Review: Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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I’m willingly not sharing the official summary of this book because I found it super misleading.

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★★★★.5✩

This book’s biggest flaw was the way it was marketed.

First things first, I loved this book. I think it might have been a 5 stars under slightly different circumstances, and if I can ever bring myself to read it again I think I will be able to give this the 5 stars it probably deserves.

Before we get into what it did right and why I liked it, let me once again do the job that the publisher* failed to do and clarify that, first of all, that blurb is totally misleading. Prince is not the protagonist of this book and he’s frankly not even that important. Fairies in this book are just a clever excuse to explore humanity, or better said, some very fucked up and ugly sides of humanity. And that brings me to my second point, which you should keep in mind before even thinking about reading this book: this is fucking dark. It’s ugly, it’s triggering, it’s maddening, and if you manage to read enough of it it has one of the most satisfying character developments and conclusion of any book I’ve ever read.

To put this on Netgalley without a single trigger warning, and especially to set it as “Read Now”, was a huge mistake and a huge disfavor to both readers and the book itself. I’m sorry if I come off as harsh but I’m not just here to review the book, if the publisher really cares about feedback I hope they will take this into consideration for the next books they put up for review.

* (hi, publisher person that will read this when I send my review through Netgalley! please don’t take this review as your cue to never approve me for your books ever, again, thank you)

This is initially a story about the codependency between two foster siblings, Josh and Ksenia. Their relationship gets about as unhealthy as you can imagine, and because for the first good chunk of the book we only get to see things through Ksenia’s eyes, our reading experience can get incredibly frustrating. If you’re someone who while reading needs to be told at any given moment, “This is wrong, btw,” then you should stay away from this book. You know it’s so, so wrong, but the book *shows* you that it is instead of telling you, because character perspective matters and that’s the whole fucking point.

As the story progresses and the codependency slides pretty heavily into abuse, you get a different, healthier POV. And thank god, because reading Lexi’s POV chapters are like emerging to finally take a breath after being held under water by Ksenia and Josh. And still it’s a while before things can get better, because they need to get worse first.

What truly struck me about this book were two things: the writing, which is absolutely stunning and it completely captured me from page one, and the fact that Ksenia is given all the compassion, all the redemption, all the healing and forgiveness we usually bestow upon male characters. And I don’t know if she’s a female character, other reviewers have said she’s possibly genderqueer, although this isn’t explicit in the text, but she’s a character I feel was missing in YA, or maybe I just haven’t encountered one like her yet.

The leading theme in this book is how abuse will affect the mind and affections of a victim. How a victim is left alone, ignored, blamed even, and is left so vulnerable to the slightest hint of what they think is love. They think, this is the best I can ever hope for. This is better than it was before, so it must mean it’s all I’m worth. And sometimes things really are good, but sometimes they’re really fucking not, and Ksenia was unlucky enough to first read the definition of love from the dictionary of Josh, except Josh is a victim too and his definition of love is all wrong, too. This book does an amazing job at never victim-blaming anyone but also at showing the effects of your first, your second, your life-long abuse, because those things can’t be ignored when we talk about abuse and especially when we talk about surviving it.

Ksenia isn’t magically saved by her love for Lexi, or by Lexi’s love for her, but she’s given the tools to dig herself out of eighteen years of wrong, and that’s the most powerful message you can send readers.

There are so many other things I loved about this book. Everyone is queer (Ksenia is possibly genderqueer and attracted to multiple genders, Josh is fat, pansexual and gender non conforming, Lexi is Black and discovers her multiple-gender-attraction throughout the novel), the writing, as I said before, is absolutely beautiful and atmospheric. The faeries are seriously creepy as fuck and I loved (hated) them. The conclusion was the best one I could hope for. But seriously, the best thing of all is everything I talked about for most of my review.

