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Archive for the ‘Lesbian’ Category

Becky Albertalli, the author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, has penned a very readable second novel, The Upside of Unrequited. In my review of the first book I said, “If you’re looking for just a fun romance, try Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.” I’d pretty much have to say the same for The Upside of Unrequited.

Molly and Cassie are the twin daughters of lesbians Patty and Nadine. Cassie is cute and decidedly gay. Molly is somewhat overweight and decidedly straight. Early in the book, Cassie meets Mina and  quickly falls for her. Molly, on the other hand, has had 27 crushes but has never been kissed and never had a boyfriend. Mina and Cassie try to set Molly up with Will, Mina’s best friend but there’s no chemistry. Molly, on the other hand, likes dorky Reid, a co-worker at the store at which she has a summer job. Is this going to be crush number 28?

Albertalli tackles several issues in The Upside of Unrequited: twins growing apart when one is in a relationship and the other isn’t, the insecurities of girls whose figures don’t meet the societal norm of pretty or sexy, the legalization of gay marriage. All of this is done in an easy to read, fun story. Readers will like the characters. The situations are real. The writing is descriptive.

Any reader who likes young adult romance can’t go wrong.

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Ms. LaCour can pack a lot into three days, which is the time span of her latest novel, We Are Okay.  (By the way, it only took me two days to read, it’s that engrossing.) Mabel’s mother died when she was  young and she lived with her grandfather, each having their own bedroom and sharing the common space of the kitchen, living room and dining room. Respecting each other’s privacy, neither ventured into the inner sanctum of the other.

But one summer day after high school graduation, Gramps doesn’t answer when Marin comes home. Busy with summer fun and new girlfriend, Mabel, Marin has pretty much ignored Gramps, minimizing his failing health. Fearing the worst, Marin enters her grandfather’s bedroom, which actually consists of a sitting room and adjoining room and discovers something she never thought existed and which changed her opinion of Gramps forever.

The police are called and a shaken Marin is taken to the police station but rather than go home with Mabel’s parents (who are almost like a second set of parents) she slips out the back door and boards a bus from California to upstate New York and college with nothing but the shirt on her back, her cell phone and her debit card, even though school doesn’t start for two weeks. She ignores Mabel’s frantic texts for weeks before they dwindle into non-existence.

However, Mabel hasn’t given up and visits Marin at school for three days over Christmas break, which is where the story unfolds.

Through the action of the present and flashbacks to the previous summer, readers understand the torture that these two young women underwent, the loss of a grandparent, the loss of a friend. But it also reinforces the concept of family which is not just biological commonality. Mabel and Marin are endearing characters. You like them immediately. Their pain is understandable. The awkwardness of their reunion is palpable.

We Are Okay is both happy and sad and wonderful. And should you like it, don’t forget Everything Leads to You and Hold Still.

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There are books about rape that detail the deep emotional impact on the victim, most notably Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a serious book detailing how the victim turns inward, feels ashamed even though it isn’t her fault, feels like she has no one to turn to and becomes unsure of friends as well as strangers.

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EXIT, Pursued by a Bear by E. K.Johnston is no less serious but takes a totally different stance. Hermione Winters is raped during a dance at cheerleader camp. She was given a drug, pretty much knocked out, dragged into the woods, left half submerged in the lake and remembers nothing about the event. When she is found in the lake, she is immediately whisked to the hospital where she is examined. However, the samples that were obtained were compromised because of the time she spent in the water. Thus, there was nothing to warrant taking DNA samples from the boys attending the camp.

Unlike Melinda in Speak, Hermione  is a strong individual, has a strong support system in family, friends (especially her friend Polly), therapist and teammates and is determined to break the curse of Palermo Heights School (read the book to see what it is). She will not let this incident ruin her life, her plans or her friendships.

Johnston doesn’t ignore the trauma of rape. Hermione definitely feels the  impact of this crime, but she’s determined. At first she’s afraid of the boys on the team. Could one of them possibly be the rapist? Is she going to get pregnant? Is it important to ‘get revenge’ on the perpetrator? A slew of thoughts go through her head. She’s emotional, getting unpredictable panic attacks.

I think, in Speak and Exit, Pursued by a Bear, you have the two extremes. In Speak, Melinda is traumatized. In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Hermione is determined to live her life, despite this unspeakable event. Every victim reacts differently to every crime. However, reading about a rape victim who successfully conquesrs the trauma may not be a bad thing. You can’t reverse the act. You can’t forget the situation. But maybe you can bulldoze your way through it and be the person you want to be.

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Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler is a warm-hearted coming of age story. Ashleigh Walker is going through a lot. Her parents are either silent with each other (and her) or bickering with each other. Living at home is intolerable. School is no better. It is what school has always been to teenagers: a boring pain. She has no boyfriend and no prospects.

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But things are about to change. At a party she meets Dylan, a cute boy who is interested in her. And at school, Miss Murray, the substitute English teacher is making English fun. Moreover, she seems to understand what teens, and especially Ashleigh, are going through. She seems to be able to look right inside Ashleigh and understand her emotions, her innermost thoughts and feelings. The more Ashleigh sees her, the more she wants to see Miss Murray. These feelings confuse her.

In an easy going but engrossing manner, Liz Kessler gets Ashleigh through her parents’ breakup, her sexual identity crisis and her friendships, both old and new. There was something about Read Me Like a Book that made me want to read it straight through. I didn’t, but only because I didn’t have the time.

