Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I have so many feelings, y’all. We’re gonna need to talk about that.

Those who follow me on whatever social media have probably already had way enough of me raging about We Are Okay, but behold, there’s more to come.
I’ve been lucky in the past few months, the last time I picked up a book I didn’t like was back in spring of last year, when invisible-i-am was such a letdown. This year, I have only chosen books I absolutely fell in love with, especially Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s The Square Root of Summer. I devoured the book within two days, raged on and on about it, only to discover this tweet by Reuter Hapgood:

Guys, I’ll admit it. I have a slight but very noticeable cover fetish, so We Are Okay‘s cover hit me where it hurt. I bought the book after a reasonable time questioning my librophile purchases this month (a couple seconds, at least), and waited. And waited.

This one’s on you, Reuter Hapgood. I’m watching you.

While I did not go onto aforementioned Twitter spree, I did a lot of clichéd staring off into the distance. I also cried. For the first time in my adult life, I cried because of a book. Not proud of that one, but I’ll book it onto LaCour’s writing skills list.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.”

We Are Okay on Goodreads

This is gonna be one weird review, mainly because I’m still looking for words to describe how I feel about this book. Let’s start with the fact that I desperately want to read more LaCour has written, but then again I absolutely do not want to read more, because it will have to be a letdown compared to We Are Okay. I am absolutely, wholeheartedly, a hundred percent convinced one can only write a book like that once in a lifetime. LaCour’s writing is slight, it’s fragile, it’s subtle, and it’ll hit you like a thousand tons of bricks crushing your chest.

The book is full of innocent lines, just stating the obvious, or mere explanations, but LaCour takes them, cushions them with context, imagery and turns them into small masterpieces. Syllable by syllable, just like that, the simplest things gain more gravity than others can express with the most beautiful words.

This is not a coming-of-age story as much as it is exactly a coming-of-age story. It’s subtly undramatic, it’s plain, it’s beautiful. Marin is all of us, we can fill her with our own tragedies and let her be ourselves. She’s our flaws and she’s so good at it that it hurts.

I learned a lot about myself reading this book. Not in an esoterical, enlighting kind of way, but in the weird revelation that, as a matter of fact, I’m not alone. There’s things Marin does or says that I have done or said for the same exact reason that she did. It’s baffling to think that all this time I felt like I was all alone in this weirdness, only to discover LaCour managed to put it into words and that people were just as amazed as I am. Mind-blowing, really.

The story is complex and subtle. I’d have a hard time explaining what actually happen, considering the book only really spans three days. LaCour weaved a story so intricate, every piece fits. Never once have I had a “Why didn’t the author—?!”-moment. Never once have I raised my eyebrow at an unfitting word or a weird phrase or anything, really.

Honestly, I’m just gonna stop rambling like I’m being paid for this. The bottom line is that if I ever have a daughter, I’ll absolutely make her read it. And you should read it. You might not love it as much as I did, you might not find it as relatable, you might not think so highly of LaCour – but you should give yourself chance to fall in love with We Are Okay as much as I did.

Definitely, without further explanation, five of five anatomically correct hearts for Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay.

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Find Nina LaCour and Harriet Reuter Hapgood on Twitter!

Review: The Square Root Of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Dusk is slowly covering this dirty city once again. I’m still stretching out my neck, going around and turning the lights on that have become necessary in the last hour, while I was still firmly lodged in my all-consuming, extra-comforting, window-view armchair; with a cup of tea and two cats, who – for once – just joined the calamity instead of jumping down each other’s throats. I have learned to appreciate the quiet moments during the last year, so I’m always grateful for some guilt-free downtime.

For a second, let’s reflect on how wondrous it is that, from over more than 1.000.000 books published each year in the U.S. alone, the right stories find us. They gravitate towards us, suck us in and eat us up. I’d love to tell you I was roaming a small side-street book store when this story pulled me in, but as a matter of fact our moment happened beneath the fluorescent light of the omnipresent walk-in mall book store. Originally, I set out to buy Steffi von Wolff’s new book (which I, incidentally, also purchased), but the cover of Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s book caught my eye. I read the blurb, I decided it sounded too fantasy-ish for me, I moved on. Boyfriend happily tugged me along, I rambled on how pretty the cover was, he rambled on about how many books I already had. He picked up a copy of some book, I turned around, disappeared, and got The Square Root of Summer anyways. He rolled his eyes, kissed my cheek, and grinned. Keeper much?

