Tag Archives: things in print thursday

Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [This Is Where It Ends]

18 May

So. I called the unpleasant ~surprise of this one pretty early on, and part of me wishes it hadn’t been there because it could have been avoided, but given the cast of characters and what they were capable of it made sense. I didn’t like it, but it made sense. My only real complaint is that it wasn’t fully dealt with, that is, it didn’t have all of the effects it could have and went largely unknown by most of the cast, and that’s something I also get but I kind of wish it had been different. But oh well.

Overall, this was a good book. I wanted to get that first bit out of the way, but it wasn’t enough to seriously detract from my enjoyment of the story. Enjoyment is the wrong word when you’re talking about a book that deals with school shootings and all sorts of auxiliary terrible things, but still. Whatever the equivalent. I’m glad I read it, and it was an important and interesting story.

Because even for the thing I was vaguely referring to in the first paragraph, or the fact that it’s about a school shooting, or the auxiliary terrible things that happen surrounding the events of the actual story (told in real-time, as it were, with shifting POVs and social media interjections – an effective way of keeping up the intensity and breathlessness and frantic pace of what was going on) the thing is… yes. All of that is bad. But it happens. It happens, and people still have to face those things, and it’s ultimately a story not about those things but about how they shape people and how people fight through and heal. And that’s what matters most, I think.

There are parts that were a little uneven, I think; a lot of the stuff with Claire, the track star-slash-shooter’s ex, didn’t feel entirely developed, like you’d gone from a to c without fully explaining b, and some of the drama between the Sylv and Autumn, or Sylv and Tomas, went in vague circles. (Also, it’s none of my business but what is it with characters in these YA books going by nicknames that awkwardly chop their two-syllable name into one syllable that ends with a v. Far From You had Trev, which made me angry. Sylv is a little better, but – I don’t know, it just feels abrupt. This is a weird etymological pet peeve of mine I guess. It’s not a flaw in the writing. Just my brain being odd.)

But ultimately, the pacing is really unique and the subject matter is important and Sylv and Autumn are very good Sapphic girls and I just wanted them to be happy. And Claire’s heterosexuality wasn’t even particularly cringeworthy, so good job, Marieke Nijkamp. (Sidenote: I also adore your first name, Marieke Nijkamp. That’s just really pretty.)

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [Girl Mans Up]

27 Apr

So I think my biggest takeaway from this novel is: wow, man, toxic masculinity is the worst. But there’s a lot more to it, too.

This is a book about Pen, a rather tomboyish, butch enough to be androgynous girl who’s spent her whole life being friends with boys and getting both treated like a boy and asked if she wants to be a boy.  To complicate matters, she comes from a traditional Portuguese family keen on their own idea of respect, which doesn’t include dressing like her brother. And, thank goodness, she’s queer. (There are too many stories, in my opinion, that rely on the “so what if I’m butch, I really do like boys!” trope, I suppose in an attempt not to seem “stereotypical.” I’m sure there are butch girls who like boys. I’m not disputing that. But there are also butch girls who like girls, and that’s what I want to read about.) She doesn’t really stick to one label to describe her own sexuality, but queer is the closest; in any event, she’s interested in dating and having sexual relations with girls. In this way it’s a fairly standard coming-of-age story, but a well-drawn one.

There are also a lot of situations surrounding gender politics, which – okay, well, obviously, but it’s still really interesting. More than once Pen is asked if she’s trans, at least once by someone entirely well-meaning and understanding, but she states repeatedly that she’s a girl. She’s just a girl who likes “boy things,” aesthetically and recreationally. Her sexuality is often interpreted by others as being a part of this – i.e. she dresses like a boy because she wants romance with girls – but she also states that the two things are unrelated. They just are. She also debates with herself about relationship terminology, about how she wants to be her girlfriend’s boyfriend and things like that, which is something I can guarantee you wouldn’t have been reading ten years ago but I’m sure it’s something some people have to think about.  This sort of internal monologue regarding gender fluidity isn’t something you hear in stories very often, but it’s also interesting to me personally because I’m nowhere near butch myself and these are things I never really had to think about in my own coming-of-age. It’s important to have different perspectives than your own, even about something you’re still pretty close to.

I was also sort of delighted that the process of her being interested in and dating a girl was relatively drama-free, or better put the drama involved very decidedly did not involve the girlfriend, Blake, having a crisis of sexuality. Those are legitimate, and it’s good to have them reflected in media, I’m not saying it’s not, but I also really appreciate when the parties in question are both comfortable from the get-go because that happens too. Not every queer story is a coming-out story.

I also appreciated that a lot of the conflicts in the story were resolved but not perfectly, because, again, that’s how life often is. Pen is happy at the end of the story, but it’s not like everything magically resolved.

