LGBTQ

Book Review: Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life

Author
Fitzgerald, Tom (Thomas)
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

If you're looking to get educated on LGBTQ+ history, this is a great book to try. I loved hearing about some of the most influential figures of the LGBTQ+ movement and their impact on others. They persevered even through backlash from events like the AIDS epidemic and built a community where everyone is welcome to be themselves. Some parts can get slow to read, but the authors use modern language and humor to appeal to a variety of audiences and make history more entertaining. This book is so empowering, give it a try!

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: Heartstopper

Author
Oseman, Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I'm not a huge graphic novel fan because previous ones I've read have been too complicated to get hooked on. This series totally changed my mind! Heartstopper is a wholesome story of two schoolboys who fall in love and deal with all sorts of backlash from it. Even through the pain and sadness that bullying can cause, Charlie and Nick have a lovely way of persevering and having great communication with their diverse support system. It teaches that no matter how alien you might feel, there is always someone ready to listen and accept you. Plus, if you like this series already, try out the Netflix series for a beautiful adaptation of it.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: This Is Where It Ends

Author
Nijkamp, Marieke
Rating
1 star = Yuck!
Review

This Is Where It Ends follows four students who recount their perspectives going through a school shooting at Opportunity High. Initially, I was intrigued to read this book since it covers a very sensitive topic and is a topic that I was interested in learning more about. However, the novel completely missed all my expectations. Instead of a thoughtful, heavily researched, realistic story, I got a novel that seemed to be an insult to any school shooting victim. The novel was way too action-packed, in such a way that every single plot point in the book seemed wildly exaggerated. Making it worse, the school shooter in the novel was way too villainized. With cheesy lines and no real reasoning behind his actions, the author made it seem like the shooter was some kind of superhero comic villain, with no other drive for his actions besides to incite fear in others. There was no psychological deep dive into why the shooter, a previous student in the school, ended up in the way he did, and why he thought his only solution to his problems was to murder his classmates. It was a shame to read such a novel meant to address a major problem in America, but was instead contorted and desensitized in a way to appeal to the entertainment industry, and failed to have any educational value at all. To put it shortly, This Is Where It Ends seems more of an action-thriller novel, not one that is meant to be taken seriously at all.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: She Drives Me Crazy

Author
Quindlen, Kelly
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

She Drives Me Crazy opens with Scottie Zajac horrendously losing the first basketball game of the season to her ex-girlfriend. And it keeps going downhill after that. After a horrendous fender-bender in the parking lot after the game, Scottie is forced to carpool with Irene Abraham, the beautiful head cheerleader with a heart of stone. But after a few twists and turns, Scottie comes up with a perfect way to get back at her ex: fake date Irene until their next basketball battle. But within their fake relationship, Scottie finds that maybe feelings, relationships, and exes aren't as simple as she thought.
This book was fairly simple. It was a standard rivalry turned forced cooperation turned love story, with lots of shenanigans along the way. The things that made this book stand out from the simplistic romances of its peers was surprisingly not how the main love story was handled, but rather how the previous one was. Scottie had been in a nasty breakup caused by a nasty relationship, and it shows. She's torn about her ex and is constantly conflicted over whether ending the relationship was a good idea or not, something that's sadly very common for victims of toxic relationships. Her self esteem is noticeably impacted, and she has to struggle with this throughout the rest of the book. The book also handles a lot of other difficult subjects really well, like the demonization and trivialization of cheerleading, and the criticisms given to gay athletes. Despite these heavy topics, the book still delivers the fun romance it promises, with a few interesting twists thrown in that complement the themes of toxic relationships and moving on. The characters of the book were also surprisingly endearing. Scottie was loveable despite her flaws, Irene was one of the coolest female characters I've read in years, and even the side characters each shone and grew in really unique ways.
All in all, this was a great book, which I'd definitely recommend for lovers of romance, rivalry, character growth, and some 90's era romantic gestures!

