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from lapis

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.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

CW: spoilers, politics, depression, long post

I was expecting cheesy YA romance. And there was a lot of that. It was pretty good.

I was not expecting a political-themed AU trying to fix the past 4 years. There was a lot of that, too. It was hopeful and nice, I can see how reading it at the right time would have been healing. Reading it now just makes me tired.

So many times in the past few years when people talk about whatever horrible thing Trump has done now, how we know for a fact that he's committed crimes both in office and to get there in the first place, etc...all I can say is “Yeah, and wouldn't it be nice if that mattered?”

Red, White, & Royal Blue takes place in a universe where it matters. And it just winds up looking delusional and unhelpful. Or maybe I'm just hopeless and bitter and that's affecting the way I read it. Probably a little of both.

The Politics

It deals with the private email server drama, even a mention of Alex thinking he'd been warned about them at some point but can't remember the details, a tiny bit of foreshadowing in case anyone didn't already know where this was going from the first time we see/hear his email address.

But it does this without any mention of the Clintons even though the Obamas and a few other familiar real life characters are mentioned multiple times by name, because Alex's mom is basically the stand-in for HRC in this universe and there can't be two. You don't want her to have beaten HRC, so the latter just doesn't exist. The queen and the rest of the royal family are treated similarly.

And while I can understand the reasons for it, I'm really not comfortable about just erasing these powerful women from the universe when so much of the rest of our recent history is kept intact. It's a weird choice and I would have preferred a more complete departure from our world. It winds up feeling to me like “everything would be fine and we'd be living in a perfectly reasonable progressive world if Hillary Clinton just didn't exist.” And, you know, that's fucked up.

I know it's not what the writer means to say, since it's more like “this could be the world if misogyny and hate hadn't won in 2016.” But it feels like it's saying that. And it's digging at old wounds and really this is exactly the wrong time for me to be reading it.

The Romance

It's...fine. I commented on Mastodon that it reminded me a lot of some Inception fanfic and after finishing it that still feels like the best comparison. A big difference is that these characters are quite a bit younger and their intensity feels like a bit too much for me.

Granted, when I was that age I was pretty intense, too. That's probably why I don't like it, really. At 23 I had a really unhealthy attachment to a girl I was dating who did not (I found out later) feel the same way about me, and I'm still pretty embarrassed when I think about it. At that age it's easy to feel like everything's forever, like nothing has ever been this important, that you know exactly what you want out of life and it will never change.

Then it does, and you adjust, and you learn not to expect so much or pin all your hopes on one thing or person. And one thing I really like about this book is that, in spite of all the youthful hopefulness, there's a distinction between “feeling forever about him” and “being with him forever.”

“Happily ever after” is an utterly ridiculous and even harmful concept, but temporary relationships shape you in ways that last forever. And that's important, too. I like that Alex's parents have a healthy divorce and that they can both encourage him to love without the expectation that it's supposed to be forever or that it not lasting is a failure. I think going into relationships thinking “I believe in this and think it will change me in good ways” is a better, healthier, more beneficial outlook than “til death do us part.”

So a big yay for letting them have their ridiculous early-20s emotions but also setting reasonable expectations.

Representation

Hey, bisexual characters who actually identify as bisexual! That's a major point in the book's favor. Also, non-white characters including a Latino protagonist/POV-character. He's also one of the bisexual characters, so that's awesome. I think also a trans background character maybe? But I can't remember if that was actually stated or if I made it up. If it was mentioned, it was only once in passing and I appreciate that.

I don't think every book needs to play marginalized identity bingo and I'm not stressing about a lack of asexuality or non-binary characters. What I will say is that I was originally kind of annoyed at the surprise!bisexuality because I feel like it's overused and I expect most people have an inkling by then.

BUT. I immediately got over that because he has, hands down, the best “in retrospect I guess so much is obvious” inner monologues I think I've ever read. It basically goes from “I know I'm not gay because I kissed a girl once and it was nice” to “also I can't possibly be gay because all the times I made out with my male best friend I never once freaked out about it” in about two seconds and it is amazing.

He later examines his feelings and how he kind of locked away feelings that were difficult to deal with and would hold him back and so he probably kind of knew but didn't deal with it. And that's much more relatable. Heck, I started imagining my life as a boy at like age 10 but didn't start identifying as trans until I was in my mid 20s. There's just a lot of life in the way of deep introspection. So that makes sense to me, and I like that once he does start to examine it he's all in.

