by REBECCA, May 15, 2013
Hey, folks, today I’m a guest over at the wonderful Housequeer, with a list of Queer Young Adult Fiction to Curl Up With. Come on over and say hello!
by REBECCA, May 15, 2013
Hey, folks, today I’m a guest over at the wonderful Housequeer, with a list of Queer Young Adult Fiction to Curl Up With. Come on over and say hello!
Posted by Rebecca on May 15, 2013
Simon & Schuster, 2013
by REBECCA, May 8, 2013
Ryan Dean (yes, that’s his first name): 14-year-old junior at a posh boarding school and winger on the rugby team, he’s in love with his best friend Annie and not sure he’ll live through the year rooming with Chas, the biggest bully on the team
Annie: thinks Ryan Dean is aces, but often calls him a “little boy,” activating his desire to kill everything
Joey: rugby captain and all around delightful human being, Joey dispenses sage advice and tries to discourage Ryan Dean from fucking up his life, all while dealing with the fact that being a gay rugby player makes some people pretty dang uncomfortable
As anyone who reads the blog knows, I am a huge Andrew Smith fan. I think he is one of the most consistently amazing authors working today, young-adultish or otherwise. (I review Stick HERE and The Marbury Lens HERE.) Thus, I’ve been looking forward to Winger since Smith first announced it on his blog because a.) it’s an Andrew Smith book, duh, and b.) it’s a boarding school book, a setting that lives at the heart of some of my all-time favorite books.
Well, Winger scores a solid five out of five snort-laughs on the Rebecca Peters-Golden goddammit-I-can’t-read-this-in-public-because-I-will-humiliate-myself-and-scare-the-parents-of-small-children index of reading reactions! (you’ll get it once you read the book). Note: “Catastrophic Fucking Penis Injury”—yes, that is a quote from the book—will be my new band name. We will be a death metal klezmer band and we will serve pastrami finger sandwiches at our concerts. Come early and come often.
Ryan Dean’s humor is always paired with desperate humiliation or neurotic dread, making every paragraph a complicated portrait of a fascinating character. I loved getting to know him and I even (embarrassingly) found myself thinking, at one point, “hot damn, I can’t wait to see what an amazing grown up Ryan Dean is going to be.” For me, the true triumph of the character is in Smith’s willingness to risk his likability by doing things like exposing his feelings about how he thinks about Joey:
“I suddenly felt really awkward being here, in my bed, alone in my room, with a gay guy. And then I immediately got pissed off at myself for even thinking shit like that, for doing the same kind of crap to Joey that everyone else did, ’cause I knew what it felt like too, being so not-like-all-the-other-guys-here. And I don’t mean I know what it felt like to be gay, because I don’t, but I do know what it felt like to be the “only” one of something. Heck, as far as I know, there’s just got to be more gay eleventh graders than fourteen-year-old eleventh graders, anyway.
I wondered if it bothered Kevin Cantrell, though. Joey and Kevin had been roommates for two years, and no one ever talked shit about Kevin or wondered if he was gay, because everyone knew he just wasn’t.
I am such a loser.”
This kind of character detail is so difficult to pull off, even though Smith always makes it seem effortless. These are the details that make his characters—even the minor ones—so vivid. “Seanie slipped me a folded square of paper with flowers and hearts drawn on it, and said, ‘Here. Read this. I wrote you a haiku about how gay you are for sitting next to Joey for two classes in a row.’ . . . ‘Nice,’ I said. ‘In Lit class I’m going write you a sonnet about how nothing could possibly be gayer than writing your friend a haiku.’” Sean, incidentally, is one of my favorite characters, with his creepy sense of humor and the immense number of hours he pours into hacking other students’ facebook pages even when no one notices.
Annie shares Ryan Dean’s best friend card with Joey, and Ryan Dean is totally in love with her. The growth of their relationship wasn’t the most interesting element of the story for me, but Ryan Dean’s perspective on the feelings of first love (and his hilariously out-of-control hormones) make it more than appealing to read.
No, for me the thing that Andrew Smith does best—and Winger is certainly representative of this—is think through the knotty cluster of questions about masculinity, sexuality, bravery, vulnerability, trauma, and hope. The questions about masculinity that Winger thinks through are particularly nuanced and interesting because of the friendship between Joey and Ryan Dean, the former the strong, handsome, respected captain of the rugby team who is also gay, and the latter a boy who is much younger and smaller than the other boys he goes to school with. It’s masterfully done.
The boarding school setting really lets all these issues marinate, and gives it a kind of un-modern feel (cell phones, facebook, et cetera, are not allowed on campus). Ryan Dean has been moved to a dorm for troublemakers this year because he stole a teacher’s cell phone to call Annie one weekend, so he’s rooming with Chas Becker, who he fears might kill him, and is separated from the friends he roomed with the year before, Sean and JP. This shift in Ryan Dean’s social circle encourages some changes for him and necessitates others, so the book finds him at a really dynamic moment.
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
To be totally honest, I feel like now I’m just kind of talking out of my ass, looking for something to say that will make you read Winger, but the truth is that I don’t have anything else to say that isn’t just gushy chatter or would spoil something, so I’m going to stop, and just quote you some more amazingness. The fact is: Winger lives up to and surpasses every expectation. Winger is fucking stellar; Andrew Smith has once again created something that has moved me immensely; reading Andrew Smith makes me embarrassed for every single one of us out there who isn’t as honest as his characters are, me included; I look forward to having a conversation about the ending after everyone’s read it; godspeed ye to the bookstore.
Here, Chas makes Ryan Dean play poker with him, Joey, and Kevin, and Ryan Dean has never had beer before:
“As Chas began dealing the cards out, all these things kind of occurred to me at once:
1. The taste. Who ever drinks this piss when they’re thirsty? Are you kidding me? Seriously . . . you’ve got to be kidding.
2. Little bit of vomit in the back of my throat. It gets into my nasal passages. It burns like hell, and now everything also smells exactly like barf. Nice. Real nice.
3. I am really scared. I am convinced something horrible is going to happen to me now. I picture my mom and dad and Annie (she is so smoking hot in black) at my funeral.
