JenReadsRomance's Reviews > The State of Us

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson
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did not like it
Read 2 times. Last read May 25, 2020.

This thing is full of spoilers without tags. Enter at your own risk.


PLOT: So the book starts with 17 year olds Dre & Dean with their parents at a debate. The boys get trapped into the Green Room with no wifi while something vague is happening outside that turns out to be nothing. They end up deciding to be friends, but use an encrypted texting app to do it.

Characterization wise: So, I guess I have a whole lot of questions about Dre's background. He basically has no real cultural or ethnic identity, except being proud that his Dad will be the first Mexican-American president if he wins. There is **absolutely nothing** about how connected he is to his identity as a Mexican American. However, he is openly out. At one point he thinks that Dean's Mom will try and criminalize his identity saying, "Your Mom also thinks people like me don't deserve the same rights as everyone else" meaning that he is queer, but for some reason he doesn't at this time think about what Republicans think about Mexico, the wall, border camps, etc.

Dean on the other hand is a portrayed as preppy vegetarian. He is on the ace spectrum but doesn't really know how to define that for himself. His journey to understanding himself as demisexual and also gay (he tells Dre every person he developed sexual attraction towards were other men) is problematic, as outlined in a twitter thread by the person who did a sensitivity read, and she pointed out that the has stereotypical ace representation, portraying Dean as "robotic" and that it's overall lacking depth. But when he texts Dre his feelings about that, it's like...lol, not like texts from a kid, telling Dre "this isn't a simple case of adolescent ennui." To me (a cis het lady who has spent 20 years teaching adolescents and with a 17 year old son)...he didn't "sound" like a kid as much as like the voice of an adult author helping to explain his complex identity to readers. YMMV.

As for their parents, this is where shit is real foul. Dean reassures us many times that his mother is ABSOLUTELY SINCERE in all the things she believes. And so although earlier Dre's friend makes a laundry lists of things she supports "for profit prisons, overturning gay marriage, guns, continued criminalization of marijuana, tax breaks for big corporations", it's okay I guess because she really believes in it. Also, in a move that REALLY MADE ME BIG MAD, Dean notes how truly unfair it is that she is judged for her appearance as a woman while male politicians are not. So, she's a Republican in 2020 and actively working against women in every way, but the author paints her here as suffering for being a woman. Zero mention of how her platform will hurt all the other women in the country.

Meanwhile, Dre mostly talks about his Dad as being MIA, how much he misses him, and how much of a bummer it is that he doesn't have a chance to bond with his Dad anymore. So -- all the sympathy points go to RepublicanMom as a parent and as a person.

The bad guy is the 3rd party candidate, clearly meant to be a mashup of like Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos, and he conveniently spouts the current terrible rhetoric of the Republican party. For example, Dean thinks, "No one wanted to listen to my MOther discuss how to battle the opioid crisis when McMann was shouting about Chinese immigrants stealing American jobs and suggesting most of them were probably spies anyway." This seems like such a cheap dodge to assign the hard core entrenched racism of the Republican party to this 3rd party candidate. Expcially if you were to swap out the word Mexican for Chinese and criminals for spies--and you have the actual spoken words of our current Republican president.

Dre's Mom is the voice of "reason." When Dre asks if it's possible "for people who disagree on basically everything to be friends" she tells him, "You know your father and I don't agree on everything...but trying to understand people we disagree with is how we learn and grow."

ANYWAYS. MORE LATER.

It's kind of hurting me to read this book. So after reading the first half, I just skipped to the last 4 or 5 chapters, because I was curious how the author was going to wrap up this fucking disaster.

Basically, the bad guy/3rd party candidate owns the app and was able to see what they were doing/saying, etc, and decided to blackmail them and the kids get back at him, yada yada.

However, the last two chapters of the book are the wrap up to that cartoon villain plot, and they play out like this: the fact that the Dre and Dean are in love is revealed to the world. At the next debate, they are sitting together and the moderator asks their parents, the candidates, how they feel. And it's this warm fuzzy moment of acceptance for them. And god knows kids deserve this. Queer teens deserve books where parents give full-throated acceptance to their identities. Each parent proclaims their love for their child and Dean's Mom says, "love is the bridge that keeps us connected...Now seeing as our sons aren't running for President, why don't we talk about some real issues."

Real issues? Hi, fuck you.

But you know what, this author specifically chose to have the character saying those words be the Republican candidate for president in 2020. There is no hint in her speech that this changes HER POLITICS or the way she intends to treat other queer people. You'll notice that I have continued to *not* discuss any of this in light of Dre's cultural, racial, and ethnic identity as Mexican American---because from what I read, this is just simply not important to the author in any way. This is upsetting in ways I cannot even say, this erasure. And I would just encourage you to listen to the many voices of people of color when they express their concerns about how white authors write characters of color.

Finally, and this is one of those things where you can tell the author really thought he did something. The last chapter ends with the election in the past...but with us not knowing who won. Dre and Dean are at different colleges and still together, but the question of which parent is in the White House is unresolved. The author's message could not be more clear: see, it doesn't matter who wins as long as love conquers all. And the pure absolute fury I felt at this is, again, hard to name.