Now more than ever I encourage you to read the trigger warnings and know that it’s okay if you think you can’t handle them; these aren’t things that are just mentioned in passing, they are very real in the novel and it WILL get super uncomfortable even if this stuff isn’t usually a trigger to you. But if you think you can, give this book a try because it’s so, so worth it.

Trigger Warnings: incest, codependency, abuse, sexual assault and rape, death on page, violence, body horror, parental neglect.

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ARC Review: Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Release date: July 30th

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★★★✩

An interesting worldbuilding and a perfect story for fans of The Dragon Prince, which was ultimately just a little too forgettable for me.

This book starts with a really great premise, a QPOC girl who decides to go save her girlfriend and undertakes a journey in a very interesting fantasy world with dragons that can bond to humans.

I thought the execution was okay for a debut, but if you’ve read a lot of fantasy books this will read a little too generic. The protagonist, Maren, is on a deadline to save her girlfriend, and yet we conveniently forget about the time issue for the time that it takes Maren to learn useful skills and important bits of worldbuilding and forge new friendships and relationships. Then time is suddenly relevant again and everything has to move forward rather fast. So, overall the pacing doesn’t usually bother me and it didn’t here, but it was definitely something I noticed. Some things were also very predictable, and all the foreshadowing was very obviously foreshadowing from the moment you read it and not 100 pages later when it actually became relevant. This is all just nitpicking and it’s just something you notice if you’ve read a lot of books, like I said.

Probably my favorite part of the whole book was the dragon egg that reminded me so much of The Dragon Prince, one of my favorite shows. It was really cute.

Maren is a bi girl in an already established relationship with a girl, that will be the reason for her whole quest. And here comes the part of this review that I dread to write, because it’s impossible for me not to mention it but as a bi girl I am aware of all the nuance in this. Of course, there’s a boy and Maren is like, immediately attracted to him. While still in a relationship with Kaia, her girlfriend. Think of it as you like, I personally was annoyed at this aspect of the story. There are other ways to show bisexual attraction without involving actual emotional cheating (and I use this term because it was more than just, “oh he’s so hot.”). Does it happen IRL? Of course. But maybe it’s not great in general and especially when the bisexual character is the one doing it. In any case I was mostly able to overlook it and pin it to the writer’s inexperience, I just want to warn other bisexual readers that this is something that happens.

So, would I recommend this book? I think the worldbuilding was interesting and it has a lot of potential for the rest of the series, if you can overlook some of the more debut-y aspects. I’m going to keep an eye out for the next installment if I remember, but even just a few weeks after reading it I don’t remember enough about this to really crave the sequel.

Audiobook Review: Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins /// royal f/f romance in Scotland

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Summary: Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?

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★★★★.5✩

I devoured this book on audio in basically a day and oh my god, friends. There is a very specific emotion that us sapphic girls feel when presented with good sapphic content in fiction, and depending on our tastes in terms of tropes and genres, different sapphic books will hit us differently. The feeling I got from this book was one of pure joy from getting a royal romance, usually reserved for a girl falling in love with a prince, starring two girls.

I loved Millie, the protagonist, right away. She’s smart and she wants to be a geologist!!! She wants to go to a school in Scotland and part of the reason why she loves Scotland is because of its cool geology. Not to be so me, but give me any girl protagonist who’s a scientist or wants to be one and I’ll immediately be ten times more invested in her story. Also, her interest wasn’t just mentioned once in passing, it’s actually pretty much present throughout the book and she has her own collection of minerals and rocks (I do too!! okay, technically my mom does, but that’s not the point) and UGH I love her so much okay!! I have no actual idea how accurate some of the things she said were. Since I was on audiobook I didn’t feel like pausing every time and google or ask my mom if the geology stuff was correct BUT whatever, I appreciate the sentiment in any case (and if you’re a geologist don’t @ me I’m just here for a fun gay time). Okay now I made it sound like this is way more about geology than it actually is, but no, it’s just I feel very strongly about geology so pardon me.

