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TheDarkWifebySarahDiemer

The Dark Wife is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth involving Persephone and Hades. This myth is one of my favorites, so I picked up its reinterpretation eagerly. Diemer’s tale didn’t disappoint.

This book simply holds a solid, good story. The prose is immediately engrossing and full of similes which paint the ancient world Diemer depicts. The pacing is, perhaps, slow – but this isn’t intended to be a page-turning thriller. This is a kind of fanfiction, if you will, and it allows a lover of ancient myths to indulge herself for a time.

Diemer writes Hades as a woman in such a way that, while reading, I kept forgetting that the ‘actual’ Hades is male. After reading the book, I find Diemer’s characterization preferable. In addition, I appreciated that Diemer didn’t skim across the sexual assaults and crimes committed by the gods (especially one god…). Diemer isn’t an apologist and doesn’t try to make light of any of the darkness in these myths.

This is a wholesome retelling. My sole complaint is that the epilogue could have been longer, but this is hardly a bad thing! The Dark Wife comes fully recommended.

For anyone interested in another expansion (although not a retelling) of an Ancient Greek myth, try The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

babyji

Babyji (2005) by Abha Dawesar is an atypical ‘coming of age’ novel featuring an academically gifted, sexually empowered female protagonist Anamika Sharma. Dawesar returns to her Indian roots, placing Anamika in the heart of a class-divided Delhi, juggling the pressures of being both a student and a lover.

This is an unapologetic exploration of the wanton desires of a sexually active teenager littered with occasional self-reflection and naivety. You are immediately introduced to ‘India’, Anamika’s much older, newly divorced female lover. Before you have time to understand this relationship, Rani, the new family servant, shakes her tail feathers for Anamika which ignites the hormones of our lusty sixteen year old heroine and we aren’t even 25 pages into Babyji!

“Her breathing got heavier. I was scandalising myself. I was petrified. I had no idea what to do next.” (p25, eBook).

The pacing shifts from breakneck speed to slow motion as Dawesar chronicles intimate moments between the lovers with the precise accuracy of the curiously intelligent teen. The seduction is sliced up with school life. Anamika still has to handle the everyday hassles of education including exams, bullies and school girl crushes.

Dawesar writes for the every-audience, explaining Indian traditions and expectations as observational thoughts, leaving nothing to assumption of understanding. Having never been to India and living in Westernised Australia, I appreciated these culture teachings and enjoyed their constant inclusion, cleverly used to build Anamika’s character profile and educate the reader.

The intensity of the reoccurring romances, including the trip away with ‘India’, builds to a level of incredibility as Babyji maintains momentum while Anamika holds the interest of three female lovers and an older male suitor. I found myself exclaiming out loud in disbelief at some points, perhaps not being convinced that our young adult was capable of ‘having it all’. Admittedly, her school life and friendships occasionally take a hit as she is preoccupied with learning the philosophies of love. Then again, perhaps that’s what all the teenagers are doing these days and I’ve just lived a sheltered existence.

Babyji, while pushing the buttons on relationship realities, powerfully conveys the opinions of the protagonist on various topics – from science to society – and uniquely steps out of the ‘coming of age’ category into the sociopolitical sphere. Class structure, education and family units are thematically explored throughout, proving a break from the titillating tours of the female lover.

If you somehow missed catching this novel around it’s release in 2005, it’s worth the purchase (I read the Kindle edition) to experience Delhi from a wealthy, sexually confident teenage girl’s perspective. I enjoyed delving into Anamika’s world, living her life with her and was left wanting more at the somewhat abrupt ending.

“I want to be free. I don’t want society telling me what to do all the time.” – Anamika is the everylesbian (p300, eBook).

tellme

There is something haunting about a novel that engages in a manner such that the reader feels the story to be her story, seducing to a degree wherein the experience conveyed comes to flow through her veins and beat with her heart until it leaves her all but trembling with emotion, eventually settling within the very marrow of her bones. Having surrendered to the intensity, the reader’s breath quickens as she teeters on the cusp of long-awaited climax — only to find herself utterly deflated upon finding the tale hijacked by an author who betrays her characters in favor of the propagation of her personal agenda. In spite of the rapturous buildup, the reader is left frustrated, forsaken and ultimately dissatisfied. I was that reader, and this was my experience of Tell Me by Deanna DiLorenzo.

