It’s hard to say that this book was fun (even though it was) because the main character, Declan, carries so much pain, self-doubt, and at times even self-loathing that I wanted more for them. This is one of those really great books that proves (gasp! horrors! what has the world come to?!) that gay people are literally human beings and experience exactly the same emotions and rollercoaster rides in romance that cis hetero people do (sorry haters).
The premise is something straight out of any mainstream (re: book that the traditional publishing industry has been pushing since the dawn of time) fiction: an up-and-coming video-documentarian asks Declan to be their interview subject on a series of dates. It’s meant to be a glimpse into the modern dating world, even though Declan has his doubts. After all, he’s left someone at the altar and still hasn’t forgiven himself for it, even though his love-victim has and is still close friends with him.
The book was endearing in all the right ways and shone a spotlight on a number of issues. Apart from the aforementioned “omg they’re just like us and by us I mean stereotypical status quo,” the author seamlessly uses correct pronouns without batting an eye. It’s a beautiful example of how this whole thing works when people put a microscopic smidgen of effort into it.
Fun, insightful, heart-wrenching at times, and yes, you want to cheer for the good guys! (Make that, good people!)
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
It is so refreshing to read a really original plot–even one that is based entirely around one of the oldest and most beloved fairy tales–that I cannot say enough incredible things about this story. At the same time, it is so out-of-the-ordinary and handles uncommon plot threads in a seamless, no-big-thing kind of way.
In this fictional kingdom, the Cinderella fairy tale is practically their religion. Blind allegiance to the king is required, the subjugation of women is even more prevalent. Every household must own and memorize the Bible, of sort–a pristine, palace-approved version of Cinderella. Worse, every household must send its daughter at age 16 to the ball to be selected by the men of the kingdom.
Failure to do so means death.
So what is a 16-year-old girl to do if she has no interest in marriage–and if her girlfriend refuses to run away with her?
What makes this story so intriguing is not the LGBTQ elements, the women’s rights issues, or even the fact that men’s clothing has pockets and women’s clothing does not (I’ll admit, I laughed out loud when a character explains her preference for men’s clothing simply by stating, “It has pockets.”), but that we see an entirely different telling of Cinderella. What if everything we know about the original story is a lie that was put forth by the palace to control the subjects? And what if the only one who can help the main character is a fairy godmother who’s done terrible things, and who should have died 200 years ago?
This is one of those rare treats that actually does make you stay up all night to see what happens. It dealt with “sensitive” subjects and offered incredible opportunities for much-needed representation. It was just a winner all the way around!
As the young people say, “Oh, all the feels…” (Wait, do the young people still say that?) This book was incredible. Besides the stellar writing and spot on, distinctive voices–which honestly, I have a right to expect from an author–the depth with which Craig paints this whole story is incredible.
Tackling one of the most iconic concepts in sexuality (namely, being open about your preferences or choosing to keep your sexuality to yourself out of a sense of self-preservation), Craig handles the topic in an engaging but still unheavy way. It’s astounding that someone can write about something as terrifying as living a lie to protect oneself with the finesse that the author uses.
Anyone with even a shred of compassion for their fellow human beings can identify with the struggles Ezra, Alex, Nettie, and even Will face. This book paints the picture that not all circumstances are black and white, and not all prejudices are what we might believe. As a veteran secondary school teacher with a soft spot for those who face unique battles, it warms my heart to know that I can point readers to this book.
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