4. Mom and Dad? I feel so terrible that I let them down and became a dead virgin alcoholic at fourteen.
5. For some reason, Chas, Joey, and Kevin are all looking at me and laughing as quietly as they can manage.
6. Woo-hoo! Chas dealt me pocket Jacks.”
“I saw [Chas] turn his face over his shoulder and look at me once, and I’ll be honest, it scared me. I considered scrawling a makeshift will on the back of a napkin, but as I took mental inventory of my life’s possessions, I realized no one would want them anyway.
I was as good as dead now.
Images of my funeral again: both Annie and Megan looking so hot in black; Joey shaking his head woefully and thinking how he told me so; JP and Chas high-fiving each other in the back pew; Seanie installing a live-feed webcam in my undersize casket; and Mom and Dad disappointed, as always, that I left this world a loser alcoholic virgin with eighteen stitches over my left eye.”
Gaaaaaawwwwd! Read this book, y’all. Don’t make me step on your testicles and then write a haiku about it.
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (2013). The Tragedy Paper is also a boarding school book that excavates the intricacies of friendships, growing up, and being different. My complete review is HERE.
King of the Screwups by K.L. Going (2009). While the premises are totally different, Winger reminded me of K.L. Going’s tone in King of the Screwups. Ryan Dean and Liam share a kind of hilarious hopelessness when things go wrong. And, like Winger, King of the Screwups is both really funny and totally gutting. Read my full review HERE.
procured from: I received an ARC of Winger from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. Winger by Andrew Smith will be available May 14th. Which leaves you just enough time to go read ALL of Andrew Smith’s other books.
Posted by Rebecca on May 8, 2013
Bold Strokes Books, 2012
by REBECCA, April 17, 2013
Andrew (A1): popular at school (and with the cheerleaders), he just wants to play soccer and hang out with his twin . . . or, at least, he used to
Andrea (A2): more ambitious than her brother, she has their college careers all planned out for them and does not take kindly to changes in plans
Ryder: recently arrived from Texas, Ryder is a laid-back and generous friend, and totally crushing on Andrew
Andrew and Andrea are twins who have always done everything together. When Andrew becomes close friends with new kid Ryder, Andrea can’t understand why he seems to be changing. He hasn’t dated a cheerleader in (gasp!) a month, he’s learning to ride horses, and now he’s talking about not wanting to play college soccer. Andrew, though, feels satisfied for the first time in his life. Which path will he choose—the one his twin has laid out for him, or the one he and Ryder are building together?
With only one letter separating them, the two Andys have it made: both popular at school, both talented soccer players, and part of a close, happy family, they’ve never had to think very hard about who they are or what they’re going to do. Andrea is busy planning for their future and Andrew is absently dating his way through the cheerleading squad when Ryder, nephew of local horse farmers, moves to their small, New York town. Ryder and Andrew are immediately drawn together. Ryder is the opposite of Andrew’s other friends: he’s laid-back and thoughtful, he doesn’t expect or judge anything or anyone. When Ryder tells Andrew that he’s gay, Andrew suddenly reevaluates his own assumptions about himself, realizing that perhaps the reason he only dates each cheerleader for two weeks isn’t because, as he’d always thought, they’re too clingy. As Andrew and Ryder start exploring a romantic relationship, people begin to suspect that Ryder might be gay and make trouble for Andrew by association.
Jennifer Lavoie’s Andy Squared sounds like your typical high school coming out story, but it really isn’t. Ryder is totally comfortable with his sexuality, although it’s not the first thing he advertises about about himself, and once Andrew realizes that he might be gay—or, at least, that he is attracted to Ryder—it isn’t a particularly big deal to him either (although he knows it likely will be to his friends and family). Rather, when he’s with Ryder, he finally feels like he’s connecting with someone on an intimate level, in contrast with the way he’s been “dating” cheerleaders but avoiding spending time with them.
Mostly, Andy Squared is a pretty chill story of how someone who has always gone with the flow learns that to really find out who he is he has to stop automatically doing what is expected of him. And it’s in these expectations that the angst of the novel comes out, because Andrew has always kind of deferred to Andrea about what they’ll do, so when he actually looks at the path he’s on, he realizes that perhaps he doesn’t want to just default to Andrea’s assumptions about their lives anymore. As someone who’s really close to her sister, I really responded to Andrew feeling torn between being true to himself and disappointing his sister. Although: Andrea, girl, you’re an insensitive asshole and you are not being a good sister; stop it right now.
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
Andy Squared isn’t a flashy book; it isn’t really voice-driven or experimental. It’s just really solid storytelling that has a believable and compelling plot, two charming main characters, and a pleasantly particular setting (horsies!!!). The setting was a high point for me, too, because you really get the feeling that Andy2 are total products of their environment, which makes their disagreements about college even more understandable. I don’t mean to sound like Andy Squared was boring or unremarkable—it isn’t at all. It just knew what it was and what it wasn’t and it didn’t try to do too much. I, for one, am a fan of that kind of nice, solid, realist story; it had the charm of, like, a What’s Eating Gilbert Grape or something.
In the last five or six years there has been such a heartening increase in both the number and diversity of queer characters that we’ve seen in YA fiction. Ryder and Andrew are cool additions to this list, then, because their sexual orientations don’t really play a large part in their lives. This is something we’ve seen in other YA books, but mainly in urban areas or in opposite-day settings where queerness is majoritarian; it’s not as common in a book set in a rural town.
All in all, Andy Squared isn’t a knock-your-socks-off gay romance, if that’s what you’re looking for, but I definitely recommend it for anyone in the mood for an easy read that includes horses, snow, wholesome families, and first loves.
Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan (2011). Judy and Kyle are twins who are always at odds. When Garrett moves into their already crowded home, they can’t figure out anything about him: is he a vampire? is he gay? He’s certainly mysterious and, of course, Judy and Kyle fight for his attention—Kyle because he’s actually interested and Judy because she wants to win.
Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith (2008). I paired Gemini Bites and Ghost Medicine as readalikes because I found Andy Squared to be, in music-reviewspeak, a kind of Gemini Bites meets Ghost Medicine, the former for the twins, the gayness, and the punchiness, and the latter for the really slow, beautiful evocation of a rural landscape (and the horsies!—sorry, I have had, like, three conversations with people about horsegirls this week, so I’ve been thinking about HORSIES. Note, google image searching “horsegirls” does not pull up the kind of pics I was expecting, although it does pull up the kind of pics I should have been expecting). As usual, Andrew Smith’s prose is gorgeous and his characters tell a painful brand of truth.
procured from: I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. Andy Squared by Jennifer Lavoie is available now.
