Tsundoku: "buying books and not reading them." 積ん読

I have a fair amount of hobbies. There's Playing Video Games, Reading Books, Crochet, Cross Stitch, Gardening. I've had flings with Knitting and Embroidery. I have a passion for delighting in Teen Dramas like Hit CW show Riverdale. I sing when I'm alone. I'm a few years into piano lessons progressing at a molasses pace. Why do I do these things? Because they lower my stress, keep me in check, and are literal coping skills I have for existing in this world. It's a Self-soothing activity, much like how my dog nurses blankets and pillows when anxious, just with far less slobber.

And the only way my family knows how to express support or admiration for one of my hobbies is by telling me I should turn it into a “Side-Hustle”.

At my family's insistence I opened myself to commissions for specific objects. As any Knitter or Crocheter knows, your family and friends already drown in your scarves, hats, and sweaters.

But when money exchanges hands, an order is put in, it ceases to be a soothing activity.

Now I'm filled with a need to not disappoint them because they paid X amount for materials and labor. I sold my soul to capitalism, and for a disappointingly low-price.

Here's my problem. Despite being an ex-Catholic, I already have Protestant Work Ethic ™️ engraved into my DNA. I don't know how to relax without doing something. And my family wants to see my projects. They just don't know how to compliment my valueless labor without telling me it's a marketable skill.

Because I was basically taking care of myself as a child, I wasn't helicopter-parenting into turning every hobby I had into a college resume, partially because the idea of going to an Ivy League never occurred to any of us, not that I'm complaining. I failed out of college the first time because of my depression and not having these coping skills. It took me nearly a decade to get my undergraduate degree, because so many years were spent trying to get me to not be depressed until I was given Electro-Convulsive Therapy as a permanent structure in my life, to schedule around.

If you didn't know, I am disabled. I had to fight the case in court, that despite doing well in school, that no one under ADA guidelines would accommodate for someone who had to miss 2 days every three weeks, and could suffer migraines from flickering lights or random weather conditions. What may not be clear if you don't know a lot about the ADA, is that they only have to accommodate to a non-specified “reasonable” degree, and this in practice means disabled people are too costly to hire, whether that's wheelchair access or an ASL interpreter.

Maybe this is why when someone tells me I should run an etsy shop despite the fact I don't know how to run a business, don't know how to output at a business level, and am doomed to failure, I get a little mad.

I get it. Under capitalism, I as a “Discouraged worker”, not actively looking for work because it's a doomed prospect, and therefore not counting as “unemployed” according to the US government, am considered a worthless piece of shit. Now I'm sure you would never say that to a disabled person, you just will not help us integrate into society in any way that could hurt the almighty dollar.

A lot of people my age want to have a job that pays well and is fun to talk or bitch about. I'm pretty sure most of my generation by now has realized that “doing something you love means you'll never work a day” is a crock of shit.

This is the problem I have. I want to do things that are meaningful to me, but the moment your joy turns into work, it's gone, the joy slipped through your hands like sand. If Heinrich Faust ever experiences a moment of satisfaction, his life ends and he burns in Hell.

The relationship with writing is extremely complicated. On one hand, many writers are told not to bother with any publishing arrangement that doesn't pay you. I'm not about to dispute that wisdom, I do not make a living writing. I think the only reason I can sell my writing is that ideas are ghosts haunting me. It's not to say I experience no joy writing, but I am driven to write. I am not driven to cross-stitch a wall-hanging of a dumpster fire.

I know this is an idealist's position. I'm sure lots of people would love to make their livings doing stuff that at a minimum, they don't actively hate. My problem is the pressure put in to produce. The arts should be funded! I have no argument against that.

Can a person have value without being an entity that produces supposed value? Can I be valuable because I am a human being with inherent worth, not because I can crochet cats?

That's what I want. I want to believe people are valuable whether or not they have commercial worth.

First of all, 2020 is a garbage year. I'm not gonna dispute that. It's also been twenty years long, so remembering back to June, let alone January, is hard.

Okay, this is gonna be a complicated list. I'm putting it in groups of five. * Books Published in the US in 2020 * Books That I Keep Thinking About * Books That Gave Me Strength * Underappreciated Books

Books Published in the US in 2020

To be clear, that means if I found a publishing date that said 2020, even if it's the Paperback, it's eligible. This also means, because I am inept and can't find publishing dates for titles I purchased directly from Kobo, everything is traditionally published.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

You want fantasy with black girls, have some fantasy with black girls. This is a contemporary fantasy with mythical creatures. Also as becomes abundantly clear this is about the policing of black people by white supremacy. Also one of the characters is a literal black siren girl, which is how the book presents this issue.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

If Dear Martin was about how being the literal perfect black boy wasn't enough, this is about the non-perfect black boys. It's about why people enter gangs, how policing systems do people wrong. There's an afterword I recommend reading about the ways that this book is fictionalized which makes it more crushing.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

I could write a lot about this book. One, it uses the usually screen-reader unfriendly non-gendered x-ending, like in latinx. Except for the word brujo / bruja. I didn't listen to the audiobook, but I assume this is done not just because it's the most familiar to people in the United States, but because it wouldn't be that out there to pronounce “brujx” like “Bru-hex”. Two, it stars a trans boy who just wants to prove he's a brujo, and how a very gendered society doesn't know how to deal with him. Three, it discusses the issue of gender in gendered languages. Always something I want to read about.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

It's part-catfishing, part-romance, part-discovering which label fits you best. Felix has already told his father before the book starts, but Felix suddenly finds that the label of “Man” doesn't fit quite right. I don't want to be like “good representation” and leave it at that. It's also a comfort to know other people struggle with this.

