PERFECT ON PAPER — Sophie Gonzales

“Self-Analysis: Darcy Phillips
Is not set in stone.”

— Sophie Gonzales, Perfect on Paper

This is the (mostly) spoiler-free review of this novel. If you’re also interested in a transcript of my reading journal discussing internalised biphobia and bi erasure, you can find it on my Patreon.

Darcy Phillips has a secret. It’s not that she’s smart, kind, stubborn, generous, impulsive, or occasionally jealous.

Her secret… is Locker 89.

A prestigious private school’s favourite agony aunt, scholarship student and teacher’s daughter Darcy has her work cut out for her. She’s the genius behind the infamous dating and relationship service dispensed through a layer of secrecy and anonymity that’s becoming increasingly thin when none other than the annoyingly handsome Alexander Brougham discovers her identity. It sets in motion a cascade of events that will shake up St. Deodetus’s foundations. Or, at the very least, the lives of a bunch of lovable youngsters trying to find their place in the world.

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GIRL, SERPENT, THORN — Melissa Bashardoust

“Even if she’s upset with you now, if you do right by her, she will forgive you.”

— Melissa Bashardoust, Girl, Serpent, Thorn

This is the spoiler-free review of this novel. If you’d like to read my full reading journal, you can check it over on my Ko-fi.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a magic, fantastic story about legends and the way they are told: we are, and we aren’t, and what we do with out gifts/curses is up to us. Those who loves us will seek to protect us, and sometimes our choices will lead us astray. But if we do right by each other, love and forgiveness are our reward.

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Reading Journal 001: Nina LaCour’s WATCH OVER ME

Warning: reading journal entries contain plot spoilers!

After I started reading Watch Over Me and talked about it to my girlfriend, I was in the middle of talking about it when I suddenly realised: I have not read the blurb. (It’s Nina LaCour, so… insta-buy for me.)

If I had, I’d have known going in that this was a literal ghost story — I’m sort of glad that I didn’t. It came as a delicious, unsettling surprise; both for the protagonist, Mila, and for me. Well. Far more delicious for me than for her, to be fair. (I’m just going to assume that the lot of you are more diligent about readin’ your blurbs, so I won’t consider this spoilers yet.) I wonder at the terrible secret in Mila’s past, the horrible thing she did; the fire. Was that her fault, her doing? Or was it Blake? Is it true that they were living in the burnt-out husk of a house? Even knowing that LaCour likes to peel back these layers slowly and all in good time, and that she will, eventually, make the facts plan; I am impatient. I want to know. That’s a good start.

I’ve finished the novel at the point of this writing, so this is more retrospective than my other reading journal entries.

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JULIET TAKES A BREATH — Gabby Rivera

“I wanted her to change my world.”
“Mi amor, only you can change your world.”

— Gabby Rivera, JULIET TAKES A BREATH

An excellent story about a young queer woman from the Bronx who goes to Portland for the summer to find a new love, White Feminism, and the joy of community. Rivera’s grasp on setting the scene and bringing environments to life is masterful.

The Coming Out

Juliet Takes A Breath begins with tears. During her goodbye dinner, Juliet comes out to her family, and it ends as one might expect. Her father says nothing, her mother locks herself in her room, crying, and makes it all about her “shame.” Throughout the novel, Juliet’s mom is a well of all the things straight people say: ‘it’s just a phase,’ ‘you just haven’t met the right boy,’ ‘you don’t know what love is yet.’ It’s frustrating as hell, especially as Juliet struggles and needs her mother to be there for her. Juliet’s mom says she loves her, but that Juliet has to forgive her for not being able to accept ‘what she told her’ — and that’s a nice euphemism for ‘who her daughter is in her heart.’

The Arrival

Juliet arrives in Portland, OR, still heartbroken and heartsick, too: her girlfriend, Laney, is also doing a summer internship, in D.C., and Juliet hasn’t heard from her since before her flight. No calls, not even a damn text.

And then, we meet Harlowe. Oh my God, Harlowe.
I didn’t touch the audiobook for a couple days after the first chapter with her, because I could not stop rolling my eyes after everything she said. This could have become a Did Not Finish, but I had too much affection for Juliet and too much curiosity about the story to leave it there.

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WE ARE OKAY — Nina LaCour

We were miraculous. We were beach creatures. We had treasure in our pockets and each other on our skin.

— WE ARE OKAY

WE ARE OKAY is a novel that does not centre its queerness in the sense that it isn’t your typical coming of age + coming out story. It is an undeniably queer story, but Marin’s romantic feelings for and attraction towards her best friend, Mabel, are part of an additional narrative conflict that is both caused by and a contributing factor to the story of her grief.

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