I did learn quite a bit.

• Pro: I hung on every word of Janet's story. It was so important for me, that she found happiness, and I shed tears for her, when I read of all the injustices and heartbreak she had to endure.

• Con: That said, I did not feel as invested in Abby's part of the story. I felt like it wasn't focused, and I only seemed to care about her being successful with her research.

• Pro: Books within books don't always work for me, but Talley deftly wove three different pulp fiction tales into this story. The excerpts were perfect and perfectly placed for impact and meaning.

• Pro: There was something really awesome that happens at the end, which was nothing short of spectacular for me. I loved that Talley wrote the ending that way.

Overall: An interesting and well executed look at one woman's struggle with identity, which shed a lot of light on LGBTQ history.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Emily Hays.
360 reviews53 followers
June 10, 2019
ok, so obviously I really enjoyed this. I love that this book will make young queer folk aware of the impact that lesbian pulp fiction had on lesbian life, then, and now. I have the privilege of already knowing about lesbian pulp fiction through women's studies courses I took in my undergrad, but this novel is so much more accessible to people, no matter their age, than a $20,000 university degree.
This could be a possible spoiler, but I feel like it's more of an assurance, so I'm not gonna mark it, but there is something to be said for a book by, about, and for queer women. A lot of the novel talks about how lesbian pulp fiction had to end in tragedy, because of the times. I'm not sure what the timeline is on this, but lesbian pulp fictions are a huge example of what we now call "bury your gays." This changes, not just because it's 2019 and (some) stigma has changed, but also because it's a novel by, about, and for, queer women/folk.
Why haven't I rated it 5/5? This is purely personal/aesthetic choices. The writing was good, but nothing to get excited about. And the characters were good, and I cried, but I never connect in ways that I'd like to when there is a duel-timeline/perspective. This together, despite the third person POV throughout, it didn't smooth the transitions, and it often took me out-of-story when I would pick the book down and pick it back up the next day.
I still highly recommend this book. There still aren't enough lesbian books out there compared to all the books about gay men. It also might teach you something.
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,304 reviews220 followers
November 14, 2018
***Thank you to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of PULP by Robin Talley in exchange for my honest review.***


Abby chooses 1950s lesbian pulp fiction as her senior project and learns how past, present and future intersect.

I love the premise of a protagonist learning about herself through history from last century. Closer in age to the 1950s story than the 2017, I’m more familiar with how far we’ve come than where a vision for the future, so I enjoyed the Abby’s aspirational vision. My default position is gratitude for advances. The shout-outs to history were my favorite parts. Teen readers who may only be aware of the differences in societal expectations academically may learn a lot through the 1950s portion of PULP.

Robin Talley’s writing was the weakest part of PULP. Her words never engaged me, as much as the plot interested me. I had to force myself to read and preserver through the pages. If PULP hadn’t been an ARC, I wouldn’t have finished.

Because I’m older than the target audience, I rated up to three stars. I do recommend PULP to young people and older readers with an interest in early lesbian fiction.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,872 reviews1,055 followers
February 14, 2020
I have many, many thoughts about "Pulp" upon finishing it, yet I think it's easier to start with the note of how ambitious, well-researched, emotional and engaging this book was overall. I knew I'd be taken in from the premise of two narrators from the past and present intersecting in a gripping way. The fact that one of them - from the present - is researching lesbian pulp fiction as a part of her senior project was one that made me raise my eyebrows and say "Ooooh, that's cool." (Though thinking back to my high school senior project obligations, I second-hand cringed because that was a lot of work and deadlines. For all the ways that Abby gets swamped and struggles to meet the obligations of her teacher's prompting for assignment completion, I felt for her. For the curious, my project dealt with the genetic differences between different types of twins. Try to guess why, heheheh. ^_^ )

To set the stage of this novel specifically, Abby - in 2017 - is taking on this interesting senior project while dealing with many different weights in her life. She's trying to navigate her relationship with her friend/ex-girlfriend and her parents are steadily drifting apart, never seeming to be there for her or her younger brother anymore. As a means of escaping some difficult situations and a future she doesn't quite have answers for, Abby throws herself into researching a once popular lesbian pulp author named "Marian Love". Abby becomes so engrossed in Marian's story that she wants to determine what happened to the author in the vein of writing her most famous story. Soon it becomes more than just a project for Abby and a full on, borderline obsessive quest.