After breaking up with her rockstar boyfriend, Meagan Summers finds herself under the spell of the beautiful and talented poet, Amber Reed. From the start, their relationship proves nothing less than high-conflict as Amber shifts from adoration and seduction to vengeance and retribution in the blink of an eye while Meagan struggles merely to wrap her head around the fact that she has entered into relationship with a woman, mortified by the subtlest public display of affection. Vacillating between the most passionate expressions of love and sinister acts of betrayal, Meagan and Amber nonetheless view themselves as soulmates, bound by the moonstone that symbolizes the depth of their connection.

After several emotionally exhausting months, Meagan ends the relationship under the pretext of sparing Amber any further pain and shortly thereafter begins a friendship with Ken, who she later marries but loves rather platonically; Amber becomes involved with the gorgeous and mean-spirited Gwynne, who Meagan and Ken hire as their interior decorator. Although they don facades intended to convince the other that they have moved on with their lives, their mutual obsession remains as strong as ever; and, just when Meagan touches upon the courage to abide by her own truth, tragedy strikes, leaving not only the couple’s destiny but Meagan’s very survival in the balance.

In spite of the undeniably compelling storyline, the looseness of DiLorenzo’s writing frequently steals the intensity from the emotional maelstrom brewing on the page. On several occasions, when I was rapt and eager to ride the next wave, the moment would be lost to a tangent that appeared either completely irrelevant or unsubstantiated by events prior or yet to come. By the time I recovered from the shift in trajectory, another instance lurked in the near distance, stealing the momentum that had so skillfully been cultivated up to that point.

Although the novel’s secondary characters come to life fully and vividly (especially Jenna, Meagan’s hippy-chick best friend), when it comes to the construction of Meagan’s personality, the culmination of traits simply does not make sense. It’s not a matter of contradictions within Meagan’s internal landscape or her oft-referenced neuroticism; rather, the incongruity feels to be more a result of a forcing on DiLorenzo’s part to make Meagan into something that she simply is not.

This dissonance extends to the relationship between Meagan and Amber as well, which never really embraces the essence that one would expect to find in soulmates; instead, the dynamic between them appears as the manifestation of the crazy-making nature of a relationship between one woman who cares about appearances more than she does her partner and another exhibiting a textbook personality disorder. Whereas the narrative paints Amber as a victim of Meagan’s reluctance to identify as lesbian, it completely disregards Amber’s manipulative and highly volatile borderline traits that would make any partnership a challenge. Somehow, the idea that Meagan is the sole perpetrator becomes central to the storyline; however, I was never convinced that there was any reason for her to assume the guilt that she feels her due. Although there are surely challenges inherent in being with a woman who is unable to accept her own sexuality, there are more productive ways of working with the issue than through rage, guilt-trips and aggression.

In spite of flaws in characterization, it was with the shift in tone toward the end of the book that the author abandons the novel’s integrity completely, giving Tell Me a propaganda-like feel as DiLorenzo contends through the voice of an astral guide named Victor that women who resist labels and embrace their sexual fluidity are more spiritually evolved than those who identify as lesbian. I would never dare invalidate another’s sexual identity, thus I found myself rather put off by DiLorenzo’s judgment. This aside, such a contentious assertion devalues Amber’s identification as lesbian and elevates Meagan’s process, which throughout the tale has been guided by fear and a healthy dose of cowardice.