After a brief introduction to Millie’s family and friends back home, she gets to Scotland and we get that Hogwarts-y feeling of arriving to a place you know very little about (despite all the research Millie has done) and having to navigate through a new school and new people, most of which are filthy rich or straight up aristocrats. Among which is HRH Flora and, surprise surprise, Millie’s roommate.

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Their relationship can only be described as hate to love, as it often is when the couple starts off as roommates. Only after weeks of forced vicinity Millie’s perception of Flora starts to change, and I think although we don’t get Flora’s POV, the same could be said for her. I don’t want to wander too much into headcanons, but I believe that Flora started to view Millie under a new light after Millie’s coming out, and I found that such a realistic experience for sapphic people.

Speaking of coming outs, there were two, in two separate moments (Millie’s, which we know about since the very first page, but she comes out to her new friends in the school – she’s bi, and Flora’s, who is gay), and they both warmed my heart so much because of how they were handled. There’s also a “wait, you’re straight???” moment for one of the side characters that had me laughing for hours (okay, not literally but I have to laugh whenever I remember it). (No, don’t worry, there was no queerbait.)

While I wouldn’t call this book super diverse as a whole, it does deliver on casual queerness and on people never making a big deal out of it. I really appreciated both aspects and how much a non-issue it all was, I really felt like it was a book written for queer people instead of just about them, you know? ♥

Back to the romance, I loved Millie and Flora’s relationship. You can’t help but hate Flora in the beginning but by the end you’re almost as in love with her as Millie is (okay, not sure that’s possible actually). They got such cute and cliché romantic moments and they were TO DIE for. Twentybiteen is giving us such sapphic goodness!!!!

Anyway it’s been a while since a full-on gush review and I usually don’t really review audiobooks because those are the books I read purely for fun without reviewing in mind, but I couldn’t not talk about this. I went into it only for a good sapphic time and it never ever disappointed me.

I do want to say that if you’re expecting this to be completely realistic you should maybe change your mindset a little before you start reading. Yes, we all know there is no queen of Scotland and therefore no princess of Scotland. Maybe the blurb should make it more clear that it’s a fictional/alternate Scotland, but that’s hardly the first book series that does something like this. Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I’ve never been and I have no ties to Scotland, but I understand not liking the idea of changing things for the sake of the book. You do you and while it never bothered me I wanted to mention this aspect.

Another brief note for those who want to read this but haven’t read the first book in the series yet, go for it! I haven’t read book one either and as you can see I loved this book. It follows different characters and we do get to see the protagonists from the first installment (one of which is Flora’s older brother), but the book pretty much explains everything and we’re not left wondering who these people are. And if you’ve read book one and want to see them again, well read this book!

In conclusion, I don’t think this book is perfect, and if it hadn’t been f/f maybe I wouldn’t have liked it so much, but as you can see I loved it so much and I had such a good time reading it. I 100% recommend it to everyone!

TWs: mentions of loss of a parent in the past, mention of casual homophobia (“it’s just a phase”), several instances of “more than friends”(not challenged), sort of cheating (not the main couple).

ARC Review: King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2) by Amanda Foody

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Or die as legends.

Release date: out now!

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★★★★

King of Fools was one of my most anticipated sequels this year and I was not disappointed. Am I mad a this book and at Amanda Foody? Oh, hell yes. But I loved every second of it.

I believe that, in trilogies, second books should feel completely different from book one, and then book three should be an expansion of book two. We’ll see what book three has in store for us, but for now I can say that this book had a totally different feeling from Ace of Shades, and it was great.

Different were the themes, the stakes, the pacing, the POVs. We saw old and new characters in a different light, and the city of New Reynes took its own rightful place as almost a character of its own, with its rich history and legends, even more so than in the first installment.

This book is so rich and full of events, each leading to new and more complicated plot points, that it’s impossible to put it down. Even if you somehow weren’t hooked to the plot, the characters are so interesting and you love them so much that you can’t not keep reading.

