#QueerLitStories: Finding Myself: Bi & Russian Rep in Books and More

queer lit stories

This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.

Today’s post is by my friend Sasha, a book reviewer from Russia. It talks about her relationship with various queer media (not just books!) and about her being Russian and bisexual. Thank you Sasha for your post!

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Hello, I’m Sasha, I’m 23 years old and I’m so grateful Silvia has given me spot on her blog to talk about books I saw myself represented in.

I am Russian, I was born in Russia and I’m currently living there. I identify as bisexual. It’s been almost three year since I discovered I’m not straight.

The first book in which I ever saw two parts of my identity represented was in Abroad by Liz Jacobs. It’s an ownvoices book by Russian Jewish queer author. The protagonist Nickolay Melnikov is gay and Russian and he’s the best thing that happened. Even though he immigrated to the States and he’s a gay man, I instantly connected with him. It was incredible to see myself in the book like that, never have I been able to see these two parts of me in a book. The author manages to convey all those conflicted parts of our identity, with deeply rooted homophobia into the culture, importance of family and how it internalizes homophobia and how stressful it could be to open up.

It’s worth noting the book has a bisexual female main character Izzy and she discovered that she’s not straight pretty much at the same time I did, during her last year at university. I related a lot to Izzy in this sense, but I’ve got to admit my own Gay Discovery was less dramatic.

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour hit me with all the feels of grief. A queer girl grieving the death of her grandfather and running away from her problems is the story written specifically for me. While we’re on the topic of grief, Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me is masterpiece for many reasons and among them a queer boy grieving the death of his ex-boyfriend was so heart-breaking and genuine. The portrayal of grief in these two books is phenomenal.

The first ever bisexual character I saw in book was Magnus Bane in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. The Shadowhunters Chronicles mean the world to me, because they led me to the friends I now have and being part of bookish community. Magnus Bane was a revelation, I don’t think I was even aware of a word “bisexual” before that book or that bi was a valid sexuality. Back when I read City of Bones I didn’t know I’m bi but Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood were an impulse to push me to research LGBTQIAP+ and specifically look for books with not-straight characters.

I have come across various queer representation since that first book and, of course, not all of them were good. The most negative experience I’ve had is the lack of queer representation. I know it’s a popular believe that no rep is better than bad rep, I’m living in Russia and all the media that I consume (i.e. TV with my father every day) is blatantly glaringly straight, so that’s perhaps the reason I am less opinionated on queer and bisexual rep in particular, because I crave it so badly and I want it in any shape and form I can get. Thus the most negative experience I can acquire from reading the book is to see no queer people at all.

To end the post on a positive note, I want to talk about queer rep in non-bookish media.

Podcasts! This is a very creative and inclusive form of storytelling. I adore The Bright Sessions and the casual way the writer Lauren Shippen introduces the sexuality of the characters in a “Oh yeah Mark is bisexual moving on with the plot” way. Or the thoughtful and genuine way of a teenage boy discovering he likes another boy type of story. This representation means so much to me because no matter how many times I hear that my sexuality is valid, it’s still hard. Seeing amazing queer characters doing wonderful and brave things builds up confidence and make me less afraid.

One of my new favorite fictional podcasts is The Penumbra Podcast (stories about queer characters by queer creators!). Juno Steel is the main character, Juno is bisexual disaster with avoidant type of personality, which is hi hello it’s me. Juno is frankly a mess, but! Seeing flawed imperfect queer character making it through and saving the day is inspiring beyond any words.

Another form of media that has been a big part of my life for ages is anime. The Yuri On Ice anime created something very important to me. It made me feel that being Russian okay. To elaborate, nobody told me being a Russian is wrong, but I consume American-centric and USA-made media, I used to be active on English part of tumblr and now I’m on English twitter with a huge focus on USA internal affairs. As you can imagine Russia doesn’t have a good rep there (for valid reasons but this post isn’t about that). This post is about me and I can say that before Yuri On Ice I was uncomfortable saying I’m Russian. It’s not that I didn’t feel proud but Russia has a terrible image and I honestly thought people wouldn’t want to talk to me if they knew where I’m from. Victor Nikiforov is a Russian queer brilliant figure skater who’s happily engaged with fellow figure skater Yuri Katsuki. This is huge. Victor is nothing like me, but people loved him and they accepted and loved him being Russian and I thought maybe people would like me too? I can’t say how much of this perception was faulty or not, but I know for sure after Yuri On Ice, after Victor Nikiforov, Yuri Plisetsky etc I started feeling comfortable sharing this part of my identity with the internet.

