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from lapis

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I first got a glimpse of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in like, elementary school, so some of this might be confused or out-of-date, but bear with me.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

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

I saw a thing on fb awhile ago that was asking people to list 5 shows to give someone an idea of their tastes and interests. Then I lost it. Then I thought, “hey, I could do that with a lot of categories actually!” Here are some. In no particular order.

Also at this particular time. I'm sure later I'll think of some and be like “oh noooo that should make the list,” but this is where my head is now. And that does probably mean these are ones that aren't necessarily the best but are frequently on my mind.

Live-Action TV Shows

  1. Runaways
  2. Umbrella Academy
  3. Boy Meets World
  4. Gilmore Girls
  5. Grace & Frankie

Animated TV Shows

  1. Steven Universe
  2. Magic Knight Rayearth
  3. Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
  4. Sealab 2021
  5. X-Men: Evolution

Books (non-graphic novels)

  1. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty
  3. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
  4. Revolt of the Angels – Anatole France
  5. A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine

Movies

  1. Hocus Pocus
  2. Practical Magic
  3. Dogma
  4. Rise of the Guardians
  5. The Music Man

Video Games

  1. Mass Effect
  2. Journey
  3. Final Fantasy XIV
  4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  5. The Sims

Bands

  1. Fall Out Boy (of course)
  2. Pup
  3. Against Me
  4. Semisonic
  5. Hop Along

(Non-Fall Out Boy) Albums

  1. Pray for the Wicked – Panic at the Disco
  2. All About Chemistry – Semisonic
  3. Bark Your Head Off, Dog – Hop Along
  4. August and Everything After – Counting Crows
  5. Strange Desire – Bleachers

Fall Out Boy Albums

  1. Save Rock & Roll
  2. Folie A Deux
  3. Take This to Your Grave
  4. Infinity on High
  5. Evening Out With Your Girlfriend

(Non-Fall Out Boy) Songs

  1. “Round Here” – Counting Crows
  2. “The End of the World” – U2
  3. “Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac
  4. “It's A Hit” – Rilo Kiley
  5. “Black Me Out” – Against Me

Fall Out Boy Songs

  1. GINASFS
  2. Death Valley
  3. Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over
  4. Alpha Dog
  5. Bishops Knife Trick

Comics

  1. Batgirl of Burnside
  2. The Wicked & the Divine
  3. Jem & the Holograms
  4. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
  5. Pumpkinheads

Authors

  1. Kelly Thompson
  2. Kieron Gillen
  3. Mariko Tamaki
  4. Neil Gaiman
  5. Rainbow Rowell

Artists

  1. Jen Bartel
  2. Sophie Campbell
  3. Jamie McKelvie
  4. David Aja
  5. Mike Maihack

Board/Tabletop Games

  1. Disney Villains
  2. Ticket to Ride
  3. Pandemic
  4. Dixit
  5. Sentinels of the Multiverse

Myths (as Friends episode titles)

  1. The one where Loki got his mouth sewn shut for being too smart
  2. The one where Zephyr and Apollo learn to stop being so possessive maybe
  3. The one with the box of bad things
  4. The one where Loki's a horse
  5. The one with the snake and the garden

Podcasts

  1. Baby-Sitters Club Club
  2. Good Christian Fun
  3. The Dollop
  4. Riverdale After Dark
  5. Secret Dinosaur Cult
 
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from lapis

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.

Unbroken

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

Mooncakes

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.

 
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from lapis

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.

 
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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 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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