Yet, here I am two days later, and I can guarantee you that – for all that it’s worth, this is definitely the fastest review I’ve ever written. Very rarely do I still get to indulge in the books I bought immediately after I brought them home; usually, we’re stuck with a promise of “I’ll read you when I’m not working or sleeping or dying or whatever”.
I managed to keep The Square Root of Summer on my desk for exactly one evening before I flopped down in aforementioned arm-chair, ready for sleepy legs and sleepy cats, and devoured the book.1

First of all, a small disclaimer: I read the German version of the book, but I’m still going to keep this review in English. I guess that’s only catering to the protagonist’s bilingual life. Therefore, language-wise the original edition might give a slightly different vibe. However, it is also worth mentioning that this is one of the best translations I’ve ever read – nothing feels off, everything feels natural. Huge shout-out to Susanne Hornfeck, let me someday be the translator you are now! So yeah, pick The Square Root of Summer up in whatever language you want, but the German edition is just way prettier.

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel…

Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then…

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.”
-Blurb The Square Root Of Summer

I didn’t expect this book to be good. I bought it because it is just so pretty (I mean, come on, look at it!), but the blurb was only semi-appealing to me. It kind of feels like the blurb reduces the entire story to Boy meets Girl (again), when The Square Root of Summer is so much more than that. Most of all, it’s coming of age without the cliché, it’s self-awareness and emotional awakening, it’s everything. It’s a protagonist that emancipates herself so slowly yet clearly, it’s a story that in the most literal sense unfolds the further you get.

A word of advice: Don’t be scared off by the time travel. Time travel here is used more as a plot driving device than actually plot device. Obviously, the protagonist does wonder what on earth is happening, but if you’re expecting 90% Blade Runner and 10% Jane Eyre, you’re wrong here. Sorry. The whole time travel ordeal took me a while to figure out, as I wasn’t sure if we were dealing with actual time travel or maybe some sort of flashbacks or episodes or whatever, but in the end, it does not even matter so much at all. I guess, even though the book closes out pretty specific, there is much room for interpretation.

Gottie is – weird. She’s the protagonist, she’s 17, and sometimes she is so passive that I want to push her into a toga garden party just to see her react. Eventually, Gottie is forced to react though, and the way Reuter Hapgood wrote Gottie made her feel real, realer than probably any character I’ve read so far. I’m gonna miss Gottie now that I’m done.

We have Thomas, a baked-goods enthusiast, and the closest thing you will ever find to a manic pixie dream boy. I enjoyed the power role reversal here, it was not Gottie who was so perfect for Thomas we all had to projectile vomit, no, it was Thomas. Not without fighting his own fights, but with a certainty making very clear Thomas is and was serving literary purpose. I enjoyed the heck out of him.

There’s a whole lot of lovable side characters in this English-German family of chaos, most of all obviously Grey, that are impossible to praise each alone. If you love well written characters, The Square Root Of Summer is for you.

I’m not even going to touch on pacing and or style here, because this was hands-down one of the best written books I’ve read in a long time. Enough cheese for my red wine, not too cheesy to not be taken seriously. Just the median of beautiful and brutal, touching on subjects other YA novels so blissfully ignore (menstruation, for example).

I can’t say more than read this! over and over again. I fell in love with Gottie and Reuter Hapgood and I will probably have to update my writing goals whiteboard with both their names in due time. This book gets a straight five-out-of-five anatomically correct hearts.

And now, just leave me here to die, until my book hangover is over.

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1 I’m not kidding, I even got kinda grumpy when keeper boyfriend returned from work and I had to divide my attention between book and boyfriend. That’s gotta mean something.

Review: Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Boys

Maybe I should make a nice big cup of tea.
Or maybe I should take a walk.
Or draw something.
Or wait a while.
Maybe, just maybe, then I would know what to write about this godforsaken book.

Fun fact: This review totally happened because I was pestered into reading this book and I knew I could not not write a review. Shoutout to C at Between The Pages for bullying my roommate into reading this, which in turn bullied me into a 1-chapter-a-day reading club (and subsequently binged the whole series within a matter of days. Thanks, B!)

I don’t like writing reviews for “big” authors. There’s smaller talents out there who maybe need the attention and exposure more, so I usually try to stick to not all that known gems. Some books make me need to talk about them though, much like Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger, and this is definitely one of them.
(Additionally, this review comes about five years late, considering The Raven Boys was published in 2012, and everybody aboard the hype train has moved on to different train stations – but eh, that’s just in line with my highly questionable work ethics, I suppose.)