Thank you, Silvia, for giving me an opportunity to talk about myself and queer content, my two true passions.

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Find Sasha:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sasha_and_books

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/40511295-aleksandra

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Series review: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

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Welcome to another series review! I love doing these but I’m really lazy so I just don’t happen to be writing them often. But once in a while I come across books that are such a great reading experience as a whole, so instead of doing single reviews I love talking about why I loved them, talking about the character arcs (that often happens throughout the whole series and not just in the single installments), and convincing people to read them.

First of all, I LOVED THIS SERIES SO MUCH OK. This was my first Rick Riordan series ever. I didn’t know much of what I could expect but I pretty much can’t name one thing I didn’t like in the whole three books. Since I finished them (which was almost…..four months ago yikes) I’ve actually started reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians so if there is something that I can now add about this series in relation to Riordan’s previous work is that this is like a more diverse and woke version of Percy Jackson and I loved every bit of it.

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There’s a common thread along the three books and it’s all about trying to delay Ragnarok (the final battle that will destroy all the nine worlds), which Loki wants to initiate. There’s also a series of subplots at the core of each installment. It’s a very plot/action driven series because it’s meant to be entertaining for a younger audience and as someone who doesn’t care that much about plot/action scenes, let me tell you that this was absolutely great and fun to read. It’s also a perfect balance of plot and character development (which I’ll get to in a bit) so I can’t really complain about anything here.

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As we follow the plot we get to learn a lot about Norse mythology and some of its most famous figures, be it giants or gods. Basically Magnus starts out by knowing very little about it and we follow his journey into the Norse myths.

I started this series with absolute zero knowledge of Norse mythology (like, I had a very basic and blurred idea of who Thor was, maybe I knew Odin was like the Main Dude, and I didn’t really know what Loki’s deal was at all…yeah that’s how ignorant I was leave me alone we don’t learn Norse mythology in Italy which is a shame but that’s a discussion for another time) but I absolutely fell in love with it and I really wanted to know more.

Because of my ignorance, I read the series without really knowing how accurate some things were, and I just sort of assumed that some myths were simplified and/or not accurate at all. But after reading, because I became so fascinated with some of the characters and I wanted to know more, I started audiobooking Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and a lot of the myths he wrote about are actually the same as they were explained or portrayed in the Magnus Chase trilogy. So I think it’s safe to say that it was pretty accurate.

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Magnus Chase is the protagonist and we meet him as a homeless teenager. Something happens, and he’s brought to Valhalla by Samirah. The story is entirely told from his point of view (in first person), so we get an idea pretty soon of his personality and his coping mechanisms (mainly sarcasm and irony). I found him to be a perfect narrator, with enough introspection and empathy to understand the other characters’ perspectives, but he can also be a bit clueless and awkward sometimes (relatable). Also, because I know you’re all wondering, yes he is related to Annabeth Chase.

Samirah al-Abbas is the Valkyrie that brings Magnus to Valhalla, and she becomes his friend. She’s also a Muslim and wears a hijab and this is addressed multiple times throughout the trilogy, especially since Magnus (who’s an atheist) often has questions about her faith (and he is always respectful of it). Samirah is always ready to help and fight for her friends and even in the most difficult situations she finds strength in her faith, which I found pretty good to see even as an atheist myself.

Hearthstone and Blitzen are two of Magnus’ friends from his days of being homeless, and they follow him in his adventures. Hearth is an Elf and Blitz is a Dwarf and the two are very close friends. (There’s canonically nothing more to their relationship than a deeply rooted friendship but I’m pretty sure they’re at the very least platonic boyfriends, but that’s just my opinion.) Hearthstone is also deaf and mute and he communicates through sign language, which Blitzen and Magnus (and several other characters) know how to speak (others simply learn it along the way).