Structurally speaking, KoF has two main differences: three POVs (Enne, Levi, Jac) and a both faster and slower pace. Faster because a lot more happens than in Ace, but spread out over several months instead of the ten days of Ace. I think that was necessary, although if we were to analyze it, some time skips were a little too convenient maybe, but I don’t care too much about that. It all flowed well and came together nicely (OR SHOULD I SAY NOT NICELY) for the grand finale.

If you’ve read Ace, you know how much Enne grew in those pages, and here we see the lovely results of that. Mainly we get to see Enne form her own girl gang and it’s everything you’ve ever needed in your life. I really appreciated the variety of girls there, even though obviously there needed to be a focus on only a few of them. Also, there was a lovely side f/f relationship and I’m ready to see more of it in the sequel.

While Enne changed a lot in a short time, Levi’s character development in Ace had more to do with our perception of him the longer we stayed in his head. In KoF, I think it’s fair to say that Levi does quite a bit of character development in the way that usually male characters (and men in general) do: his development is always the result of something that happens, usually something he regrets doing after seeing the consequences it had. I found this both realistic and frustrating at times, but in a way that was always consistent with who he was since the beginning of Ace.

Levi’s development was also integrated by an outside perspective, mainly Jac’s POV, into his flaws, but that’s not all Jac was there for, which was something I was afraid of at the beginning. I’m glad we saw Jac have his own story line and his own agenda, and I loved his POV so much. Jac’s POV also had one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, that literally had me forget to breathe while I was reading and I won’t easily forget. I just want to say: Jac Mardlin, I am so fucking proud of you.

I think the writing also did improve, and there were a couple of scenes like the one I just talked about that proved it, as well as certain……..decisions that Amanda Foody took. I am now equally excited and terrified for the sequel, because King of Fools was already a lot in terms of emotional wreckage.

In case it wasn’t clear, I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK AND I NEED BOOK 3 ASAP.

TWs: mention of drug abuse and addiction, character deaths, violence, blood, explosions, murder, torture, executions.

ARC Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

Release date: April 2nd

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★★★

Okay so first of all, I haven’t read Geekerella yet! But I wanted to read this for the F/F romance and I was lucky enough to get approved for it. Reading Geekerella is definitely not necessary but reading this book made me want to read it. I think those of you who have read it will enjoy the references to it (which were a bit lost on me).

I love books about cons, and fandoms, and meeting people you met online, and internet culture, and all that. This was more or less what I had thought it would be. Actually, it kind of was more than I had expected, in both good and bad ways, but I overall loved it.

First of all, you need to keep in mind this is a loose retelling of The Prince and the Pauper. I haven’t read it, but the modern setting made it kind of hard for me to really believe that thousands of people online and IRL would see photos of one girl and think she’s another, especially when one is a kind of famous actress. I mean, fandom twitter is better than the FBI at investigating so the premise of them both looking very alike and being able to effortlessly pass for one another was kind of a miss for me, but once I accepted to go with it I could sort of forget about it and it didn’t bother me so much.

The two MCs in this book are Imogen, fangirl who wants to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off the franchise, and Jessica, actress playing said Princess Amara and currently under attack by a big part of the fandom, which she wants nothing to do with anymore. She’s actually glad her character is being killed off.

Things happen and they “must” exchange roles in order for Jess to investigate about a missing/stolen script. I say “must” because I thought the reason behind this exchange was not entirely believable for me, and there were too many risks from the start. But anyway, once they found themselves in each other’s shoes I could let it slide, and it’s not like I’m reading a cute contemporary for it to make absolute sense.

Jess gets to meet Harper, a Black fanartist and Imogen’s online friend, and spend two days with her. Jess is a closeted lesbian and Harper is also queer, and they have a really cute and endearing romance. Because this book takes place within a single weekend, things were a little fast, but I didn’t mind and I just enjoyed reading about them.

