Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label lgbtqia characters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lgbtqia characters. Show all posts

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Jamaica? No, she wanted to.

This is possibly the grittiest and most "literary" book I'll read this year. I mean it. It's the kind of book you study in high school and hate, but read on your own and love. It's one powerful piece of writing, and it reminded me of The Color Purple but even bleaker.

Here Comes the Sun is set in Jamaica in 1994. The basic plot is a queer, black woman (Margot) trying to build a better life for herself and her loved ones. This involves working for a posh, white hotel owner and prostituting herself.

It's a character-based novel written in the third person, present tense (my favourite) and switches POVs between Margot, her secret lover (Verdene), her sister (Thandi), and her mother (Delores). All four are very flawed and complex, and they feel real. I thought Thandi and Delores were interesting, but I was much more invested in Margot and Verdene's lives. They're opposites in some ways but similar in others, and their relationship is pretty complicated.

One interesting feature of this book is the dialogue, which is written phonetically/in the Jamaican dialect. This gives the setting and characters authenticity, but I struggled to understand a few of the words and phrases. I got the gist of what they were saying, though.

I enjoyed the writing style. The non-dialogue parts are quite sophisticated and flow well, and I could picture the setting in my head. It made me want to go to Jamaica and see what it's like for myself, the good and the bad.

I liked the idea that this island we think of as paradise is really not. The book deals with some horrible themes: poverty, racism, rape, homophobia, forced prostitution... It's not for the faint-hearted. But, as I said, it makes an interesting contrast with the island setting.

Remember I said this book is bleak? Yep. It doesn't have a happy ending. Margot achieves her goal of having money and owning her own big house, but she loses everyone. It's a warning to be careful what you wish for. I don't blame Margot for her ambition - she just wants to exit the cycle of poverty - but the way she goes about it is unethical and she betrays her family and her lover. The book ends on a bitter note.

Overall, I really enjoyed Here Comes the Sun. (Well, "enjoyed" is a bit strong for such a dark book...) If you're interested in reading about Jamaica or just want to read something that's not set in the UK/US/Australia, this might be worth a try. If you're looking for something gritty with queer women of colour as two of the main characters, I definitely recommend this one.


Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas.

At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars.

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Review: The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz

The girl with the dragon tattoo still has it.


She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . . 
Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are back to kick arse in this book, a continuation of the Millennium trilogy that's written by a different author. Lisbeth is back to her usual tricks, but in this book we see that she kind of has a caring side as well. It's really nice to see her protective streak for another human being.

This book is fast-paced, probably more so than the original series. Almost all the action happens over 5 days. That's not even a week! And the book is 430 pages! That's a lot of action in not much time. It's exciting, it kept me hooked.

We meet some new antagonists, victims, and other supporting characters in this one, but we also revisit old characters from the original trilogy, such as the people at Millennium magazine and Officer Bublanski's team. I thought this was well done as we get to see Lagercrantz's take on Larsson's characters as well as some original characters. I guess you could liken it to fanfiction.

Speaking of which, you can tell it's a different author and translator, but it imitates the style of original trilogy pretty well. It's similar enough that the writing style doesn't jump out and say, "Hey, I don't fit in with the other books!" but at the same time it's also not quite as dry as Larsson's style.

The book explores themes such as surveillance, artificial intelligence, and how journalism has changed. None of it made me comfortable, and it's not meant to. If this book taught me anything, it's to question everything. It also makes you wonder how ethical is surveillance? AI? (I'd say not at all. It's terrifying stuff.)

There's a tiny bit of LGBTQ representation in this novel. Lisbeth's bisexuality, established in the original trilogy, is mentioned again. There's also a flirtation between two supporting female characters. But neither of these things are important to the plot, which is fantastic. They're queer women just because. They get on with their jobs and their lives and their sexuality doesn't define them. I want more of this in books, please.
There's also an autistic child in this book. I don't know enough about autism to know if it's a respectful portrayal or not, so I'll leave that for others to analyse. But there's autistic representation either way.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Spider's Web. It isn't a necessary addition to the Millennium series, but it's an entertaining and exciting one. While it has a cute ending, there are definitely loose threads to be tied up in the next book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. I'll be reading that one for sure. What should I do while I wait for its publication later this year?