Alex Fierro is the only one of the main characters who’s introduced only in book two. I’m going to be using she/her pronouns for her in this post because that’s what she uses most of the time, but she is genderfluid and sometimes uses he/him pronouns. I loved her so much, she is sassy and fierce and doesn’t take crap from anybody. She has fully embraced her heritage (on the gods side) and has made it her strength instead of letting it be something to be ashamed or scared of.

Thomas Jefferson Jr. (TJ), Halfborn Gunderson and Mallory Keen are all einherjar and live on floor 19 of Hotel Valhalla, the same floor where Magnus and then later Alex are assigned. These three characters are present in all the books but they are explored more in the last book, where they all get a full backstory.

One thing I love is how the different characters participate in different quests, and since there are so many subplots and adventures, Magnus has the chance to talk and form a deeper bond with each of them. Sure, some characters are more present than others, but there isn’t one single relationship that is seen as more important than others throughout the narrative (which I feel it’s something that happens fairly often in YA). I’m actually impressed by the development that all of these characters got and how well they were portrayed, even from Magnus’ limited point of view.

One of the main themes is the found family trope, which I absolutely love. A lot of the parents that appear here are downright awful (Loki is one of them but not the only bad parent) or at the very least absent (being gods and all), so it’s nice that the characters are able to find and make their own family.

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Magnus calls himself an atheist on page. I start with this because he’s the protagonist and because being an atheist myself it meant so much to me to see myself represented this way, which is something that never really happens. (A discussion post on atheist representation in books is coming soon). He also mentions many times that he doesn’t like physical contact, and it’s only after scary situations that he allows for it to happen (only a few times he hugs/is hugged by his closest friends). His sexuality is not specified but I believe it falls somewhere on the pansexual/panromantic spectrum.

Samirah, as I mentioned before, is a practicing Muslim. In the third book she goes through her quest while observing Ramadan and throughout the trilogy she has a few conversations with Magnus about her faith but also her faith isn’t the only thing about her. I am not Muslim myself but from what I could tell I feel like this was good representation, and I also haven’t seen reviews that said this was in any way bad.

Alex Fierro is genderfluid and of Mexican heritage. I feel like both aspects were handled in a good way, especially the genderfluid part (but also keep in mind that I’m not genderfluid myself). She actually introduces herself right away saying she’s genderfluid and transgender, and she’s about to scold Magnus for staring at her but he quickly says that that’s not the reason why he’s looking. Magnus also mentions how during his homeless days he has met many transgender and genderfluid kids who couldn’t live in their homes anymore, just like Alex (she too has lived as homeless for a few years before becoming an einherji). She is also Magnus’ love interest.

Both Blitzen and TJ are black. Blitzen is a dwarf and he was born and lived his life in Niflheim so he doesn’t have history of racism, but TJ is the son of a freed slave during the Civil War and we learn of the struggles he’s gone through while he was alive.

Hearthstone is a lifelong victim of psychological abuse by his father. It was actually very hard to read and his story takes up a good chunk of books two and three, so be aware of it if this is something potentially triggering to you. Like I mentioned, he’s also deaf and mute and he talks through sign language, which almost all other characters also speak or learn in order to be able to communicate with him directly.

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If you’ve read other books from the Riordan universe, you will like this, especially if you thought that the earlier series needed more diversity. Being in the middle of the PJO series myself, I feel like Riordan kept his PJO formula and adapted it to different characters and a different set of gods, and made it so more kids could relate to one or more characters, ones that aren’t white, allocishet, or able-bodied.

So whether you’re nostalgic of the Percy Jackson experience or you’ve never read another Riordan series, I highly recommend this to everyone. The series is targeted to middle graders / the younger side of young adults, but I’ve read it at twent-*coughs while a loud train passes by* and I found it so enjoyable and I wish I could have read it when I was younger.

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Have you read this series? What did you think of it? Are you a life-long Riordan fan? Do you like series reviews like this or do you prefer single installments reviews? Let me know below ♥

#QueerLitStories: Even Side Characters Can Help

queer lit stories

This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.

Today’s post is by my friend Syd. It shows that sometimes the representation is so scarce that even a minor character can have a huge impact on you. Thank you so much Syd for your post!

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When Silvia had tweeted that she was going to do a guest post series on her blog all about queer representation in books – good or bad – I was ecstatic. I wasn’t quite sure if I actually wanted to do it, but #QueerLitStories seemed like such a great idea.