Yes, being with the people we love matters. But publishing this book in this election year and being so mealy-mouthed? No one forced the author to take this on. This is the premise that HE decided on in the year of our lord 2020, and this is what he did with it: "I guess it doesn't matter who wins the 2020 election as long as I have you" is the greatest statement of privilege there is. [edited to add: the copyright of this book is with Harper Collins publishers, not the author. This means that this is a premise that HC shopped out to this author. So, he basically got paid to write a premise that someone else created, likely looking to cash in on the RWRB phenom. I still don't feel any sympathy for this author, and this book is honestly even worse now that I know this fact. But I do feel like it's worth pointing out.]

To put this book in the hands of kids feels like it would do great harm.

PS. I made it clear how much of the book I read and I stand by this review. If you don't like it, you can, as always, choose to read it yourself.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 25, 2020 – Started Reading
May 25, 2020 – Shelved
May 25, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Ekaterine (new)

Ekaterine Xia Jen, thank you so much for reading this and writing a review.
I ...it hurts to read the review, so I can't imagine how awful it was to read the book itself.


message 2: by Tife (new) - rated it 1 star

Tife I'm sorry you had to read the book. Also this is the second book I've heard about in the past week that attempts to make us sympathize with bigots and I don't understand this fixation in big 2020


message 3: by Rhode (new)

Rhode Wondering how sick the cover artist feels inside if they were not aware of what ugliness the book contains. I mean, imagine your beautiful design being used to entice teens to buy something this bad for them?


message 4: by Lu (new)

Lu I'm actually so sorry that you read this book?? reading this review made me cringe so hard?? like how is this acceptable?? but i'm super thankful for this review at the same time because I'd just done a post on my blog about upcoming releases,,, and regretfully.. this book was on that list. (obviously it has been removed, thanks to this review that my friend told me about!!) i'm so thankful that you wrote this & it stopped me from promoting such a harmful book dressed up in a pretty premise and cover. we have absolutely no room for books like this <3


message 5: by Izzy (new)

Izzy i almost want to read this book just to be able to write a rant review eventually, but i also don't want to support/promote its content in any way. so i'm living vicariously through the words you've already written. thank you for that!


message 6: by Haruko reads (new)

Haruko reads Thank you for writing such a detailed, thoughtful review. I've liked Hutchinson's work in the past, but the premise of this book made me wary, and it helps to hear specific examples of what to expect in this book. Now I know my suspicions were reasonable.


message 7: by Joharis (new)

Joharis Thanks so much for a thorough review. I had it on my tbr because it sounded like Red White and Royal blue but seeing as how a Latinx kid's identity is just ignored and his life is told through the lens of a white author is... Yikes


message 8: by Jo (new)

Jo WOW.


message 9: by Tess (new)

Tess I saw stuff on twiter abt this but didn't know what book it was til now. Thanks for your review!


message 10: by Jess (new)

Jess Maggio You are the hero we need right now. So sorry you had to read a shitty book.


message 11: by Abhay (new) - added it

Abhay omg thank you for this review.


message 12: by V (new)

V The him not talking like a teen is an issue w Hutchinson's books, I saw the same with The 5 Stages of Andrew Brawley


message 13: by Ruthie (new)

Ruthie I've had this book on my to-read list since like october but I'm just gonna... tap that remove from shelf option ASAP 😬 thank you for this review you've saved me from this shitshow


message 14: by Whitney (new)

Whitney All I saw was a one paragraph synopsis on Goodreads and I knew this was going to be some bullshit. I’m on the fence after this review if I want to read it because it’s a mess or if I don’t because I’m appalled at the thought that someone wrote this, someone ELSE read it and thought it should be published and they sent it to a team of people who thought it was so good that people would pay to read it 😬


message 15: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian This review is so spot on! I felt every word of it, and I sure as hell agree with them.


message 16: by mya ˳✧༚ (new)

mya ˳✧༚ Omg thanks for this review so I don’t waste my time on this


Your Local Zannie I think dean talks like an adult because it’s part of his personality


Randi Ryan Literally any other election year. I will be the first to admit I didn't start caring about politics until 2018, but with the hell being raised right now, I cannot stand behind a "whatever politics you believe in is ok" story. Thanks for the review. Definitely a library pick, for when I need rant fodder


message 19: by Louise (new)

Louise Thank you for this review. I read the synopsis and I was considering reading but I’m definitely going to give it a miss now.


message 20: by Mahoshy (new) - added it

Mahoshy Carter Thank you for this review 👏🏼👏🏼
I HATED THIS BOOK and I couldn’t force my self to finish it
So I read the last two chapters
I kept thinking about Red White and Royal Blue and comparing these two stories
RWRB was amaazing ❤️ so I dropped this one and reread RWRB again


message 21: by Viva (last edited Dec 20, 2020 10:32AM) (new) - added it

Viva Well, based on your review, I'm not going to read this book. I can't take anymore Republican ish this year. The idea that we should just accept other peoples' political views and all be friends when those views hurts huge swaths of people is sickening.


message 22: by Ava (new) - rated it 1 star

Ava Thank you for your review, sadly I read the book before reading the review. I’ve never wanted to destroy a book more than I wanted to this one. I had such high expectations for this book, I was so excited for a queer poc as a main character. Although his ethnicity was completely thrown aside. This author used the 2020 election year to make money and I hate that. Please for the love of gosh do not read this book. Of course unless you want to talk trash about it with me :)


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