Posted by Rebecca on April 17, 2013
by REBECCA, April 10, 2013
Lucian “Lucky” Spark: smart and forced to grow up too soon after losing his parents, he will do whatever it takes to protect his little brother, Cole
Digory Tycho: strong and dependable, he is working with the resistance against the bloodthirsty government that controls things
Every year, The Establishment recruits five citizens to face The Trials, with their loved ones as the Incentives for their success. When Lucian tries to take things into his own hands to protect his brother, he finds himself a Recruit, fighting for his brother’s life, and Digory, who seems desperate to protect him, is a Recruit right along with him. What mysteries is The Establishment hiding, and how can Lucian and Digory have any hope of being together when they may have to kill each other to save their Incentives?
Ok, so I’ve read reviews that call books or movies “supercharged” and always thought it was a really stupid word . . . until I read The Culling. There is just something about it that seemed amped-up, dynamic . . . well, supercharged.
The world of The Culling is a grim one. The Establishment controls every element of the lives of those living in the city through military presence, information-repression, disease, and poverty. Then there are The Trials: if you win, you have the chance to be an officer of The Establishment; if you lose, the people you love the most will die. When The Culling begins, Lucian is attempting to gain an audience with the prefect of the city, who came from his neighborhood, to try and protect his little brother, Cole, when he finds himself thrown headfirst into The Trials alongside the very person he’s attracted to: Digory Tycho, a highly capable member of the resistance with a heart of gold, at least where Lucian is concerned.
The Trials are sick, dude! I mean, like, messed-up in an awesome, eerie, Steven-dos-Santos-please-be-my-creepy-friend kind of way. The worldview of The Culling in general is one in which you cannot trust anyone, everyone will betray you, and people have been forced to do things for survival that leave psychological scars as well as physical ones. I admired dos Santos’ ability to present the truly harrowing consequences of The Trials, in which the Recruit who comes in last in each round must choose which of his or her two Incentives to kill. There are definitely some surprises there that were very well-handled. In short, The Culling reads like a highly creative action movie—very fast-paced but with just enough detail to everything that you absorb the world in passing, as opposed to lingering in it.
As the first book in a series, I thought The Culling did a nice job of planting a lot of seeds, any of which could be taken up in the rest of the series. The fast pace purposely values action over depth of world-building and I didn’t find this a fault, but rather an intentional artistic choice. I would have been equally satisfied by a slower-moving book with deeper world-building, but the pace here really was compelling. I’m not usually one to care overly much for speed, but I literally could not put the book down. Like, I had to go to work and was reading while I peed, reading while I walked to the trolley, reading on the trolley, which makes me carsick, and reading in the elevator up until the moment I walked in the door of work.
The characters are great: Lucian is smart and stubborn, resentful of ever needing Digory’s help, but so desperate to save his brother that he feels he has no choice. Digory could have fallen into the strong, savior stereotype, but his political ideals make him far more interesting. The other three Recruits are all excellent, too. There’s Cypress, who is cold and controlled in response to the traumas in her life; Gideon, the boy who seems pretty together, but is revealed to have more of a stake in his Incentives than anyone could possibly know; and Ophelia, who is fucking terrifying.
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
Now, I’ve read several reviews of The Culling that were negative, denouncing it for being similar to The Hunger Games, and I do see the similarities, plot-wise, but I’m very much hoping I can dispel the notion that these plot similarities are the heart of The Culling. Yes: The Culling shares with The Hunger Games trilogy a deep horror of a totalitarian government, the suspicion that under such a regime its citizens are mere pawns who think they have a chance of winning their freedom but who are always already merely fulfilling a preordained role, and the understanding that in a world where adults are necessarily enslaved by the system, wanting to protect someone innocent from harm is the most powerful impetus to fight, even if you don’t believe you can win. What they share, then, is the kind of deep structure that produces genres and subgenres. The Hunger Games and The Culling are part of the same subgenre of dystopian literature—a subgenre that predates the former and will, I’m sure, postdate the latter. Mkay, done.
The reason I was so excited to read The Culling in the first place is that it’s one of the few pieces of YA speculative fiction that I’ve come across where the author’s intention was that being gay wasn’t going to be the point of the story. There has been a lot of talk lately about how some people believe the next phase of queer visibility in the literary community is to have queerness be simply a fact of a character, as opposed to an occasion for comment about struggle. I don’t think that normalization into non-issue signals progress per se, but I’m glad that people are at least talking about the issue.
Anyway, I was curious what dos Santos’ take was going to be and I came away pretty impressed. My suspicion of the ideal of framing queerness as being so normal as to be invisible is that it elides very important material consequences of struggle. In the world of The Culling, being gay doesn’t seem to be an issue, but rather than eliding struggle, the commonality of being gay simply shifts the threat (Lucian is almost victimized by prison guards who call him “pretty boy”), not invisiblizing it. Furthermore, I was really glad to see a novel that depended on a regime of totalitarian control, as opposed to knee-jerk gender conservatism, to construct its dystopia.
I’m not a very patient person, so I’m kind of cursing myself for reading The Culling when I will now have to wait at least a year to find out what happens next. I highly recommend that you curse yourselves too, and check out this truly supercharged dystopia. Flux, you’ve done it again—my hat’s off.
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, of course (2008-2010). Nuff said about this, I think.
Girl In the Arena by Lisa Haines (2009). This compelling book explores a neo-gladatorial society, complete with its culture of violence, through the eyes of one girl who has to fight not only for her freedom but for her family as well.
procured from: I received an ARC of The Culling from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. The Culling by Steven dos Santos is available now!
Posted by Rebecca on April 10, 2013
Fiction Studio Books, 2012
by REBECCA, April 8, 2013
Apron Bramhall: insightful, and honest, in the aftermath of her mother’s death, her quirkiness is making her life harder
Dad: Latin professor who cares about Apron, but is desperate to please M, his new girlfriend
Mike: the nephew of Apron’s neighbor and owner of a local flower shop, Mike plays Jesus in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar and is so kind that Apron wonders if he and Jesus are actually related
Chad: Mike’s boyfriend, who immediately connects with Apron and her problems, but has problems of his own
It’s Maine in the summer of 1985 and thirteen-year-old Apron Bramhall’s heart is broken. Her mother died; her father is living with M, the nurse who cared for her mother and hates Apron; her best friend Rennie dumped her to hang out with popular Jenny; and it’s almost summer, so she’ll have nothing but time to think about how love just seems to cost too much to be worth it. Enter Mike and Chad, who recognize a kindred spirit in Apron and give her a job working at their flower shop over the summer. But the job turns into a deep connection with Mike and Chad, who are dealing with their own heartbreaks.