And then I thought about what book I would talk about if I did a guest post for this, and my mind couldn’t help but immediately go to The Upside of Unrequited.

I’ve questioned and changed my identity several times, but just recently I came out as pansexual and I believe it truly is the identity that fits me. I’ve read very few books with pansexual representation, but the book that first made me question whether I’m pan and has the best pan rep in my opinion is Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited, specifically Mina, the protagonist’s sister’s girlfriend who is pansexual. I actually cried when it said that word on the page. Queerness is often so stigmatized; people will never say the actual word “gay” or “trans” or another thing on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum, so when I read “pansexual” on the page of The Upside of Unrequited, I legitimately cried.

The thing about Mina, though, is that she’s not even a main character. She’s barely even a side character. And yet, I felt so well-represented in this book. That’s the importance of representation, that so many people don’t understand. It can help you in so many ways. Of course, Mina wasn’t 100% me – she’s Asian; I’m Middle Eastern – but that’s perfectly okay! I know that not all characters with one of my identities aren’t going to completely represent me.

Also, when I read The Upside of Unrequited, I didn’t even identify as pansexual at that time. It helped me so, so much. I read it almost a year ago, when I was a newbie to the book community and the queer community as well. I couldn’t describe my feelings, because everyone in my life would resent them, tell me I’m just in a phase, tell me I’m just bi, etc. But this book…it gave me so much hope. I love it to death. The importance of representation, y’all. It’s amazing. I’ll never comprehend how people don’t understand the huge importance of diversity in media. If it weren’t for this book, I probably would have repressed my emotions and said I was bi or a lesbian instead, when I’m not. I am pansexual. I am pansexual. I am pansexual. 💖💛💙

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Find Syd:

#QueerLitStories: Not A Bisexual

queer lit stories

This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.

Today’s guest post is by Annie Bear. Her post focuses on how a certain label can feel wrong for you even if you fit the theoretical definition for it. Thank you Annie for your post!

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Ever since coming out 8 years ago, I have simply called myself ‘gay’. I never felt a huge need to label exactly what type of gay I was, though society kept asking the question. I would tell some people I was lesbian and then they would start judging the fact I had been with men before coming out. I would tell some people I was bi and they would start thinking I was a cheater or just experimenting. Telling people I was gay left too much information to the person to decide who I was for myself rather than letting me define my own self. I have always seen ‘gayness’ as a spectrum. Some people are on the completely heterosexual side of the spectrum, and some are on the completely homosexual side of it. There are many places in between the two sides, and I find myself somewhere in the middle. I’m not exactly a 50/50 bisexual, and most people you meet aren’t. Bisexual is a loose term for people who find themselves attracted to both genders. You could be 90% attracted to men and only 10% attracted to women and be considered a bisexual, or it could be the exact opposite, or any other fraction of the two, or you could be attracted to both men, women, and non-binary genders. I don’t know my exact numbers and to some of my friends, its a game they play guessing what they are. When I’m crushing on a guy they start saying I’m 90/10 in favor of men. If I’m crushing on a woman they say I’m 70/30 in favor of women. I never thought either of those fractions accurately described me but its a game they play and think is funny.

When I first came out I had to learn the harsh reality of telling my straight friends I was bisexual. Or the unfortunate experience of telling men or women in bars I was bisexual. Men saw it as a challenge, that ‘one night with me will make you straight’ or that I would go have a threesome with them, and women thought I was too green for them and not really gay. None of these ideas had any glimmer of truth behind them and yet men kept expressing these thoughts. Just because I’d date a man doesn’t mean that I am ‘cured’ or ‘straight again. No matter what gender I am dating, my attraction to women or men doesn’t disappear. Despite who I’m dating my sexual orientation is the same, it doesn’t change even if I marry and stay with one gender for the rest of my life. A straight person doesn’t erase their sexual orientation when they date someone, why do bisexuals have that stigma? Being bisexual also doesn’t mean that I am up for threesomes or polyamorous relationships. I’m a serial monogamous, I don’t shame or critique anyone who is poly, that’s part of their sexual orientation and that’s great. It’s just not mine and being labeled that and having my behavior expected to be similar to a poly person isn’t me.