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Baby & Solo

Author
Posthuma, Lisabeth
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Baby & Solo is a story about friendship, heartbreak, movies, and The Things That Are Wrong with us. It follows Joel, fresh out of treatment for years of mental illness and ready to begin his life. He applies for a job at the local ROYO video, and finds himself thriving with a clean slate, especially around the enigmatic and acerbic Nicole "Baby" Palmer, someone who might be his first real friend. But as life begins to spiral out of control (as it usually does) he finds that he might need to face his past if he ever stands a chance of moving forward.
This book was brilliant. I have no other words for it. From the first chapter, the startling humor and charm of our protagonist kept me turning pages. And as the cast emerged, with Baby especially being a breath of fresh air in a world so choked with mediocre or boring female characters, I found myself unable to put it down. This book is around 400 pages, and I sped through almost all of it in one night, it was that gripping. The first thing I have to commend this book for is its heady sense of life. Some books merely create the illusion of life in its characters and story, but this one felt more like a movie (ironically) where I could almost see the character's faces, hear their voices, and bask in their triumphs or tremble before their struggles. Something about the rawness of the characters made me more attached to a book about teenagers from the 90s who worked in the equivalent of a blockbuster than any contemporary iPhone using, slang abusing teenage stereotype from the 21st century. Another thing that's amazing about this book is the prose. For one, I didn't expect it at all. It was a funny book, a sort of dark-comedy, with a loving attachment to Star Wars and laughable hatred of Dirty Dancing. I didn't think there'd be some parts of this books with absolutely gorgeous writing, that could take you from laughing to nearly crying with a few well-placed, beautiful lines and startling deep writing. Another thing: this book is really sad. But not a cheap, overworked kind of sad. It's the sadness that seeps through the snarky lines and hilarious antics. There's a melancholy to this book that soaks into almost every page, and genuinely makes you realize that life is a tragedy for these characters, and that their triumph is being able to smile through it. The ending nearly broke my heart, but the promise of moving forward, the promise of getting better, kept me smiling through my tears.
I could rave about this book for hours, but I don't want to give a single thing away, because I desperately want the very few people who read this review to read this book. All in all, this book is astounding. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone, but especially those that like quick humor, fantastic characters, 90s nostalgia, and books that tears your heart apart while putting it back together.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Reviews: Gracefully Grayson

Author
Polonsky, Ami
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Gracefully Grayson is about a boy in sixth grade who is forced to go through the struggles of transfering to a girl. In the middle of sixth grade, Grayson has the opportunity to try out for a school play. He has not done any after school, but he decided to go out on a limb and try out, but for the lead girl part. He ends up getting the part, but word spreads fast around his school, and him and his teacher, who is the play director, both get hate. While he rehearses for the play, he has to deal with bullies, the weight of thinking that he might get his teacher fired, and his aunt not supporting him fully. He also has to figure out whether he wants to show off everything he wants to wear, or stick to the boring ways boys act and what they wear.
This book was ok. It showed the pressure that LGBTQ people go through every day, but there were no huge plots. The book was boring at parts, but overall, it was a good story and book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy read.

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: The Song of Achilles

Author
Miller, Madeline
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I initially picked this book after seeing all the clout it was getting, as I'm sure many have noticed, it's popularity is unmatched. I walked into reading the story with a raised eyebrow, unsure if it would live up to its hype. It did. The story closely follows the Greek invasion of Troy after Helen is swept away by Paris, and if you have read the Iliad, then I am sure you already understand the plot. What differs from the work of Homer, however, is the pace at which Miller writes and the story she pushes. It is a beautiful rendition of war, love, and heartbreak. Between fighting battles and training with Chiron, Miller shows the sides of these famous heroes we all guessed at but never saw-- from running along a sun-warmed beach to tearing out hair, you will never be as deeply connected to characters as you will while reading this. My favorite part about this book was how beautiful Miller's incredible prose and the scenes that are forever engraved in my head: Thetis touching the chin of Achilles, Patroclus's hands on the gold of well-known armor, and a stone memorial built on the greatest hill, two figures standing side by side nearby it. This is not only one of the top book's I've read this year, but nearly the best book I've read in my entire life.

Junior-11

Reviewer's Name
Sarah T.

Book Review: Detransition, Baby

Author
Peters, Torrey
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Offering a nuanced understand of identify and lived experiences, Peters poses the question, “What constitutes family?” The complexities that accompany transness, family, and self expression are explored beautifully in the book.

Reviewer's Name
Courtney C.