Ruinsong by Julia Ember

First of all, I love when music is used as magic. Secondly, I love queer fantasy, and I feel like we don't get enough of it. This is a sapphic fantasy that talks about cultural norms in their stratified society.

Books That I Keep Thinking About

You know what I mean. You finished the book, put it back on your shelf or returned it to the library, and you keep thinking about it, days or months later.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

It's a good experience no matter what, but I'm near positive since it's part-podcast that it's best as an audiobook. Even if you don't like thrillers (I don't particularly like them myself) I still recommend giving this one a try, but if you have triggers, look those up the book first.

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

I should probably revisit this one, to be honest. It's exactly what it sounds like, the death of a friendship. And as someone who has had several friendships just... end, with it being nobody's fault, it's a comfort to read. It helped me come to terms with some of these friendship endings.

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

This book is shorter than it seems, because it's the same book, twice, just one half is in Italian and the other is translated to English. It's about the romance of learning a language, and being seen as an outsider to it. It also has a reference to Ágota Kristóf so I was pretty stoked.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

This is a book that deals with addiction, sobriety, and strict parents. You can probably guess the plot twist part-way through, but even if you know the premise, it's very much worth reading. I have yet to read a Brandy Colbert book I don't love.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Another one in the Police-brutality-fiction-micro-genre. I think everything in that genre is worth reading, but as a white person, I would especially recommend this one for white people, because while all the books have to consider the white segment of their audience, I feel like this one considers it the best. It teaches you valuable lessons as it makes you cry.

Books That Gave Me Strength

The year has sucked for virtually everyone, though to different degrees. This doesn't mean a book has to be meant to be inspiring, or to renew my hope.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

I was devastated during the wait for this book. I had loved Hyperbole and a Half and I wanted more. But she stopped blogging, and internet detectives uncovered a death in her family, and general suggestions she had become a different person and moved on with her life. Then seven years later this pops up, and I am filled with glee. It's actually real!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

I don't know what it is about this book, I think about it a lot, especially in the sense of creating something. Not that I'm internet-famous or anything. But I really relate to the sense of “Why talk to any family member about what I do because they won't get it!”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

To be clear, I don't really like running. I just like sports books (especially mountineering) for some reason. But reading about Murakami's marathons makes me feel good.

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Once again, it made me feel seen, from a mental health perspective. I even wrote to Jennifer Dugan about how special the book was to me. I haven't read any of Dugan's other material, but I really want to now.

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

I know I'm not thirty yet, but I can relate to an old, graying lady through the power of fiction. This is a great book for reaffirming you have value as a human being.

Underappreciated Books

I think this is pretty clear. It's books I haven't heard much buzz about or virtually no one has read (yet).

Yesterday by Ágota Kristóf

I have been a pretty big Kristóf fan for over a decade (thanks to Mother 3). While this one isn't my literal favorite, it's an excellent novella and it's now available legally again. I paid 40 bucks for a used copy from Canada originally, and believe me, that was a steal since it was going for 60 usually, and it's like 12 bucks digitally now. I want everyone to read this book, especially if that will get me more Ágota Kristóf books. Not many have been translated into English.

The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi

This is the sequel to The Beast Player, basically dealing with the consequences and fallout of the first book. If the Beast Player was too slow for you, this one has more explicit consequences for actions every 100 or so pages. I didn't believe Shit Could Get Realer and it did! Anyway, this came out this year and no one has read it. Please read it, so maybe one day I can read the rest of Moribito.

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

This is the sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay. I like both books, they feel a little Aristotle and Dante-esque. Just a gentle story of a queer boy of color, dealing with depression and acceptance. I will say that in the first book, Darius is only confirmed gay by an afterword, but you can definitely notice it in the book.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

I learned this year that reading horror helps with my anxiety. Yes, this title helped with that. It's not just about horror though, it's about grief and being afraid to get attached to someone. I really want to read the sequel!

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

Is it any surprise I want everyone to read this book? While it literally Cannot be a perfect portrayal of disability, due to the range of experiences, it still is worth reading if only to talk about inner ableism, and doctors gaslighting you.

Well, that's it, all 20. Sorry for putting ones I've talked about previously on this list, but I felt really strongly about them! I'd love to hear what you think, your notable reads of the year, or how you coped with the year at all, just talk to me:

CW: Mental health issues and frank discussion of Suicidal Ideation

There are two times I felt especially seen. Both times had to do with finding words for my feelings.