Fanfic Vibes in Original Works

Yeah, this is one of those. I like them.

There were some overly silly bits, some epic karaoke that just stretches my imagination too far, etc. But overall it's nice and fun and I like that writers are leaning into the fanfic-y tendencies to focus more on feelings and relationships than traditional plotlines. I like the book most when it's doing this and least when it's trying to tell a story of political corruption.

And while, as I already said, I don't really like the erasure of some real-world people but not others...I do really like the approach of just making up our own characters as stand-ins. I just think it should be applied more universally.

Velvet Goldmine is another good example. Like, we know what archetypes they're going for in this movie. We know who these artists are supposed to be. But they're not those artists and it's not just in name, they're completely different characters in the style of real-world stars but who have their own unique experiences.

I often think bandfic writers should do something similar. Fanon seems to have its own version of everyone anyway, it seems the appeal is more the idea of gay bandmates in love than the actual people, so...just get together and everyone crowdsource an AU fan-made band that you can write about without being skeevy. Problem solved!

Or even better, a whole alternate universe full of similar bands so anyone can contribute their own and you could just build up this whole fictional music scene and they can all interact with each other. Something like that. Listen, I don't write fiction, I don't know how any of this works. It just sounds nice.

Conclusion

It's good, read it if you want some bisexual rep and a naively sweet love story set in a brighter and more hopeful universe than our own.

4/5.

 
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from lapis

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

Admittedly, I'm a millennial, so there's a small disconnect with Z already, but there's something that's been prevalent in YA forever that I haven't understood: Gotta go to , here is my life planned out from Freshman Year.

  1. While we won't talk about the part of my depression that led to my failure in school the first time, I wasn't allowed to go anywhere big. I lived in a town of less than 20K. The idea of “gangs” was prevalent. A “big city” in the state was well-known for its gangs that I'm pretty sure it doesn't have. The day I graduated high school, my mom told me how to use keys to stab someone, which did wonders for my anxiety let me tell you. I was allowed to go several hours from my hometown, maximum, which really sucked because it prevented me from going somewhere with competent mental health, and from escaping my mother.

  2. Even if that hadn't been in place, I don't think the idea of going to Yale or UCLA or whatever was on the table. In these books, you have someone who took the SATs (never the ACTs) and scored a bajillion, and is also volunteering to look good for admissions. I was too depressed to volunteer. To be honest, I passed several of my classes because professors didn't want to see me again (which they told me) or because they knew something was wrong with me and I just needed some help. I am not condemning their decision, because I know that staying another year would have been horrible for my mental health and probably lead to another, different breakdown. It's not like my grades were bad, they were three point something, the main thing dragging it down was one bad semester, which my school also didn't teach me that you can explain that away. Schools fucking love stories of “overcoming” your depression. I know, because I got accepted to a different school because of a letter about that.

I guess you could say my school let me down, but here's where I pull back the curtain. I was in a certain state that is always 49th or 50th in paying teachers. Every teacher was either married or living with their parents.

Not all of it was school's fault, but enough of it was. I was suicidal because I was being emotionally abused and neglected (the abuse came from teachers, too), and dealing with being raped at 12 (not that my family knew about that. How could I tell them? Our sex ed did not have a section on bad touching. Ever. Just “don't masturbate” and “here's pictures of blue waffles”), and while I was getting mental health help, it didn't help because A. I wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers until several years later, which if I had had the diagnosis would have helped LOADS. B. I couldn't talk about my trauma because I was afraid my therapist would tell my mom. (I have no idea if she would be obligated with the rape, but I have a lot of experience of people tattling about my problems and making things worse. C. I didn't realize I was queer. Definitely not a good time to realize it, though I don't think my mom would have kicked me out, but I didn't go to prom because I didn't want to go with a boy (I'm doubtful I could afford prom anyway) and our school specifically forbid same-gender couples from attending.

At this point you might be going “I thought this was about a disconnect in YA, not bitching about your life”, and that's fair.

My point is, is that teens are depressed all the time, and while they don't have to reach my level of depression with the ECTs, I wish that they touched on teen depression more. How hard it is to think of the future when you can barely conceive living until graduation. When I see YA books dealing with Depression, (if it's discussed well) I love them.