I wanted to adore this book so bad. I did – and deep down I do. Should you read this book? Yes. Will you be happy afterwards? That I cannot guarantee.

Here’s what I loved: The book.
Here’s what I hated: The false advertising.

“Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”

This, Ladies & Gents, is The Raven Boys‘ blurb. I was so looking forward to teenage angst and everybody holding each other and whispering “Noooo” and “Yeeees” and all that shit, but let’s be real – the blurb does not represent the contents of the book, but instead teases the entire series. Man, was I bummed out that basically nothing of the blurb was relevant except as a preset to the story of The Raven Boys. The protagonist Blue keeps this whole death-by-kiss thing in the back of her head and there might be a little relevance here and there, but it’s still merely a subplot to the story. This shit right here is why I am unhappy. Not because the book was bad, noooo, god no, but because I wanted to read a different book, the one from the blurb, than I actually read.

Okay, enough complaining.
What did I love? Except for last paragraph’s escapade: Absolutely everything.
I don’t think I’ve ever cared about characters as much as I cared about Stiefvater’s. As previously established, I’m a character freak; characters are my make-or-break point in any book. I’ll take a shitty story over one-dimensional characters any day.
This book was so well formed out in any and every character aspects, that I even loved side characters such as Persephone. I got angry and sad and happy and that’s good.

Generally speaking, it took me a while to get hooked on Stiefvater’s literary jello, but the second half of the book just straight up flew by. I could ramble about Stiefvater’s writing style, but we all know she’s quite the name already – rightly so. I enjoyed the little quirks of her writing, the love for details (I really want to live in Blue’s house, y’know?), the pacing. I loved it. Yep. Go read it.

As a personal pet peeve: I dislike series beginnings, that can barely stand as their own book. As a beginning, The Raven Boys is great, but if you are not planning to read more of the series, the ending is going to leave you very unsatisfied.

As for me: I’m probably going to keep reading the series, once I got over my slight grudge against Stiefvater for tricking me into reading the book in the first place. Or once I actually have time to read the rest. One of those days, probably.

Even if you aren’t into YA or fantasy or romantic shit, you should probably give The Raven Boys a go. The book is beautifully written, more than entertaining, incredibly witty, smart and throughly enjoyable. Four out of four anatomically correct hearts for Stiefvater!

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Find Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter

Review: Calvin Demmer – Labor Day Hunt & Hungry Ghosts

Apologies, my literary friends! My last review has been quite some time ago and my last English review even longer, but my life has been slightly derailed from its literature-loving tracks these past few months. An even bigger apology goes out to Mr. Calvin Demmer himself – I wrote this review back in November when I was still in Russia and simply forgot to post it. Talk about hectic lives and all.

Winter has hit hard and crashing here in Russia and between the layers of snow and wind and knife sharp coldness, I am very much in the mood for some good, old horror. Snow muffles screams, they say. I’m not too keen on finding out.

A while ago, Calvin Demmer approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing two of his shorts, which he described as YA/Horror. Avid readers of my blog are probably already well informed about my soft spot for bad YA, but here’s news: I dig horror. I love everything that makes my skin crawl, from genuine slasher horror to Lovecraft to psychological thrillers à la Fitzek or Dorn and paranormal Ania Ahlborn style creeps on paper. I dig that stuff, I really do. Safe to say I was very excited to read his two stories, Labor Day Hunt and Hungry Ghosts.

Hungry Ghosts
“A rocky relationship threatens to ruin Lara Adams’ first time abroad. To her surprise, she finds that she and her boyfriend, Ray, have arrived in China during the “Hungry Ghost Festival”. Swept up in the warm mood of the festival and people, Lara feels things may finally improve. This year, however, the ghosts have found a new way to prolong their stay in this realm.”

Labor Day Hunt
“Jared Rodgers needed cash and had to work, while the rest of his hometown got to kick back and enjoy Labor Day. After answering a job ad in the local paper, he is directed to an abandoned warehouse. An ominous feeling grips him as soon as he enters the boarded-up building. By the time he realizes what’s going on, the hunt has already begun.”

So, what is there to say? Demmer sucked me in and I inhaled these short stories during my lunch breaks. I loved the easy flow of the stories, the writing came natural and I never once wasted a thought being upset about awkward wording or weird idioms. See, that’s my pet peeve – language in a book differing so much from its context that I fall out of immersion. Especially in the horror genre this can be a problem – finding high quality horror that comes down to more than a slasher movie written out can be challenging. While Demmer did not serve me full-sized horror, I still enjoyed this snack pack of terror on the go.
Demmer didn’t manage to quite avoid all cliché situations (which, admittedly, had me raising my eyebrow at times), but generally speaking none of the clichés had any noticeable effect on the story.

