BOOK REVIEW: Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown

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Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Glbt
First published: 1973
Publisher: Bantam
Finished reading: December 28th 2016
Pages: 240
Rating 4qqq

“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”

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I confess I came across this book by accident, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the blurb. The fact that Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story written back in 1973 and talks about the glbt theme so openly is both impressive and inspiring. I can see why so many people seem to find Rita Mae Brown‘s book that powerful… Because as we follow the main character Molly Bolt, basically every cliche involving the glbt community is included and talked about.  It’s so interesting to read about how the situation was back then and compare them to our current one! The prose is both refreshing and entertaining to read, and I was able to finish this modern classic in no time at all. Molly Bolt isn’t exactly the most ‘perfect’ character out there, but it is so easy to like her with all her flaws. She says and does exactly how she thinks and I can really appreciate that. There is some swearing involved in Rubyfruit Jungle, but in this case it is basically part of the character building. All in all a very interesting read!

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Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who stubbornly decided to find a way to improve her current life. She has been determined not to have other people stop her from reaching her goals and dreams, even if she wants things other people might find odd. That includes Molly finding women more attractive than men, and she refuses to apologize for loving them. But will she be able to succeed in life?

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If you enjoy reading a good glbt coming of age story where the main character doesn’t shy away from saying the painful truth and you don’t mind a bit of colorful prose, I can strongly suggest reading Rubyfruit Jungle. I personally loved the unorthodox prose and I had so much fun reading this story. Molly Bolt is such an intriguing and well developed character and it was really interesting to follow her difficult journey to adulthood. It’s a very original and powerful story and even more impressive if you think about the time when Rubyfruit Jungle was first published.

BOOK REVIEW: The Art Of Being Normal – by Lisa Williamson

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Title: The Art Of Being Normal
Author: Lisa Williamson
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: January 1st 2015
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Finished reading: August 24th 2016
Pages: 357
Rating 4,5qqq

“It’s like I know the real me is in there somewhere, but for the moment I’m trapped in this weird body that I recognise less and less every day.”

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I’ve had countless bloggers recommending this book to me ever since it was published, and somehow I have managed to ignore it until now. I kind of want to kick myself, because this is without doubt one of the best glbt/transgender YA contemporary books I’ve read to this date. The Art Of Being Normal is simply brilliant. The prose is excellent, packed with quotable lines and I literally flew through the pages. I loved the two main characters and the whole glbt/transgender angle made the story into something special. In fact, I don’t think I have read many books with a transgender main character… The character development is really well done and it all felt realistic and not too cheesy. I also loved the ending and the abandoned pool scenes… Basically a whole lot of love! If you enjoy reading YA contemporary/realistic fiction books and haven’t tried reading this little gem by Lisa Williamson yet, I highly suggest keeping this one in mind. You won’t regret it.

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Being a teenager and attending high school is never easy, but for David and Leo it somehow is all extra challenging. Both are outsiders and both have their own secrets… David longs to be a girl, and the people at his high school bully him for his feminine behavior. He never actually told anyone he wants to be a girl though, but things are tough. Leo had problems at his previous school and had to switch to David’s high school instead. Nobody actually knows why and there are a lot of rumors going around, but none of them are close to the truth… When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. Things are about to get a whole lot more complicated…

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It’s hard to talk about The Art Of Being Normal without turning into a blabbering, fangirling mess. I can definitely understand why so many people seem to love this book and keep recommending it everywhere, because it deserves that praise. This book is well written, has an interesting plot and characters and feels real. On top of that, it talks about the issues transgender teenagers might face without pushing that important subject into the background. If you like the genre, make sure to add The Art Of Being Normal to your wishlist if you haven’t already.

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Ways We Lie – by Riley Redgate

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Title: Seven Ways We Lie
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Finished reading: June 30th 2016
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“I stand there looking after him with the feeling that – just like that, in one careless moment – I might’ve ruined somebody’s life.”

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I have heard mixed things about this book in the past, and now I’ve read Seven Ways We Lie myself I’m not sure what to make of it. Sure, this novel by Riley Redgate is a fast read, the prose mostly reads easy and is quite entertaining in general. Sure, I liked the idea of the seven deadly sins incorporated into the story and reading about the different characters and their problems and lies. But those seven different POVs did make it harder to focus on the story, get a proper feel for the characters and the plot and properly enjoy this book in general. I was quite confused by the all the different names in the beginning and it took me a while to really tell them apart… And the deadly sin references weren’t as obvious as I thought they would be. Seven Ways We Lie was without doubt a good enough and fast read, but the whole ‘lying teenagers with secrets’ theme was not that original. Also, I liked some characters better than others and especially Juniper’s chapters felt a bit forced ‘artsy’ and started to annoy me. My favorite characters would probably be Olive and Matt, although I liked Valentine and Lucas as well with his whole pansexual angle. In short, it’s a nice enough YA contemporary novel if you enjoy the genre, but not as good as I thought it would be.

