I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.
Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
No easy answers.
It was messy but I feel like the message it was trying to give is very important. I just didn’t love the execution.
This is a book about how complicated it is to navigate personhood, relationships, past trauma, identity, social pressure, and basically everything else you might find yourself having to deal with in addition to your daily life as a teen. Books like this are the reason I, in my mid twenties, love reading YA. Because sometimes this “typically teenage” struggle doesn’t stop, or (some of it) is delayed until later, and seeing things through the eye of a teen can be both refreshing and healing.
We get three point of views in this book, not in alternating chapters but in three blocks. I wasn’t sure about this choice at the beginning but it ended up being both the best and worst thing about the book.
🐣 Courtney “Coop” Cooper – Black teen in love with his best friend, deals with past trauma and loss, intends to keep a promise he made as a kid even though it seems impossible that the conditions will ever be right for that to happen.
🐣 Rae Evelyn Chin – biracial Irish/Korean new girl at school, people-pleaser, abandonment issues, not as straight as she thought.
🐣 Jupiter Charity-Sanchez – Black out and proud lesbian, adopted daughter of two dads, caught between new and old friendship, number one fan of Queen.
First off, I thought that the POVs served their part of the storywell, they also were distinct enough and didn’t feel like an excuse to reveal things that the previous POV character didn’t know. But as things got messy (more on this later), I couldn’t help but feel that, a) I liked each POV less than the previous one; b) things had to be told instead of shown, and I couldn’t detect character agency for the previous characters.
Every main non-POV character felt like a plot device that served the current POV character. It was as if only because the focus had shifted on someone else, the other two’s ambitions and personalities were forgotten.
By the third and last POV, having previously been in the head of the other two POV characters, I couldn’t recognize their actions as their own and they felt only driven by what Jupiter wanted, and worst of all, most of it was just for the sake of drama. Now look, I know everyone makes bad choices and I’m not against that at all. I feel like I need to point this out because I’m aware that there’s a tendency to be less forgiving of POC characters as opposed to white ones when they do shitty things. But their actions, combined with the fact that the only POV I was reading from at that point wasn’t giving me any reason to sympathize with any of them, made it really hard to enjoy reading the last third of the book, as opposed to the first one which made me laugh and love Courtney so much.
It’s kind of hard to explain myself without spoilering anything so I’ll leave it that: this book got messier and messier and if you’re easily frustrated it could affect your enjoyment by a pretty big factor
A list of things I didn’t like paired with things I did like:
• I think having two questioning queer people in one YA book is amazing. The questioning queerness was the strongest point of this book and the reason despite all of its flaws this is a three star for me.
○ While it’s great to have different people question and explore their sexuality in different ways, some of the surrounding queerness (in side characters) was sometimes something that didn’t sit well with me. For example, a lesbian girl says she doesn’t mess with bisexual girls who have “touched the D” or something like that. This is something that might be called out later but not right away and I didn’t see the point of this. Another example of something that was personally a bit hurtful to see was the assumption from Jupiter’s part that every girl who wanted to “experiment” with her was actually straight. For being so openly against heteronormativity, she sure assumed that straight is the norm.
• The talk about labels came late but it was powerful and important enough to somewhat fix that ending for me. Labels can change and it can be scary to change them or to go without for a bit, regardless of your experiences with your previous labels.
○ This might be me overthinking things, but at some point I felt like a correlation was made between being attracted to one specific gender through attraction to their genitalia, and even discovering said attraction because of uhh…having seen their genitals. This felt cisnormative and I think too much focus was put on body parts.
• All books need as many Queen references as this one.
○ This is not exactly a thing I didn’t like (at least until some point) but I need to point out that this is a love triangle, and not the best one I’ve read, but it’s a love triangle among queer teens of color, which is something that I’m glad got its own spot in YA.
So overall, would I recommend this book? It depends on what you’re looking for and your tastes (who would have thought?!), and I hope my review gave you an idea whether you might like this or not.