DiLorenzo is without a doubt an extraordinary talent, creating a story of intense psychological impact and complexity; however, I can only assume that the breadth of her vision for this work was so vast that it would have been virtually impossible to carry it out without stumbling. That being said, I’d have given anything for the story to have proceeded on an earthly rather than astral plane, where spiritual guides spout opinions and pithy wisdom, for up until that point, DiLorenzo had me in complete surrender, begging for her to whisper nothing more than two charged yet simple words: “Tell Me.”

bermudeztriangle

Nina, Mel and Avery have been inseparable for as long as they can remember — until Nina decides to attend a leadership program at Stanford the summer before her senior year of high school. Mel, who knows she is a lesbian but has never spoken it aloud, plans to spend her summer working alongside Avery at a local restaurant in Saratoga, New York. Having her first real kiss with Avery was definitely not on the agenda, but once it happens, there is no turning back.

As Mel and Avery make the transition from best friends to girlfriends, Nina starts dating a boy in her program, an environmental activist from Oregon. Nina’s relationship seems perfect – she has finally met someone with as much ambition as her – but becomes complicated after she returns to New York. Mel and Avery’s relationship is far from ideal, and as the book progresses, the two become entangled in some scenarios that call into question whether they are better off as friends, partners, or neither.

I liked that Johnson was true to the teenage experience in documenting the ups and downs of high school relationships, but I also felt uncomfortable being thrust into the midst of the tension. While I agree that conflict is inevitable in portrayals of young love, there are parts of the story that seem bogged down by problems. These issues contribute to the likeability of the main characters; while no girl is flawless, there were many instances in which I sided with one over another, or felt that they could have easily avoided hurting each other. I know this is a deeply contested issue at the moment, especially concerning female characters, but likeability often determines whether readers (particularly adolescent readers) can connect to a text, and I suspect that Johnson alienates some readers at certain points in this novel. 

[spoilers] There is also some controversy over how Avery’s confusion about her sexuality was handled, and whether her hesitance to identify as anything other than straight perpetuates biphobia. Johnson’s response to a bisexual reader’s letter on the subject notes that she wanted to illustrate a relationship that didn’t have a traditionally happy ending (as often happens when close friends decide to date). Ultimately, Johnson writes that Avery looks like the bad character because she is the one who breaks up with the extremely likable Mel, and that Avery’s choice to go back to dating boys is the result of her internalized homophobia. Though this is a valid explanation, the reader is left rooting for Avery to overcome her fears, and the fact that she never gets there is upsetting. [end spoilers]

I also wish that the plot itself had been a little more complex; it was interesting, but did not stand out from other, similar novels. That being said, The Bermudez Triangle was written in 2007, and LGBT YA has become more self-conscious of “queering” your typical coming out story in more recent years. Overall, I would say that Johnson’s novel was a good quick read, but not one of my absolute favorites in this genre.

aroomofonesown

(a.k.a. Why all queer ladies should read A Room of One’s Own)

“For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”

So ventures Virginia Woolf about midway through her 1928 essay A Room of One’s Own. She is just finally catching up to herself in the early 20th century, after conducting an informal survey of women’s history in print, when she proclaims that women must know whence their literary roots have sprung and grown: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn … for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Each woman who writes blazes a trail for more women to immortalize their words in ink. Today, nearly a century after Virginia Woolf’s time, one would be hard-pressed to find an artistic medium upon which women have not made their mark.

Yet while reading Woolf’s account of women’s suppressed and all-around miserable lives in the centuries before hers, I couldn’t help but think of all the women who still cannot enjoy the freedom of writing 140-character tweets let alone manifestos, histories, criticisms, novels, poems, or journals and have a chance to define our world. I can’t help but think of the voiceless in our own community: the silenced queer women who, 86 years after Virginia Woolf and her Orlando, are not free to even consider embracing their identity let alone write about and therefore proclaim it to the rest of us. According to Woolf, it is our charge as women to first light the way so we may pass the torch; to lend our voices if we are able so others may create the masterpieces of our time. And that is why every queer woman should read A Room of One’s Own.

Here are a few topics/reasons/persuasive tools!