All in all, both stories are very readable. We’re not talking Lovecraftian Horror here, but definitely wonderful time eaters for when you need to get over with that car ride or airport layover. Just don’t read them in the bathtub, or you might stay longer than planned. Four out of five anatomically correct hearts for Labor Day Hunt and Hungry Ghosts!

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Calvin Demmer on Twitter & on Amazon


Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

I love buying books on the go, straight before I head off to whatever adventure life has in stock for me. Those are uninformed and unjustifiable decisions at the check-out and they are, quite usually, the best.

A while ago, something emotionally exhausting happened. My best friend B jumped to my help and we agreed to meet for coffee downtown; to talk about this giant jumbling mess of thoughts in my head. We discussed social relationships, grief, weird feelings, good feelings and appropriateness and it helped me a ton to put stuff into perspective. As it usually happens when B and I grab coffee, we also raided various stores, including our not-so-local book store chain Thalia.
Amongst my completely unreasonable purchases was Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice – emphasis on amongst, though.
Later that day, as we had finished raiding Thalia, we decided to head to Leipzig, which is about an hour train ride away, because we both enjoy train rides and our student tickets cover the distance.
We got there fairly easy, but our train back home was cancelled, so we embarked on an almost two hour ride in a crappy little bus and a train waiting somewhere else back home. We arrived. I was dead tired, but already had finished half of The Truth About Alice. And  that memory will forever be glued right to the book’s cover.

“Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.

But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?

It’s true. Ask ANYBODY.

Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.

In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know.

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.”

So here’s why I bought this book: For one, because I am sucker for YA with pretty covers, but also because I had hoped for a differentiated glimpse at slut-shaming, as advertised on the back. Spoilert Alert: I did not get the latter.

Before I start my rant, let me get this out there: The book is great. I loved the book. Jennifer Mathieu has a very distinct style, which she managed to wonderfully transfer onto the narrative characters of her book. I loved, loved, loved Alice and oh lord, at time I felt like punching one or two people (even as a die-hard pacifist).

I thoroughly enjoyed the story line, as more and more conflicts began to arise with each of the narrators. To be fair, I could have done without Josh and Elaine and would have preferred a deeper look into Kurt and/or Kelsie instead, but that’s just complaining on a ridiculously high level.

I breezed through the book in just two sessions and for me, this speaks volumes. It was definitely and absolute page turner, but this is also where my only real criticism comes in:

Personally, I feel like the book could have done with another fifty pages. The end felt somewhat anti-climatic, with every conflict getting resolved in the right order. Josh’s conflict could have used some more time just as did Elaine’s, but in the end the implications were enough to see where Mathieu was going with this.

I loved the book. I really did. Except for one small thing:

In my head, I had hoped for slut-shaming to be faced in a more direct, heart-to-heart-talk manner. That did not happen and I feel like that was a missed chance for Mathieu. All her female characters struggle with very female-specific problems and, in the end, only one of them has the true revelation that she is more than her conflict; Elaine.
I feel that the general notion in the book was more of a “You’re still the same, great person despite slut-shaming happening” and less “Slut-shaming is bad and we should get to the root of that.”.
Personally, the book left a bit of an impression that it communicated “You are going to find someone even though you are being slut-shamed”, which I feel is an entirely wrong response to someone suffering from this horrible injustice – especially if we are talking about high school girls. I see why Jen Mathieu chose to go down this route and, to be perfectly fair, that is an important message – your self-worth does not depend on the number of partners you have had. However, especially with a lot of girl-on-girl hate happening in this novel, I really would have wished the issue had been tackled at the root.

I feel like it would be unfair to judge a book based on the expectations I had in my head, and the more I distance myself and let time pass since finishing it, the more I like the book. It is an absolutely solid piece of YA and I can definitely give a reading recommendation. Four out of five anatomical hearts for The Truth About Alice!

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Find the Jennifer Mathieu on Twitter

Find The Truth About Alice on Amazon

Guest Review by Bekka Fuchs: Kyousuke Motomi – QQ Sweeper

If I had to put my feelings on QQ Sweeper in one word, it would certainly be a high pitched pterodactyl screech. Sadly, yelling excitedly at people is not the reason reviews exist so I am going to try my best to put the swirling fluff that flies about in my head into proper words. Let’s get started!

