Showing posts with label lgbtq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lgbtq. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Ask The Passengers by A.S. King


Title: Ask The Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

My Review:

Oh man, I forgot how much I enjoy a really good, fo' serious YA novel.  I read a few in the last year or two, and they were okay, but many are so focused on angsty boy-meets-girl plotlines that they felt more like fluff reads than anything else.  But then I got my socks knocked off by Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, so I decided to follow that up with Ask The Passengers.  GREAT CHOICE.  This is the first time I've read anything by A.S. King, but it certainly won't be the last!  And I'm now very excited to meet her at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in May.

I hereby declare that this book should be required reading for adolescents.  Not just those that are questioning their sexuality, but ALL teens.  Because Astrid goes through some pretty awful bullying as her sexual identity becomes more public.  I sometimes lose sight of the fact that not everyone grows up in an area like mine, where views on the LGBTQ lifestyle are generally accepting.  (I say generally because...as we all know, there are haters everywhere.  Unfortunately.)  I had friends that came out in high school, and it didn't create nearly the ripples (more like tidal waves) that Astrid has to face in the close-minded community of Unity Valley.  This book is great for any teenager in the midst of their sexual-identity journey, as well as those who want to understand how to better support their friends and family members going through such an exploration.

What makes this stand out in YA LGBTQ literature?  Number one is Astrid.  She is such a great character.  She's often snarky and sarcastic, despite the difficult issues she's constantly facing.  Plus, her frank discussions about sexuality are refreshing (and the primary reason why I think all teens should read this).  I love her habit of "sending love" to the passengers of airplanes that she sees flying above her.  At first, I didn't know what to make of that ritual, but I like how King uses it as a way to explore the relationship problems that many of the passengers themselves are facing (she often segues to little side-stories about the passengers that Astrid has "sent her love" to).  This whole idea gives the book a unique premise, something more than your average YA novel.

GAH, you guys!!  Are all the Rochester TBF authors going to be this good?  Ask The Passengers was an awesome read, and has made me want to be all BFF-like with the YA genre again...for a little while, at least.  :)

Readers: have you read any other books that tackle teen LGBTQ issues in a powerful way?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review: We Are Water by Wally Lamb


Title: We Are Water
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In middle age, Anna Oh-wife, mother, outsider artist-has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets-dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs-nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.


My Review:

I am a sucker for novels with family drama, unexpected twists, and a good backstory.  Lucky for me, that sums up pretty much any fiction that Wally Lamb has written.  If you've read my review of Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, you know that I've adored many of his past novels.  And, I'm a tiny bit biased because he sets his books in the exact area of Connecticut where I grew up (more on that later).  However, in The Hour I First Believed, I noticed that he used the same structural format as he did in I Know This Much Is True, and I was worried that he was tending toward the formulaic.  In his new one, We Are Water, I can say without a doubt that that is no longer a worry of mine.

The novel begins from a somewhat confusing perspective--that of Mr. Agnello, a former bigwig in the art world, who is retelling the story of Josephus Jones, a deceased artist that he once took great interest in.  I wasn't sure how this would relate to the central plot of the novel, but knowing that Lamb often weaves in an interesting historical backstory, I took it all in.  Sure enough, this early chapter came back to the main story again and again, adding to the complexity of the underlying messages in the plot.

Once the rest of the novel gets underway, We Are Water is told from many perspectives.  The primary ones, at first, are those of Annie and Orion Oh--a recently divorced couple with three kids, and Annie is about to marry the woman that she left Orion for.  In the beginning, it seems that this is simply a story of a marriage gone wrong, and you're witnessing how the family is trying to pick up the pieces.  However, it quickly becomes much more than that.  As we get the POV of other characters (the three children, Annie's cousin, and even an unknown neighbor from years past), you quickly begin to realize that this story is much more than what it seems on the surface.  Family secrets come to light, and they're put in an interesting historical context next to the sidestory of Josephus Jones.

I can't say enough how much I loved the alternating POVs in this novel.  Each voice is wonderfully unique, and provides important new elements to the development of the plot.  Plus, this structure allows the reader to more fully jump into the laundry list of issues that are tackled in the novel: gay marriage, infidelity, incest, child abuse (yes, a lot of heavy stuff here).  By the end, my head was spinning with all that I'd taken in in under 600 pages!  But I didn't feel like any of these issues were given short shrift.  This is a novel that takes on a lot, and does it well.

A necessary note for the "local" readers: southeastern Connecticut references abound!  I am still convinced that the fictional Three Rivers is mostly meant to be Norwich (and it was hard not to think that Orion Oh worked for UConn), but Lamb also peppers the novel with references to other local towns/businesses: Groton, New London, Electric Boat, the casinos, and most importantly, Fitch High School (okay, it was a passing one-line reference, but as my alma mater, I got very excited).  I always love the local flavor that Lamb adds to his work, because he really does such a great job making that area come to life.

We Are Water gets a resounding YAY from me.  The characters alone are a driving force behind its awesomeness, but the issues they face (and the twists that follow) make it truly great.  If you want an issues-driven novel that has a flair for the unexpected, this one is for you.  And Lamb remains on my favorite authors list for sure!

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Wally Lamb on his Facebook page.


 
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