Ash Rocketship's Reviews > We Contain Multitudes

We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, 2020

I don't even know where to start with this, honestly, and I should probably wait longer than twenty minutes after I finished it to try to write about it, but I'm not sure I've ever been knocked on my ass so spectacularly before. The writing in this is really beautiful, with two distinct voices from well-developed narrators. There is so, so much tenderness and care here that it was almost painful and I ended up crying as much at the good things as I did the brutal and painful things. There is so much pain here, different kinds and different manifestations, and different layers for the narrators and the people they bring into their letters and their lives and while it is sometimes genuinely, viscerally brutal, the pain isn't ever the point, the coping and the getting beyond it always is. I love Jo and I love Kurl and I love Mark and Bron and Sylvan and Shayna and Lyle and Abigail Cuttler. The personalities are so rich here and the characters are making mistakes constantly, but there is always the sense that people are trying, trying to do right by the people they love, trying not to hurt them, and it's really the heart of everything that makes the story worth telling. The way the letters change and adapt as the characters do is really incredibly impressive. Epistolary stories can be so, so hard, but it works so well here that it faded away like the best narrative frames do.

The conceit of the letters and the poetry would have maybe seemed... Hokey? To me at some points in my life, when I was less open-hearted and more likely to dismiss things that weren't cool or made you seem like you cared too much and I am so, so glad that I am old and tender-hearted at the same moment this book exists and I got to experience this and invest myself in it so wholly. I wouldn't have known I was missing out on it, but man, I would have been.

Most of all I'm so grateful that this is a book for teenagers that tells them it's okay to be the fucked up version of themselves, that they'll grow and change, that there are solutions to their problems even if it seems impossible, that there are people for them, who will love them in all the ways that a person needs love, that sex is good and fun and awkward and can be had without the world falling apart, that there are adults on their side even if they're flawed, that even the darkest parts of them deserve care, that there is hope. It also tells adults all of those things too, even when maybe we've forgotten that we need to be told them at all.
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Reading Progress

May 14, 2020 – Started Reading
May 14, 2020 – Shelved
May 14, 2020 –
page 11
2.92% "do you know how good it feels to read about a queer high school kid who is self-possessed and sure of themselves?? i could float rn"
May 14, 2020 –
page 70
18.57% "i need you to understand that this book has already made me go completely fucking feral and i'm going to THROW mYSELF down a WELL but in a good way"
May 15, 2020 – Shelved as: favorites
May 15, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020
May 15, 2020 – Finished Reading

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