I entered the world of Girl Unmoored, the debut novel by Jennifer Gooch Hummer, with no expectations whatsoever and only the vaguest sense of what the book was about, and I’m glad I did. Girl Unmoored sees the world through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Apron, whose combination of insight and naiveté result in a wonderful and poignant voice. Apron’s life has sucked lately, and really all she wants to do is play with her guinea pig, The Boss, and read the Little House on the Prairie books.
“I had read every book in the series by the time I was eight, and a hundred times over since then. I have to sneak them now, though, otherwise my dad says, ‘Aren’t we a little past those, Apron? I mean really. How about some Moby-Dick?’ But the truth was that Laura Ingalls Wilder was the nicest girl I’ve ever not known. Rennie would throw me under a bus for a piece of chocolate.”
It’s Apron’s voice that is the real gem of Girl Unmoored: “Being this close to Mike made the cramp in my heart loosen up a bit, like little shingles were falling off of it.” For the first third of the book or so, Apron’s unique perspective is engaging and revelatory, and the tone is light, even with Apron’s troubles. As the book continues, though, shit gets pretty serious: Apron’s dad’s benign neglect ceases to feel benign, M’s passive distaste for Apron gets pretty active, and the mysterious disease from which Chad is suffering (mysterious to Apron, not to the reader) turns harrowing. Jennifer Gooch Hummer writes with a light hand that allows for this subtle shift from a summery, quirky tale of a small town to a truly heartbreaking story of a girl who has to figure out how to grow up and how to love without a traditional support system.
Girl Unmoored is a pretty quiet book, plot-wise, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Hummer is masterful at excavating the emotional core of every situation and achieves a subtle and deep vision of what is going on around Apron that she is aware of but cannot totally understand. The tone is pitch perfect and the characters layered and sympathetic. Despite the sunniness and charm of the setting, Girl Unmoored’s worldview is a realistically grim one: everyone has it rough and everyone is selfish and everyone wants someone to save them but knows that no one will. But that, Apron seems to decide by the end, may be the price of love: that you bear the burden of remembering it, in all its exaltation and all its grief, even after the ones you love are gone.
“I looked back at all those people I didn’t know and thought about how small your heart is but how big of a space it takes up. And how, even though you can’t see it, that heart space grows so quietly across a room or up some stairs in someone else’s living room, that even if you never step foot in it again, the air in there is changed forever.”
Girl Unmoored is like a cold glass of lemonade in the summer, the sourness of heartbreak sweetened by beautiful prose making it impossible not to gulp it down, and impossible not to feel the sting. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry; you’ll pour yourself another glass. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012). As you may remember, Tell the Wolves I’m Home was my favorite book of last year. Tell the Wolves I’m Home and Girl Unmoored share a time period and a basic plot, but are incredibly different in tone. If the former is a cold, desolate New York January, then the latter is a hot, claustrophobic, coastal July. If you like one, though, chances are you’ll like the other, and both are wonderful. You can read my complete review of Tell the Wolves I’m Home HERE, and an interview with the lovely Carol Rifka Brunt HERE.
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston (2010). Like Apron, Loa has just suffered a death in the family and, like Apron, Loa observes things that others overlook. Though Loa is older, they share a dark and poetic view of the world that they express matter-of-factly. You can read Tessa’s complete review of The Freak Observer HERE.
procured from: I received an ARC of Girl Unmoored from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer is available now.
Posted by Rebecca on April 8, 2013
Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013
by REBECCA, April 3, 2013
Bea: 3 months sober, and with her sobriety has come the rather disturbing ability to draw what people see
Chris: Bea’s bestie at her new school, he’s sweet and accepts Bea, creepy powers and all
Willa: she was recently raped but won’t pursue charges for fear of having her own secrets exposed
Bea is the oddball new girl in school, an outsider because of her reputation, her style choices, her addiction, and—oh, yeah—her power to draw whatever truths people are thinking. Girls in Ann Arbor are being attacked and the one who survived goes to Bea’s new school. Can Bea use her gift to draw the truth out of Willa? Will anyone believe her even if she can? And why is Bea so hell-bent on solving this case, anyway . . . ?
Ok, so I can’t lie—my primary motivation in reading Sketchy was that it’s set in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I grew up! And I’m really glad I did, because it was definitely a fun read. Sketchy finds Bea three months sober and dealing with her newfound gift as she starts Packard High School, a big change from the private, all-girls school she’d attended before rehab.
Since I grew up in A2, I couldn’t help but try and figure out where everything was taking place. It’s mentioned that Bea’s house is on the edge of University of Michigan’s campus, so I thought Packard High must be modelled on Pioneer High School; besides, Pioneer is close to Packard Road. The novel opens, however, with some boys finding Willa’s body when they go to smoke pot at the creek near school, which reminds me so much of wandering across the street from Huron High School to the river . . . so, you know, I could be wrong. Further suggesting it may be modelled on Huron is that students call Packard High Packrat High, and Huron’s mascot is the River Rat, chosen, for anyone who’s interested, by a landslide write-in vote when Huron first opened. It was a reclamation of the term, originally derogatorily flung at those students who lived near the Huron River but were forced to attend Pioneer High because there wasn’t yet a second high school in town. Or, at least, that’s the story I always heard. I went to Huron, in case you were wondering. (Which is it, Olivia Samms; I need to know!)
Anyhoosier, Sketchy is set in a realist world—except for Bea’s power, of course. For anyone from A2, you’ll recognize landmarks like the Arboretum, North Campus, and frat row. But if you’re not from Ann Arbor, you’ll probably enjoy Sketchy anyway. Olivia Samms manages to get in a bit of the grittiness of addiction while still keeping it realistic in a teenage, college town context. We learn how Bea got into drugs in well-paced flashbacks, and we learn what her connection is to the current spate of girls who are taken, raped, and then killed. Well, killed except for one—Willa, who was left for dead—who crosses Bea’s path at Packard High.