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Seven students at Paloma High School are each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and all have their own secrets. Each of the students tells their story from their own point of view, and slowly their lives are starting to intertwine more and more… What do a thespian, closeted pansexual, neurotic genious, the perfect girl and a few others have in common? Nothing obvious, until the rumors of a student-teacher affair hit the fan and suddenly the whole school wants to find out the identity of the guilty couple. But aren’t all students guilty of something in the first place? The perfect girl might not be so perfect after all after her secrets comes out, and it’s up to the other six sinners to keep her secret safe. But can they resist their temptations?

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To be honest, I’m having a hard time rating Seven Ways To Lie. In a way, I quite enjoyed reading this story and it was a really fast read, but I also had some minor problems with it that made me enjoy the story less. The biggest issue would probably be the fact that there are many different characters and POVs, which makes it hard to properly connect to the story. I also would have liked seeing more of the seven deadly sins incorporated in the book… But all in all it is still an entertaining enough read if you normally enjoy reading the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: More Happy Than Not – by Adam Silvera

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Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: June 2nd 2015
Finished reading: June 4th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 3qqq

“Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know which ones you’ll survive if you don’t stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of good times to shield you.”

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More Happy Than Not was on my list of most anticipated 2015 releases and I added it to my list months before it was even published, but somehow I never actually picked up my copy until now. It’s easy to say I had really high expectations for this book, and that may or may not have influenced my opinion in a negative way. Because it’s a fact that it took me ages to read this novel by Adam Silvera and I can’t say I enjoyed the first part. The prose and dialogues felt a bit forced and I felt like the story dragged to much in the beginning. To be honest, I actually thought about DNFing it at one point just because it took me so long to get a proper feel for the story… That said, I’m glad I continued reading because the last part of the book was brilliant. I’m not saying it completely made up for the slow start, but it did explain more about what the main character was going through. More Happy Than Not mixes the average contemporary romance story with science fiction elements, which definitely transforms it into an interesting read. The message behind this story is also inspiring, and especially the last part had a lot of really interesting quotes. I have debated whether to give this novel a higher rating, but I can’t ignore the fact that the beginning just didn’t do it for me. Would I recommend it? Probably, with the advice to keep reading even if you don’t really like the beginning.

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 Aaron Soto has been struggling to find happiness again in the months after his father committed suicide. Things have been tough, but his girlfriend Genevieve and his mom have been trying to get him back on the right track. After he tried to end his own life not long after his father died, they seem to be more worried than ever… Because it seems like Aaron is slowly drowning in his own grief. When Genevieve has to leave town for a couple of weeks, Aaron starts hanging out more and more with a new guy, Thomas, instead of with his friends. Thomas seems to understand him a lot better than his old friends and Aaron can’t deny Thomas makes him feel happier than he has been in a long time. But are these feelings just about friendship, or something deeper? And how does Thomas feel about all this? Aaron feels he is making a mess of his life, and is starting to think the revolutionary memory-alteration procedure at the Leteo Institute might be his only way out for a happy and normal life…

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Like I said before, I had really high expectations of More Happy Than Not and the first part actually disappointed me a lot. It took me a long time to get a proper feel for the story; the first part was both slow, the prose felt forced and the story dragged a lot. Still, there is no doubt that the last part of the story is really good and probably would have gotten one of the highest ratings on its own. It’s an interesting topic that manages to raise important questions about glbt acceptance, suicide, happiness and life in general… In short: after a slow start, the second half of the book is definitely a reward and makes this novel worth reading in the end.

BOOK REVIEW: Binge – by Tyler Oakley

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Title: Binge
Author: Tyler Oakley
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: October 20th 2015
Finished reading: May 18th 2016
Pages: 307
Rating 4qqq

“No person, no matter how important society deems their relationship to you, has the right to denounce you for who you are.”

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Is it weird that somehow I end up reading memoirs of people I haven’ t really heard of most of the time? Because that’s what happened yet again when I decided to pick up my copy of Binge on a whim. The colorcul cover was enough to intrigue me, and even though I didn’t know much about Tyler Oakley beforehand, I still really enjoyed reading his story. These essays are quirky, feel brutally honest, sometimes uncomfortable but mostly hilarious. And the photos and Tweets are a nice touch as well! I’m not really into watching Youtube channels myself, but this memoir without doubt made me curious about his channel. I’m not sure Binge is for everyone and you have to like reading these kind of quirky memoirs and/or at least know a little about Tyler Oakley to properly enjoy it, but it is without doubt recommendable for the right person. The essays in general have a fast pace (except one or two around the middle) and basically are a mix of personal, witty, serious and funny stories about Tyler Oakley‘s life. The prose is quite easy to read as well!

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Tyler Oakley tells us all about his past and how he eventually became a pop-culture phenomenon and the most prominent GLBT voice on Youtube. Binge is a collection of essays about both Tyler as an awkward child growing up, Tyler coming out, Tyler during high school, Tyler during his Uni years and afterwards; each essay revealing a mix of personal mishaps and other hilarious or personal moments in his life no matter how awkward or potentially uncomfortable.

