Book Review: Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg

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Title: Openly Straight (2013)
Series: Openly Straight – Book 1
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 321 pages
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben… who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

Review

How do I begin to review a book I have very, very mixed feelings about? I suppose we’ll start with a summary. Openly Straight is the story of Rafe, who moves to an all-boys boarding school far away from home because he is tired of being known as The Gay Guy. At this new school, he hangs out with people he wouldn’t normally hang out with, hides parts of himself, and essentially “reinvents” himself.

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Book Review: None of the Above – I. W. Gregorio

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Title: None of the Above (2015)
Author: I. W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 328 pages
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts”.

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Review

How do I even begin to review for a book as important as this one? I’m not exactly new with the concept of intersex — I studied it a little in uni and since gender/sexuality studies happen to be an interest of mine, I have read other books that deal with similar themes. Very few of them, however, is as educational and informed as None of the Above.

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Book Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel – Sara Farizan

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Title: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (2014)
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 304 pages
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard.

But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful.

Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Review

I’ve read Sara Farizan’s other book, If You Could Be Mine, before and while I didn’t love it, I appreciated the thought that went into it and its exploration of what being gay in Iran is like. Unlike that book, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel takes place in America and follows Leila, a Persian teenager who recently realised she is gay. Sounds like a good premise? I thought so, but I didn’t really enjoy this book.

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ARC/Book Review: Timekeeper – Tara Sim

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Title: Timekeeper (2016)
Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 368 pages
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

Review

Steampunk isn’t a popular subgenre within YA fiction, so imagine my excitement when I discovered Timekeeper. A Victorian world controlled by clocks, where the protagonist is a mechanic who falls in love with a clock spirit! It sounds like my kind of thing, so I jumped at the chance to read it with The Fanboy Book Club .

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ARC/Book Review: Last Seen Leaving – Caleb Roehrig

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Title: Last Seen Leaving (2016)
Author: Caleb Roehrig
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Review

Last Seen Leaving reminds me of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, albeit a rather watered down version of it. The stakes aren’t as high. The characters aren’t as complex. The evil is more predictable. Plot-wise, there are similarities as well: missing girl makes national news, their love interest comes under scrutiny, volunteers search the surrounding areas and find clues that turn out to be red herrings, and there’s more to the story than just a person’s disappearance.

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