The first was an article about passive suicidal ideation, which gave me the courage to discuss it with my therapist (though I was extremely worried I'd get put in a hospital again).

The Second was reading Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan.

I was filled with both despair and delight reading this book. I am struggling to figure out a way to include anxiety in my prose, and I promise I won't steal Dugan's approach, the important thing is it showed me that including anxiety is possible.

But that's not the important part. The book was a difficult read, because one of the viewpoint characters is an extremely mental ill kid who struggles with intrusive thoughts and general anxiety. So in short, I'd keep putting it down and going: “this book is making me extremely anxious and that's really unpleasant!”

But I'm So glad I stuck to the book.

As you may guess from the leads being called Ridley and Jubilee, and the fact the setting is a comic shop called “Verona Comics” it's supposed to be reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. It's not that it's not, but if you focus on details like “Who's Mercutio and when does he die?” you will miss the point very hard.

The book is about trying to pursue a relationship when your baser needs aren't met, to get a bit Maslow-y.

I first got a glimpse of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in like, elementary school, so some of this might be confused or out-of-date, but bear with me.

Jubilee has a loving family, she has friends, her needs are met, she's striving for the top of the pyramid. Her ruin is that she is an enabler. Co-dependent.

Ridley, a sweet cinnamon roll, technically has the base of the pyramid met, other than the fact no one will buy him clothes and he's basically living out of a duffel bag. Then you go a step above, and he does not have the security needs met. Both parents are abusive, and only his sister begins to understand him. And despite the fact his mental health is in tatters, he tries to pursue a relationship.

And it's not that he shouldn't, it's that if the lower needs aren't met he's basically destined for failure.

It is in that sense he and Jubilee are star-crossed lovers.

Now let's talk more about me. For starters, I am rather poor. Always have been. Also my parents aren't narcissists; I know, I've asked my therapist. But child of narcissists or no, it hurts when you know your sibling is loved more than you and that effectively nothing you do matters. This is why I, much like Ridley at the end of the book, live with my brother. Because my brother, like Ridley's sister Grayson, realized I needed support and I wasn't getting it from my parents, and living with my parents would doom me to failure.

Like Ridley, I have struggled with suicide. The only reason I don't talk about it more openly is because my brother gets extremely anxious when I talk about it, because I got committed to inpatient once for suicidal tendencies. It effectively means I lose a support, because I have to be the strong one, but that's fine. But what really got me Seen as I said before, is the fact he constantly struggles. And very few people get that. You demonize the thoughts, not understanding you need to help the person get in control of their thoughts (to the extent that they can) or that they need support.

What got me sobbing is that the relationship is destroyed because of Ridley's mental health. But as a minor, he had done what he could. Unless something has changed in a decade, he cannot get himself help if his parents don't give a fuck.

I know, because I had constantly been trying to get therapy since I was 13, and several guidance counselors told my mom that I needed therapy. It wasn't until I had a breakdown at 16 that I got any mental health help.

Sometimes I wonder about the what ifs. If I had gotten treatment at a younger age, would my depression be less deep, and not untreatable? If my parents had listened to me when I was 13, would I be getting shocks to the brain every 3 weeks now?

It's really not worth thinking about, but it's where my mind drifts sometimes.

Ridley is not a coward for jumping off his roof at 13. I'm obviously glad this fictional character lived, and in a dark part of my mind I admire him, because he tried. I very much wanted to die when I was that age, and at 17, and the only reason I'm here is because I couldn't find a surely certain death route because my mother didn't own a gun.

At the end he finds an in-patient place, a really nice place. It's not a hospital, more of a camp. And he gets the help he needs.

Jubilee is damaged from their relationship, and they halt it for the rest of the book, but it implies there is hope for them, now that Ridley is getting the help he needs. It suggests hope. And maybe there is. Or maybe he is also destined for the route where everyone treats him like he's fucked up because he has to do Electro-convulsive Therapy for his persistent depression.

Now, I have to do the obligatory stuff here. Obviously, don't kill yourself. I don't have a fail-safe plan (though I am experienced in being alive). One, hotlines will not judge you. The only reason I am not including them here is that this is the World-Wide Web, there's no point in including a US-hotline if you need one in France, you know? Use your search engine of choice for Your Country plus “Crisis Hotline”. When I need them, I prefer to text, as no one can overhear you when you do that. And you don't need to be suicidal to use a Crisis line. Lots of things qualify as a crisis. Needing a reason to live is one. And I can tell you from my experience using them, they will help you find a reason to hang on. Two, go to bed and see if things are better in the morning. I won't say this always helps, but many times once the panic has abated and I'm staring the next day in the face, I feel a lot better.

This is probably a Part 1 of a longer series.

A book really struck me, though it wasn't aimed at me. The Title: Sick Kids In Love. The Subtitle: “They Don't Die in This One”. I had many feelings after I finished the book, which I'll get to. But the biggest was “I want to read more like this”

It's clear that it's unique to its genre, because if you pop it into NoveList, at least at my library, you get: The Fault in Our Stars and nearly everything else in the read-alike list is based off “you must want something that reads like The Fault in Our Stars.

