Posted in children's fiction, discussion, lgbt, romance, young adult

Favourite Books Of The Year 2017

Another year has slipped by and it’s time to sit back and reflect on the reading year. I’ve frequently said that 2017 was a bad year for me in terms of quality rather than quantity. I read a lot of books that just left me feeling a big deflated and didn’t think about again once I put them on a pile to be donated to one of my local libraries. I feel that this is reflected in the minimal number on the list. But that in no way should diminish the spotlight on the ones I mention as they deserve all the love and praise in the world. So let’s get into it:

The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli 

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The story follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend but feels that no one will ever love her because she’s a big girl and so she must settle for her list of unrequited crushes.

If you’ve been following me at all over the past year, you will know that I simply cannot stop talking about this book. It has pansexual, bisexual, jewish, fat and anxiety representation but it’s all weaved into the story in such a way that none of it feels like it’s there just to tick boxes. I’ve not connected to a book like this in such a long time. It made me feel valid in terms of body issues and the way my anxiety can be a real hinderance at times and it was nice to see a grown  bisexual woman represented in a Young Adult book. It felt like this book was giving me a hug and telling me that I am valid. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.
Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green 

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This book is about a boy called Noah who just wants to be a normal sixteen year old boy and decides he’s going to cement this by kissing the beautiful Sophie at a party… but he ends up kissing his best friend Harry instead.

I came across this book because of an interview Amber from themilelongbookshelf did with the author. Simon pointed out the lack of British LGBT books which really got me thinking about how I actually couldn’t name any myself, which is what pushed me towards picking up a copy. There’s been a lot of discussion about YA books where the characters feel “too old” and Noah Can’t Even really feels like reading a story about a teenage boy. The internal monologue is embarrassing and cringy, but my gosh it’s downright hilarious. There were some parts of this book that had me laughing to myself for days after I’d finished it. I’m even laughing now writing this thinking about some of my favourite moments. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.

The Christmasaurus: Musical Edition by Tom Fletcher 

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All William Trundle wants for Christmas is a pet dinosaur… and it just so happens that the elves at the North Pole have discovered a dinosaur egg. A wondrous turn of events leads to a truly magical Christmas Eve adventure.

I was in two minds about whether to include the musical edition on this list as, while it is a re-release, the original made it onto my list of favourites in 2016. But then I figured, I shouldn’t deny myself small pleasures and also this is my list therefore I make the rules. There are honestly not enough words to describe how brilliant this story is. It’s festive, magical and heart-warming and I shed many tears again, even though I knew what happened. If you’re interested in a full review you can find that here and my comparison review of the two editions can be found here.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin 

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The story follows a twelve year old girl called Suzy who finds out her best friend, Franny, has died. The cause of death doesn’t make sense to Suzy as her friend was an incredibly good swimmer so she struggles to understand how drowning could be the cause. Through a school trip to an aquarium she learns about jellyfish and comes to believe that one type in particular was the real culprit. She starts learning everything she can about jellyfish and looks into experts who can help prove her theory to be correct.

This book punched me right in the heart… several times… just to make sure it hurt enough. In these pages, the reader sees a girl facing her own mortality for the first time and trying to cope with the death of a loved one for the first time and it’s utterly heartbreaking to read. But I feel it’s something we can all relate to: searching for rational answers to something as unpredictable and -at times- nonsensical as death.

I’ve not been this affected by a book since I read The Book Thief but I think it’s finally found some competition.  Again, if you’re interested in a full review, you can find it here

And that concludes my favourite books of the past year! Here’s to another book-filled one!

Happy Reading!

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Posted in discussion, lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, romance, young adult

The Upside Of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli

“Certain nights have this kind of electricity. Certain nights carry you to a different place from where you started. I think tonight was one of the special ones.”

 

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
Right?”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

When I finished Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda, I knew that she was going to be an “auto-buy” author for me. As known if you keep up date with me on my various social media channels, I am not always the biggest fan for contemporaries but that one spoke to me in a way not many books too. So when I got wind of a new book from her, you bet I was dancing around to kill the time until I could have it in my hands.

The Upside of Unrequited follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend and feels that she is quickly falling behind her peers (including her twin sister Cassie) who seem to find mutual love easy to obtain and are having sex or already in relationships whereas she is yet to experience any of those “firsts” that are so important to a teenager. The only experience she has is her list of 26 unrequited loves; one of which includes Lin Manuel Miranda. When she bumps into a Korean-American girl called Mina in the toilets of a nightclub she has no idea how much this girl will change things.

This book does a fantastic job of depicting what it really feels like to be a teenager from the concerns about lack of experience, to those constant buzzing questions when you do find someone attractive, to body image. Whatever you can think of, it’s covered and it isn’t glossed over either. Each topic is addressed with the right amount of time paid to it. Even the heart-breaking ones such as Molly being concerned that her weight will be a turn-off and how big girls don’t get boyfriends or have sex unless it’s a joke and she doesn’t want to be one. It all adds a layer of authenticity to the story because, as we all know, problems don’t disappear straight away.

The sexual diversity in this book is a breath of fresh air with characters identifying as straight, pansexual and bisexual which are all presented in positive and healthy ways. I’ve already spoken to the author about my thoughts but I am going to share them here too: I’ve spoken out in the past about the lack of bisexuals in YA, let alone female bisexuals and this book made me cry in the best way possible: because I was happy. Becky Albertalli included a female bisexual character and I felt valid. Representation is so important.

At times it felt almost as if I was reading an old diary from my teenage years because it captured certain experience so well and I am sure everyone will be able to find something that reminds them of a moment when they were a teenager (even if it’s a memory that is best forgotten). Becky Albertalli does not miss the mark with this one and not picking up a copy should be considered a crime.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For my videos, check out my Youtube

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