Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

See below all of my book reviews for Pop Culture Club, Culturess, and Lambda Literary.

Pop Culture Club

Recommendation of the Week: Surrender Your Sons

Recommendation of the Week: Sources Say

Culturess

Sia Martinez is an unexpected journey into the mysteries of the universe

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is a sweet and moving YA romcom

Meet Cute Diary is a sweet and fun champion for trans love stories

Jay’s Gay Agenda is a celebratory and joyful queer coming-of-age story

Love and Other Natural Disasters is the fake dating romcom to kick off your summer

It All Comes Back to You is a moving love story about second chances

Lambda Literary

Be Dazzled is a Moving Gay Love Story

Honey Girl is a Tender Exploration of Identity and Place

Perfect on Paper is a Refreshingly Queer YA Romance

Purchase your own copy of these titles and support independent bookstores.

Disclaimers: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchaseI received an ARC of these books through NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Recommendation of the Week: Sources Say

It seems like the 2020 election will never end, even as President-elect Biden’s inauguration draws nearer. Even though we all have election fatigue, it’s still important to be politically aware and responsible consumers of media.

Enter Lori Goldstein’s Sources Say, a young adult novel focused on a contentious high school election between two exes. Caught in the middle is a reporter, the sister of one of the candidates, attempting to do her best at covering everything truthfully and fairly.

Sources Say is a fun and easy read for readers of all ages to learn more about the realities of misinformation and politics in an accessible environment. The characters are likable and easy to grasp on to and the romantic plot is compelling. Though at times the plot devices and framework can feel a bit gimmicky, they work well within the overall story for a unique twist on social media and news.

If you want to learn more about Sources Say, I chatted with Goldstein over at Culturess about Sources Say and the role of her book in the larger political landscape. Sources Say is available now wherever books are sold.

Molly

Buy your copy of Sources Say here to support independent bookstores.

Disclaimers: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Recommendation of the Week: Surrender Your Sons

Adam Sass’s debut novel, a young adult queer thriller, is the perfect read for to kick off your Spook-tober. Surrender Your Sons follows Connor Major, a recently out gay teenager who is isolated in a small town in Illinois.

His only salvation from the Reverend who has taken over every inch of his tiny town, including his mother, is his boyfriend, Ario, and his weekly Meals on Wheels delivery to a disabled patient, Ricky Hannigan.

Unfortunately for Connor, his mother and the Reverend discover he uses his Meals on Wheels trips to also see his boyfriend, and put him under strict house arrest.

It’s not long after this that his mother willingly has him kidnapped and taken to a secret island in the middle of Costa Rica with the hopes that when he comes back, he’ll no longer be gay.

Even worse, Connor soon learns that the Reverend is at the center of this horrible conspiracy, his power looming even larger on the island, as Connor tries to unravel the mystery thanks to a clue from Ricky.

Conversion therapy and its many sins and cruelty are the throughline of Surrender Your Sons. Sass does a masterful job of proving that, despite the loss of focus on the topic, conversion therapy has never gone away; it’s just better at hiding itself.

With the dramatic Lost setting and Wilder Girls vibes, Surrender Your Sons threads plenty of tension and mystery on top of the devastation, making it so that readers keep turning the page, even as the realities become more gruesome.

But even though much of the queer experience for many people (both on the page and off) can be traumatic and violent, Sass also weaves in a powerful narrative of queer resilience, joy, strength, and love.

When Connor makes it onto the island, he learns he’s not the only person in his situation, eventually having to choose whether to save himself, or work with the other teens to defeat the Reverend and escape together.

This includes a blooming romance with another camper, Marcos. Unlike Ario, who pressured Connor to come out before he was ready, unwittingly putting him in danger, Marcos and Connor have matching scars.

Beyond the numerous beautiful and powerful queer themes, Surrender Your Sons is a masterful thriller and mystery, begging to be read and re-read with its numerous breadcrumbs and easter eggs and incredible supporting cast. You can get your copy today at your local library or wherever books are sold.

Molly

Buy your copy of Surrender Your Sons here to support independent bookstores.

Disclaimers: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Recommendation of the Week: Rainbow Rowell

I hope to make this a weekly post (obviously) but I’ve already failed to meet my goal of posting at least once a week so we’ll see how this goes.

I was originally going to write about John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, largely because I was hesitant about it in the beginning (the whole cancer-patient-trope kind of bugs me). However, I inevitably enjoyed the book and the movie–especially as I had time to absorb it and think about it. But I think the Internet has done that for me.

I’m an avid consumer of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour from NPR. If you don’t listen to it, they critically analyze all forms of popular culture–books, music, television, movies, video games, tropes, etc.–in a very fun and snappy way. I highly recommend it. They end each episode with a segment called, “What’s Making Us Happy This Week” where they basically recommend different pop culture artifacts. Sometimes it’s a YouTube video. Sometimes it’s an album. Sometimes it’s a book.

Last fall, I was listening to the podcast and heard Linda Holmes mention the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and how good it was. She kept bringing it up in subsequent episodes and I also saw it pop up on HelloGiggles. The world was telling me to read this book. However, I don’t get to read too much for pleasure throughout the school year, but I was heading to Minneapolis for a conference (by car–from Oklahoma) and decided to buy it on my Kindle.

In short, I read the book in three days. I devoured it. As soon as it was over, I immediately wanted to pick it up and read it again. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Eleanor and Park.

Eleanor & Park is a special book. It is rare in YA fiction to see characters who are so carefully crafted across the board.

Throughout the book, Eleanor deals with an abusive stepfather. She shares a bedroom with her four little siblings and pins scraps of fabric to cover up the tears and holes in her secondhand clothes that don’t quite fit, drawing the negative and unwanted attention of the mean, popular kids who call her “Big Red.”

Meanwhile, Park is the only half-Korean kid at school and struggling under the weight of his dad’s imposing masculinity. He walks through school with his head down. He finds comfort in punk rock and experiments with eyeliner.

Somehow, he and Eleanor find each other. Through comic books and The Smiths and Watchmen.

I don’t want to say too much about this book, because you should just read it. As YA demi-god John Green said in his book review, “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”

Additionally, I just finished Rowell’s other YA novel, Fangirl. Again, I read it in two days. Essentially, Fangirl is about fearful and anxious Cath, an epic fan-fiction writer who goes to college with her twin and struggles when her sister, Wren, decides she wants independence. That means Cath has to live with a scary potluck roommate, Reagan, whose boy-toy? Levi never leaves the room. Cath has to learn how to do college on her own–and in the beginning she just doesn’t. Instead of going to the caf, she lives off of protein bars in her room. Eventually, Reagan takes pity on Cath and their friendship is sweet and hilarious.  “But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box,” Reagan tells her.

Throughout the book, Cath is also trying to finish her giant fan-fiction before the end of her favorite saga comes out (the equivalent of writing a fictional Harry Potter Book 7 before JK Rowling published her version) while balancing a “literary” fiction-writing class. Anyone who’s taken a workshop class can guess what happens next.

Fangirl, like Eleanor & Park has great romance, but it also touches on mental illness, family drama, and what it’s like to be a freshman in college. It’s also a book about writing in a very elegant and meta way without being too showy, which is hard to do. Fangirl was a really fun read. I couldn’t help but relate to the protagonist who was painfully introverted and painfully nerdy, both of which Rowell celebrated.

Rowell is also the author of the adult novels Attachments and the upcoming Landline. You can follow her on Twitter @rainbowrowell. (She’s really nice!)

Molly