Where Sick Kids In Love is a fluffy, OwnVoices romp, The Fault In Our Stars is depressing and not OwnVoices. I've heard it called “voyeuristic” though I'm not entirely sure I agree with that.

So I went looking on my own, for “Disabled”, which NoveList seems to think is a bad word. Seriously, the keyword you are looking for is “Ability Diverse” And it will show you actually good stuff, and a whole lot of Inspiration Porn. I asked the Fediverse what they thought, because while I was grossed out by the term, maybe it was just me? Spoiler: It wasn't just me, the nicest thing anyone had to say was that it was probably by someone well-meaning.

So I had to do my own research, because recommended tool NoveList was just gonna show me bullshit.

Unfortunately the Disability In Kid Lit site has not updated since 2018, so I was basically on my own to find anything.

I read two books about D/deaf people. These were apparently not OwnVoices according to the author bios. That said, they were good books, and I did learn some stuff, like for example, not all D/deaf people want to be called “Disabled”.

For the sake of this post, I am considering anything that requires accommodation that isn't necessarily given to be a disability, and requires you to change how you interact with the world (and how the world reacts to you). Preferably there is also a degree to which you yourself recognize yourself as disabled. This means simply wearing glasses does not count, because the world easily and dare I say “willingly” accommodates for it, but it would count if I were reading some historical fiction that does not. Mental Illness counts, I myself have experienced plenty of discrimination based on this. Neurodiversity counts because of unwillingness to accommodate.

Now one more disclaimer: As I've talked about before, I have memory problems due to the Electro-Convulsive Therapy I undergo once or twice a month. This can mess with my memory of what I've read, so if a description seems especially sparse, consider that I probably read it several months ago and my memory discarded it.

Eliza And Her Monsters

I don't think it's ever explicitly discussed if Eliza has a mental illness, but she seems to have serious social anxiety. At school, she keeps to herself, puts her head down and draws, but no one but her family knows she draws the most popular webcomic of the moment. That's right she draws “Kill Six Billion Demons”– no I'm joking, she draws a comic called “Monstrous Sea”. Then she meets a Big Name Fan who assumes she's just another fan. There's also a subplot about a book series that never got finished and the author has become a recluse.


A Young Adult OwnVoices anthology about various disabilities. I recommend it to anyone who reads this post.


This is the only piece of fantasy I plan to include on this list. It's got a D/deaf witch, and a nonbinary werewolf, and it's just fantastic.

Darius the Great is Not Okay

This has a very Aristotle and Dante feel, minus the romance. Darius is a queer Persian teenager with depression. He has to go to Iran because his grandfather has a brain tumor, and along the way he deals with a lot of “you just need to try harder” any time his medication comes up. He also gets a lot of shit for being fat (because of his medication). Read this book. A Sequel just came out and I have not read it.

Song for a Whale

Basically a D/deaf girl in a hearing school. She has accommodations, but they only go so far. She becomes attached to Blue 52, a fictionalized version of the 55 Hertz whale, and the book becomes about her quest to play something the whale can understand to it.

The Silence Between Us

A D/deaf girl who was hearing as a child, and lost it from meningitis transfers to a mostly Hearing school. She has accommodations. She's not “Anti-social” but she clearly has her defenses up when anyone tries to be nice to her. She swore she would never date a Hearing boy, but falls in love with one. Then there's a lot about Cochlear Implants.

Body Talk: 37 voices explore our radical anatomy

This one is not exactly a book about disabilities. I don't mean that in a cheesy way, I mean, while some stories are about debilitating conditions, some stories are about being considered fat, or hair that you can't get rid of. I recommend it though, because it has a section on what “normal” menstruation should look like. In my opinion we as a society are so disgusted by menstruation that we barely touch on it, and make people who menstruate feel ashamed of themselves, and possibly not pursue a diagnosis of PCOS because they don't understand how things are supposed to be “Down there”.

Calvin (by Martine Leavitt)

I hesitate to mention this one on here, because while I did enjoy it, I have no idea if it's a remotely accurate depiction of schizophrenia. That aside, it's really interesting, it's a first-person view while written somewhat script-like.

Sick Kids in Love

Okay so you have two teens. One with Rheumatoid Arthritis (a condition that makes her life hard, but will not kill her) and one with Gauche disease, which could kill him. This one I'm giving a lot of attention because it seems written in response to The Fault In Our Stars and I presume other “Sick Kid” books. It deals with doctor gaslighting, disability as an identity, invisible versus visible disability, romance, fatphobia in doctors, and other bullshit from able-bodied people.

But what about me let's talk about the author of this post!