But, in addition to the family conflicts and gender conflicts mentioned above, the other main source of tension throughout the narrative is Pen’s relationship with her guy friends, primarily the ringleader, Colby. He looks out for her in some ways at the beginning of the book, but not very well, and he honestly struck me as a grade-A douche from the beginning because he makes all of his friends do things for him as a show of “loyalty.” I kept thinking, the way he was talking, that they were going to turn out to be in some kind of gang, but no. He’s just a womanizing douche who basically turns on her the minute she starts to go against his make-believe code.

And this is where the toxic masculinity bit comes in. Because she wants to play with the boys, she has to go by their bro code. She’s constantly framing things in ways that I’d cringe at if she was actually a guy, using terms that often make me uncomfortable. She’s got this programming that being one of the guys involves being, honestly, kind of a jerk, which is in part because of Colby’s bullshit “loyalty” thing and in part because, honestly, a lot of guys are kind of gross. Her older brother isn’t gross, though! He is part of the very positive influence in her life to unlearn bad behavior and he’s very supportive.

All in all, I’m very impressed, and I feel like I learned a thing or two along the way.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [Far From You]

30 Mar

This novel, by Tess Sharpe, is about a young bisexual girl, Sophie, and it actually says the b-word. This is the most remarkable thing about this book, honestly. The narrator says “I’m bisexual” and not just in her own internal monologue. Another thing I appreciated – and this is not to say that it’s not entirely valid when a bisexual character, in the present tense of a narrative, is attracted to both men and women, because it is legitimate – is that although the narrator is in fact bisexual her present tense attraction, the only attraction she says has ever meant anything, is toward a girl, her recently dead best friend Mina.

Because here’s the thing. It’s important to acknowledge that someone can in fact be bisexual, self-proclaimed and genuinely attracted to “both” (assuming the gender binary, which is false, but Sophie does say she’s attracted to both boys and girls, so in her case that’s the bisexual that applies), but can either prefer one or the other or have a more serious connection with one or the other. Sophie mentions past hookups with boys, but she says out loud that it’s always been Mina that she loves, and though Mina is dead by the time the book starts this doesn’t change. Her bisexuality doesn’t mean that she’s susceptible to the obvious male option for a counterpart. It’s not a way of saying “I loved a girl in the past, but now I’ll replace her with a guy because lol I’m bisexual and I want everyone.” She doesn’t want everyone. She merely acknowledges the possibility of wanting more than one gender of someone.

The end of the book leaves it open: she could eventually fall in love again, with a boy or a girl, but not with any of the boys or girls that have previously been presented. Her options are open, not filled in an easy way. I feel like that doesn’t always happen, and it was nice.

The actual content of the book, aside from the sexuality (not crisis, but conflict of sorts), deals mainly with two things: Sophie recounting the aftermath of a car accident she was in years before that not only permanently injured but set her up for an addiction to painkillers that she ultimately had to kick, and Sophie recounting the aftermath of Mina’s murder and her own involvement, how the former things affected the situation, and how she set out to solve the crime. Drift partner warned me that the twist ending of the book might be a little obvious, but it’s not so much about the mystery as it is about the journey to get there, I don’t think. (I was also oblivious to the clues that would make it obvious because there were a good three or four characters I kept forgetting about and then having to remember which one they were.)

Anyway. There’s sexuality stuff, there’s physical disability stuff which is always interesting to me because of my own long-past traumatic experiences (and also because the disability here was similar to Lily’s from last month’s read, As I Descended, though Lily took the exact opposite view of painkillers), there’s addiction stuff, there’s mystery stuff. It’s an interesting read, although not exactly standout in any particular way.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [As I Descended]

9 Feb

So through January I was doing a gigantic reread of all of the Wicked Years books, but when I was done I thought “well. Drift partner’s library is now under the same roof as me. I should avail myself of it, and more specifically the collection of queer books I’ve wanted to read but just haven’t gotten around to.” So I decided, somewhat to make up for the fact that I wimped out of last year’s read-a-book-a-month challenge to myself, I would make a point of doing one of these queer books per month. Or other queer books, maybe, I don’t know yet. I’m starting here.

As I Descended was explained to me, by her, as “crazy lesbian Macbeth.” Adjectives such as “bonkers” were also utilized. That was pretty much all I needed as a recommendation. Plus, I’d done a bit of Robin Talley’s stuff last year, so I figured I’d be on even ground.

One nice thing about this book: the constantly shifting (third-person) POV. I’m fond of the multiple POV approach in general, but it was really interesting to see how it played out here, shifting multiple times in a chapter. The overanalytical drama kid in me says “well but that makes sense, because plays can be seen from any of the characters’ POV” but then the English major says “this is even better than complete objectivity this is a constant interplay of equally pissed-off emotional teenage narrators all with different psychoses for maximum dramatic effect.” It didn’t get confusing, it kept you constantly appraised of different ideas characters were having about the goings-on (which were, in fact, bonkers), and it gave a good sense of motivation for everyone.