Imogen, under the guise of being Jess, spends her days with Ethan Tanaka, Jess’s Asian-American assistant, and they start off by hating each other. Their romance was cute if a little bit overdramatic, but I love that they’re both big nerds, and at least he knew about her being Imogen (as opposed to the other romance, where Harper initially thinks Jess is actually Imogen because they’d only met online).

I love when contemporary books throw a few pop culture references here and there, and I expect a book about fandom to have a lot of them, but I just didn’t expect them to be quite so many. I understood almost all of them to some degree but I wouldn’t have minded them being toned down a little. But I forgive Ashley Poston because she mentioned Yuri On Ice!!! and Zuko’s redemption arc too.

Anyway, even with a few issues here and there that didn’t make this a full five stars for me, this was a really fun read that I think a lot of contemporary readers will enjoy!

ARC Review: The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum // queer found family, sapphic romance, and I cried a lot

I was kindly sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.

Release date: March, 19th

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★★★★

Okay let me tell you about this book and not because technically I kind of have to review it but because I just really need an outlet for what I’m feeling after finishing it.

THIS BOOK is very different from The Wicker King but it’s also very similar. But kind of not. I’M ALREADY NOT MAKING SENSE HERE but I’m really trying.

The Weight of the Stars throws you in an initially seemingly familiar contemporary YA setting. You have a MC, Ryann, who is a bit of a troublemaker and doesn’t have a typical teenage home situation, you have the new girl at school, and you have Ryann’s group of friends who don’t belong anywhere so they all belong together. And yet the way everything is presented already announces itself not to be so typical after all, starting from literally every character’s backstory.

By far one of my favorite thing was the found family element in this and all of the different bits of representation we are presented with. We have a mostly (all?) queer cast, a teenage single father with PTSD and selective mutism (I’m not sure if the terminology is correct but this is what I found googling it), a Sikh teen with three parents (two dads and a mom – if you’ve read The Wicker King I’m just going to say that…………you already know his parents), and of course our main f/f couple (I’m not sure exactly how they identify but Ryann says she’s mostly attracted to girls but once had a brief crush on a boy).

While The Wicker King takes you down a spiral where you have no control over your thoughts and feelings and then slowly brings you back to the surface (not a soft surface, but a surface nonetheless), The Weight of the Stars fools you into thinking you have more room to breathe normally when in fact what you should be doing is taking deep breaths in preparation for a final oxygen-less plunge into space.

There comes a point in the novel where you have to let go of your own plane of existence and fully embrace that you’re not in control, and your point of view and your perspective don’t matter anymore. This blank state is all I can recommend when you read the last 30% of this book. Just, don’t let gravity keep you grounded is all I’m saying.

TWs: alcohol and drug use, mention of death of parents, teenage pregnancies, mild violence, hospitals, mention of attempted suicide, mention of homophobia (the d slur)

Review: Proud (Anthology) by June Dawson // all the happy queer feelings you need in your life

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.

A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.

Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.

Following A CHANGE IS GONNA COME, winner of the YA BOOK PRIZE SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 2018

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★★★★.5✩

I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but holy crap this really was a great anthology. And this is coming from someone who usually has the hardest time getting into anthologies and reading them fast, but I just couldn’t put this down.

All stories are set in modern day UK with the exception of one set in Ireland and one set in fantasy China. Apart from being queer I feel like they were pretty diverse although I can’t help but feel like they could have been more. One thing I found particularly lacking was the representation of aro and ace (and aroace) characters. There were exactly…zero? unless I missed something, and in an otherwise diverse anthology when it comes to sexualities and genders it was very noticeable.

All stories come paired up with art. The ARC also had them but I don’t know if they were all final versions, they were also pretty small and had to be zoomed in which of course made the quality suffer, but I’m confident in the final version this will be fixed. In any case of course I liked some pieces better than others but I’m not going to rate them.

I changed some of the immediate ratings I gave to each story as I was writing reviews for them, which now makes an average of 4.3, rounded up to 4.5 because of the mostly very positive feelings I have about this. Generally speaking, this is probably my favorite queer anthology I’ve read so far (not that I’ve read many). I loved the theme of pride and I loved that there was no queer pain or even where there was discrimination and hardship it was always challenged and always overcome.