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author
Saenz, Benjamin Alire
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

”Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
A quote from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Saenz has truly mastered the art of poetic prose. This novel is filled with countless more beautiful lines, and I have to say that this story exceeded my expectations.
Aristotle (Ari) is a Mexican-American boy who lives with his PTSD racked Father and loving Mother. Dante is the opposite of Ari. Instead of being a "traditionally" boyish boy, Dante enjoys art and poetry. Dante is emotional and sensitive, while Ari tends to deflect the same feelings.
I really enjoyed this book for countless reasons.
For one, the POC main characters and LGBT romance. I consider diversity to be an important factor in novels, and the author of this story did a good job of illustrating these topics.
Secondly, I liked the pacing of this story. It was pretty relaxed and slow. Reading this story felt mellow and personal, like we were just watching Ari and Dante discover themselves and each other, all in the slow hum of everyday life.
Last, the realism of this novel was something I appreciated. We saw Ari and Dante act like the teenagers they are, and tackle common everyday problems most teenagers face. I liked how nothing was overly dramatized, and while that may seem "boring," I thought this calm, slow, and realistic take on a typical Coming of Age novel was very enjoyable.
Overall, although Aristotle and Dante don't follow much of a plot, I enjoyed watching the novel unfold at its own pace.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: Gearbreakers

Author
Mikuta, Zoe Hana
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Gearbreakers is a story with two subjects. First, there's Eris, a revolutionary with a burning hatred for Godolia, the all powerful government that killed her parents and regulates her home with the giant mechas known as Windups. She has dedicated her life to destroying these Windups, and any who dare pilot them. Second, there's Sona, a Windup pilot that is scheming to destroy Godolia from the inside. When the two of them meet after one of Eris' destructive escapades goes sideways, their clashing backgrounds and mirrored desires forges an unlikely friendship, one that will change both of their lives as they know it.
This book is unusual for its genre from the get go. It's clearly a YA dystopia, with its young, child soldier protagonists with appropriately angsty personalities set against a terrifying yet monolithic totalitarian government. I've read plenty of these in my time, like most of my generation, and I'm very familiar with the elements. In this book, the usual elements are subverted immediately. Instead of starting out with a bland everyman that, despite having a hard life, isn't usually directly opposed to the system they're in, this book cuts to the chase. The first voice of the story, Sona, is introduced already chock-full of rage. The entire first chapter begins in medias res, completely skipping the usual revelations and training montages and directing us straight to a character who has just been transformed and is very ticked about this. This is something the book does very well: it trusts its audience to grasp the situation at hand, without needing the exposition many books like this are heavy in, often using heavy and lyrical prose to do so. This is another thing: the prose. The book is unexpectedly poetic in many places, which is also generally strange for the genre. I'm not talking about clunky metaphors about birds and technology, although there is a lot of stuff about technology. Just the writing itself is beautiful, interweaving metaphors and similes and personification and all that fun stuff seamlessly with the literal. This also makes the novel seem older than its setting and genre, more like an old folk tale about ancient gods and classic heroes than a YA dystopia about robots and lasers. Another bright spot in the novel is its vibrant tone, especially with the characters. Every character is brimming with emotion and character and motivations. And they're all unspeakably angry. This author is younger than most, and this definitely shows in the portrayal of the younger characters in the novel. In many books written by older authors, the teenage characters often exhibit the cynicism and stoicism of that older generation in the face of social injustice. While this leads to cool-headed, logical heroes to aspire to, none of them have the same instant relatability with the younger generation as these angry characters do. Most teenagers, in the face of unfairness, get unreasonably angry. Its a fact of life, and having unabashedly angry female teen characters who scream and yell and blow stuff up in the face of their terrible circumstances instead of passing out or something is surprisingly refreshing. The two main characters, and their deep seated anger in the face of trauma and injustice, as well as their different ways of reacting to their similar demons, makes for some great chemistry and explorations of their characters. I will admit, most other characters didn't get similar levels of development, but they were each memorable and likable in unique and fun ways.
All in all, I would simply describe this book as fun and refreshing. The action and characters and writing is all fun, and the way the author subverts typical expectations in unique and interesting ways is refreshing! I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for lots of robots, good emotional conflicts, lots of sadness, lots of laughs, and some cathartically angry female characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Eve