Bea is a talented artist (even when she’s not drawing the truth out of people), daughter of two artist parents, and seems like a pretty cool person when she’s sober and not extracting your deepest secrets. She sticks up for Chris when he’s bullied for being gay, and she honestly wants to help catch whoever is hurting people (and is willing to go to great lengths to do so). Sketchy is fast-paced, so we don’t get huge insight into Bea, despite her being our narrator, but I anticipate more of that as the series continues. I don’t mean that she isn’t a fleshed-out character—she is. It’s just that her narrative isn’t really about her; she’s the camera we see through.
The background of Bea’s family was particularly interesting—and it seems pretty clear that it’s something that will come into play more as the series continues. Bea is half black and half Italian, and issues of race come up, if superficially (for example, Bea has always been self-conscious about her hair, the texture of which prompted some of her classmates to call her “Chia Pet” and “Beaver-head” in elementary school). I’m always glad when a character’s race is something that an author attends to intentionally, although the stark terms of Sketchy‘s take on ethnic generalizations made me a tidge uncomfortable at times.
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
As a mystery, as I mentioned, Sketchy doesn’t really do it for me—that is, it’s pretty obvious who the attacker is and the whole thing is wrapped up quickly and tidily. But that was ok with me; I enjoyed the ambiance, and I was more interested in learning about Bea’s art and her family dynamic (and her outfits—girlfriend is a thrift store queen!) than the mystery itself. Further supporting the central mystery not really being the strength of the book is that Bea suffers from a case of the I-can-catch-the-killer-myself-no-problems!, often an unpleasant turn in YA mysteries.
Still, though, even with the mystery angle not really holding up (and some very stiff dialogue—I move that we stop pretending anyone refers to each other by name more than once a day, even if it seems like it’ll help keep the dialogue tags clear), I still enjoyed reading Sketchy and am curious to see who Bea “catches” as the series continues. I’m hoping we learn more about Chris, Bea’s bestie at school, who is self-conscious about being a bit of a scaredy-cat, but has made contact with a promising hottie by the end of the book, and about her father’s relationship with art. All in all, despite surface-level resemblances to other YA mysteries where the protag is aided by a special power, Sketchy felt like its own take, and it had just enough grit to keep things interesting.
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman (2012). This is a great YA mystery, and similarly atmospheric. “When one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong—especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth” (from Goodreads). My full review is HERE.
Dream Catcher trilogy by Lisa McMann (Wake, 2008; Fade, 2009; Gone, 2010). Janie can’t help it: she gets sucked into other people’s dreams. When she falls into a different kind of terrifying nightmare, Janie isn’t just an observer—now she has a part to play.
procured from: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (thanks!). Sketchy, by Olivia Samms will be available on April 30th.
Posted by Rebecca on April 3, 2013
review by Tessa, with comments from Rebecca
Maria Griffiths- still wants to write the ultimate zine that explains what it means to be a trans woman, but hasn’t yet. feels a little trapped in her union job at a bookstore. feels a little trapped in her head.
Steph – Maria’s increasingly distanced girlfriend
Kieran – a fellow bookstore worker and catalyst for life changes in Maria and Steph’s relationship
Piranha – an agoraphobic, pill-savvy and wise friend to Maria.
James – a boy stuck in the worst city ever and maybe stuck in a male body
Nicole – thinking her way out of Star City’s claustrophobic social norms, and an increasingly frustrated girlfriend to James
Maria Griffiths is a little tired of everything—her job, her girlfriend, thinking about being trans. She is starting to think that her new life philosophy should be about irresponsibility.
The first time the reader meets Maria, she’s being unsatisfactorily choked during sex by her girlfriend. Then she fakes an orgasm. To say she has intimacy issues would be an understatement. It’s like Maria wants to find intimacy but someone gave her a map that omitted it entirely, so how is she ever going to find it without some serious luck?
It’s not like Maria hasn’t done relatively well for herself. She’s union at her job, she’s really good at riding her bike, and she successfully figured out that she was transgender and transitioned. But life isn’t a series of radio boxes ready to be clicked, leading to fulfillment, and something’s missing for Maria. She doesn’t know if she wants to be saying something to a wider audience or be left alone to make bad decisions.
Luckily or unluckily, her distance from her girlfriend Steph leads Steph to tell a little lie about cheating, which makes Maria start thinking about where her life is, and where her life used to be when she was growing up in small town Pennsylvania, getting high on heroin and passing out in crash-pad houses – knowing there was more out there — “There was a Borders and hour away and sometimes somebody would manage to get a zine onto their magazine rack, so she knew that there was more going on than classic rock radio and getting fucked up.” (27) – but not being able to escape yet. She’s not making those bad decisions now, but she’s really not making any decisions—until some bad things naturally start happening, because the scale of Maria’s life tips just over into uncertainty, and she embraces it.
did this book achieve its intentions?
Have you ever, like me, wished you could have a real-time transcription of your thoughts? Imogen Binnie’s narrative style is as close to that as I’ve found, except it’s not in first person. It’s like Binnie read Maria’s thoughts and wrote a journal of Maria in third person, and I find it is a very fun and effective way to get to know Maria.
Here is Maria thinking about what she wishes people knew about trans women
“It’s worth pointing out that trans women in real life are different from trans women on television. For one thing, when you take away the mystification, misconceptions and mystery, they’re at least as boring as everybody else. Oh, neurosis! Oh, trauma! Oh, look at me, my past messed me up and I’m still working through it! Despite the impression you might get from daytime talk shows and dumb movies, there isn’t anything particularly interesting there—although, of course, Maria may be biased.
She wishes other people could understand that without her having to tell them. It’s always impossible to know what anyone’s assumptions are. People tend to assume that trans women are either drag queens and loads of trashy fun, or else sad, pathetic and deluded pervy straight men- at least, until they save up they money and get their Sex Change Operations, at which point we become just like every other woman? Or something. But Maria is like, Dude, hi. Nobody ever reads me as trans any more. Old straight men hit on me when I’m at work and in all these years of transitioning I haven’t even been able to save up for a decent pair of boots.
This is what it’s like to be a trans woman: Maria works in an enormous used bookstore in Manhattan.” (10-11.)
