Hello and welcome to the June 2022 edition of the newly renamed Queer Lit Review! Happy Pride Month everyone! To celebrate Pride, the Boston Public Library puts out a printed booklist every year called We Are Pride which includes books of all genres for children, teens, and adults. Find a copy at your local library branch or see an online version along with other resources and programs we're offering on our Pride page here. Learn more about all of our annual printed booklists here!
So, let's get on with the reviews, shall we? This month we have brought back Laura from our Collection Development team to fill in for Veronica while she's out. Welcome back, Laura! So, what have we been reading lately? We have two college girls falling in love despite the issues holding them back, two older women struggling with life, and a young girl in college learning about her asexuality.
These books may be available in other formats or languages. Check our catalog for availability.
Happy Pride and Happy Reading!
Title/Author: She Gets the Girl by Racheal Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Summary: Alex Blackwood is great at getting the girl she wants, but coming from a broken home, she finds commitment difficult. Impossibly awkward Molly Parker has a crush on the cool Cora Myers, but she does not know how to even start a conversation, much less make a connection. At college together in Pittsburgh, Alex decides that helping Molly snag Cora will prove to her own flame that she is not selfish — but things do not work out as the two have planned.
Genre/Sub-Genre: Young Adult
Book Format: eBook
Length: 374 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Lesbian
Content Warnings: Internalized racism, slut-shaming, parent with alcoholism
Well-Written/Editor Needed: Editor needed
Would I Recommend: No
Personal thoughts: This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022 so I’m deeply sorry to report that this book did not deliver. The premise of this book is very appealing to me; I’m a sucker for the helping-someone-get-a-date-and-accidentally-falling-for-each-other trope. However, the characters are incredibly two-dimensional and have no chemistry with each other and the tropes that are used in the book are played out. There is no interesting twist or nuanced use of a trope. You can guess every “plot twist” from a mile away.
Alex, one of our main characters (and presumably Lippincott’s favorite character), comes from a broken home, making her wary of commitment. Her mother is also an alcoholic, something that Alex primarily deals with alone and is the main source of stress in her life. She feels unable to share things about her mother with anyone except the girl she’s seeing at the start of the book and then, for some reason, Molly. Alex’s mother’s alcoholism wraps up neatly and unrealistically, a supposed emotional payoff that feels rushed and undeserved.
Alex is also a big flirt, though, honestly reader, I don’t see the appeal. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly magnetic about her and I had a hard time believing she was successfully hooking up with the amount of people we were told she had done so with. In addition to that, Alex being a “flirt” (which was just her having conversations with other women a lot of the time) is something her original love interest takes huge issue with, even when Alex assures her that she isn’t flirting with the other women around her. Thankfully, Molly spots that to be the red flag that it is, though there is little closure given to that plot point.
Molly, on the other hand, is so boring it’s almost remarkable. She’s very shy (which is fine! Her shyness is not the problem!), but her internal monologue is so whiny about her shyness and inability to not be shy that I found myself immediately disinterested in her character. The most interesting thing about her is her relationship with her mother (who was adopted from Korea) and the different ways the two of them approach their Asian heritage. We get one scene about it and then a few wrap-up lines, but it was an unsatisfying resolution to something I assume the authors care about deeply, or at least enough to have introduced it into the book in the first place.
Reader, it was boring, it was disjointed, and it could have been more. I hate saying anything negative about sapphic YA because there isn’t enough of it and it feels like the “bad” reviews are always the ones people use to justify not making more of it, but I do think that mediocre sapphic YA books should be labeled as such so that readers don’t feel like they need to romanticize their experience with a book that, at its core, is incredibly mid.