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I like reading memoirs and it doesn’t really matter to me if I actually know something about the person in question, which might sound a bit weird. I guess I care more about if the memoir itself is entertaining/interesting, and Binge is without doubt a very entertaining and quirky read. I don’t know a lot about Tyler Oakley and I have never seen his Youtube channel, but he comes over as a very interesting person I could definitely see myself hang out with. The essays are personal, brutally honest and for some people maybe even a little uncomfortable, but the stories are without doubt entertaining to read. Binge might not be for everyone, but definitely recommended for the right person.

BOOK REVIEW: Suicide Notes – by Michael Thomas Ford

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Title: Suicide Notes
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 14th 2008
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 295
Rating 3,5qqq

“I’m still kind of a mess. But I think we all are. No one’s got it all together. I don’t think you ever do get it totally together. Probably if you did manage to do it you’d spontaneously combust. I think that’s a law of nature. If you ever manage to become perfect, you have to die instantly before you ruin things for everyone else.”

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Suicide Notes is not the first book I’ve read that uses an interesting mix of humor and a serious theme like mental ilness and (teenage) suicide and therefore its plot is not exactly original. In fact, both It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and The Shock Of The Fall use quite a similar setting with a main character inside a psychiatric ward and if I have to be honest I feel those two books mentioned above did a better job especially when it comes to character development and credibility in general. (I’m aware the second title was published years after Suicide Notes, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I think it was better). I want to make clear that I am by no means saying this novel by Michael Thomas Ford was a bad read and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but I did have a few minor problems with it that influenced the rating. First of all, I wasn’t completely convinced by the credibility of the characters and their (lack of) development of both the main character Jeff and the other patients. Also, I’m not sure I appreciate some of the mental ilness, suicide and glbt related humor used during this story. Not only can some of it be found offensive (especially the glbt related parts), I also thought the humor felt forced at points… I do agree the pace is fast and the story is easy to read even though it’s about such a serious theme. I would probably have given it a higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the last part… I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it has something to do with the glbt theme that I found slightly offensive and the (sort of) love triangle was somewhat annoying as well.

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When fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day, he finds himself inside the psychiatric ward. Even though he doesn’t really remember what happened the other day, someone clearly made a huge mistake when they brought him to the ward… Jeff is determined to leave as soon as possible, claiming he doesn’t belong there along with the ‘nutjobs’. But what about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart? Jeff doesn’t see what the big deal is about what happened, but other people do seem to be worried about him. It turns out Jeff is part of a forty-five-day program and won’t be able to leave early even though he thinks he is perfectly fine and ‘normal’. But as the days go by, the ‘crazies’ start to seem less crazy and Jeff slowly starts to accept what happened to him…

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Suicide Notes is without doubt an interesting read with a fast pace and a healthy dose of humor to lighten up the serious theme. Still, I do believe there are better books out there with a similar plot. And although I enjoyed reading this novel in general, the characters were not always completely credible and I wasn’t always completely convinced by the humor either. The glbt related parts were probably my least favorite and sometimes even slightly offensive and cliché… But otherwise it is still worth reading if you are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Every Day – by David Levithan

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Title: Every Day
(Every Day #1)
Author: David Levithan
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 28th 2012
Finished reading: February 18th 2016
Pages: 322
Rating 4qqq

“There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.”

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up Every Day. It’s the first time I read a novel that has been written solely by David Levithan even though I’ve read some of his work in the past. To be honest I wasn’t fully convinced by either his short story in My True Love Gave To Me or his Dash chapters in Dash & Lily’s Book Of Dares he wrote together with Rachel Cohn, but luckily enough I was able to enjoy this novel a lot better. Every Day is an intriguing story told from the point of view of A, who wakes up in a different body everyday and doesn’t have a fixed gender. The how and why is never explained and brings a little magical realism into this contemporary romance story. Because if you leave out the body-switching and paranormal element, this is basically a simple love story where A asks the Rhiannon to see past the everchanging physical appearance and love A for who ‘he’ is essentially. I wasn’t really a fan of Rhiannon’s character, but I really liked the fact that David Levithan incorporated a lot of glbt-friendly characters in the different bodies A changed into. And this multidimentional character basically is what makes this book so special and combined with a fast pace and easy-to-read prose I would definitely recommend Every Day.

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A has been waking up into a different body every day since ‘he’ can remember. Every day means a different life and it is never the same body twice… Years of practice has shown A it is best to not get involved with the individual lives of the bodies ‘he’ wakes up in. Any mistake A makes can change the life of that particular person in a bad way, and A never wants to get too attached for that to happen again. A knows not to interfere, but that becomes impossible the day ‘he’ wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend. Rhiannon manages to dazzle A and ‘he’ doesn’t want to live by ‘his’ own rules… A no longer wants to make peace with the fact that ‘he’ wakes up in a new body every day, because I finally found someone ‘he’ wants to be with forever. Will A find a way to make this happen? And what does Rhiannon think of A’s situation in the first place?

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I was expecting a sappy romance story and part of it maybe is, but Every Day is so much more. The multidimentional character A is what makes this read into something truly special and I really liked the ‘hidden’ messages in David Levithan‘s prose (about for example equality). It’s a very intriguing read with just the right dose of mystery and romance that I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy the genre.