Add it on Goodreads

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Gladiatrix (Gladiatrix #1) by Russell Whitfield

Genderbent Spartacus with lesbians.

The good

  • It's about female gladiators! Hell to the yeah!
  • Scheming Romans 
  • The book assumes the reader knows stuff about ancient Rome, because you'd hardly read it if you didn't (thank you, author, for treating us as the knowledgeable people we are)
  • LGBTQ representation! There are: lesbian characters and F/F relationships (but they're gladiatrices, so don't expect happy endings) and a very very minor M/M relationship with a hopeful ending
  • The protagonist, Lysandra, is Spartan and looks like Xena (just putting it out there)
  • Her character growth is subtle but it's there
  • Her gladiator name is Achillia, the feminine form of Achilles (how cool is that?!)
  • Friendship, sisterhood, and kinship are very important to the characters in this book
  • Lots of gruesome action (this could be a negative, depending on your POV, but I found it was fun and provided more realism)
  • Gladiators that actually die
  • One of the side characters is a prostitute, and her male lover doesn't judge
  • The ending is happyish (the main characters don't get what they want, but it's not all bad) and sets things up for a sequel.

The bad

  • Typos and strange paragraph formatting, but that might just be because it's an ebook
  • No Roman matrons (c'mon, where are the Roman daughters, wives, and mothers?)
  • No descriptions of the classical architecture (what do the arena and temple look like?) (I love my columns)
  • It's quite long, so there's heaps in it, but it's not a quick read (which could be a positive, depending on your POV).

The ugly

  • The one black male character is a creepy and violent rapist drug addict and his name is similar to the word "nasty" (need I spell out RACISM?)
  • Rape. Not only that, but it's a violent gang-rape. Gross.


If it weren't for the rape and racism, I would've loved this book. In addition to that, if there were no typos and we saw some Roman women as well as the gladiatrices and slave girls, I'd definitely give this five stars. I'm definitely reading the sequel though.

I felt a bit strange that this was written by a man, but he did a pretty good job at writing a vaguely feminist novel whose main characters are lesbians. I'm impressed.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to fans of women warriors and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. There's explicit violence and sex, so avoid if you're not into that.

    The summary

    Under the Flavian Emperors the Roman public’s hunger for gladiatorial combat has never been greater. The Emperor Domitian’s passion for novelty and variety in the arena has given rise to a very different kind of warrior: the Gladiatrix.

    Sole survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Asia Minor, Lysandra finds herself the property of Lucius Balbus, owner of the foremost Ludus for female gladiators in the Eastern Empire. Lysandra, a member of an ancient Spartan sect of warrior priestesses, refuses to accept her new status as a slave. Forced to fight for survival, her deadly combat skills win the adoration of the crowds, the respect of her Lanista, Balbus, and the admiration of Sextus Julius Frontinus, the provincial governor.

    But Lysandra’s Spartan pride also earns her powerful enemies: the Dacian warrior, Sorina, Gladiatrix Prima and leader of the Barbarian faction, and the sadistic Nubian trainer Nastasen.
    When plans are laid for the ultimate combat spectacle to honour the visit of the new Consul, Lysandra must face her greatest and deadliest trial.

    Add it on Goodreads

    Saturday, 25 February 2017

    5 Things I Loved About Goddess by Kelly Gardiner

    If this swashbuckling heroine doesn't define awesome, I don't know what does.

    Hi everyone! This is my first review in a long time because I'm finally back. I read this book a month or two back, and I loved it so much I had to take notes so I could share the awesomeness with you all. So without further ado, here are 5 things I loved about Kelly Gardiner's Goddess.