This quote showcases Binnie’s lovely (not kidding) use of colloquialisms like “Dude” and her slipping in and out of “I” to “she”, and it showcases the way that being trans isn’t what the book is about. To me, that’s the hallmark of a good read – Nevada is a portrait of Maria at a crux in her life. Maria is trans and it informs the past and current course of her life, and she thinks about it a lot, so it’s not like it’s not in there. It’s just that the “issue” is in service of the character and not the other way around. So it’s not an “issue”, it’s a part of a person, just as cancer functioned in The Fault in Our Stars and class functioned in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and being a lesbian was part of Starting From Here, and how the encroachment of meth failed to function in A Plague Year.
One of Rebecca’s favorite things about Nevada, and I’m inclined to agree, is how Binnie “evokes a really particular (and very self-conscious) demographic (microdemographic?). these are characters who are really familiar to me but I’ve really never read about them in another book. And I’m so glad there is now a book about them.”
One of the ways that I see this happening is how engaged Maria and the other characters are in literature, theory, and philosophy. They think about it so much it becomes part of their in jokes, as in this part of Kieran and Maria’s friendship:
“Kieran heard that Maria liked Kathy Acker so he started doing shitty Kathy Acker impressions at her and normally she responds with shitty impressions of James Joyce, who Kieran is really into. She’s supposed to say, Yes I say Maybe Whatever Yes Sure Fine Yes Whatever Sure, but right now it’s not like she even wants to talk to him. It’s stupid, anyway-he is supposed to be this End of Gender gender tough genderqueer radical, but was James Joyce working to undermine patriarchy. Kieran will talk about all the reasons that yes, Joyce was working to undermine patriarchy, but the actual answer was no, James Joyce was a patriarchal fuck and dead white man worship is a function of patriarchy. But fuck that conversation right now.” (31).
Much of Nevada is in Maria’s head. There are glimpses of other narrative voices, but hers is the main one. (Binnie’s style also makes it a little more work than ussual to differentiate the nuance in each voice as well, which may be a drawback to some, but I enjoyed it so much I noted it and moved on). Reading Maria’s paragraph-long musings is bracing, funny, and hypnotic. At times in the book it’s like she and I were simultaneously looking up from her thoughts to realize that there was an entire world out there, with fresh air and ways to forget her obsessions, even though her obsessions are an interesting space in which to spend time.
Rebecca notes, sagely, regarding characterization, that “Binnie is ruthless in regard to her characters, which I love. We’ll read about maria’s thoughts about how she thinks Steph is oblivious of something and then twenty pages later, Binnie will show us a glimpse of Steph and it’s clear that Steph is actually totally aware. No character is safe from Binnie’s narrative’s edge and it’s a joy to see how incisively she understands her characters’ perspectives, and also how totally capable she is of seeing their weaknesses.”
Although Nevada is a novel about adults worrying about adult things, like possibly being fired and how they’re going to pay rent if they break up with someone they’ve been in a relationship for four years with, and how that also will affect their personality, it also contains themes that run through many YA novels. In some ways, Maria feels like she never had her adolescence because she was trying so hard to protect herself by suppressing herself, so her journey in Nevada is the journey of trying to make herself open up to adolescent experiences.
The plot is divided up into two parts—her crumbling but triumphant escape from New York City and a snapshot of her travels, presumably cross country travels. It’s in this second part that Binnie shows Maria as she’s seen by another person—a probably transgender Wal-Mart clerk named James.
Through her interactions with James, Maria tries out the guise of mentor and the task of audibly explaining her experiences to an outsider to her world. And while the ending thankfully shies away from identity-road-trip conventions, it doesn’t eschew the connection that both Maria and James are looking for. I was left with the feeling that both of their lives were opening up a little more, that they were accepting other potentialities for their life, even if getting there would be uncomfortable or painful. I’d be happy to go along with them and find out what happens, but unfortunately, the book ends.
I’m pulling these from books I’ve read, but please check out the great lists that are available on Goodreads on the subject of trans memoirs and fiction!
Girl by Blake Nelson – for the evocation of a strong character through voice (and: girl in a state of life transition).
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger – While Wittlinger has other books specifically with trans characters, Hard Love’s theme of figuring out how to separate linked feelings is apropos for many of the relationships in Nevada.
a + e 4ever by ilike merey – intimacy issues + exploring sexuality and gender performance + close friendship + the intensity of being a teenager = a messy, real graphic novel
Girls, Visions, and Everything by Sarah Schulman – Lila spends a summer purposefully wandering without purpose around New York, bearing witness to the way she and her friends live before it becomes unaffordable, getting into adventures and finding ways of loving people.
And Imogen Binnie has a blog, which can also be read.
I received this book from Topside Press with no expectations or remuneration on either side
Posted by tessabarber on March 29, 2013
Pan Books, 2000
by REBECCA, February 6, 2013
Stephen Conlin: Branded “FAG” at the start of high school, Stephen is a tough cookie!
Meredith Ducote: Stephen’s former best friend who turns popular mean girl (for a little while) but has troubles of her own
Greg Darby & Brandon Charbonnet: Stephen and Meredith’s childhood friends made villainous by age
Jordan Charbonnet: declared too perfect for his own good by a college girlfriend, Jordan and Stephen make an unlikely couple
Once, as kids, Stephen, Meredith, Greg, and Brandon were inseparable, playing on the streets of their New Orleans neighborhood. As they start high school, though, Greg and Brandon become popular football players, Meredith becomes part of the in-crowd, and Stephen is bullied for being gay by people at school, including his ex-friends. Five years later, after high school, Stephen has a new life and hasn’t spoken to Meredith, Greg, and Brandon in years. When a shocking explosion kills multiple people in a New Orleans club and a series of violent events unfold, the former friends find themselves forced back into each other’s lives.
Oh, Southern gothic, I love you so! I first read A Density of Souls when it first came out in 2000, which was my senior year of high school. I’d never been to New Orleans at the time and—I can’t lie to you, friends—really I only picked it up because Christopher Rice is Anne Rice‘s son and I was curious about what craziness Anne Rice’s kid would spew out. But, though I picked it up with impure intentions, I loved A Density of Souls within the first ten pages. I am such a sucker for a story about intense childhood friendships that go awry, and these friendships definitely go awry.
Stephen is the main character, here, though we get chunks of others’ stories (including Stephen’s mom as a young girl). After high school, Stephen lives with his mom (his dad killed himself years ago), goes to school, and has begun dating. He’s made a life for himself despite being tormented in high school. One night Stephen is at a bar with a friend when someone blows it up. As if shit’s not hard enough, right Stephen!? Anyhoo, this act sets into motion a series of events that brings Meredith back into Stephen’s life and introduces Stephen to Jordon Charbonnet (such great New Orleans-y last names!), Brandon’s older brother and bona fide overly-attractive person.