Title/Author/Artist: Stone Fruit by Lee Lai
Summary: Bron and Ray are a queer couple who enjoy their role as the fun weirdo aunties to Ray’s niece, six-year-old Nessie. Their playdates are little oases of wildness, joy, and ease in all three of their lives, which ping-pong between familial tensions and deep-seated personal stumbling blocks. As their emotional intimacy erodes, Ray and Bron isolate from each other and attempt to repair their broken family ties — Ray with her overworked, resentful single-mother sister and Bron with her religious teenage sister who doesn’t fully grasp the complexities of gender identity. Taking a leap of faith, each opens up and learns they have more in common with their siblings than they ever knew.
Genre/Sub-Genre: Graphic Novel
Book Format: Print
Length: 236 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Transgender and lesbian
Content Warnings: Depression, religious conservativism, transphobia, heterosexism
Well-Written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Art/Illustrations: Unique and well-done. I like how the art changes when Ray, Bron, and Nessie are in “feral play” outdoors and that the characters are drawn as real people with weight around their middles.
Would I Recommend?: Yes
Personal thoughts: This is a very realistic story of two women, Bron (Trans, white) and Ray (cis, Chinese), falling apart due to personal problems and issues with their respective families. Bron’s family doesn’t understand her and are not supportive of her need to be herself and to move away in order to make that happen. Meanwhile Ray clashes with her sister over babysitting duties for Nessie.
I appreciated the number of times all Bron could say was “I don’t know” whenever Ray asked if she was okay. How many times do we not know what’s happening in our own heads? And how hard is it to hear “I don’t know” from a loved one when all we want are answers to the million questions? When Bron steps away from her relationship and shared apartment with Ray to sort things out with her family, it’s not easy on either of them and Lai explores that quite well here.
This is a little “slice of life” story without much of a plot and not a lot of answers at the end, but that makes it all the more realistic. As much as most folks enjoy reading about a perfect romance, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that not all relationships are perfect, not all relationships work out, it’s okay not to have the answers, and above all, we’re not alone in that.
Title/Author: Loveless by Alice Oseman
Summary: When Georgia goes away to university, her number one goal is to finally fall in love. Instead, through new friendships and new experiences, Georgia comes to understand that she is asexual and aromantic, and that romantic love isn't the only way to find happiness and community.
Series/Standalone: Standalone, but all of Oseman's books take place in the same world
Genre/Sub-Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Book Format: Print
Length: 432 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Asexual and aromantic main character, supporting characters across the LGBTQ+ spectrum
Content Warnings: Secondary characters deal with topics like abuse and acephobia, multiple characters use alcohol as a crutch throughout the story.
Well-Written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Would I Recommend?: Yes!
Personal thoughts: At over 400 pages this is a longer YA contemporary novel, but short chapters and a compelling writing style make it a quick read. Loveless takes place in the same universe as Oseman's graphic-novel-turned-Netflix-show Heartstopper, and fans of that should definitely check this book out!
Loveless follows Georgia, a first year university student who has never had a real crush, as she makes new friends, navigates relationships with old friends, and joins her roommate's attempts to revive the school's Shakespeare Society.
The characters are what really make this story a success. Georgia makes a lot of mistakes as she comes to terms with her identity, some of which made me cringe, but you can't help but root for her to come out on top. The found family she creates out of old and new friends is also fantastic, particularly her childhood best friend Pip and university roommate Rooney. Pip and Rooney have an enemies-to-lovers arc that is surprisingly fleshed out considering they're secondary characters. The book even contains a bonus short story that allows the reader into a pivotal moment in Pip and Rooney's relationship!
Oseman walks the line of being realistic but optimistic expertly throughout the story. Georgia's sadness over how being asexual and aromantic might make her life different than her friends' mixes with her relief over understanding herself and not having to pretend anymore. Her friends don't all act perfectly when she comes out to them, but each of them redeems themselves in their own way by showing Georgia how loved she truly is. And Pip and Rooney's romance is seemingly doomed at multiple points, but the reader always has the sense that they'll work it out somehow.
Whether you're looking for great asexual representation in a book, or you just love stories about found family and new adulthood, Loveless is a moving, feel-good story.