    1. Fascinating main character

    Julie is a crossdressing, bisexual French opera singer and swordswoman from the 17th-18th Centuries. She reminds me a bit of Casanova. That’s interesting in itself. But I also loved her confidence, as it’s rare to find a female character who knows she’s beautiful or/and brilliant. Julie knows she’s great; she calls herself a goddess, and it's refreshing. (Wonder where the title came from, hmm?)

    2. Interesting story

    This novel is an adventure and a half. Julie has a very eventful (albeit short) life and what’s more, the author didn’t make it up; Julie d’Aubigny was a real historical woman and the events in the novel are based on documented events. I couldn’t believe it when I read the author’s note at the end and found this out. I also couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this awesome woman. The best thing? She was not the only crossdressing, swashbuckling lady at the time.

    Julie d'Aubigny
    Kelly Gardiner has a blog post about the real life of Julie d’Aubigny here.

    3. Unique voice and tone

    The book is set up as a transcript of Julie’s deathbed confession to a priest. It’s written as a monologue, including her responses to what the priest says (which is not included, so you have to be smart and guess). She’s sassy and intelligent, which makes for fun reading.

    4. Beautiful language

    The writing flows and is a joy to read. It’s concise yet descriptive and is also emotional, especially at the end. Julie has a lot to say, but her story fits in at under 300 pages, all the while affecting me enough to rate it 5 stars. French words scattered through the text also make it feel more authentic, although sometimes I wanted to look them up to check a) what they meant and b) if they were real words…

    5. Women living on their own terms in an oppressive historical society

    Refer to 1 and 2. Need I say more? 


    If you love history and interesting women, do yourself a favour and read this hidden gem! I’ve read a lot of Kelly Gardiner’s books, so I can also vouch for her as a good author. What are you waiting for?


    Versailles, 1686: Julie d'Aubigny, a striking young girl taught to fence and fight in the court of the Sun King, is taken as mistress by the King's Master of Horse. Tempestuous, swashbuckling and volatile, within two years she has run away with her fencing master, fallen in love with a nun and is hiding from the authorities, sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Within another year, she has become Mademoiselle de Maupin, a beloved star at the famed Paris Opéra. Her lovers include some of Europe's most powerful men and France's most beautiful women. Yet Julie is destined to die alone in a convent at the age of 33.

    Based on an extraordinary true story, this is an original, dazzling and witty novel - a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman.

    For all those readers who love Sarah Dunant, Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel.

    Add it on Goodreads

    Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Top Ten LGBTQ-Related Films

    Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is movie freebie, so here are ten films that feature LGBTQ characters and themes.

    Links go to IMDb pages.

    4. Camp Belvidere (2014)

    5. Bound (1996)

    7. V for Vendetta (2005)

    10. The World Unseen (2007)

    What are your favourite LGBTQ movies? What's on your to-watch list? (I still have to see Carol and The Handmaiden...)

    Tuesday, 6 September 2016

    Top Ten F/F Relationships on TV

    Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is to do a television-related topic, so I've chosen to do my ten favourite female/female relationships on television, past and present. Some of these are ships, some are friendships, some are antagonistic relationships. Not a spoiler-free post.

    1. Xena & Gabrielle

    Xena: Warrior Princess 
    This one's a given.

    2. Xena & Callisto

    Xena: Warrior Princess
    Gif source
    You hurt me, I hurt you back tenfold.

    3. Eve & Varia

    Xena: Warrior Princess
    Gif source
    Varia has good reason to hate Eve, but ultimately forgives her. Cue happy feels.

    4. Ilithyia & Lucretia

    Gif source
    The best frenemies to ever frenemy.

    5. Gaia & Lucretia

    Gif source
    They genuinely care about each other and Gaia is essential in Lucretia's character development.

    6. Nicole Haught & Waverly Earp

    Wynonna Earp
    Gif source
    No Bury Your Gays trope here!