The first thing that I noticed was the cover (this one to be precise). I liked the colours and well, fierce looking characters in aprons kind of promise to be entertaining, especially when the series is categorized as Shoujo/Supernatural. (A quick note for clarification if you are not familiar with anime/manga genres: shoujo means literally ‘girl’ or ‘young woman’ and describes the target demographic which is female teenagers; therefore the stories oftentimes focus on romance/relationships/emotions.) It was the first story I read from Kyousuke Motomi (although I saw Dengeki Daisy a couple of times and read all of it in one go after I finished QQ Sweeper) and – I was delighted AF.

The character introduction is funny as well as interesting (and with funny, I mean a little ridiculous. Honestly.) and both of the main characters are definitely weird, but just as lovable. Their dynamic is bumpy at first, but quickly evolves to some sort of friendship, almost ‘chosen family’-like*. Very delightful!

The story itself (insert a content yet contemplative sigh here) is:

  • fascinating! The way it takes the idea of ‘cleaning one’s heart and soul’ quite literally is glorious, the thematisation of ‘cleaning’ is general is what amused me greatly and actually left me with a recurring itch to clean my own apartment thoroughly. It also deals with bullying and insecurities on a superficial-ish level and has one or another (tragic) back story.
  • frankly speaking a bit of a mess. Not necessarily in its logic, not even necessarily the pace (though this one is probably a matter of taste), but it the way some information is placed, if that makes sense. While it does not harm the coherency or reception, some things are presented as if they have an almost palpable weigh, but they do not come up again which left me confused and pretty grumpy for a little while**.

Last but not least, a little bit about the drawing style. Personally, I am very fond of the way Motomi draws noses. And faces in general, but the noses look really nice and I say that as someone who has a history of struggling with drawing noses (especially noses in different perspectives, geez!). While the noses were fine, some of the poses bugged me for I thought their angles and perspectives did not match (but that might just be the eternal perfectionist in me). I also wanted to say something about the screen tone, but I had to go back and look at it in detail to find something to write about and that should be enough of a review on that part. I believe that screen tone is nicely applied and utilized if one does not actively notice it while reading, so there’s that.

So, if you are into cute (yet mysterious) girls, cute-if-embarrassed boys, and cleaning, this manga might just be the one for you!


*I’m a huge fan of chosen families and interpersonal fluffiness without it necessarily being romance/romantic, and QQ Sweeper hit that one really well in my opinion, although there is – obviously – the/a large potential for romance so no worries.
**Hopefully every question I had at the end of this gem will be answered in Queen’s Quality which is a sequel to QQ Sweeper (and has yet to air in English; sighs and frowns all around). I have high hopes and am ridiculously excited!

Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Since, for my last couple of reviews, I have extensively rambled on in both English and German about how much I hate reviewing stuff for authors I actually know, I decided to read a book by someone completely unfamiliar for once. I literally picked this book out (which was graciously provided by MacMillan via NetGalley) based on the cover, the fact it was YA, and the first three sentences of the description.
I’ve had this book lying around in my virtual bookshelf for a while and – since I have been reading so many off-genre books in the last few weeks – I decided to indulge some good, old guilty-pleasure YA.

Before I dive headfirst into my review, I’d first like to talk about the YA genre for a while. I feel that ever since John Green came and shook up most of established young reader’s literature with his novels, YA has been tossed around like a dirty word.
While I do agree novels from this genre are often problematic (as seen in the portrayal of Alaska by John Green, but that is a whole other story), especially the LGBQT+ YA fiction deserves a very special and important spot in literature.
Looking back, I do believe that my teenage years definitely were the years when I was shaped most by the media I consumed. I delved into books because they made me feel normal and gave me the feeling that no matter how weird you are, there will be weirdos just like you out there – somewhere. For me, those books were, of course, the Harry Potter series, but also German author Gaby Hauptmann’s Kaya series, Philip Ardagh’s Awful End and many, many more. I like to believe that teenagers and adults today find the same comfort in current YA novels like I did back then.
Moreover, the YA genre plays an important role in the more accurate reflection of current realities than your average children/adult fiction. Most of the YA novels I have read were more diverse on every level, including nonbinaries, non-straight and non-white people. I feel like an awful lot of classical genre literature nowadays still covers mainly the white, straight world – which is just not representative. Presenting young readers with diversity early on without making it seem special, but simply defining it as the new reality is one way to influence the current generation into open, tolerant global citizens.
I could ramble on and on about this for another year or two, but yeah. Case closed, I still love YA and I’m glad wonderful writers like Tess Sharpe or, in this case, Caleb Roehrig continue to write diverse, sensitive literature.