  1. Don’t be afraid of Virginia Woolf. This 114-page speech-turned-essay reads like a narrative, and a thrilling one at that. Woolf guides us with care through ideas large and daunting, and while the text hardly feels that way, the ideas surely resonate (and would no matter your particular experience with feminism, in my opinion). There is enough space here to challenge her ideas, but you will not want to pull yourself away. A Room of One’s Own will have you note taking, annotating, and by the end – poet or not – inspired to write.
  2. Androgyny. The “Androgynous Mind” is a super interesting concept, and one that’s been often debated for perpetuating gender binaries. Woolf suggests that writers must have an androgynous mind – both male and female – in order to create a work of truth. I think Woolf means that an androgynous mind is one that is not preoccupied with the concepts of “male” or “female” and not held back by the social conventions expected of either. An androgynous writer is free to explore the human condition from the standpoint of a human, devoid of what might make him/her a him or her. Woolf has said of masculinity and femininity: “The time has not yet come when we can say for certain which is the man and which the woman, after both have boarded the taxi of human personality.” In my opinion, we still haven’t. And according to Woolf, a great writer will not strive to find these differences either.
  3. Women who “like” women. Another fascinating topic Woolf brings forth is female relationships in literature. She ventures that she cannot think of any two women in the course of her reading that were friends, or enjoyed a relationship more complex than jealousy. Is this not true of both lit and life? We’re conditioned to view other women as competition, and we’re told this is an innate behavior stemming from our days discovering fires and banging in caves. Well, if it was necessity then, it certainly isn’t now. And by Woolf boldly stating, “The truth is, I like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their subtlety. I like their anonymity,” she is calling for not just an acceptance of women as friends, but an acceptance of all the complexities, depth, and love that exist in female relationships of all kinds. PREACH, Virginia.
  4. Judith Shakespeare. My favorite component of A Room of One’s Own – which, I’ll remind you, is very much steeped in prose – is the story of William Shakespeare’s imagined (but oh so real) sister, Judith. Woolf takes us on a journey with the fictitious Judith, as an exercise in understanding what life was like for women in the past, and why they didn’t/couldn’t write. Judith Shakespeare has a passion for writing but is prohibited by her father from all creative pursuits. When forced to wed against her will, she runs away to London where, turned away from the theatre that so readily embraced her brother, she commits suicide. What is most stirring and poignant about this short but meaningful supposition into the Elizabethan woman’s life is Woolf’s triumphant proclamation that Shakespeare’s Sister exists inside all of us. “She lives in you and me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed … She lives; for great poets do not die.”
  5. What is our own room? Woolf has also been criticized of classism in A Room of One’s Own by asserting that £500 and the titular “room of one’s own” are necessary for a woman to write. Again, I must beg to differ. Woolf is too self-aware to claim that without these luxuries a woman can’t/shouldn’t write. “Why did men drink wine and women water?” she asks, before taking us through a history of women’s societal and literary silencing, the crux being that women are not and have not ever been free – except in circumstances beyond their control – to enjoy the privileges of steady, self-made income and privacy. Even Jane Austen had to hide her manuscripts, which she wrote in her family’s sitting room. Woolf closes the essay by saying that for women “to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.” I contend that this room of one’s own is metaphorical, meaning mostly that women must have, as Woolf puts it, “the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think.”

As queer women, we must be aware of where our story began. In 1928, at the time of this publication, British author Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian-themed The Well of Loneliness was being decried as a ‘danger to the nation.’ Over the next century, queer literature has been consistently banned or contested, from Allen Ginsberg to Amy Sonnie. In response, we must read and honor all the words of our lesbian, bisexual, female-identifying, and queer sisters. Then, we must write our own.

The last few pages of A Room of One’s Own will have you absolutely soaring. This is a book that should be in every woman’s personal library as it is a fabulous introduction to our girl Virginia, a sweeping journey through centuries of women’s history and literature, and a call to arms for us women – all of Shakespeare’s sisters – to tell our story.

digitaldivide

This month’s book selection is Digital Divide by K.B. Spangler. Initially described as a kind of sci-fi mystery tale with a lesbian protagonist, I found that that, indeed was exactly what the book delivered.