Due to all these reasons, I have never said or claimed the term bisexual. I’m simply gay. I fall under the umbrella of people who aren’t straight.

Viewing my sexual orientation in this manner limits the representation in media that directly relates to me. I tend to go looking for bisexual representation instead, and to this day I still haven’t found a halfway decent representation of someone who is bisexual. Nothing I have read with a bisexual character accurately depicts the struggle that we go through in both the lgbtq+ community and out. Most bisexual characters also end up with men to ‘play it safe’ and only flirt or sleep with women on occasion. TV shows and movies use bisexual characters as a sex appeal for their storyline and not for the representation. After watching these programs I feel used and cheap and not validated.

When it comes to books, I tend to shy away from books claiming they have bisexual representation, because they tend to come off more as trope-y than anything. I find the same thing with books about lesbians. I also don’t see my sexual orientation as the most fascinating and important thing about me. Books and other forms of media and storytelling tend to focus only on who that character decides to date. I may be over critical and over analytic but there are only a small number of books that reflect how I feel about myself and about my sexual orientation.

The first ‘gay’ book I ever read is the one that most aligns with how I see myself.

Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg forever will be in my top five books ever. For me, it was a book about two women who loved each other, neither of them defined their sexuality and their town didn’t feel the need to. They just were two women who found a friendship that developed into a beautiful relationship. Their relationship and sexuality weren’t the main focus of the book either, there was a much bigger plotline or two around the pair. The whole book may seem understated to some people and not have enough ‘gayness’ in it. But to me, I will always cherish it and reflect on it as a way to understand myself more. Its the book I use when having to explain my own sexual orientation. Being not bisexual is hard to find true representation, but when I choose to label myself and look for representation in that I still fail to find anything that relates to me. Fannie Flagg herself lives a life where she is free from the labels. Having only dated women, she doesn’t label herself a lesbian. She’s a gay woman who writes, acts and lives a life outside her constant need to be labeled. Her characters share the same ideals. As do I.

My name is Annie, I am a writer, a reader, forever student, and not a bisexual.

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Find Annie:

Twitter: @annie_bear92

Bookstagram: bears_books

TV-Show Review: Everything Sucks!

Today I want to do something different since I don’t think I’ve ever done a TV show review on my blog, but I liked this one so much I thought I should try!

Everything sucks! is about a group of kids attending high school in 1996. While at the beginning it might seem that the show will follow a typical “the nerd kids are bullied by the school bullies” storyline, it’s far from that.

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In fact, a lot of the show is centered around art and creativity. What initially looks like a typical plot revolving around a school play actually turns out to be this big quest to make a movie, forcing the A/V club and the theater kids to stick together and form unlikely friendships.

While that’s what drives the story forward, the best part of the show in my opinion is the individual character arcs, especially those of the two main characters, Luke and Kate.

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Luke and Kate

Luke O’Neil is such a good male main character. He’s definitely not your typical “(white) boy thinks he’s entitled to everything” character. Luke is a freshman who starts high school together with his best friends McQuaid and Tyler, and they’re basically the outcast group.

One of the reasons I like Luke as a main character is that he definitely knows he has to work towards his goals, whether it’s about getting a girlfriend or directing a movie. That’s something I feel often is missing in male main characters. He makes mistakes, like all fourteen year olds do, and he’s sometimes as selfish as he is protective of the people he loves, but he never takes anything for granted.

His relationship with his mom was the most precious (his mom is also awesome and I’m so glad that she’s more than just a supporting character) and of course I loved his friendship with the other boys and with Kate.

Kate Messner is the other main character and she’s a girl coming to terms with the fact that she’s a lesbian. She develops a crush on school “bully” Emaline Addario, which also happens to be the protagonist of the movie they’re making (Kate is in the A/V club).

Kate’s arcs was so good to see on screen. Obviously a lot of it is about her sexuality but it’s not just about that. She’s a well-rounded character that just happens, on top of other things, to be a lesbian. She is very mature and a loyal friend. I also liked her dad (which is also the school’s principal) a lot, and I like that his own storyline and character arc were given space even though most of the show revolves around teens.

There were a lot of other random things I loved, like how when the two groups first joined, the cool theater kid basically took one of the outcast kids under his wings. They kind of reminded me of Steve and Dustin from Stranger Things.

