Posts Tagged With: relationships

His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass

by Philip Pullman

The final book in the trilogy follows Will as he tries to find Lyra, who is being kept in a permanent state of sleep by Mrs Coulter. In her dream state, Lyra communicates with her dead friend Roger, and she forms a plan to travel with Will into the afterlife to help him. Meanwhile, Mary Malone has stumbled upon an opening into a fantastical world with strange creatures who take her in as their friend and maybe saviour. Lord Asriel continues his plot to undermine the Authority, and Mrs Coulter struggles with her newfound emotional attachment to her daughter. A lot happens.

You may have noticed that I stopped reviewing books for a while. That is because of this book. Even though I am a fast reader, it took me ages to finish this book. As much as I loved it, it was almost too creative to read. I would start reading it and then get distracted and have to go create something of my own or just stare into space contemplating love or the universe or something. In the His Dark Materials series, I felt the momentum stall in the second book with the introduction of Will, who I couldn’t bring myself to care about. Everything picked up in this book, though, and I became really invested in his character and his relationship with Lyra. I loved all of the characters, even if I felt nothing for them in the previous books. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the writing is. The descriptions of the action, the different worlds, and the different peoples are so vivid I felt like I was watching this book instead of reading it. This series is definitely going on my re-read shelf, even though I think it will take me forever to get through it all again.

Obviously recommended to people who have already read the first two books. To anyone who may have given up over the course of the series like I did, I urge you to read on because it’s definitely worth it.

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Almost Perfect

by Brian Katcher

Logan is still smarting from his break-up with Brenda, his chaste girlfriend of three years who cheated on him in the backseat of a car with some random dude. His friends try to convince him to ask out someone new, but he isn’t interested–until Sage Hendricks transfers to his school. She’s cute, she’s weird, and she seems really interested, but some secret from her past is keeping her from being anything more than friends with Logan. Everyone thinks they’re together, and Logan wishes they were… until he kisses Sage and she tells him her secret: she was assigned male at birth. Logan freaks out about what this means for him, but as Sage remains part of his life, he starts to think about what it means for her and what it doesn’t have to mean for them.

I’m really happy a book like this exists (even though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, which I’ll get into later). It’s not a great book for a trans person to read, because it is so much about the ungenerous things ignorant people think when they first encounter a trans woman, but it’s a great premise for a reader who still has a lot to ponder about trans issues. Logan is a hick, and his response to Sage’s revelation is horrible, but pretty realistic. He worries that it means he’s gay, he worries that others will think it means he’s gay, he thinks Sage tricked him, he grapples with the image he has of Sage’s body. He treats her like dirt, and I wanted something better for Sage, but I appreciated the realism. Logan evolves realistically over the course of the novel, but he’s still not perfect by the end, which I liked even though I still didn’t like him. I loved Sage and I thought she was a really well-rounded character, especially for a trans character in an issues book, since they usually treat “problem characters” like Sage as props for the “normal” main character’s emotional journey.

What I absolutely hated about the book was all the racism. Some of it was unnecessary characterization of Logan’s friends: Sam is a fat Japanese-American who is compared to Buddha more than once; Jack is a white kid whose favourite joke is an “Engrish” pun. But the worst instance of racism in the book was Logan’s description of going to a frat party:

Approaching Greek Town was like riding up to an encampment of angry Indians. I could hear their war cries long before I saw them.

None of these descriptions or characterizations are valuable in any way, and it frustrates me that they were not edited out of this otherwise valuable book. Yes, a lot of LGBT-themed YA books are about middle- or lower-class white teenagers, and as problematic as I find that I will still recommend those books to teens. I’m so desperate for good trans YA fiction that I probably would have still recommended this to teens with the racist characterizations of Sam and Jack. But the “encampment of angry Indians” bit is inexcusable.

With great regret, I have to say that I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

edit: Definitely did not think this review would ever find its way to Brian Katcher. He seems like a decent fellow and he took my criticism seriously, so I’d definitely give his next book a chance. I’ve removed a line I wrote about the award this book received, because while I still have problems with race issues being overlooked in LGBT book awards, it was a pretty mean thing to write.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson

by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson is a silent, stoic Chicagoan teen with two rules: 1) Don’t care. 2) Shut up. His current state of near friendlessness is due in part to his having broken those rules. He never should have signed the letter he sent to the paper defending his gay friend Tiny’s right to play on the school football team. Now his only friends are Tiny and the people Tiny hangs out with at the GSA. Tiny, who is obsessed with love, keeps trying to hook him up with Jane, whom Will doesn’t even like… he thinks.

will grayson is a clinically depressed closeted gay teen living in the suburbs outside of chicago. he has one thing in this world that keeps him from killing himself and everyone around him: his internet boyfriend, isaac. too bad maura, the goth chick he hangs out with at school, doesn’t get that he would never choose to be her friend if they weren’t both outcasts stuck together like prisoners in the same school. will doesn’t tell her about isaac, or his plans to finally meet up with isaac in chicago, but she keeps trying to insert herself into his personal life.

When the two Wills cross paths in Chicago, their lives become intertwined and start to move in a new direction.

This book was so compelling that I read it in one day. The chapters with the first Will Grayson were properly capitalized, while the other will grayson’s chapters were all lower case. The lower case chapters were my favourite, and I found the netspeak used between will and isaac to be super genuine (except when things were italicized). A lot of books with queer characters only use gay guys as a foil for straight characters, and show homophobia in a didactic way that shows the presumably straight reader how they should act towards others. This book was refreshingly real and didn’t prioritize one Will’s development over the other, like so many books that focus on one straight character and one gay character do. It isn’t a typical straight book or gay book in that respect.

This could be an enjoyable read for teens who like realistic fiction, regardless of gender or sexuality; however, since it does focus on friendships and relationships between the characters, it will appeal to those who like character-driven books more than action- or comedy-fueled ones.

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Boyfriends with Girlfriends

by Alex Sanchez

This was the first book I’ve read by Alex Sanchez, and it wasn’t all that bad. Lance and Allie are friends. Sergio and Kimiko are friends. Lance is gay and has never dated a guy. Allie is straight and has a boyfriend. Sergio is bisexual and is curious about trying a relationship with a boy instead of just hooking up. Kimiko is a lesbian who has never dated a girl because she doesn’t want to be a bad daughter. When Lance and Sergio decide to meet irl, they bring along their best girl buds, who hit it off just as well as they do. But can Lance get over Sergio’s bisexuality? Can Sergio allow himself to be in a relationship after his last one failed so miserably? Can Allie figure out her new feelings for Kimiko? Can Kimiko get over her bad self esteem long enough to see that Allie is really into her?

The entire book could be one sentence long: “These two sets of friends like each other but aren’t sure if the other person likes them enough, but then they do and it’s ok.” There’s a whole bunch of forced diversity, with “cultural insights” that seem ill informed (Allie loves Japanese things, and Kimiko is soooo grateful to meet someone who is excited about meeting a Japanese person in America). As I assume is the case with all of Alex Sanchez’s books, there’s a lot of idealistic plot points. Ultimately everyone gains acceptance and lives in a gay wonderland. A short book, and one of the only ones I’ve read where male bisexuality is considered to be a valid sexual identity, so it gets some props. Plus, the people on the cover actually look like the characters in the book!

A good enough read for guys or gals wanting to read queer teen relationship books.

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