Set in a near-future alternate Earth where several hundred people have been turned into, essentially, cyborgs in order to become ultimate weapons for the United States government, our protagonist is Rachel Peng, one of these first human-machine hybrids. Blind in real life, technology gives her the ability to see, not just in the visible light spectrum but in many other intriguing spectrums as well. The technology also allows them to ‘plug in’ to the internet, or any electronic device – they can hack into systems with nothing more than a thought.

Writing about this kind of thing can be tricky, because the writer runs the risk of a) using useless, dated jargon and skipping any kind of realism completely in order to make the tech more interesting or b) going too far into the mechanics of how such a theoretical system might actually work and turning their work of fiction into a dry treatise. Neither of these options is especially pleasurable for the reader. Spangler has, fortunately, walked the narrow line between these two extremes and delivered an adequate compromise.

I say adequate because it is just that. There are no groundbreaking new ideas here – it’s essentially basic human meets machine, which is something that’s already been covered by quite a few great science fiction writers. But though it’s a bit generic, it’s certainly not bad.

In terms of the plot itself, the story follows Rachel Peng, who works for the government and is attempting to prove to the world that she is not a scary cyborg monster but a real human being with real human emotions. Meanwhile a shadowy antagonist pulls several stunts in order to make the cyborgs look bad, so Rachel and her team must track him down and stop him, all while maintaining their image in the public eye. There are explosions and gunshots and sleuthing.

In terms of Rachel, our protagonist, she is a lesbian though it is not made a plot point. It is simply another aspect of her, like her hair color or shoe size. I find this refreshing to encounter in literature, and think it’s a good trend. Using a character’s sexual orientation as a cheap way to stereotype their personality, appearance, or behaviours, to turn a character into a caricature, is annoying at best and offensive at worst. However, through the course of this book Rachel is never romantically involved with anyone else; her feelings, at least in terms of sexual relationships, is never discussed. Which is fine. It’s not a love story, after all; it’s a sci-fi cop novel. Just be aware that if you’re looking for lesbian love, or romance, it’s not found in this book.

Overall, I found the writing engaging and the story complex and intriguing enough to keep me through to the end. It was nice to see a strong female lesbian character in fiction, especially in this genre. It’s a light read, something great for taking on the train or to the beach (for all you Northern Hemisphere denizens who are heading into summer.) If you’re a fan of science fiction, or police mystery novels, then I think you’ll enjoy this book!

heartsstarve

Hearts Starve, Patricia Russo’s haunting novel, is a story about loss. Not the act of losing, the reality of loss. People who have already lost things and must confront their doomed actuality. For such depressing subject matter, it’s still a beautiful and heart wrenching book.

Told as a dark, urban fairytale, the story follows three different people in various states of desperation. Marleen, arguably the story’s protagonist, lives with her wife and her wife’s dying father and feels more and more trapped in her situation. Corrie, an unemployed drifter, tries to turn her life around and finds obstacles at ever turn. Gil, the most unexplained character, barely exists in reality and tries to understand his own impulses and urges. All three are loosely linked by their dealings with two otherworldly brothers who seem to wreak havoc on anything they touch. One, a nameless man in a red coat, slips something into Marleen’s coat that permanently alters her reality and brings into Corrie’s orbit as they briefly try to help each other.

The fairy tale aspects of this story represent an interesting way for Russo to highlight each character’s loss. Here are three people who were already doomed before they were touched by the book’s fantasy elements. The unexplained chaos of the two brothers doesn’t help them or bring them any peace, if anything it just brings the desperation of their situations into sharper focus. It’s a good device but one Russo probably could have mined more from. She clearly knows a lot about this world, but, perhaps because of the darkness of each character, we don’t get to see much of it. Each character’s situation is unique, making hard to get a grasp on the rules of the world which probably would have brought the weight of understanding the end of the story. Regardless, the final scenes are still poignant and, days later, I’m still thinking about this book, which must mean Russo is doing something right.