This is where we get to talking about me oh boy! I have had migraines since I was young, and even got a traumatic MRI, where my mom wouldn't let me bring my own music because I would embarrass her with my weeaboo tastes. So I had to listen to Harry Chapin, which I couldn't even hear over the machine. Anyway nothing was wrong with my brain so it HAD to be stress. I didn't even know what a migraine was, because I made the mistake of asking a nurse (who I presume suffered from them) who snapped at me that if I had them, I'd know. Spoiler: I have migraines, and did not know until I was an adult. I had a doctor that understood me decently (though she was always on me to lose weight) and she retired. The clinic only had male doctors left, who didn't want to see my numerous migraine records, wouldn't refill my prescription of Topamax, and told me “it's probably a tension headache, just take Tylenol”. To which I should have said he should stuff the Tylenol up his ass, but of course I didn't.

It's the same as my Autism, something I didn't cover in this write-up (to be frank, it's getting kind of long and I'm hoping to do a “Part 2” at some point), which didn't get diagnosed until I was 19 (as Aspergers). I got diagnosed with all sorts of things, but despite my blatantly autistic ass, no one could diagnose me as autistic. I even had a great moment on some college break where my childhood therapist tried to convince me I wasn't autistic by going through the DSM-IV with her. It instead convinced her. I did not get an apology, despite the fact I probably could have gotten accommodations in school if she had recognized autism / aspergers outside of cis white boys.

After I moved to Nebraska, I got invited to join an Autism group, and had to sign some release forms (I think they were for consent to study us in retrospect). It very much pretended to be about support, while offering no support, and getting me a stalker, who they did not intervene with despite my requests of “He's texting me at all hours, please tell him to stop”. Zero stars. There was this great moment where they showed us an Autism Speaks ad comparing autism to having cancer or being in a horrible car accident. And then they asked us if there was a pill we could take if we would stop being autistic. Well after showing me how much society hates me, I said yes, though I would certainly not take it now.

My disability court case (don't worry, I won, sort of), was a crock of shit. They had demanded my grades from the local university and community college, and would literally inform me “You got an A in this class. It sounds hard. How can you be disabled”. The A I got, by the way, was when I was taking a single class. The judge did not mention (though my lawyer did) that I had a mental breakdown that led to voluntary commitment and ECTs like a semester or two later.

There's still shit like that today. My migraines are real, but because of the “functioning” scale, people love to deny me things I should have. You're either low-functioning and clearly can't be trusted to speak to the experiences of the autistic community, or you're high-functioning and other than denial of services, can't be trusted to speak to the experiences of the autistic community. Only I, tangentially-related-stranger-who-isn't-autistic, can!

So is it any surprise that despite not having Rheumatoid Arthritis or Gauche disease, Sick Kids in Love was a book I needed? It was a book that told me it was okay to be disabled. Society won't tell you that. A semi-famous fiction writer professor I had told us not to write disabled protagonists because their disability would interfere resolving the conflict in the story (I guess in a bad way). The book told me doctors were fallible, and I really needed to hear that.

While I think you should give everything on my list attention, at a minimum, check out Sick Kids in Love, especially if you're disabled.

CW for drug abuse and talk of suicide.

Again Again is E. Lockhart's latest work. It's a return to a setting in previous works but is not a sequel.

I don't think I can spoil this book, because of its design.

Let's start with the unchanging facts:

  1. Adelaide is the protagonist.
  2. Summer is the main setting.
  3. Adelaide walks dogs.
  4. Her brother is a recovering prescription drug addict.
  5. She and her brother are in different physical locations.
  6. Her boyfriend “Mikey Double L” broke up with her and she's crushed by this.
  7. She's on academic probation for not turning in a final project and has been given a second chance to design a model for this set-building course.

Now this is where it varies.

Does Adelaide get with this hunky boy that also walks dogs? Maybe. It depends. But in many of those universes she also gets crushed by the fact he technically is seeing someone else and didn't tell her. Or she gets bit by a dog and he leashes the one he's walking before saving her.

Does she get back together with Mikey Double L? Maybe. It depends.

Does she get together with a third guy who actually sounds decent? Maybe, it depends.

Does her brother die? Maybe, it depends. There are universes where Adelaide took a break from a movie to go to the bathroom and finds him unconscious and calls 911. There are also universes where she didn't get up to pee and he died.

In the universes where he's alive, how is their relationship? Sometimes it's cold and strained, sometimes it's recovering, sometimes it's “I'm cancelling my date with this boy to hang out with you”.

How is the set model she's building? There's a variety of designs, based on the universe. I think in every iteration in this book she completes the set, but the grade always varies, from outright failure to accolades, half-based on the set she builds, and half-based on the baggage the teacher has.

In the afterwards, the author said this book was a response to some essays of her students, one of which was about the enforced monogamy in these books.

While I certainly like this book (it really got me thinking) just because in some universes she gets with a different dude or a third dude does not really challenge the idea of monogamy. It challenges the idea of destined lovers, sure, but the closest we get to challenging the idea of monogamy is the exclusivity conversation, which I understand to be typical.

What haunts me in this book is the fact when I think of multiverses, I think of two things: 1. How much I've escaped death. 2. How much I want to be alive.