Another thing I liked is how even the characters that were portrayed as being shallow and mean (especially Emaline) were given depth as the season went on. There was truly nobody with irredeemable qualities and there was no unnecessary girl hate.

It was also really funny, it didn’t rely on harmful tropes, it really got the whole “nineties feel” right, with all the songs and the pop culture references, and it was very bingeable. It’s only ten episodes of 20 minutes each, so it’s easy to watch it all in one afternoon. You won’t even notice how much times has passed.

I don’t know if this will get a second season but the creators definitely made it so a second season is possible. The main plotline is over, but there’s still enough open doors when it comes to character arcs.

So, I definitely recommend watching it if you can. Whether you’re looking for representation, for a nostalgic nineties feel or simply for something easy and funny to watch, you’ll most likely enjoy it.

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Have you watched this show? Do you plan on watching it? Do you think I should I write more TV series reviews (and get better at writing them lmao)?

Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

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Summary:Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

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book review - pink

★★★★.5✩

I loved this book and I’m so happy that I decided to give the second part of this series a chance.

Right from the beginning, the worldbuilding is finally tackled, which I think is was one of the problems that people had with the first three books. I personally didn’t find it a big problem in the books because Juliette was the only POV character and what she didn’t know wasn’t for the reader to know. This is made very clear right from the start of Restore Me, and her ignorance about the world and everything she got herself into is a big catalyst to the story.

However, the fact that there’s a lot more worldbuilding doesn’t take away from the very romance-y feel of the first three books. This book is literally packed with romance and it’s the kind of romance (with its ups and downs) that you can expect from an established relationship. It’s about two people who love each other but have gotten together under extreme circumstances and don’t actually know that much about each other, and they need to work towards this.

Despite me not really having reread the first three books recently, I think both Juliette and Warner felt like the same characters, especially Warner. This was great to see because it would have been too easy (and crappy) to have them both be different people just because they’re in a relationship. Also, the book starts only two weeks after the events of Ignite Me, so it’s not like they could have changed that much in that time anyway.

One of things I was most looking forward to in the book was Warner’s POV. After falling in love with him after like, two pages of the novella Destroy Me, his POV was literally what made me want to continue reading the series despite not being sure whether I would still like it. And I’m so happy to say that his POV was probably the best part of this book. His pain and grief as an abuse survivor was something I deeply related to. I can’t comment on the anxiety rep but it felt much-needed and real.

I also liked that Warnette’s relationship wasn’t the only one addressed here. Some of the other old characters aren’t completely forgotten, even though most of them are in the background, with the exception of Kenji, Adam, James and Castle.

I don’t remember much about Castle in the original trilogy to be completely honest but here he was kind of a central character and he acted as sort of an advisor to both Warner and Juliette. He felt like the archetypical mentor figure of YA that I feel has kind of been lost in the past years’ new releases. I liked that he also tried to not completely overstep his boundaries, even though I found he could have tried to help more.

Adam wasn’t very central to the plot at all but I actually loved the few scenes he had (me, loving Adam scenes? Doesn’t seem possible, yet here I am). Some of the shitty things he did in the original trilogy were addressed and I liked how he and Warner finally started to tentatively form a relationship. Also, James keeps being adorable and precious.

I left Kenji for last because he’s just the best supporting character ever. All I remembered from him is that I loved him, and now my love for him has only grown stronger. I love how supportive of Juliette he was, and he finally got some much needed bonding time with Warner. I had to laugh so much at their interactions, even when things were overall dramatic, but he’s just too fun not to love.

There are obviously also a few new side characters, and one of them I loved most of all: Nazeera is my Wife™ and I’m so happy that Juliette finally has a much needed female friendship. Nazeera is just too iconic and I can’t wait to see more of her in the next book.

This is a very character-driven book but it doesn’t lack amazing plot twists. I have to admit I had guessed the ending’s reveal at around the halfway point of the book, but I was still super invested and there was obviously more to the ending than the *reveal*, and I had to jump up and down while reading the last few chapters because y’alL WHAT WAS THAT.

There’s also the fact that I finished this in just a handful of hours on release date despite this being almost 500 pages long and that hasn’t happened in ages. So it’s safe to say that this totally kept me glued to the page and it felt so nice to have that experience again.