I feel they're necessary. A writing teacher in college discussed writing characters with mental illness, specifically not to, because of being able to achieve your goals. It may have been disabilities in general, but if I recall, it was specifically mental illness. I get that it's a writing class targeted at newish people, but that's just wrong. After that, it became my goal to write characters with mental illness and/or neurodivergence, because we need the representation. Just because I couldn't go to Harvard doesn't mean I can't be a “productive member of society”.

I'm sure they're hard to read, but if you have any YA dealing with this depression and/or neurodivergence, please @ me on booktoot with recommendations.

 
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from lapis

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- https://twitter.com/TamoraPierce/status/1202294877213450240

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.

Fangirl

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)!

 
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from lapis

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.

 
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from lapis

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.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

I've been soooooo impatient for this book to come out. And now it's here and I've read it and I have Thoughts.

I decided I'm actually going to do two versions of this, a spoiler-free one I'll post tonight and a much longer, in-depth, very very spoiler-filled exploration I'll probably be working on for at least a few more days. Because, really. I have a LOT to say and I want to say it all and it's probably more than most people want to read.

Anyway, let's dive in!

It's a quick and enjoyable read, maybe lacking a bit of substance. If Carry On read like a fanfic, this one is even more so – a fanfic of a fanfic.

The plot is a little scattered and rushed, the characters and relationships don't really get the amount of focus and resolution I'd like, and overall I'm left feeling a bit unfinished.

If you're expecting a complete story with a typical narrative shape, this will likely leave you feeling a bit lost. But I don't think that's necessarily an actual downside to this book. It's not a tidy hero story to be wrapped up and moved on from – they already did that. This book starts on an ending and ends on a beginning, and in-between is kind of just an endearing mess (like Simon and Baz, really).

That's one of those neat things fanfiction allows writers – a chance to treat characters more like living people, give them lives that don't have neat chapter endings, let them be lost and just live their lives once in awhile. I like that Rowell feels comfortable bringing that fanfiction energy to these books, it's nice to just spend some time with characters I love without feeling like we're on a train rushing towards a particular destination.

I was hoping for more of an examination of Simon's feelings and identity. Intentional or not, Carry On fell into the trap of having a seemingly bisexual character without ever using the word and therefore contributes to bisexual erasure. And that wasn't fixed here, either by having Simon identify that way or having any other character fill the gap.

Not every story has to have every identity represented, obviously. I really don't think it's intentional and I think it makes sense for Simon not to have it figured out. And it's not like he's really got time to be worried about that here, and it's fine for someone to never decide on a label. It's just troubling how often it happens when the character dates both men and women, and it does get a little frustrating to never see yourself represented.

I get why that's a deal-breaker for some, though I'll also admit it had to be pointed out to me even though I'm panromantic. It's just not a huge part of my identity and not something that I really tend to look for in my fiction, so I guess I also kind of relate to Simon and his apparent lack of interest in exploring it further when he's got other things on his mind. That is also a type of representation and it's important. I just hold out hope that there will be more of these characters at some point, more chances to address it or for other identities and experiences to be represented.

Also I'll be on the lookout now for similar universes with much more of a queer slant. Especially by queer authors and for queer audiences. Recommendations totally welcome.

Alternately, let's all just invent our own queer magical universes. That might be a good next creative project for me. Hmmm.

Overall rating 4.5/5

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

I love the monthly Super Sons comic by Peter Tomasi. It's fun and incredibly cute while also being smart and exciting and just a little dark. I haven't really loved Damian Wayne appearances in other things and wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the series, but it wound up becoming one of my favorites. (And it's still going, same writer but now called Adventures of the Super Sons! Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.)

Among the things I appreciate about it...

  • Friendship! It is very good and I like the ways it lets Damian relax and be a human sometimes.

  • Self-sufficient kids! As an adult it can be a little distressing now to see kids take on too much even in stories, but I remember loving those stories as a kid. They're important for helping kids see themselves as capable and independent, in a safe format. And it's really well-done here. Since Damian and Jon are both very capable of taking care of themselves and it really doesn't make sense to be over-protective of them, they get a lot of freedom...but their parents always know where they are and are there when needed and I like that a lot.

  • Jon Kent is a precious little ray of sunshine and everything about him is great.