A car nearly hitting my bike could have been a fatal crash in countless others. A time my older (unlicensed or newly licensed) brother had to drive the car because my dad was drunk certainly could have ended in death. And how many times I've struggled with suicidal ideation. One thing I've told my therapist is that if my mother had owned a gun while I was in high school or middle school, I would have killed myself, because one of the only reasons I didn't in this universe was that I was afraid of failing and wanted a surefire way to die. And given the type of person my mother is, if only to “assert” her second-amendment rights, I feel this death is one I narrowly escaped. And there are other universes where I didn't care if it was surefire or not. Maybe I overdosed. Maybe I died, maybe I survived, or maybe I destroyed my liver and died later.

While I won't pretend to understand multiuniverse-theory, (I tried reading like 6 wikipedia pages about it and not having any luck), it feels like I dodged a metaphorical bullet, so to speak.

I don't mean to be Candide-esqe, and assert this is the best of all possible worlds, because we all know it's not. But it is one where I am alive and I am grateful to be alive.

CW: Discussions of Mental Health, Treatment, and hypothetical death

I'm pretty open about this on the fediverse, but I have severe depression that is medication-resistant.

For the record, I still take medication, but it doesn't do nearly as much as it should, and I often feel guilty complaining about the medication's side effects, knowing I don't have a lot of options.

Okay, so we know that depression is bad for your memory, but that is actually not what I'm here to talk about.

I'm here to talk about Electro-Convulsive Therapy.

Basically: While I'm unconscious, electric shocks induce seizures, and it makes me less depressed. It might be magic!

The problem here is your normal ECT treatment involves a blocked-out time period, for simplicity's sake in assuming some things are typical, let's say one season.

You undergo this three times a week for a while, and once you see some progress, it's down to two, then down to one, and gradually reducing until you're cured. Because it's such a time-intensive option, and you need another person to drive you back-and-forth, it's considered a last resort.

Except I'm not cured. Last year I was going every three weeks, but right now I'm going every week because of the treatment time missed since August (spoiler: In Canada, just like the US, they will deny you ECT treatment if you don't have a person you know to drive you. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is full of shit. )

This is where we get to our problem: I don't know whether it's the anesthesia or the shocks to the brain, or both, but it really messes with your memory.

The only thing I remember when I first started ECTs on that schedule above. years ago? 1. It was summer. 2. I was depressed. (I distinctly remember taking a bath and hating my life) 3. My first appointment I thought I wouldn't wake up from anesthesia and they had to put oxygen on me to calm me down for a long time. 4. I gagged one time they did some gaseous anesthesia because it's extremely easy to make me cough. 5. Being interviewed by a manager at the hospital to see if I wanted to shout out any of the nurses. I couldn't because I couldn't remember anyone's names. 6. I'd bite my tongue here or there while under.

That's literally EVERYTHING I remember from that summer.

This is where I come to book-reading.

I could not read while I was undergoing that period of ECTs because I wouldn't remember what I read. That's a really fucking depressing realization! I suspect I mostly reread during that time, because despite its fruitlessness, I couldn't see myself dropping reading entirely.

I will to this day find books that I remember as a fact that I read. But I can go through them and it's almost like it's entirely new. Some part of me remembers parts of these books, and I can make predictions that I assume are my intuition, until it becomes clear I read this book.

I should have continued to reread, because I've come to a depressing realization: since January (When I returned to the US and started treatment) I can't really remember much of anything that I've read. I didn't read much when I first restarted at once a week, but I'm down to every-other week and it's not much better. I've been logging my reading, so I know I read a particular title, but then realizing I can't remember anything of note in the book, or even how much I liked it. My book journal (which I updated yesterday) has many entries from this time period that simply say “I should probably reread this”.

I had a thing here about timing your reading, but evidently that has not helped me. I assume things will get better once I'm down to every three weeks again, but I do not expect that to happen for a while, as I'm depressed from Covid-19, and everyone wants me to remain in okay mental health.

I will tell you, as you may have already guessed, writing things down does help. Except, to be honest, it's hard to get enthused about the “Shit I Want to Remember” Journal, so I recommend things like livetooting your reading to the appropriate tag.

I've been trying a lot of bookclub podcasts, (Since my podcatcher lets me search by episode title, and it will usually be titled after the book). It hasn't helped me remember, but if I listened to them again I suspect I'd remember what went on in the book.

If you ever have to undergo ECTs, you have my sympathy. It will suck, but you will get through it.

CW warning: discussion of Suicidal Depression (I'm fine now), mentions of abuse and sexual assault, and a gross allusion to STDs.


Fortunately, I've been tracking my reading (somewhat well) the whole decade, so I was able to look back at my reading this decade.

Series are counted as one book for convenience.

Some of these didn't come out this decade, but I read them this decade.

These are either personally meaningful to me, or I just felt did something important

There are a ton of books I haven't gotten to in the past couple years, so don't take Internment not being on the list as a comment on its quality, for example.

Also I did read literary works this decade, but not enough notable ones to fill a list. Just read Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter.

