Book Review: This is Kind of an Epic Love Story

this is kind of an epic love storyThis is Kind of an Epic Love Story
by Kheryn Callender
Young Adult/LGBT/Romance
286 pages
Published October 2018

This incredibly cute queer romance was the YA_Pride Book Club pick this month on Twitter. What I didn’t expect when I picked it up was just HOW GOOD the representation is in this book. First, Ollie, the main love interest, is deaf, and communicates via ASL or written word. This isn’t a huge deal; people just work around it, which is really lovely. There’s a lot of passing phones around with things typed out on them, plus lip-reading and some limited use of signs, many of them described on the page for the reader.

The other amazing representation is how the book treats bisexuality. Both Nate and his best friend Flo are bi; they dated each other before the beginning of the book, but Flo is dating a woman when the book opens, and Nate has a huge crush on Ollie. This is not treated as weird, or even remarkable enough to be noted. They just are interested in more than one gender and it’s completely normal. I love it.

The story itself is really cute; Ollie was a childhood best friend that Nate had a crush on, and he’s come back to town several years later. Turns out Nate’s crush still exists, and the boys start an awkward romance. Nate is the kind of overthinker that constantly sabotages his own happiness, and we see that play out in more than just his relationship with Ollie.

I also really liked that the book didn’t play into the “the first time with the right person is magical and perfect” trope when it comes to sex. No, first times are awkward and sometimes not all that pleasurable, even with the right person. But with the right person, you can get past the awkwardness and try again. It was a much more realistic first sexual experience, I think.

This book was a quick read, with great minority rep, from racial to sexual to disability rep. The story was great. I liked also that the romance wasn’t the only focus of the story; Nate’s relationships with his friends were also important to the plot. Great book.

From the cover of This is Kind of an Epic Love Story:

Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings.

Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel – but the strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.

After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?

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Book Review: Autoboyography

autoboyographyAutoboyography
by Christina Lauren
YA LGBT Romance
416 pages
Published 2017

This book was EXCELLENT. I read this last minute, because the author tweeted that it was free to read on an online platform through the end of the month. It is absolutely adorable.

Autoboyography is the the story of Sebastian and Tanner falling in love, told mostly from Tanner’s point of view. He meets Sebastian in a class at school about writing a book, and the book we’re reading is supposedly the result. Tanner is a half-Jewish, bisexual kid moved from California to Utah, because his mother got a job offer she couldn’t refuse. He is surrounded by Mormons, whose religion doesn’t allow homosexuality. And Sebastian is Mormon.

The book unpacks so much, from stereotypes of bisexuality (and I LOVED the recognition that there are bisexuals who won’t be satisfied with one gender, and bisexuals who will, it’s an individual thing just like sexuality) to religious upbringing and the constraints that brings when someone is different, to unrequited love from a best friend, to how you can inadvertently let your other relationships suffer when falling in love.

The adorably sweet romance was a wonderful escape from current events, even with the hostility aimed at LGBT people by some of the characters. It was wonderfully done; enough to affect the characters and the plot, but not enough to spoil the uplifting, otherwise sweet nature of the novel.

I was slightly disturbed by an incident between Tanner and his best friend, Autumn. While they both seemed to take it in stride and move past it, it was a pretty shitty move on Autumn’s part, and could easily have gone very, VERY badly.

I really, really loved this book, and it’s going on my Favorites of 2018 list. I might need to buy my own copy. This is my last post for Pride Month, though definitely not my last book featuring LGBT characters! You can find all my Pride Month reads here.

From the cover of Autoboyography:

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Book Review: Queens of Geek

queens of geekQueens of Geek
by Jen Wilde
Contemporary YA
262 pages
Published 2017

THIS BOOK WAS GREAT. It was a fun, quick read, but it involved three BFFs, one of which is autistic with social anxiety, and her friends know this and are incredibly supportive. The second girl is openly bisexual. The third friend, the boy, is Hispanic. The three of them take an epic trip to a big Comicon in LA; the bisexual girl (Charlie) co-starred in a zombie movie, and is a popular Youtuber, so when she’s invited to the Con she drags her two BFFs with her. Once there, she meets an idol of hers, another Youtuber, and discovers that her idol has a crush on her! So while dealing with her douchebag ex (her co-star from the movie), the other Youtuber asks Charlie out, and the two girls start a romance.

