Netgalley Mini Reviews #7

I’m shamefully behind on sharing my Netgalley reviews on my blog, so we’re going to play catch-up for the next couple of weeks, hopefully!

You can find my previous Netgalley reviews here:

Adam Sass – Surrender Your Sons

Okay, so I’m rating this book 2 stars based on my own experience (because that’s what I base my ratings on.) I didn’t think this was a bad book. But I’m also wishing I hadn’t picked this up at all. I think this is mostly a me problem: I don’t normally read thrillers, and I don’t enjoy reading about extreme violence. I had completely different expectations about what this book was going to be, and that’s on me, it’s not the book’s fault. But it did make this a very heavy, very challenging read. Especially because all of the extreme violence is targeted towards queer people because they’re queer.

The author’s note said that this book wasn’t about queer pain, but about what queer people do with queer pain. I really appreciated this note, but it also made me wait for when the pain would stop. This was probably a wrong assumption on my part, but please be more aware than I was going in that this is not a very uplifting or hopeful read, and that there’s a lot of suffering in this book.

Overall, I thought this was a really triggering read, so I’m having a lot of trouble articulating my thoughts. I’ll give it a try, though. Honestly, if you’re a fan of dark thrillers, you’ll probably enjoy this book. As long as you’re aware of the trigger warnings, that is. But the reason thrillers often don’t work for me is also why I didn’t end up enjoying this book: I often find that the characters are very flat, and I don’t enjoy reading plot-driven books if the characters feel underdeveloped. For me to like a thriller, it would have to keep me on the edge of my seat and really surprise me with some of the plot twists. That didn’t happen in this book. I also didn’t appreciate that the one disabled character in the book was killed off to advance the plot. This was very central to the plot and it feels comparable to the “bury your gays” trope but with disabled people. I know thrillers often have tropes like this, but that’s another reason why I’m not generally a big thriller fan.

I’m sorry if my review isn’t very clear. I was just really thrown off by this book. I’m personally not someone who wants to read about extreme homophobic violence if it isn’t dealt with very carefully and framed in a really hopeful narrative, but I know there are probably people out there for whom it will be important to read this. I’m really glad there’s space for different queer stories to be told, this just wasn’t one that worked for me.

CWs: murder, conversion therapy, abuse, homophobic violence, extreme internalized & religious homophobia, abduction

Surrender Your Sons

Maxfield Sparrow, ed. – Spectrums

As an autistic non-binary person, this non-fiction anthology is one of the most empowering and affirming things I’ve ever read. It’s such a diverse collection of voices, people of very different backgrounds and with very different life stories and identities. It truly shows how both being autistic and being trans/non-binary are different experiences for everyone. It was also amazing to see a lot of somewhat older people being included in this, since a lot of people make the assumption that these identities are somehow new.

One thing I found lacking is the writing style. Of course everyone wrote their own contributions and because of that, not every story was as readable. On the plus side, I did think this also enhanced my reading experience at times, because the stories didn’t feel polished and that made them feel very real.

Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words

Supriya Kelkar – American As Paneer Pie

This was a very culturally rich, very loveable read, which was full of puns! It was great to see the main character’s growth in learning to speak up and stand up for herself.

I’ve read a fair few middlegrades that deal with racism, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read any that really delve into it, and the layers of it, like this book did. The main character is Indian-American, and the book shows her day-to-day reality in a lot of different ways. She deals with microaggressions and bullying at school, and she feels like she can’t be openly proud of her heritage and stand up for herself without facing even more racist bullying. The book also deals with colorism and internalized prejudices, and the way the main character views her new friend who only just moved to the US from India. It did all this in a very accessible way, and with a lot of heart. It’s impossible not to love Lekha and her family – I’m honestly always here for great family relationships in books.

CWs: hate crimes, racism, colorism, bullying

American as Paneer Pie

Rory Power – Burn Our Bodies Down

Rory Power is such an exceptional writer. This book was absolutely beautiful right from the very first page. I’m honestly in awe of her writing style.

This was such an intriguing read. It was quiet and sort of slow, but even though it wasn’t necessarily fast-paced, I could hardly put it down. All I wanted was to figure out this family mystery. It was all so quietly unsettling, and while I’m not normally a thriller/mystery fan, I think I’ve found my exact brand of them.

CWs: (attempted) murder, body horror, gore, corpses, fire

Burn Our Bodies Down

M. Montgomery – Lab Partners

I honestly fell asleep reading this. It was basically the main character spelling out every thought he’s ever had. At 10% in, he was assigned a lab partner at school and made pasta at home. That’s it.

The writing was honestly so uncomfortable to read. It was really forced and just very overly detailed. We got told exactly what the main character was eating, exactly what his school assignments were, just all of this completely irrelevant stuff. It was a lot of tell and not at all a lot of show. At 30% in, there was still hardly any progress to the story.

For the most part, we’re being told about how the MC and the love interest grow closer together, but we’re not shown any of that development, which makes it hard to get emotionally invested.

One thing I did appreciate was that the MC’s sister was aroace and there being a discussion about that.

I did have some problems with the questioning rep though, because the love interest pressured the main character multiple times to make up his mind as soon as possible. I just want to reiterate: there is no deadline on figuring out your sexuality, it’s okay to take all the time you need, it really doesn’t matter if it takes you a long time, and it doesn’t even matter if you never figure it out.

CWs: violence, bullying, (internalized) homophobia

Lab Partners

Have you read any of these books, or are you planning to?

If you order books through the links in this post, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me review more books and host more giveaways, so I’d be very grateful if you used it!

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