15 Notable YA titles

The Song of the Lioness Quartet

Tamora Pierce

I wish I had read this when I was younger. Alanna would have made me feel so much better about myself if I had understood these gender troubles sooner. This was written decades ago, so some parts of it haven't aged well, but I feel it's still worth reading if you can keep it in mind. If not, read more recent Tortall books, as they're continually being made. We also now have proof Alanna is Genderfluid-

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This is a beautiful look at queerness for Latinx people in the 80s. The prose is wonderful in general. Don't have a commonplace book next to you when you read this, because you'll do nothing but write quotes down. This one is special to me, because the day I finished it, I stared at the ceiling and came to terms with the fact that going into Anthropology graduate school would make me unhappy, and some other personal problems I have with Anthropology. The book has nothing to do with Anthropology, but something about it gave me the revelation I needed.

The Winternight Trilogy

Katherine Arden

This is a fun Alanna-like romp through Fantasy-Russia. Russia has really fun folklore, and it's great to see someone do them justice.

The Grief Keeper

Alexandra Villasante

This is a queer SF YA novel. I really recommend it because it uses the SF technology as a metaphor for immigrant labor. Don't lie, you know the US would do this if we had the means for the premise.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez

I've talked about this one about this one before. It's a great look at grief and Mental Health in a latinx family.

Odd One Out

Nic Stone

Look at my previous post if you want to talk about bisexuality in this book. I know a lot of queer spaces are dominated by white queer people, so a book entirely about queer PoC is important. Some other aspects that are nice about this book is how in touch-with their emotions the men in this book are, and you see some beautiful friendship with the supporting characters.

More Happy Than Not

Adam Silvera

If you read one currently released Adam Silvera book, please read this one. They're all good, but I resonate the most with this one. It's about being able to change memories, and you will be a crying wreck.


Rainbow Rowell

I have mixed feelings about including this book. I'm not sure I want to read it again, because it brings me back to a very depressed time in my life. But when I will eat nothing but bars for days because I don't want to interact with people, I'm reminded of this book and why I need to get up and go into the kitchen. So in that sense, it's very important to me.

The Love And Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Sabina Khan

Lesbian muslim forcibly outed to her family, and there are consequences. This is a good one because I get the impression a lot of white teenagers don't really get why you can't just come out to your family sometimes. I mean I'm thankful it's no longer associated with a Russian Roulette of being thrown out or conversion therapy, and you get one empty chamber, but that experience is not universal! This is a beautiful book, and I promise it has a happy ending.

I Wish You All the Best

Mason Deaver

If we weren't to count Alanna because that's information from outside the books, then this book contains the only YA enby protagonist I'm aware of. So for the range of experiences this addition gives us, I think it's clear why I note this, though I of course wish that this wasn't so unique that I had to note it. I hope there are many more nonbinary YA to come.

Jane, Unlimited

Kristin Cashore

Gee, how do I describe this book? You don't have to read it linearly. Read the prologue, and then it gives a few options, each of which is different in genre and outcome. And you need to read the whole thing for a complete picture.

The Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo

I related. I felt so trapped as a teenager, and escaped through theatre and fiction, and just was waiting it out to go to college, because all you can do sometimes is wait it out. I don't “get” poetry, but this has some beautiful poetry, and I hear the audiobook is great, though I read it in physical form, so I assume you can't go wrong.

The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

This book is a great discussion of police violence. It's great for introducing Youth to the issue if they're unaware, and it's good for adults too. What I really like about it is you can see how well-planned it is. While we love the idea of books being this fever-dream of one and done draft, it's simply not true, and you can really see it in a book like this whereas other books I can't seem to escape the illusion that it was one seamless draft. Maybe I would realize this with other books if I read through them again and tried to pick it apart, but because I was discussing this book the first time I read it, I was forced to think about it more deeply than I might have otherwise. Without getting into much detail, the book is clearly balanced. Two contrasting father figures, two contrasting lives, two contrasting cops.

Tiny Pretty Things

Sonia Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Coming eventually to Netflix, this is a duology about ballerina dancers that want to be the very best and will let nothing stand in their way. When you read it, you'll learn a lot about racism and eating disorders in ballet, and you'll go through the books fast because you just can't put it down.

Wayward Children

Seanan McGuire

I'm not sure this is intended as YA, but I see it on YA lists, so I'm counting it. This is a new take on portal fiction. How do kids deal when they're done with their otherworldly quest and are sent back to their home world? While I will not dispute Tomi Adeyemi's title of “New JK Rowling”, I will say this is the first series to hit notes Harry Potter was supposed to have for me, but never did. Never once did I go “Waiting for my Hogwarts letter! Any day now!” but after finishing the fourth one of these, I was filled with dismay realizing that as a 20-something, I'm too old to get a door to another world.

While awkward, I think it's natural that most of my picks are from the second half of the decade. A decade is a long time, and you're rarely the same person by the end of it. That's part of why I couldn't compile a non-YA list, a lot of the things I have charted reading, I don't think I'd stand by their 4 or 5 stars now, and it may not be the fault of the book, but that I'm a different person now.