Meanwhile, the autistic girl (Taylor) and the Hispanic boy (Jamie) have loved each other for ages but been too afraid to admit how they feel. Largely left on their own, because Charlie’s manager couldn’t get them VIP passes, they explore the Con, geeking out over things and meeting another autistic woman, a comic book artist who gives Taylor some amazing advice about being afraid but doing things anyway.

I really really loved this book. I loved seeing autistic characters treated by their peers as just regular people with quirks, like everyone has. Taylor’s friends support her when her brain freaks out, and make allowances for her needs, but don’t treat her like she’s disabled or fragile. I loved seeing how tight the bonds of friendship were between the three teens, and how excited for each other they were, even when good things happening meant less time to spend with each other.

This was just a really lovely, feel-good book with lots of minority representation, by an autistic author who knows what she’s talking about. This is one more book off my Autism Reading List, and my pick for a book about friendship from the Litsy Booked 2018 Challenge.

From the cover of Queens of Geek:

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Book Review: American War

americanwarAmerican War
by Omar El Akkad
Alternate Future Dystopia
333 pages
Published 2017

By now you probably know there are a few things I tend to enjoy in novels. Dystopias, Fantasies, Debut Novels, and Diversity tend to peak my interest, and American War is a dystopian debut novel by an Egyptian-Canadian author.

And it’s FANTASTIC.

El Akkad did an absolutely amazing job of weaving together the North/South rivalry of the US, climate change, the changing nature of energy generation, and US wars in the middle east to write an all-too-plausible novel about the US, seventy years from now.

Alternating between narrative chapters following his protagonist, and “historical documents” about the time period, he masterfully tells the story of how a terrorist is made. Because that’s what Sarat, his protagonist, is. Let’s make no bones about that. She is a terrorist. But she is a terrorist whose reasoning makes sense to us. Perhaps because the territories and the peoples are familiar to us, perhaps because we see how she grew up and what drove her to it – but the end result is a terrorist act on an unheard-of scale.

I’d like to think this book would make people look at refugees and terrorists in a new light – with more understanding and compassion and maybe with ideas to help actually combat the attitudes and circumstances that lead to terrorist acts. But I doubt it. I doubt this will change any minds that don’t already understand the underlying reasons.

My only quibble with this book is while he manages to weave together so many other issues facing our country right now, he doesn’t really wrap in racism. And I have a hard time believing our country is past racism 70 years from now.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find the protagonist is a bisexual, gender non-conforming woman of color. How awesome is that? And her bisexuality isn’t mentioned, it’s shown, her one on-screen sex scene (and it’s only barely on-screen) being with a woman. (She’s also attracted to a man in the book.)

The author was born in Egypt, grew up in Qatar, and lived in Canada, earning at least one award for his investigative reporting while working at The Globe and Mail. He’s one of the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s 17 writers to watch this year, and I see why. American War is definitely one of my favorite books of 2017.

My other Read Canadian reviews:
1. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
2. The Red Winter Trilogy
3. Station Eleven
4. The Courier
5. The Last Neanderthal
6. this book
7. Next Year, For Sure
8. That Inevitable Victorian Thing
9. All The Rage
10. The Clothesline Swing
11. Saints and Misfits
12. Tomboy Survival Guide
13. The Wolves of Winter

From the cover of American War:

In this fiercely audacious debut novel, Omar El Akkad takes us into a near future in which a politically polarized America descends into a second Civil War – and amid warfare, a family fights to survive.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the war breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, her home state is half underwater, and the unmanned drones that fill the sky are not there to protect her. A stubborn, undaunted, and thick-skinned tomboy, she is soon pulled into the heart of secessionist country when the war reaches Louisiana and her family is forced into Camp Patience, a sprawling tent city for refugees. There she is befriended by a mysterious man who opens her eyes to the injustices around her and under whose tutelage she is transformed into a deadly instrument of revenge.

Narrated by the one person privy to Sarat’s secret life, American War is a hauntingly told story of the immeasurable ruin of war – in a nation, a community, a family, an individual. It’s a novel that considers what might happen if the United States were to turn its most devastating policies and weapons upon itself.