Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance (F/F)
I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.
I've previously read and reviewed two of Talley's books - As I Descended, a queer YA retelling of Macbeth, and Lies We Tell Ourselves, a book about girls falling in love across the divide of racial segregation.
Both books have been fairly criticised for aspects of diverse representation which weren't good enough.
I shamelessly admit that I loved both, and missed a lot of the problems with Lies We Tell Ourselves in particular when I read it.
I love Robin Talley's books - but I also clearly have a habit of missing things in them, so if I've done it again, don't hesitate to let me know.
A note on Robin Talley herself though:
Of course she makes mistakes, but I can't help but admire a lesbian woman who's managed to do so well, and gained such a level of success, with her books.
No, we should never ignore mistakes that affect people. We should discuss them, point them out, and treat them critically.
But we should also remember to celebrate diverse creators, and not hold them to a different standard - either higher or lower - to anyone else.
Aki figures that you only get one chance to lead an interesting life... and she's currently not leading one.
But this summer she's heading to Mexico with her father's church (literally - he's the pastor,) so maybe it's time for some no-strings-attached summer fun.
And then Aki meets Christa... and there are definite sparks.
But between issues with her best friend, Lori, and deciding whether to come out to her family...
Plus the little detail that Christa has a boyfriend back home...
Well, this summer's going to be very interesting.
The complexity of the characters here impressed me - they really do seem to have various depths, hopes, feelings, and all that jazz.
I think they were also quite relatable - which is always awesome. :)
We have a bisexual black girl as a main character - which rocks - and she has real depth (imho.)
And this really is character-lead more than anything (action-filled-plot fans may not be the best audience here.)
Safe sex. On page F/F safe sex action. That is so rare - especially in YA.
And there were def. things that yours truly didn't know much about - like dental dams, and gloves (actual gloves - for your hands.)
There's bacteria downstairs that shouldn't go anywhere else, and bacteria from everywhere else that shouldn't go downstairs. #TrueStory.
Also fantastic was the emphasis on discussing this with your sexual partner. If you aren't ready to talk about it, you aren't ready to have sex.
(And if someone is making you feel guilty or naïve for talking about and/or wanting safe sex, that should be a massive red flag! Ditch their a**.)
It's actually not that often that we see questioning characters in YA - they tend to have some sort of major revelation, and: BOOM, you're [insert label here.]
In real life? It doesn't really work like that.
Real life is years of trying to figure out why and how you're different. It's not an overnight thing - especially if you don't have the words to explain yourself.
At the same time, there have been reviewers who raise questions of bi-erasure in this book, which are important to discuss (see 'not so great bits' section.)
I personally didn't interpret it that way - but if anyone who is bisexual all the time (unlike yours truly, who is sometimes bi, due to being fluid,) has reviewed this book please let me know!
- discussions of various social issues - e.g., guns, war, health care, poverty
- armed forces bereavement
- lying (EVERYWHERE - see below)
- brief racism
- bullying/people acting like jerks
There's also some ableist language: crazy, dumb, etc. It doesn't bother me, but I know it bothers a lot of people.
And there's a lot of underage drinking, underage sex, and generally doing irresponsible cr*p.
DON'T DO IRRESPONSIBLE CR*P - m'k? ;)
...I think that statement pretty much sums my point. You know when you just want the character to not do the ill-advised thing? That.
It's not just the teens either. The adults - including the freaking minister - are just as bad.
There's quite a lot of 'drama' here. Which, teens = drama, so I really don't have a problem with it, but for a lot of people I know that's a deal-breaker.
Look, parts of this are slow. I really didn't mind at all, but I can see some people getting frustrated with this.
There's not much in terms of plot - it really is character-driven.
Where was the parental supervision?! Or, like, the trip-leader supervision?!
In Aki's case, her dad is actually one of the supervisors. And he's totally oblivious to pretty much everything.
Seriously: if you are taking a large group of teens to another country, YOU HAVE TO WATCH THEM.
Otherwise, there's sex and drinking everywhere. Even with church kids. #JustSaying
Other views of this book
I've tried to find some critical reviews which talk about the rep in the book, but don't have some sort of unfair issue with the book - i.e., the reviewers aren't writing from a biphobic, queerphobic, racist, or otherwise bigoted standpoint.
(Doing this was far more difficult than it should have been - dammit reviewers!)
I also excluded reviews which for some reason had a problem with safe sex. Because, no. Just no.
If you have anything, especially if you're an #ownvoices reviewer, please let me know!
So here are some critical reviews I've found:
- This Goodreads review by Maddie (Heart Full of Books) makes some valid points about one interpretation of the bisexuality rep in this book - i.e., bi-erasure.
- This Goodreads review by Amanda also has fair points.
I don't know the sexuality of any of these reviewers, as they don't identify themselves.
One with many talking points, and a really enjoyable read.
Not for everyone though; so if it sounds like your thing, go for it - but otherwise, you might wanna give it a miss.
You can follow me on Twitter @CeeArrBookNerd, on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin, and on Google+. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page