Another nice thing about this book: okay, yeah, it’s a queer book, but it’s… based on a famous Shakespearean tragedy. You know most everyone is gonna die, so the queer kids are probably gonna die, but it’s not gross or burn-your-gays. Plus, the author is a queer lady, so you know she’s not doing it out of awful. Her books just have a lot of queer people in them, so what happens happens. It helped, I admit, having a good sense of who was going to die. Took some of the edge off. Also, by virtue of knowing ~the Scottish play~, I knew that everyone was also probably going to be a little bit horrible, and again, that was just how it was. No judgment.

I’m not sure how much you’re supposed to really sympathize with most of the characters, protagonists included, but there are moments where each of them invites it. I wasn’t out even to myself in high school, but it’s easy for me to imagine how that could color the motivations of especially a misanthropic queer kid. Up to a point, everyone’s motivations were pretty understandable.

Except, you know, the whole ghosts thing. That catapulted it into full-on Southern Gothic spoopy creppy nonsense land, and I am 100% in favor of that.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that this book was a bunch of my interests put in a blender, and that’s fun. Rarer than you might think.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: a YA synopsis generator template

12 Jan

So in my last year’s travels through Goodreads and in my intermittent travels through YA, I’ve learned that the summaries of YA novels, much like the summaries of romance novels, are fairly formulaic. Being the overachieving weirdo I am, I decided to make a random generator based on this premise.

This will be an ongoing project, using the code listed here, but I’m going to get it started with the first of several hollow outlines tonight so we can start working to fill in the blanks.

[girl’s name] has a [adjective] life – [familial anecdote], [academic anecdote], [personal anecdote]. She even [unlikely anecdote]. Everything is going [adverb] – that is, until [boy’s name] enters her life. After [way of meeting], the two are initially [adjective] about each other, but after a [adjective] [experience] and some input from their [type of person] [girl’s name], [boy’s name], and [ambiguous name], the two will have to [activity], and it could change [noun].

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: a breakdown of Amazon’s 2016 Top 20 Best-Sellers

29 Dec

Cross-genre, cross-everything. Critical opinion is interesting, but money also talks.

Female author: 7.5

Female protagonist (9/20):  1

POC author: 6

POC protagonist (8/20): 0

Fiction: 9

Non-fiction: 11

Adult: 15

Young Adult: 0

Children’s: 5

Recent (within the last 6 years): 16

Classic (7 years or older): 4

For what that’s worth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: bless you Monica Nolan.

15 Dec

So when I was in high school Entertainment Weekly ran a review of a book entitled Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary. It was pure send-up retroesque pulp, complete with a whole lotta girl-on-girl.

My mother suggested I pick it up. I would not come out to her for another three and a half years. How did nobody know?

As per her recommendation, I acquired said book, authored by one Monica Nolan (I have yet to read her book of lesbian horse stories, but someday). And I devoured it. And I devoured it again. And I read it approximately ten times before drift partner said “hey, I saw this book called Someone, Lesbian Gym Teacher or something” and I immediately freaked out. There were more of them? But of course there were more of them!

It turns out they’re all freakish hard to find in real life, though, so finally I gave up and ordered them off of Amazon. And promptly devoured them all, too.

They’re really very straightforward books. A Sapphic protagonist, whose name is both alliterative and reminiscent of the 50s-60s when the books are set, makes a career decision that changes her life and circumstance; coincidentally, this surrounds her with other fabulous queer folk, several of whom she liaises with before finding her true lesbian love. Along the way, she and her friends also unravel some conspiracy or another, make uncanny observations about queer culture, and change their clothes a lot.

Each protagonist is a bit different (Lois Lenz is easily the naive one, discovering her passions for the first time; Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher is rather predictably the bluntest and the butchest; Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante is flighty and sociable, hard to pin down; Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady is mature and worldwise) and they seek different things with their peers. However, all of the stories take place in the same general community, and most of the characters at least know someone who knows another character in some way. It’s all very interconnected and charming.

There’s also a fair amount of metacommentary and era-typical nonsense squeezed into these silly little stories. There’s an entire subplot revolving around the real-life lesbian pulp industry; more than once there’s Communism scares; much is made of the supposed cultural superiority and conversely the gangland underbelly of… the Scandinavian community. The girls are often righteously indignant, working to make the world a better place, while also prioritizing helping each other out and supporting each other. It’s a rather rose-tinted sort of world, but it’s charming.

And though these are not subtle books, what with the word Lesbian boldly printed on the cover (and with that cover being borderline-cheesecakey, but tasteful), they really aren’t dirty at all. The sex is often brushed through with outlandish metaphors; the desire is treated similarly. Sometimes it seems like more time is spent describing what characters are wearing to romantic encounters than the actual physical acts – but that’s part of the entire aesthetic of vintage softcore smut. And at least this smut is tastefully written and doesn’t often feel uncomfortable (some sex scenes just do, that’s a fact).

In short: brava, madame.

–your fangirl heroine.

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