The tone of A Density of Souls is what I most appreciate about it. When I say it’s a Southern gothic, I mean more in the Truman Capote sense than in the William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor senses of things. That is, this isn’t a gloomy, sinister creepshow. Its Southern gothicness is subtle—more about manners, pathos, and family secrets, drippy trees and dirty water. And it’s delightful. I think a lot of people would put Christopher Rice in the “guilty pleasure” camp, in that his writing is . . . unapologetically lush. But I think it’s beautiful, as long as you like that sort of thing. I mean, I hate to make the comparison, but in a way, his descriptions of New Orleans do really remind me of mommy Rice a bit, in that they caress a New Orleans that they both obviously love.
“Beneath a sky thickening with summer thunderheads, they rode their bikes to Lafayette Cemetery, where the dead are buried above ground. The four of them flew down Chestnut Street, their wheels bouncing over flagstones wrenched by the gnarled roots of oak trees. They passed high wrought-iron fences beyond which Doric and Ionic columns held up the façades of Greek Revival mansions, their screened porches shrouded in tangles of vines” (3).
what was this book’s intention? did it live up to it?
Christopher Rice (and I say this having read all of his books except his most recent, which, frankly, looks uninteresting to me) is fascinated by writing about the way the secrets we protect most fiercely have a way of erupting into our relationships and either ruining them or strengthening them. His thesis across four books seems to be that if a relationship is worth anything then it can absorb your deepest, darkest secrets, and if it crumples under their weight then it wasn’t worth much to begin with. I feel pretty comfortable endorsing that calculus. Right? Anyhoo, A Density of Souls is a story about the different ways those secrets affect the relationships in Stephen, Meredith, Greg, and Brandon’s lives.
Rice is a legitimately good writer, and his evocation of interpersonal dynamics in only a few lines of dialogue works particularly well for this book, which is pretty short and manages to tell a number of stories, but isn’t at all dense. In that way, it is very un-Anne-Rice-esque and reminds me more of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s or something.
“After three weeks of seing each other, at just the moment when Stephen felt he had written enough love poetry to hand Devon a stack of messy loose-leaf pages, Devon showed up at his house one afternoon and announced that Stephen was a ‘cold, emotionally withdrawn person suffering from only-child syndrome,’ and their relationship was over. He offered evidence. ‘A week ago we went to see a movie. Before the movie you purchased a pack of Dots. You consumed the entire pack without offering me any. In the middle of the movie, I rose and went to purchase my own pack. When I sat down, the first thing you asked me was, “Can I have some Dots?”‘
Devon paused, allowing his indictment to settle over Stephen. In response, Stephen picked up a copy of Reports from the Holocaust by Larry Kramer off the nightstand and hurled it at Devon’s head. . . . Stephen received a memo printed on the stationary of the Tulane University administrative office where Devon was working part-time. RE: Your Emotional Issues . . .
Stephen did not call Devon. Instead, he delivered a case of Dots to the door of Devon’s dorm room” (114-115).
All the interconnections among people strengthen the feeling that Rice evokes of an inescapably, at times claustrophobically, tight-knit Garden District, and sets the scene well for the backstories of Stephen’s mother and the Charbonnet family.
A Density of Souls is great story-telling against the well-wrought backdrop of contemporary New Orleans. I made my mother read it when we were in New Orleans together a few years ago (you know, for thematic resonance) and she really enjoyed it, too. So, there you have it: an intergenerational two thumbs up!
The Snow Garden by Christopher Rice (2002). The Snow Garden is Rice’s second novel and I really like it also. Set on a college campus, two close friends realize that although they were immediately drawn together they each have reinvented themselves in an attempt to leave dark pasts behind. When a professor’s wife dies in a car accident one night, it threatens to expose an intricate web of lies that has captured both friends.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992). One of my all-time favorites, this is set on a college campus, but feels like a boarding school. I write about The Secret History and a ’90s series that totally rips it off HERE.
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim (1995). A beautiful, intense book about what it means to excavate your own secrets, especially when you’ve hidden them from yourself. Awesome movie adaptation by Gregg Araki, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
procured from: bought, long ago
Posted by Rebecca on February 6, 2013
Simon Pulse, 2013
by REBECCA, January 14, 2013
Rudy: a lonely, thoughtful guy who is torn between loyalty to his family and the companionship of a mysterious fishboy . . .
Teeth (Fishboy): a sad but strong loner (by necessity), Teeth doesn’t know his own story until Rudy shows up.
Dylan: Rudy’s little brother who is sweet, weird, and dying.
Diana: A strange shut-in, she lends Rudy books, and occasionally more.
Ms. Delaney: Diana’s mother, her family discovered the island’s magic fish, and her history is complicated.
Rudy & Dylan’s parents: they mean well, but are totally consumed by Dylan’s health problems.
When Rudy leaves everything he knows to move to an island whose magic fish might be able to cure his brother’s cystic fibrosis he knows things will never be the same. What he can’t know is that he’ll meet someone who changes everything he knows about himself . . . and presents him with a life and death dilemma. How will Rudy choose between two people he loves?
Emblazoned on the (absolutely gorgeous and apt) cover of Teeth is “miracles always come at a price,” and for once that isn’t just a dramatic tagline. For Rudy’s family, the miracle is an island where the local Enki fish have magical healing properties when ingested by the ill. The price? Well, that’s part of the complexity of Teeth‘s mystery. Rudy’s five-year-old brother is dying from cystic fibrosis and moving to the island is his last hope, but even if people are healed by the Enki fish, they mustn’t stop eating them or their powers will wear off. And, so, sixteen-year-old Rudy finds himself in a cold, eerie house on the edge of the ocean, every iota of his family’s energy and resources bent toward keeping his baby brother alive. Rudy draws and runs and reads, but he has no contact with the outside world, no future with his family since he’ll leave the island to go to college and they’ll stay with his brother, and, until he meets Fishboy, not even anyone to talk to.
When he first sees Fishboy (who, he learns later, goes by Teeth), Rudy is coming home from the market.