  • Damian manages to be amazing at everything without becoming obnoxious, which is really hard to write well so I'm impressed.

  • Their threats are kind of weirdly age-appropriate? Like, it's a lot and it sometimes dips a little darker than I'd like in a kids' comic but not too far and also they get their own villains often their own age so on that level it's kind of relatable and “realistic” (for a superhero comic) but the stakes are still high and problems don't really get wrapped up neatly and go away.

It has its problems. At some point Batman's like “hey, Damian should go to regular school because socializing with kids his own age is clearly the most important thing for him!” But like, school isn't for socializing and he already knows more than all his teachers so it's just a pretty big waste of time. He's being constantly made to stop way short of his potential and put aside everything that makes him who he is to make other people comfortable and go through the motions and also just btw he's helping to overpopulate an already crowded education system and taking attention away from kids who need help and can't afford private tutors so there's that. I really hate this plot point a lot. School was awful and soul-destroying and no one should be put through it who doesn't have to be.

But all in all it's really very good and I recommend it for anyone but especially for kids (maybe slightly older kids, like age 8 minimum but probably more like 11) or people who tend to like things made for kids. So when I saw that there was a new Super Sons graphic novel separate from the series, I was pretty excited!

I should not have been.

Super Sons: The Polarshield Project by Ridley Pearson has nothing at all to do with the series I just described. Jon is pretty much the same, he's a simple character hard to screw up. But instead of Damian we have Ian Wayne, who apart from sharing the same legal/birth name and being Batman's kid has nothing at all in common with Damian. He has all the arrogance and self-centeredness Damian manages to avoid in the ongoing but with none of the reasons Damian has for those things and really none of his good points either.

And instead of super-powered kid villains, we have...global warming? And an evil organization? And capitalism? Look, all good things to fight but kind of a bad thing to wrap up in a tidy little bow for a couple of super-kids to solve in the space of one book by getting one person arrested.

Just sort of a weird choice to make it part of some conspiracy they can solve by finding the right people instead of the results of the way our whole society works that can really only be solved through massive change. Especially awkward since without Damian's back-story and competence, Ian's power is basically having lots of money and therefore, you know, completely dependent on upholding the system as is and contributing to those problems in the first place.

The plot is kind of all over the place and hard to follow, while also being simplified to the point that it doesn't really hold interest enough to bother trying to follow it in the first place. It adds a couple of new characters, probably to add a little diversity to the white boy duo. They're potentially interesting, but there's not really enough space to get to know them well since we're also basically being introduced to a brand new character in Ian, new villains, and a new world in general.

It's trying to undo the existing characters while introducing new ones and also shove in a plot and it's just too much to do any of it well. I think it probably should have been given a smaller scale, similar to the ongoing. Let it be a more personal story, with local kid-relevant villains they can face first while getting to know each other so we can get to know them too.

Obviously, when it comes right down to it, this book just isn't for me. It's not really for fans of the ongoing comic, either. The author says right in his note at the front that he's not familiar with the characters and was encouraged to just make up his own versions, so it just makes sense that these aren't the characters we already know and like. It has a very different tone and seems aimed at a younger audience, so it might be a better fit there.

Personally, though, I can't even recommend it in that case. There are better stories, ones that are less scattered, ones that focus on people other than white dudes from the start, ones that are just plain more interesting and emotionally engaging. Off the top of my head I'd suggest Goldie Vance, Steven Universe, Rainbow Brite, Lumberjanes, Nimona, Feathers (with the caveat that I've only read 2 issues), or anything by Raina Telgemeier. I'm sure there's a lot more I haven't tried myself or am just not recalling right at the moment. Look around!

And yeah, that includes taking a look at this book, I'm not trying to speak for everybody and it might be perfect for you. For me, though, it feels a bit misaimed and I think there were probably better opportunities with lesser-known characters who aren't already starring in a terrific and popular series that's completely different in every way, and I'd rather steer people towards stories like that.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

Awhile back I was in a comic store and saw the shiniest, pinkest, glittery-est cover I'd ever seen. And it had cat paws! Then I saw Chelsea Cain's name and onto the stack it went. I really loved her work on Mockingbird and was excited to see what cool new thing she was working on now. So I started researching as soon as I got back to the car. (Don't worry, I wasn't the one driving.)

