Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between March 20th and 26th, I read:
The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan (2018)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: A secondary POV character is gay
Thoughts: This had an interesting premise: 17-year-old Mattie is secretly obsessed with escapology, and she gets the agoraphobic Miyu, daughter of a deceased world-famous escape artist, Akiko Miyaki, to start training her – all while hiding her passion from friends, family, and schoolmates. The escape scenes, both training and performing, were entertaining and managed to be nerve-wracking even in print; the cast of secondary characters was interesting (even the minor characters were enjoyable – I liked the hecklers at the Salon Postale a lot); and putting excerpts from Akiko’s diary between chapters added another dimension to the story. But the whole thing just fell a little flat for me. The writing felt somewhat stilted at times, and although I like quirky characters, the quirkiness here tended to feel a little forced. It also felt like an odd choice to have two POV characters, but split the narration so unevenly between them. I don’t think it needs to be an exact 50/50 split, but this felt so lopsided – 80/20? 90/10? – that I wondered why we were even getting both perspectives. It wasn’t a bad book, but it was unpolished.
Moonstruck, Vol. 2: Some Enchanted Evening by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kat Fajardo (2019)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Audience: all ages
Queer rep: The MC is a lesbian with a girlfriend and her best friend uses they/them pronouns; various queer secondary/minor characters
Thoughts: I was not wild about volume one of this series, but I went ahead and read this one anyway because I want to like it. I like the art a lot, and I like Chet, the nonbinary centaur. I actually liked this one better than the first one (which I was more negative about than I remembered). The cursing, which had been really jarring to me in an “all ages” comic, was absent in this volume; and Selena and Julie still don’t have the healthiest relationship, but it seemed somewhat less hostile here (although their communication is terrible). The plot is a little all over the place, but… there was improvement. This is still not a favorite, but I’d read another volume.
Look Past by Eric Devine (2016)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is trans
Thoughts: I honestly don’t even know what I think about this. There is a lot going on in this book. In a nutshell: a preacher’s daughter is brutally murdered in a small town; the deceased’s first love, Avery, is determined to carry out his own investigation; Avery begins receiving death threats stating that if he doesn’t repent for being transgender, he’ll be the next victim. For about half the book, it seemed like Avery’s gender was treated respectfully; then, as the threats ramp up and the police want Avery to try to draw out the killer by pretending to repent, it gets rather squicky and way too focused on both Avery’s body and his gender expression.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
Queer rep: Tobia is genderqueer, trans, nonbinary (they use various words to describe themself)
Thoughts: This was the highlight of this week’s reading. Admittedly, there wasn’t a lot of competition this week, but I truly enjoyed this memoir. The writing style is chatty and conversational, and Tobia manages to inject plenty of humor into a subject that could easily stray into grimmer territory. I’ve seen some of Tobia’s essays around the internet, but I wasn’t too familiar with them or their activism before reading this book, and I liked the way they were able to weave together their personal story with the larger picture of what queer and trans lives and rights do, can, and should look like in today’s world.