I wish I could end my review here but I can’t in good conscience not mention the one problem I had with this book. The next part will be more of a discussion and it got a bit long so you’re free to consider this review finished. Full list of trigger warnings at the end.

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*discussion part* 

Trigger warning for mention of transphobia in the next paragraphs:

Towards the 90% mark of the ebook (idk what page that is) a trans character is introduced. That’s great, but I found the way the character was introduced super problematic.

I will say I am a cis person and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, but this book is just too new at the point in which I’m reviewing it and I haven’t been able to find an ownvoices trans reviewer talk about this. If you find one please send it my way.

Anyway, the trans character literally only gets one or two lines of dialogue, and we wouldn’t know that she’s trans unless another side character pointed it out in a transphobic way, saying the trans character, whose name is Valentina, is “playing pretend”. The chapter where this happens is from Warner’s POV, who already knew about the character being a trans woman, but he doesn’t really do anything to defend her. Instead, Valentina has to defend herself, and then the matter is simply pushed aside to continue with the plot.

I personally found this scene very bad for a few reasons:

• the trans character is essentially outed while her twin brother is introducing her to Juliette, who hasn’t met her before
• she’s not only outed, but also all the comments that are made about her are transphobic ones
• Kenji, who has grown up in the world before the Reestablishment took control, acts confused as if he doesn’t understand what’s going on, AKA even after the character is outed he doesn’t seem to understand that she’s a trans woman. I don’t understand the purpose of his line at all.
• I think this is a weird case of “queer people used for furthering a non-queer person’s narrative”, in the sense that the transphobic comments are used in order to convince the reader that the character who’s speaking, who has previously in the book already been coded as being a generally bad person, is, in fact, a bad person. Even in the best case scenario, this is just poor writing, because there were certainly other and better ways to indicate without a doubt that this character is an asshole.

The thing is, this scene isn’t necessarily unrealistic, but I think when writing any kind of queer representation you have to ask yourself, who are you writing this for? The answer should always be that you are writing this for queer people to see themselves represented. This scene didn’t feel at all like it was written for trans people. Especially since the comments weren’t challenged at all, and it was all so sudden and unexpected that there is no way a trans reader would have time to prepare themselves to see the transphobia coming.

As I said, everything I mentioned above are things I think of as bad because if something similar (outing etc) had happened for a rep I’m ownvoices for I would be livid. Since there are no trigger warnings in the book, in this case I’m choosing not to stay in my lane in the hope to spare a trans person some hurt. I will be happy to link to trans reviewers once more people have read the book, but so far I haven’t really seen anything about this.

End of TW for transphobia

Something else I saw on twitter from an Argentinean reader is that the Spanish that Valentina and her brother speak is not actually the kind of Spanish they speak in Argentina.

Both of these issues make it clear that nobody bothered hiring sensitivity readers for both trans and Argentinean representation, and that’s something that especially big publishers keep doing. I think that’s something that more readers should demand because there’s nothing that hurts more than seeing bad rep.

TWs: mention of paste abuse, mention of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, meds abuse, anxiety, panic attack on page, unchallenged transphobic comments

Down the TBR hole #7


down the TBR hole

Down the TBR Hole is a weekly meme hosted by Lia @Lost in a Story. These are the rules:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

(I’m doing a softcore version of this, and some books will end up on my “maybe” shelf!)

TBR count after the last post: 496

Current TBR count: 496

Um I’m pretty sure I deserve a round of applause for not adding anything thanks (the truth is I did add a few books but I also read some from my TBR so they balanced themselves out)

This time I organized the post a bit differently since I found I didn’t actually know what to write about any of these books other than “I’m not interested anymore”.


Key:

✅ = keep
❓ = maybe
❌ = remove

The Wilds by Donna Augustine ❌

The Island by S. Usher Evans ❌

Storm by Richelle Mead ❌

Slumber by Samantha Young ❌

Shadows by Paula Weston ❌

Shadows on Snow by Starla Huchton ❌

The Rock by Daniel O’Malley ❌

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin ❌

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James ❌

Something About You by Julie James ❌


So that was a nice slaughter lmao, 10/10 removed

FINAL TBR COUNT: 486

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with my decisions to keep/remove them from my TBR?