And immediately felt the disappointment and suspicion creeping up on me. Oh. Oh, no.

Spoilers for volume 1.

Man-Eaters, for those who aren't familiar, is a comic set in a world where a variant of toxoplasmosis turns menstruating people into giant murdercats.

Well, menstruating women, in the official descriptions. This book is not at all interested in how trans people would fit into a world like this. It complicates the already flimsy story and it's not-at-all scientific explanations, it's really just easier to pretend we don't exist.

When questioned, Cain's answer is basically “yeah I know you don't need a uterus to be a women but this is a very specific story about a how the biology that goes with womanhood is treated” and somehow doesn't see the contradictions there.

I'd have more respect for her if she just acknowledged it's not something she thinks about, it didn't occur to her until someone asked, and she has no plans to include trans stories because she clearly wouldn't know how to tell them. I mean, it's not like I want to read her take on trans characters, I don't trust her with that. What I'd really like is to see actual trans writers take it on in a similar way to how side stories were done with Bitch Planet.

Because it's an interesting premise definitely worth exploring, weird not-quite-right attempts at scientific reasoning aside. And it was a pretty neat experience reading it at the endocrinologist's office as I waited to get my second testosterone injection. There's a lot of talk about hormones in this. Some of it accurate, some of it purposely bad to emphasize the patriarchal control and demonizing of femininity, a lot of it just kind of lazy.

A big part of the story is the government dealing with this not by actually treating the illness but instead just stopping menstruation by pouring birth control hormones into drinking water. Oh no, but now boys can't drink the water! So there's all sorts of estrogen-destroying cleaning products and a line of sodas made specifically for men and boys so they aren't exposed to it, and girls apparently aren't allowed to drink anything else???

The main character sneaks into the boys' lounge and convinces the guys who catch her there to let her take a bunch of the soda with her. Because she and a few of her friends have decided to do an experiment and stop drinking the tap water, purposely starting their periods. Gasp!

Ok this is fascinating and I have so many questions because obviously this has so many implications for trans people. The author isn't interested in exploring those questions, so I guess I'll have to go look for some fanfic. Honestly, my initial impression after reading the first volume is that fanfic is the only hope for this series because the trans erasure is much worse than anything good the series has to offer.

Then a couple of my co-workers were discussing birth control and its effects on their bodies and the dangerous lack of understanding their prescribing doctors had of it. And our boss, a pharmacist said “Ok, you guys are grossing me out and I'm going to report a hostile work environment if you don't stop.”

A pharmacist. Referring to people talking about issues with medications. That have a serious effect on a regular everyday normal biological thing that happens to half of the population.

As a trans person I hate the lack of concern about trans people in this comic. As a trans-masculine person who hates periods and frankly just about everything estrogen does to me and whose periods came along with debilitating pain every month causing me to miss work and school regularly, I really can't relate to the “wow periods are so awesome and badass” rhetoric and I'll be honest enough to admit at the back of my head while reading I'm kind of like “...I mean who actually wants a period, though?”

But I appreciate the under-represented perspective on it. And the willingness to talk about it, openly and aggressively and positively. It's obviously not all positive, but one of the reasons it sucks is because we're so discouraged from talking about it so we don't always know things like when the level of pain isn't normal until we've been dealing with it for decades and just been told to shut up about gross private things. That needs to change.

I don't know that I'll keep reading it. It's very alienating to me on several levels and I really don't like the author's attitude about trans people and the way she pivots away from actually answering questions about where we fit into her world. But I probably actually will go looking for fanfic related to those things and hope other people with a more inclusive outlook make their own work dealing with menstruation and other “gross and private” things that we need to be able to talk about. I might try making my own, maybe just some tiny autobio zine or something.

And while I probably won't be recommending it to people either for the most part, I guess I'm landing on the side of sort of glad it exists and will cheer on people who do find something worthwhile in it. It's nowhere near perfect, but the conversation has to start somewhere and I guess this is where it's starting. And if that makes it a little bit easier for the rest of us to jump in on it and tell awful sexist medical professionals to get over themselves and let us talk about our health, that's awesome.

Go murdercats.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

Woohoo, new site! That's exciting.

I had a long day and I'm getting over a bad cold so not a lot to say, just wanted to actually put something up here and try it out.

I think I like it!

 
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