I usually don’t really talk much about the authors of books I review, so I’ll just leave it at encouraging you to read Roehrig’s highly amusing bio before we jump into Last Seen Leaving, in which I will – as always – first provide you with the book’s jacket text.

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking question he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn―as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

When I started reading this book, I had no idea where this would go – all I knew was how intrigued I was by the book description.
Last Seen Leaving was one of those books for me that just became an instant page turner the second I reached the end of page one. I pretty much breezed through it in a week of not having time to read, yet anxiously wanting to continue and therefore spending ridiculously long periods of time in the bathtub. True story. I finished the last twenty percent after a day of hard moving labor, having lifted a 300kg couch onto a hayloft in the middle of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern hinterlands. While I did expect to be knocked the fuck out as soon as I would hit the sheets, I stayed alive and awake and kept suffering a little longer because I just had to finish this book.

Here’s what I loved: Kaz. Kaz might be the best written supporting character I have ever had the pleasure to meet between the pages of a book. Generally speaking, most characters were impressively well dimensioned and defined (except for Micah, what was up with that, Roehrig? I’m demanding an extra Micah and Flynn celebratory friendship short or something!) and despite their young age were still super easy to identify with.
The girlfriend, January, is a prime example of this for me as well. While she did slip into the background during the second half of the book, Roehrig managed to stir up a whole tirade of feelings I had for January – first sadness, then worry, followed by the overwhelming desire to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, then resentment and, at last, I understood her. I am utterly impressed by how well Roehrig shaped January in flashbacks, considering she never actually makes an appearance at all.
Flynn does get a honorary mention in the whole character adulation thing: He was a brilliant protagonist, faceless enough to see yourself in him, yet thoroughly shaped so you could feel for him. Flynn, we’re good, buddy.

Here’s what I loved even more than the characters: The fact that I was completely blindsided about the underlying LGBQT+ topic in the novel. It hit me square in the face and I’m pretty sure I literally reread the relevant scene about a dozen time because I had been completely oblivious to it – you either get to attribute this to Roehrig’s talents or my lingering exhaustion, whatever you guys see fit.
More importantly, I felt like the subsequent coming out-scene was free of cliche; just very natural and unromanticized or dramatized. (Almost) everyone was kind of like “Yup, okay, moving along.” – and I loved it! Between causing family feuds or endless outpours of support, these kinds of coming-outs deserve their respective portrayal just as much. Also, there is a super adorable scene related to that later (the car scene, people, the car scene!) that made me smile so wide and stupid I had to show my best friend – who did the exact same.

Here’s what I didn’t like as much: The ending. The last twenty pages felt like Roehrig was coming close to a deadline, so he dumped all information needed after one final trigger event. Don’t get me wrong, the ending wasn’t bad, it wasn’t bad at all – yet, I really wish someone could have donated Roehrig another fifty pages or so to spread the whole shebang out a bit. Someone get that guy a larger notepad for the next book!

Additionally, while I loved Roehring’s writing style, I did stumble about a single sentence which still feels so out of place in the entire book that I remain to have a hard time understanding how it made its way onto the page. I believe that during this fragment the writer was speaking for himself more than he was actually speaking for Flynn – because, between the bibliophiles of us, I doubt Flynn would have described a starry night sky as “a sky rendered into a pointillist masterpiece by limitless stars, the moon shining like a beacon through the diaphanous lace of barely-there clouds.” For my taste, this sentence stood out so harshly that I literally let out a very audible, amused snort. But, but, taste is acquired and all – someone more poetic than me might find this super pretty. I, unfortunately, don’t – but entirely positive reviews are boring anyways.

Considering this is probably already the longest review I have ever written so far, I feel like it is time to wrap it up for me.
Personally, I feel like Roehrig wrote a book to remember. It’s a book I would want my little sister and brother to read, a book that very sensitively covers a wide array of difficult topics. I have devoured the book and I have loved every last page of it – my ultimate literary dream right now would be to read the same thing from January’s perspective. Well, one can hope.

Because people have said I need a rating scale for my book reviews, I also will premier my new standard right here and now, awarding the book a full 5 of 5 hearts. Yay!

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