Ashleigh and her best friend, Cat, are two extremes. The former is more reserved. The latter more wild. Somehow, the combination seems to work for both of them.

All of us need, but few of us find, someone who can read us like a book. It’s gratifying to know that Ashleigh found that person.

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TellMeAgainTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, is a pleasing, low key romance–much more low key than her debut novel If You Could Be Mine. Leila knows her crush on girls would devastate her Iranian born parents…confirmed by the fact that a neighbor disowned their son when he came out. As a result, she can’t tell her parents or her perfect sister, Nahal, the apple of her parents’ eyes, so she thinks. She doesn’t want to be disowned, unloved.

When a new, beautiful girl, Saskia, transfers to her school and shows interest in Leila, she’s ecstatic. She can’t stop thinking about her, her looks, the smell of her hair, the feeling as their arms brush together. She has high hopes that Saskia will become her girlfriend. But Saskia is erratic, sometimes encouraging, sometimes conniving and sometimes hurtful.

At school, all students must have an extracurricular activity. Since Leila’s no athlete, it takes little encouragement from Saskia to convince Leila to drop soccer and try out for the school play together, Twelfth Night. Although she doesn’t get a part (and Saskia does), Leila agrees to work backstage where she meets Tanya, Simone and Christine, the rumored stereotypical ‘backstage lesbians’.

While all of this is going on, Leila reconnects with a childhood friend, Lisa Katz, who had migrated to the ‘in crowd’ at school, leaving the Lisa/Leila friendship in the dust.

(Possible spoiler) I’ll admit that parts of the story are predictable, as is the ending (but it’s the ending you want). But that doesn’t detract from this sweet story. Leila is like any sixteen year old in the throes of love, regardless of whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual love, whether you’re a guy or a girl. Her insecurities about romance will resonate with most teens, since both genders go through the heartbreak of romance at some point in their young lives.

Additionally, we all think we know our siblings, only to find out they’re totally different than our image of them. Nahal is no exception.

And finally, the book reinforces the unconditional love that a parent has (should have) for a child.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel will make any romantic feel good, which is certainly how a crush should feel.

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IfYouCouldBeMineIt boggles my mind that a country could accept (and even pay for) sex change operations yet consider homosexuality a sin. Apparently there is nothing in the Bible that says a person can’t change the gender of his/her physical body, but there is something that says having sexual relations with a person of the same sex is a mortal sin.

Sara Farizan in her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine makes this abundantly clear as seventeen year old Iranians Sahar and Nasrin are in love but must keep their feelings secret. It comes as quite a shock, especially to Sahar, when it is announced that Nasrin’s parents have promised her hand in marriage to a doctor, Reza. The wedding is in three months. Sahar cannot think of living life without Nasrin and while Nasrin says they can still see each other after the wedding, Sahar knows it can never be.

Sahar contemplates all options to cancel the wedding and claim Nasrin as her own, including undergoing the long and painful sex changes operations. She is introduced to transgenders through her cousin, Ali, who is gay. None of these people say life is easy after the changes, but at least they are in the body they should have been born into.

Sahar wonders whether her father, who has been in a depression for the several years since Sahar’s mother died, would even notice if one day she came home sporting a beard. Or would he disown her?

This is certainly a new and relevant twist on teenage sexuality. Sahar and Nasrin are two distinct personalities, one serious and determined, the other flighty and always in need of attention. So, it comes as no surprise, although in my mind it was a bit far-fetched, that Sahar should consider drastic measures to keep Nasrin. Farizan also brings up the question: would someone who loves you romantically as a woman, feel the same way if you were a man? Good question!

While, if you read this blog regularly, you know my absolute favorite books on this subject, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is certainly up there on the list. It is an absorbing read.

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EverythingLeadsToYouThe summer time is a time for romance and Nina LaCour supplies it in Everything Leads to You. Morgan has just broken up with Emi for the sixth time but they can’t avoid each other since they work at the same movie studio, designing sets. Emi’s best friend Charlotte works there as well.

It is the summer after high school and Morgan, Emi and Charlotte are working on the same movie. While looking for pieces for a set at an estate sale at the home of a famous and reclusive cowboy actor, Clyde Jones, Charlotte buys a Patsy Cline album as a souvenier. At home she takes it out to listen and a letter drops out. Reading it, Emi and Charlotte discover it is to Clyde’s daughter, Caroline, a daughter no one knew he had. It also refers to his grand daughter, Ava. Charlotte and Emi decide they need to find Caroline and give her the letter.

From the above, you can’t tell this is a love story, but it is, trust me. Giving any more away will ruin it. Charlotte and Emi spend the summer working on a movie, searching for Caroline and Ava and staying in Emi’s brother, Toby’s, apartment while he is away in Europe scouting locations for another movie. His parting words were, “Do something epic while I’m gone.” And indeed they do.

Emi is a great character, self confident in her work, but crumbling at Morgan’s advances to get back together. I’m assuming most people can relate to that. She’s also unsure of her new love, who Ms. LaCour doesn’t hide, but I will. The trio of Emi, Charlotte and Morgan are talented and they bring to light how rooms in movies are decorated, something we rarely think about.HoldStill

There are no surprises (well maybe some surprises) in Everything Leads to You, but there doesn’t have to be to make this a fun book. It is your classic beach read.

If you’re looking for something from Nina LaCour with a little more ‘meat’ in it, try Hold Still. In my Librarything review, I likened it to 13 Reasons Why and the Hate List. No bad company, huh?

 

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