I hope this book gets more hype because it’s really everything it promised to be (with the exception of the lack of aro/ace rep) and more.

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Here’s my individual ratings and reviews!

⮚ Dive Bar by Caroline Bird – no rating

I’ve read this three times and I still don’t understand it. I’ve never been the best at reading poetry and I’ve never learned to read it in English so maybe that’s why, but I just have 0 idea what this is about.

⮚ Penguins by Simon James Green – 5 stars

We’ve all heard of those gay penguins successfully hatching an egg, right? This story was featured here and it follows a gay boy whose coming out to his family is interrupted by people being excited about gay penguins. Also, prom night! I loved the humor and the cuteness in this.

⮚ On the Run by Kay Staples – 4.5 stars

Two teens won the lottery and are trying to run away. As I was reading this I was a bit anxious that they wouldn’t get the money but when I realized that of course this would have a happy ending. The POV character is trying to figure out their gender identity and we don’t know their pronouns (I’m only using “they” here for clarity).

⮚ As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan – 4 stars

This was very short and mostly just the messy internal monologue of a queer teen as he sings with his queer choir and thinks about people in his life. I feel like for such a short story a lot of meaning was packed into it and it was cool to see.

⮚ The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So – 4.5 stars

This was set in a fantasy-Chinese setting where dragons and phoenixes are real and symbolize (heterosexual) marriage. The MC “owns” (=was chosen by) a phoenix, and all girls who have one have to go to the Emperor’s palace and if her phoenix and the Emperor’s dragon choose each other, the girl will have to get married to him. The MC doesn’t want that because she’s in love with another girl and I’m not spoiling it but I loved all the symbolism and how fucking gay everything was.

⮚ Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne – 3.5 stars

This was kind of sad and I felt like it didn’t fit much with the other stories. It wasn’t the “queer pain” kind of sad though, and I actually really liked the queer theme in it, just not the story itself.

⮚ The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson – 4.5

This is about an all-queer football team from the perspective of a trans guy who’s just joined it. I loved how everyone on the team was fleshed out even with so few pages.

⮚ I Hate Darcy Pemberly by Karen Lawler – 5 stars

This is a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling with two lesbians as Lizzie and Darcy. I’m not a huge P&P fan but I seriously loved this so much that after finishing it I had the biggest smile on my face and I immediately went to watch the P&P 2005 movie for the first time because it put me in such a mood. I also LOOOOVED what it did with the Lydia/Wickham storyline. Anyway, this is easily my absolute favorite out of all these stories.

⮚ The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell – 4.5 stars

This was a story without romance and about a queer found family / D&D group who become modern day heroes. The protagonist is a trans nonbinary person and he with the help of his group hack the school to genderneutralize it. I didn’t get all the D&D references but it was still cool to read and the plot was my favorite. It’s also probably the story that made me feel the most sense of pride.

⮚ The Instructor by Jess Vallance – 4 stars

I liked this and its writing style a lot but I wish there had been a little more balance between the plot (driving lessons) and the romantic plot line. I do understand why it was structured like this though and maybe it’s just a matter of wrong expectations from my part. Anyway, I still loved it and it made me smile so much when I least expected it!

⮚ Love Poems to the City by Moïra Fowley-Doyle – 3 stars

The lowest rating out of all these stories (even though it’s still a good rating). I don’t know, I didn’t really connect to it and I felt like it was more about a single event (legalizing gay marriage) and about a city (Dublin) than about the single people in the story. Which might have been the intention of the author I guess, but I still didn’t find myself caring a lot (even though I loved Dublin and it made me nostalgic of the city!).

⮚ How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta – 5 stars

This was a poem (I like how the anthology was bracketed by poems) and it’s pretty self-explanatory if you read it so yeah just look at my rating for it.