I turn away from Ms. Delaney’s mansion and that’s when I see him, sitting on a rock with a piece of seaweed hanging out of his mouth. . . . And before I notice anything else about him, I realized he’s about my age. And then the rest of him hits me: webbed fingers, the scrawny torso patched with silver scales, and a twisted fish tail starting where his hips should be, curling into a dirty fin. A fish. A boy. The ugliest thing I have ever seen. Can’t be real. . . . He gives me a funny smile and a small wave. And then he pushes off the rock and dives into the water. I find him with my eyes a few seconds later. He’s swimming out past the surf, hard. I see his fin hitting the water behind him with each stroke, setting up waves that push him farther and farther away from the shore.
He can’t be a mermaid, because he has to come up to breathe. He’s stopping to pant. He’s tired. Mermaids sing underwater. Mermaids can’t get tired. Because mermaids aren’t real. And then he’s gone.”
Teeth lives in the ocean around the island and doesn’t even know how old he is or where he came from. He learned English by listening to the fishermen and the islanders talking, so there are many things he doesn’t know the words for and replaces with “whatever,” which is a really charming character trait, because it both frustrates Teeth that he can’t fully express himself and also allows him to seem uncaring about things that hurt him. And a lot of things hurt him. He was abandoned in the sea as a very young child and had to learn to survive; he is the only one of his kind, so he’s been very lonely; and the fisherman who sell the Enki fish routinely rape and abuse him.
Goodreads describes Teeth as “a gritty, romantic modern fairy tale,” and I can see why they do: Teeth is a moody, elliptical book with a toe each in the oceans of magical realism and fantasy. But “fairy tale” does justice to neither the complexity of Hannah Moskowitz‘s characters nor the ethical ambiguity of its murky waters. Rudy loves his brother, but resents the loneliness of the island; he wants to save his brother by procuring the Enki fish for him, but doesn’t want to harm Teeth once he learns of that procurement’s effect on him; he’s only ever been attracted to girls, but finds that he is drawn to Teeth in a powerful way that he doesn’t fully understand.
In a blog post I wrote over the summer about YA books that feature the ocean, I mentioned that I wished there were enough dark YA books about the ocean to facilitate me naming the sub-genre “oceanic gothic.” Well, I submit that Teeth is precisely the kind of book that belongs in that category. Awful things happen in this book, but the mood is so dreamy and, well, oceanic, that it seems as if Rudy and Teeth are experiencing them from underwater. I am a huge obsessoid about the ocean (hi, Pisces here) and I definitely think there is an aesthetic and a mood that seem to fit with the darkness of the ocean. This is a tidal, salt-rimed, shivery, rusty fishhook of a book that I couldn’t help but be pulled under by. And I loved every minute of it. It’s heartbreaking and creepy and sad, but all its feelings issue from a kind of exhausted or cold-numbed place, so it’s all a little detached in a way that dulls what might otherwise have been a rather melodramatic edge.
I won’t say much more about the plot because it’s a beautifully crafted mystery that unfolds slowly, but Moskowitz’s prose is simply lovely, by turns lyrical, cutting, and funny. Here is how Teeth opens:
At night the ocean is so loud and so close that I lie awake, sure it’s going to beat against the house’s supports until we all crumble onto the rocks and break into pieces. Our house is creaky, gray, weather stained. It’s probably held a dozen desperate families who found their cure and left before we’d even heard about this island. We are a groan away from a watery death, and we’ll all drown without even waking up, because we’re so used to sleeping through unrelenting noise. Sometimes I draw. Usually I keep as still as I can. I worry any movement from me will push us over the edge. I don’t even want to blink. I feel the crashing building up. I always do. I lie in bed with my eyes open and focus on a peak in my uneven ceiling and pretend I know how to meditate. You are not moving. You are not drowning. It’s just the rain. It’s your imagination. Go to sleep.
That pounding noise is just pavement under your feet, is sex, is your mother’s hands on your brother’s chest, is something that is not water. It’s not working tonight. I sit up and grab my pad and pen to sketch myself, standing. Dry. Sometimes the waves hit the shore so hard that I can’t even hear the screaming. But usually I can. Tonight I can, and it hits me too hard for me to draw. I need to learn how to draw a scream.”
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
Teeth asks important and compelling questions: “How much could you hurt one person you love to save another?” “When is weakness unforgivable?” “How long should you sacrifice your own needs for someone else?” “Is living a long life really the most important thing?” These questions are, in general, subtly posed, but Teeth isn’t an overly polished book, and that’s a good thing, I think. It’s raw, it’s desperate, it’s desirous, and those are its strengths. Hannah Moskowitz has written a top-rate story with complex characters and an intriguing mystery, but the real star of Teeth for me was its mood.
There are elements I wasn’t crazy about: Diana Delaney, the girl Rudy meets and begins quasi-canoodling with, is undeveloped (whether intentionally or unintentionally) and therefore functioned mostly like a plot device for me—although of what I shall not say. Relatedly, Diana and Rudy’s discussions of books felt realistic, especially in the context of bored teens trapped on an island, but the books they discuss felt, in some moments, jarringly contemporary enough to wrench me out of the murky anywhere of the island (“This isn’t Looking for Alaska,” Diana says). In other moments, iconic books they discuss hang unpleasantly heavily over the rest of the narrative, overemphasizing themes that would have been quite clear enough without them. These were the only false notes for me, however.
One of the things that I most appreciated about Teeth was the slow and subtle build of Teeth and Rudy’s relationship. There is nothing overtly sexual or romantic about how Rudy sees Teeth, mostly because he’s never thought of guys in that context. But, little by little, as Teeth becomes more and more important to Rudy he begins to feel passionately for him. Teeth’s fishboyness could have easily been turned into a clunky and over-played metaphor for feelings of isolation by queer teens, but it is so much more interesting that he is actually half fish.
All in all, a captivating and thoroughly original read. Vive la Oceanic Gothic!
procured from: I received an Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher (thanks!) with no compensation on either side. Teeth is now available.
I can’t honestly think of anything that I’ve read that is actually that similar to Teeth. In terms of other oceanic gothics that I want to read, there is Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar; as for other merpeople books that look interesting, there is Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama . . . But, really, the only thing that comes to mind as being somewhat similar in mood is Margo Lanagan’s very excellent Tender Morsels.
Any thoughts about readalikes? Tell me in the comments!
Posted by Rebecca on January 14, 2013