Enter the other piece of the story, back to 1955 when Janet is coming to terms with her own sexuality in a time when the stakes are high to be in such a relationship. I felt so badly for Janet on many levels because she's so in love, wants to be true to herself and be with the girl that she's hopelessly fallen in love with. She juggles her job at the Shake Shack while also wanting to be a writer and produce some of the same stories that captivate her attention. However, in navigating the prejudices of the time, there's the risk of being shunned by her family AND falling into the clutches of McCarthyism, some clashes which put her and friends dangerously into governmental and societal crosshairs.

I won't spoil how Abby and Janet's stories converge, but it's an experience that as the novel progressed to its conclusion I felt satisfied to watch. I felt that way even when the events were difficult to see unfold for the characters because of how both Abby and Janet grew from those experiences overall. There are moments of sweetness within the more complex and emotional moments of this novel, and I genuinely rooted for both Abby and Janet as I saw what happened to both of them as time went on and they discovered more, not just about the times they lived within, but ultimately how they were able to get to a place where both of them were happy and came into their own. In some pieces of the work, the pacing dragged its heels more than I thought it would, but I did enjoy "Pulp" collectively for what it offered, and it's a story I would read again and have in my personal library.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher; I also bought a copy of the book.
Profile Image for Emily (emilykatereads).
401 reviews297 followers
November 12, 2018
"As long as you had love, it didn't matter what else the world threw at you. You had something that mattered more."

This book shows an incredible contrast between what it means to be queer today compared to being queer in the 1950s. The story follows the lives of Abby, a teenager from present day, and Janet, a teenager from the 50s. The two are connected through lesbian pulp fiction, and so we get two intertwining stories about the lives of each girl.

This story just an incredible job at showing just how far we've progressed in less than one person's lifetime, but still shows us why we have to keep fighting. We also see different struggles of being a teenage in different generations, while we can relate to both characters.

This book stood out to me in a huge way, because I could totally relate to Abby and how she was affected by her favourite book. Being a young queer girl and discovering books with characters you can fully relate to is an incredible experience, and I could understand the drive she had to learn more.

The writing was easy to follow and hooked me in to each girl's life, really making it hard to stop reading at the end of a chapter.

The dual perspectives were done really well, but I'll admit I did enjoy Janet's more, since it felt more constructed than Abby's. I didn't sympathize with her as much but I was hooked in her research and interested in the mystery element in her section. Talley did an amazing job with showing the past struggle of queer women. It was harsh, but it's important.

This book, if anything, could've been a bit more powerful without as many characters and storylines all over the place, as we also get submersed into the different books within the story. It was a nice touch, but not always necessary, and without them it could've made the remaining story more impactful.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange of an honest review!

Review can also be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Jamie.
169 reviews53 followers
January 11, 2021
I first found Robin Talley when I read Music from Another World, and I absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down. It gripped me and left me wanting more of her writing. So last month when she released The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre, I grabbed that up right away. And while I wouldn't say I disliked it, it didn't grab me in the same way Music From Another World did. So when I saw that Talley had published another YA period piece a couple years ago, I was interested- especially regarding the topic of Lesbian Pulp, which isn't a genre I was super familiar with outside of The Price of Salt.

And I liked it! It didn't hit me as hard as MFAW did I really enjoyed this novel especially by the ending. And that is actually surprising as around the 40%-50% mark I was considering DNFing this book as it seemed to be progressing pretty slowly and I didn't really emotionally resonate with Abby's character. I decided to keep going as I was liking the Janet chapters and I wondered how everything resolved in the end.