DaughterOfMystery

Daughter of Mystery is a debut historical fantasy/romance by Heather Rose Jones set in the tiny, fictional European country of Alpennia in the early 19th century.

Baron Saveze of Alpennia has spent his life amassing a prodigious amount of wealth. A capricious man, Saveze has long kept a female duelist in his employ, despite it not being quite “the thing.” Barbara has spent many years serving as the Baron’s personal bodyguard and duelist, but the ailing Baron has–in her eyes–promised her freedom upon his death. Margerit Sovitre is the baron’s goddaughter, though connected only distantly and from a much more humble background. She’s being introduced to society and is expected to make an eligible marriage, but Margerit would much rather be studying philosophy at the university than finding a husband.

Upon the Baron’s death, Margerit suddenly finds herself in possession of a large fortune…and Barbara. Enraged that she’s been denied her freedom–at least until Margerit comes of age–Barbara nonetheless accepts the task of keeping her new employer safe. One person in particular, the new Baron, bears a grudge after inheriting nothing but the title from his uncle. When Margerit decides to pursue her mystical studies in the capital, there are unforeseen threats that even Barbara might find difficult to overcome.

It may sound strange to say that a fabricated country felt well-researched, but it’s clear that Jones did her homework in terms of crafting Alpennia from a combination of historical and fantastical detail. All the subtle pieces, down to the particularity of the names and their pronunciation, felt like they contributed to a vibrant and compelling whole. If you like women with swords, court intrigue, mysticism, interesting female characters, dashes of romance, scholarship, and family secrets, give Daughter of Mystery a try. Especially recommended for fans of Sherwood Smith.

I’m an avid reader of historical romance, particularly Regency and Georgian, and Daughter of Mystery had just the refreshing twist I’ve been looking for. News of a sequel in the works made me very happy indeed. See this post for more about how Jones approached her work.

ChaChing

Anyone who’s attempted to outrun her demons will attest that the endeavor is ultimately futile; however, it’s something that most of us have given a shot at some point in our lives. Would we have learned as much about ourselves had we done the “wise” thing and heeded the warnings of those around us? Could we understand the journeys of others as well as we now do had we just stayed put, waiting to see what unfolds? I’m guessing that your answer may be the same as mine.

Even if you’ve simply entertained the notion of escape, there’s a good chance that the story of Theo, the unlikely heroine of Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott, will resonate with you. On the cusp of thirty, Theo is convinced that if she leaves San Francisco to start over in New York, she will become the person who she wishes herself to be. She can see it so clearly — She wouldn’t drink, smoke or watch television; rather, she’d prove herself well-read, beginning with the complete works of Dostoyevsky and the biographies of legendary artists. Perhaps she’d even take a painting class, become an inventor and entrepreneur or read Crime and Punishment on the stationary bike at the gym. After all, she plans on getting a membership.

Moments before departing on her cross-country adventure, complete with her Butch Bathroom Wig to keep her from being hassled at truckstop restrooms given her gender ambiguity and military-style haircut, her destiny collides with that of another wounded soul — a pit bull who she names Cary Grant. Together the two of them embark upon a new life.

Arriving in New York, Theo does the best she is able with what she’s got, both in terms of internal and external resources. Not only does she have a small handful of cash in her pocket, an acquaintance to look up and enough charm to get by, but her alcoholism, problem gambling and loneliness have also come along for the ride. Although she makes a valiant effort to navigate her addictive tendencies, it isn’t long before she discovers that the addict within her is alive and well.

Although I was drawn to Theo from the start, I found her lack of jadedness somewhat disconcerting. Identifying as butch, Theo frequently refers to herself as a “timid sirma’amsir.” I had a hard time buying into the idea that she wouldn’t have adopted some sort of defense to safeguard her vulnerability; however, it is only while gambling that she endeavors to talk down her fear. In any other context, Theo possesses very little armor to protect her heart in spite of declaring a numbness that is betrayed by her rather frequent experience of emotion.

