Queer Lit Review: September 2022

Welcome to the September 2022 edition of the Queer Lit Review! This month we have a picture book exploring gender identity, a new doctor landing himself in hot water, and a hot mess of a young man searching for Mr. Appropriate.

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Happy Reading!

Title/Author: Pink, Blue, and You! by Elise Gravel & Mykaell Blais 

Reviewer: Allison 

Summary:  An easy-to-grasp picture book exploring questions relating to gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexism. 

Series/Standalone:  Standalone  

Genre/Sub-Genre:  Juvenile Nonfiction 

Book Format: Print 

Length:  40 pages 

LGBTQ+ Orientation: Full spectrum! 

Content Warnings: N/A

Well-Written/Editor Needed: Well-written 

Would I Recommend: Yes 

Personal thoughts: In addition to reading cute queer romances and sharing picture books about queer families, part of my job is also to review nonfiction resources for kids and their caregivers! I really loved Pink, Blue, and You!, specifically because I think it is such a valuable resource for caregivers who want to introduce the gender and sexuality spectrum to children.  

Something that stood out to me about this book is its inclusion of questions for caregivers and children to discuss together. It encourages children to ask why certain things are just for boys or for girls after providing context and information about the traditional roles things occupy. I like the use of the questions here because it a) allows conversation about stereotypes to occur more organically between child and caregiver and b) they’re open-ended enough that even a caregiver who doesn’t feel as well-versed in the gender/sexuality conversation can still feel confident when talking with their child.  

At the end of the day, this book is accessible to even the youngest of readers and doesn’t talk down to anyone who may find themselves seeking it out as a resource. Gravel’s illustrations and the backmatter provided by both Gravel and collaborator Mykaell Blais make this a win in my book!  

Title/Author:  Perfect Flaw by Frank Spinelli

Reviewer:  Jordan

Summary:  When newly-minted Dr. Angelo Perrotta joins an exclusive concierge medical practice, he believes he has found success. His charismatic colleague, Demetre Kostas only adds to the promise of the new job. But when a series of tragic events transform his dream job into a nightmare, Angelo is confronted by disturbing accusations and the even more troubling cop, Jason Murphy. Now Angelo must unravel the secret entanglements surrounding him not just to save his career, but his life.

Series/Standalone:  Standalone

Genre/Sub-Genre:  Mystery/Romance

Book Format: eAudiobook

Length:  10 hours

LGBTQ+ Orientation:  Gay

Content Warnings:  Mentions of drug use and medical malpractice.

Well-Written/Editor Needed: Most of this was well-written. The medical details were written with knowledge that didn’t overwhelm the reader or seem dry. However, I felt the author needed to rework some of the aspects related to the police work.

Would I Recommend?: I enjoyed this, but not to the extent I had hoped. If you like medical mysteries, you may like this one. 

Personal thoughts:  Author Josh Lanyon had Frank Spinelli as a guest blogger where he mentioned that this novel was semi-autobiographical. It’s a quick, interesting read. 

Overall, this book showed some real promise, and I did enjoy parts of it, but it was not 100% my cup of tea. First off, I want to say that the narrator, Cooper North, did a fantastic job with the audiobook. I loved his voice and would definitely listen to other books by him in the future.

What didn’t work for me was the police procedure aspect. Angelo starts dating a police officer, Jason, who, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with this medical malpractice investigation considering he spends his days in a patrol car and isn’t a detective. Yet, Angelo starts communicating only with him when he has questions and concerns about the case and stops communicating with the detective who is actually working the case. Jason then starts talking as if he is working the case, but I didn’t see any indication that he was.

At one point Angelo suggests he and Jason should share secrets with each other. He goes on to share that he and his sister committed a felony when they were younger, an act that could result in a life sentence and has no statute of limitations in New York State. His boyfriend takes it in stride and hardly comments on it, which absolutely threw me for a loop. Angelo had good intentions for what he did, but he still willingly committed a felony, and I’m surprised Jason was okay with that.

Not many of the characters were likeable, including Angelo. Because most of the characters had ulterior motives, it’s understandable. With Angelo, he made easy mistakes I could see myself making as a newbie in the field of medicine, and other mistakes were made that were so obvious I didn’t understand what had lead him to them. Angelo was blinded by his need to climb the social ladder out of the gutter he thought he was in. Jason, his boyfriend, was too perfect and there were times I wondered what he saw in Angelo.

Joyfully Jay calls this “a character-driven, coming-of-age cautionary tale” and I have to agree. While it’s billed as a mystery/romance, there isn’t much of a mystery until near the end, and the romance plays second fiddle to everything else going on in Angelo’s life.

Title/Author: Boyfriend MaterialHusband Material by Alexis Hall 

Reviewer: Veronica 

Summary: Perpetual hot mess Luc O'Donnell wishes he could write off his reluctance to let people in as paranoia. Unfortunately, between his first serious boyfriend selling him out and the tabloid stories that follow any even slightly rowdy night out, his fears are more like reasonable expectations. As the child of an acrimonious split between rock stars, he's learned to trust no one. But when his employer decides Luc's notoriety is a liability and demands that he adopt a more "family-friendly" lifestyle, his frantic search for an appropriate boyfriend lands him with Oliver Blackwood, an uptight barrister who's everything Luc isn't: respectable, upper middle class, and normal. Can Oliver possibly be as perfect as he seems? And if he is, what’s he doing with Luc?  

Series/Standalone: Boyfriend Material and Husband Material are the first two books in the London Calling series, and should be read in order. Hall recently announced that there will be at least five books in the series, some of which will focus on side characters and one of which (Father Material) will return to Luc and Oliver.  

Genre/Sub-Genre: Relationship fiction 

Book Format: eBook

Length: 425 + 422 pages 

LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay  

Content Warnings: Deals explicitly with microaggressions and homophobia, especially the “nice, polite” brand of homophobia that can be so easy to internalize  

Well-Written/Editor Needed: Well-written!   

Would I Recommend?: Yes, with the caveat that this isn't exactly a romance and doesn't wrap up as tidily as one might expect  

Personal thoughts: I received an ARC of Boyfriend Material from Sourcebooks, which I proceeded to sit on for I don't even know how long, despite the premise sounding delightful. And then when I read the book, it was indeed delightful! The prose is really funny (and very authentically British, including the class distinctions that Americans tend to flatten) and the characters are, while not always likeable, certainly relatable in that late twenties "my life is a mess and I don't know how to be an adult" kind of way. My only issue with the book is not really the book itself but rather its marketing: I don't think this is really a romance novel. It's more like a gay Bridget Jones' Diary or Confessions of a Shopaholic. We don't really see "chick lit" as a genre anymore so I can see how it would be difficult to market; it's too snarky to really fit into "relationship fiction" or "women's fiction" and, of course, it's about men rather than women! A problem for the publicist; the book itself is great. 

Husband Material picks up right where Boyfriend Material left off, and similarly is more about life-with-romance than Romance with a capital R. Luc and Oliver are going through some very hard things in this book, and while it's still funny and heartwarming, I'm very curious to see what the general reception will be. Things are not wrapped up in a tidy bow, and Hall is asking very big questions about how to have a meaningful queer relationship when all the established relationship symbols are grounded in heteropatriarchy. (While, I repeat, still being charming and funny and heartwarming!) Just like with Boyfriend Material, if you go in with the expectations that this is going to be more along the lines of Bridget Jones' Diary than a traditional romance novel, I think you'll have a better time. 

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