But something happened then. I felt like I got it. I got more into the characters and their motivations and became more invested in the story from there, and everything seemed to pick up for me. Every level of the story became more interesting. And I really appreciated the ending how everything got wrapped up, as well as the emotional conclusion Abby came too.

I very much enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot more about Pulp writing of the 50s in the process than what I knew going in. These are interesting characters all in all and I enjoyed how everything ended up winding together in the end. 4/5
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,031 reviews206 followers
December 12, 2018
It's probably close to a 3.75, but I just couldn't rate it as 3 here.

I’ve never read a book by this author before but from the first time I saw the blurb, I was so fascinated by this story. Even though it’s essentially YA, it didn’t feel like the romances that I usually read but I really wanted to know what it was all about. However, now I’m not sure how I feel about it. I didn’t want to put it down once I started because I was really engaged in the mystery, but it also didn’t captivate me as much as I wanted it to.

In the current timeline, our main protagonist Abby is a high school senior trying to work on her project on 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. She has a lot of things going on in her life – she is still unable to deal with her breakup with Linh while trying to remain friends with her, her parents don’t spend even a minute together at home anymore, her younger brother is acting out and getting into trouble and she hates the competitive nature of applying for colleges. All she wants to do is escape all these problems of hers and when she discovers one particular lesbian romance novel from 1956, she becomes obsessed with the characters and decides that she needs to uncover the true identity of the author. This obsession literally takes over her life and while I understood her struggle with being helpless about her home or love life, it did make her slightly petulant and very neglectful about her studies. I could feel for her desperation to keep things okay, but it also made me slightly unsympathetic towards her because of the way she went about it all.

The timeline in 1955 follows Janet, the author of Abby’s new favorite novel and this was a very compelling look into the times. The wonder when Janet first discovers a lesbian novel herself (or even sees the word lesbian for the first time) or when she realizes that there are other people like her out in the world is captured beautifully. She can be a bit impulsive and sometimes even naive, probably due to her sheltered upbringing, but once she gets to know more about herself or others like her, she decides on her path forward and never wavers from her convictions. She is quite brave in that she wants to live a life being true to herself despite the whole world telling her that it is wrong and I was amazed at her strength in such a young age. Her story is definitely what kept me going with this book.

The writing is good but not enough to keep me engaged throughout. I preferred the 50s timeline because Janet was a much more intriguing protagonist and the stakes felt quite high in her narrative. Even when Abby is trying to find the mystery behind “Marian Love”, I wanted her to solve it as much as she did, but the way her character is written made the journey less enjoyable for me. There is also not a lot that happens for more than half of the book, but the last 25-30% is very exciting when the two timelines converge and definitely what makes the book a memorable read.

The amount of research that the author must have done also shows in every page and this was one of the most informative fiction books I’ve read in recent times. We get some great insight into the queer culture of the 50s, about the Lavender scare when scores of LGBT+ people were discriminated against and fired from their jobs for being immoral and subversive, and about the small communities that they still managed to form to support each other despite the whole world being against them. The two timelines also give us a picture about how far we have come in the fight for equality and how much more we have to do. I especially liked that Abby and her friends have the acceptance from their families which Janet never had, but how this also makes them more politically aware and engage in activism themselves.

This book may not hit the mark all the way through but I still think it’s an important read and I would recommend it to everyone. It’s also really an ode to the power of words and stories, and how the courage of authors to tell them can have an impact on so many others.
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3,556 reviews259 followers
June 27, 2020
I've only read two Robin Talley books now, but I think she's going to be one of my favorite authors. I like her brand of queer historical fiction. It's quite educational while also very engaging and that's no different for Pulp by Robin Talley. I like that she gives us resources to begin to do our own research on the history that she's writing about. She handles the dual timelines expertly, but in the end I was much more interested in Janet's story. I can't wait to check out more of Talley's work in the future.
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