Welcome to the November post of the Queer Fiction Blog! This month we have an intergalactic mail-order husband, a bisexual teen falling for his Mormon writing mentor, and another bisexual teen helping her coworker find the girl he's been crushing on forever.
Title/Author: To See the Sun by Kelly Jensen
Summary: Miner-turned-farmer, Abraham Bauer, is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion—someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart. Meanwhile, Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband.
Genre/Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/MM Romance
Book Format: ebook
Length: 293 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Abuse/Rape: It’s mentioned briefly as something that happened in the past, but no explicit details are given.
Violence: Very minor fighting and one mildly unpleasant character death occurs.
Ratio of Sex/Plot: A slow burn romance with one longish sex scene.
Warnings: Though the blurb doesn't mention this very important plot point, if you’re not into kids in your romance, you may want to skip this one.
Well-written/Editor Needed: An editor was needed for some things. See my thoughts below.
Would I Re-Read?: Maybe, but not likely.
Personal Thoughts: The sci-fi setting was extremely well done here. The environment felt like a real antagonist and was fun and interesting to read about. The plot reminded me of an historical slow burn romance except that this is set in the future on another planet. Bram and Gael get along well, pretty much right from the start, but they’re getting in their own way much of the time. Any real threat to them doesn’t show up until over halfway through the book, and then just as quickly disappears, which was odd. I would have liked to have seen more of this threat all the way through the book, to help keep me on the edge of my seat. Aavi, the young girl, was cute, perhaps a bit too perfect, but I still liked her and she was integral to the plot.
Gael was depicted almost like a typical woman of the old west, which I know will bother some people. He enjoys cooking, cleaning, and sewing, striving to be useful right away so that he doesn’t get sent back to a dreaded home life. It might have been a little over the top, but I enjoyed seeing a man who is good at sewing. Bram was respectful of Gael and wanted to wait until Gael was sure of what he wanted before they slept together, which was really sweet. While I do see some flaws here that could have been improved on and might seriously bother some readers, I enjoyed reading this one.
Title/Author: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Summary: High school senior Tanner Scott has hidden his bisexuality since his family moved to Utah, but he falls hard for Sebastian, a Mormon mentoring students in a writing seminar Tanner's best friend convinced him to take.
Genre/Sub-genre: Young Adult
Book Format: Print
Length: 407 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/gay
Violence: No physical violence
Well-written/Editor Needed: Editor needed
Would I Recommend?: Recommend with reservations
Personal thoughts: This book was recommended to me by a good friend and I enjoyed another one of this author’s books, so I decided to give it a try. Overall, I really enjoyed the story. It was a unique take on first love; this was the first young adult book I had ever read that featured not only a Mormon main character, but a queer Mormon character. For that alone, this book stands out. However, this book went on for about 100 too many pages. There were definitely places where the story dragged and I had to push to get through it. There were also some plot choices I thought were a bit unnecessary and didn’t mesh with the overall flow of the story.
I really loved the main character of this book. I thought Tanner was funny and naive in all the ways we find ourselves being when in high school and in love. His family reminded me—in ways—of my own; their love and acceptance for Tanner was obvious to the point of crossing lines. Tanner’s relationship with his best friend Audrey felt authentic and well-fleshed out. His journey to falling for Sebastian felt wild and reckless, the way falling in love for the first time is meant to feel.
Because the book is told from Tanner’s point of view, I often found myself perhaps more critical of Sebastian than the author intended. His motives were often unclear and his ignorance (which, at times, felt purposeful) could irritate. The larger context of how the LDS (shorthand for the Church of Latter-Day Saints) community has treated LGBTQ+ people throughout history is well-documented. We catch a few glimpses of why Sebastian protects himself in this way through time spent with his family. Even so, I found myself more upset that Sebastian was exposing Tanner to people who thought him an abomination without a thought toward how it would feel for Tanner. He gave no warning about the ways in which his family behaves and how that might impact Tanner.
Overall, I enjoyed this read, but would have enjoyed it a bit more if it were shorter and relied less on repetition of certain sentiments. I think the world needs stories like this one to shine a light and represent a community of queer people who often do not see themselves and their journeys reflected in media. Kudos to the author for tackling something like this and (as far as I can tell) doing the proper research to get things right.
Title/Author/Artist: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell (writing) and Faith Erin Hicks (art)
Summary: On their last day working together at the local harvest fair before heading off to college, work-spouses Josiah and Deja desert their post at the Succotash Hut to go on a quest! Their mission? To find the Fudge Shoppe girl that Josiah's had a crush on for years so he can finally ask her out. Oh, and to sample all the various fair foods on offer along the way.
Genre/Sub-genre: YA contemporary romance
Book Format: print
Length: 209 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Deja is bisexual (and possibly demisexual, although she doesn't use that label herself)
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written! I love how neatly the story is put together. It's a slim book with a simple plot but not a single line is wasted, and the comedic timing is great.
Art/Illustrations: The art is absolutely delightful. The color palette is perfect for fall, and the characters leap off the page. I love the way Faith Erin Hicks draws faces – they're so expressive! Deja in particular is just wonderful.
Would I Recommend?: To fans of young adult contemporary romance, for sure. I'm not sure that it would have much crossover appeal, but within its genre, it's a little gem.
Personal thoughts: The day after I read this book, I picked it up and read it all over again just to revisit the warm and fuzzy feeling it gave me! It's pretty obvious from the get-go that the great emotional force driving the story is not Josiah's fated romance with Fudge Shoppe girl. It's his and Deja's uncertainty about what will happen to their relationship when they're no longer working together. I loved the centering of their friendship over romance, despite the drama of the Great Quest plot. Deja, who is bisexual, has dated a number of fellow fair-workers. The run-ins with her various exes (who all still want to hang out with her) are a funny contrast to Josiah's high-strung anxiety about talking to his crush. I won't spoil the ending but it's very satisfying! If you're in the mood for apple cider donuts and pumpkin spice lattes, this is just the sweet fall treat for you.