I also couldn’t let go of the fact that Theo’s reasons for wanting to flee San Francisco are never revealed. None of us make it through three decades without a story to tell, and I desperately wanted to learn of Theo’s history in order to understand more about the person who lived it. In passing, she makes a brief reference to arrests, lost girlfriends, a stint in a mental hospital and a “suicidal streak,” but there are no details provided and no mention of the catalyst for the move.

In spite of a few minor incongruities and the lack of backstory, I found myself unable to put Cha-Ching! down for a moment much less overnight and ended up reading it straight through — twice. What was the drive to keep reading? It wasn’t the quest for answers because there really are none to be found; rather, it was the desire to spend time with Theo in her world. After all, as familiar as I found her internal landscape to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if an understanding and acceptance of Theo just may allow us to extend the same humble courtesies to ourselves.

Lo_Adaptation_HC_600x900

 

I read Malinda Lo’s Ash and Huntress in the past, and though I enjoyed them, they didn’t stick out as favourites in my memory. So though Adaptation came out with lots of great reviews, and I picked up a copy soon after it was published, I didn’t actually get around to reading it until a couple days ago, after it was announced that Malinda Lo will be at Leakycon 2014. And I’m so glad I did pick it up, because Adaptation has easily become one of my new go-to books to recommend.

To get a sense of the experience of reading this book, check out the quick review I wrote immediately after finishing it on FY Lesbian Literature, the Lesbrary’s tumblr. Adaptation is just so exciting to read! Usually, I don’t go for plot-driven books as much as I gravitate towards character-based stories. But Adaptation‘s plot had me absolutely hooked. The book begins with Reese, the main character, waiting at an airport for a flight home, when birds begin dropping dead out of the sky. Immediately after, several planes are reported to have crashed because of mass bird strikes. But there’s more: coverage of the plane crashes seems to be disappearing from news sites, and conspiracy theorists begin talking about government involvement and cover-up. Panic spreads, and chaos erupts–including looting. This is all in the first chapter or two. With this abrupt lurch into action, the pace never seems to slow down. The feeling is so tense. I would pause between chapters to curse before jumping back into the story. This sci-fi, conspiracy-theory-laden storyline is something I think will appeal to dystopian fans, though it doesn’t quite fit under that umbrella. It’s definitely the plot that makes this such a memorable read, but it has more going for it as well.

For one thing, there’s the reason it’s on the Lesbrary: it has a bisexual main character! Reese has two love interests in Adaptation: her (male) debate partner that she’s known for years, and a girl she has only just met, but has an immediate attraction to. I wouldn’t call this a love triangle, because the two are never pit against each other. Although part of the tension of this book is emotional drama, it’s never over-the-top or contrived, and it always meshes well with the overall plot. Basically, Reese ponders her feelings during down time, but most of the time she has much more pressing concerns. And each love interest plays a very different role in Reese’s life, so their interactions don’t have the same tone to them.

The characters do feel well-rounded and believable, as well. From her on-again-off-again parents to her black, conspiracy-obsessed, gay best friend, to her Chinese-American debate partner, they all seem like they have their own back stories and motivation, even if they don’t get central stage in the story. I was so interested to pick up a bisexual sci-fi teen book, but this is actually how all books should be written: it’s diverse, but that’s not the whole story. You aren’t expected to pick up this book because it has a bisexual (though she doesn’t–yet?–identify with that term) main character; you’re expected to pick it up because the story will have you racing to get to the end. It feels so natural, which shouldn’t even need to be said.

The only complaint I have about Adaptation is that the third book in the trilogy isn’t out yet. I have ordered the second book and can’t wait to devour it. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough: after finishing it, I still had an adrenaline buzz for hours from how intense this book was. It’s almost embarrassing how into Adaptation I was while reading it. This is definitely one I’ll be pressing into people’s hands and demanding them to read.

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