See you soon(er than 2029)!

I read Odd One Out by Nic Stone soon after it came out. It spoke personally to me, so it's my favorite of (currently three) YA titles of hers.

The premise is you have this really bizarre love triangle between a Heterosexual boy, a questioning girl, and a lesbian.

After this point, I'm talking about the entire book, so this is your last chance to leave.

Basically, it hinges on the fact the lesbian character is some manner of bi- or pan-sexual and can't cope with losing her label because it's tied to her identity as she sees it.

She's also probably demisexual.

Now, here's the thing, the book has a lot of bi-phobia for what I hope is are obvious reasons. The author is bi, so I don't think it was put in there out of some bi-misia and if you read her author's note, she wrote this because she felt it was a needed book, one she would have needed at 12. She goes on to say while it took her a long time to figure out her identity, any amount of time is valid.

This is shown in the dedication: > For all the people who just don't know

The character, Jupiter, is a big Queen fan. So I think if you know Freddie Mercury's deal and how he's seen as gay when he was in fact bi, you can see how this would be a big symbol.

Jupiter in fact comments on the fact that Freddie Mercury was bisexual, yet the entire novel you have all this biphobia and her seemingly being unable to accept it as a real thing. Any girl who has dated a boy in the past is “straight” and just wants to experiment.

Jupiter has sex with two people in the novel: One of the protagonists, Cooper, and a lesbian in college she knows rather well, the latter being discussed beforehand as statutory. While the college girl is amazing at sex, she more enjoys her awkward-probably-not-very-good sex with Cooper, which I assume is the demi-aspect. In Cooper's case, it gets really interesting, because she was into him but not acknowledging it, and only chose to have sex with him because the girl she was in love with, Rae, was acting like she was in love with Jupiter until Rae told her that she was going to ask out Cooper because she liked him. So it's partially a spite-move.

It resolves, Rae and Cooper break up and Jupiter and Cooper get together, and Rae has to move. I still feel like since every person in this love-triangle had feelings for the other two members, that this could have ended in polyamory, but I'm not an expert on such things, so maybe I'm full of shit. Maybe poly is too much for the YA market. I only know of one romance in YA ending in a poly relationship, and it was a quiet fantasy series that had it so subtly you could be reading into it, and the books never attracted much attention..

I mean really when I think about it, all the biphobia in the book only comes from queer characters (though not all the queer characters I should clarify). I feel like that's a pretty good statement on the LG(bt) community.

Basically the message from the book is “take as long as you need to figure it out, and don't stress about labels”. Which I think is a fair message.

I know I just gave the ending of the book, but I do recommend reading it.

Okay, now that I've drawn you in, I want to clarify two points:

  1. We're talking a State Representative, I'm not reviewing, like, Paul Ryan's fiction or something (thank God). So I think people usually view those representatives with less disdain?
  2. Zenobia July barely counts as a YA book. Don't get me wrong, it is sold as YA, it is pitched to people as YA, but it is in some liminal state between Young Adult and Middle Grade. It is the youngest Young Adult book I have read in a long time.

Here's some facts about Lisa Bunker from the back jacket flap:

  • 30 year career in radio
  • Elected official
  • married with two grown children
  • “geekeries include: chess, piano, gender, storycraft, and language”

I know she previously wrote another book, Felix XYZ, but I don't know anything about it, so I'm not going to mention it. But you should probably read it.

This will just be a general view of the book.

Some things I noticed about the book, is that it didn't fall victim to a common aspect of YA fiction, where everyone (who isn't white) is othered.

“A boy talked” = white. default. “A black boy talked” = black. must draw attention to this. Possibly compare skin to food.

I'm not saying to never mention someone's race or ethnicity of course, it's more, there are better ways to do it.

In this book, no one's skin color was directly mentioned, at least that I caught, but you could draw inferences to their race or ethnicity. In general I think this was true of people not being othered.

When people are othered, it's generally explained why that's wrong. Like the “Where are you from” question.

There are great explanations of transgender to genderqueer. Genderqueer gets more of a direct explanation, whereas you get the entire book to explain transgender more with feelings.

The plot is not about being outed. Let me say that again. There is a small subplot about outing, but that is not the plot. The plot is a cyber mystery.

You could probably miss it if you weren't paying attention, but part of the book is about not taking places as monoliths. Like states (hint hint). I can't speak to that part of New England because I haven't been there in years, but if I gave Nebraska for an example, because of its split electoral voting map, Lincoln and Omaha are “liberal” and the rest of the state votes Red. That's extremely simplified, and you're still taking things as monoliths, but that gets you a mix on policies on the state level, and gets you Red representatives on a national level. I think part of this book was to consider queerness in places you don't normally consider it instead of someone who just goes FUCK THE SOUTH/MIDWEST/. Yes, I know where New Hampshire is geographically, but I don't know their political situation, even if I have a guess.

There are so many good parts of this book I could get into, but basically I recommend reading it for yourself. It's a quick enough read, your library probably has it, and I really doubt anyone is waiting for it.