    7. Waverly Earp & Wynonna Earp

    Wynonna Earp

    Gif source

     Healthy family relationships are so rare in fiction. Given the end of season 1, let's see how long this lasts.

    8. Cosima Niehaus & Delphine Cormier

    Orphan Black
    Delphine is alive!

    9. Clara Oswald & Jane Austen

    Doctor Who
    Still a better love story than Twilight, and they don't even have any scenes together.

    10. Alex Vause & Piper Chapman

    Orange is the New Black
    Gif source
    Such an unhealthy relationship that sometimes it's hard to watch. But it's so good!

    Talk to me...

    Do you know all these relationships? Which are your favourites? Who would you add to the list?

    Saturday, 20 August 2016

    Girls don't want boys; girls want more LGBTQ characters in genre fiction

    I see plenty of LGBTQ books (especially in YA) being published these days, and this is a fantastic step for representation. These sorts of books are essential for young LGBTQ readers to know that they are valid and are not alone in having their experiences. They're also important as they help non-LGBTQ readers to understand the issues our community faces. It's all well and good to have these sorts of books becoming more mainstream.


    Most of these books fit into a specific LGBTQ genre. Which is fine in itself, I certainly won't complain about there being a whole category of books dedicated to non-cis and -straight characters.


    The problem is that these characters are being confined to this one genre. We need to see more LGBTQ characters in our beloved genre fiction, characters whose orientations are not part of their character development or the plot, they just happen to be LGBTQ because they can. We need to see these characters because our LGBTQ identities are not all that we are - we can exist without being riddled with angst because we don't conform to a hetero- and cisnormative ideal. We can be LGBTQ and still get on with our lives without it being a big deal. We can be LGBTQ and face huge problems that have nothing to do with our orientations.


    There need to be more LGBTQ characters in genre fiction to make sure we get the representation we deserve, and to make sure our community (especially the young ones) doesn't get classified as angst-ridden, hormone-raging adolescents. Genre fiction deals with bigger, wider issues, like historical and fictional societies, war and politics and morally grey decisions. It's easy for LGBTQ characters to be featured, heavily or not, in these books without any stretch of the imagination (there have always been LGBTQ people and there always will be, so there's no need for "Is it historically accurate for this Medieval character to be gay?" These characters won't always use these labels for themselves, especially if they live in the past, before these words came into use, but labels for their orientation is a subject for another post). It's easy, so they should be included in these books. They need to be included in these books.


    I'd like to point you in the direction of the Bi the Way trope (FYI, TV Tropes is an amazing website for a) learning about millions of tropes you didn't know existed, and b) filling in a few hours). In this trope, the character just happens to be bi because they can be, not because it makes them more interesting or allows for more angst. If you go to the page, you can see examples of the trope's use in literature, film, TV, and other media. This trope proves that it is indeed possible for a character in genre fiction to be LGBTQ without their orientation being its own plotline.


    Give me bi men in space. Give me aromantic lesbians in Ancient Greece. Give me transwomen on fantastical quests. There are so many stories to be written, and so many identities to represent, so just make it happen: put more LGBTQ characters into genre fiction. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Just give my community the representation we deserve.


    1. While writing this post I was thinking about genre fiction books, but the same applies for TV and movies. 
    2. My definition of LGBTQ includes heterosexual aromantics and heteroromantic asexuals. I won't take part in any discourse surrounding this.
    3. I just decided now that this will be the first in a series of posts about LGBTQ representation in fiction. Can't wait? Neither can I! 

    What are your favourite examples of LGBTQ characters in genre fiction? What is your favourite type of genre fiction? Who is your favourite LGBTQ figure from history?

    Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Curses & Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

    Finished reading on: 16 February 2016

    I'm experimenting with review styles, so let's see how this goes. Tell me what you think of this format.

    The good

    • Gorgeous cover
    • Great for young Classics nerds and fans of Spartacus (and therefore me) – Gladiators! Roman women! Pompeii!
    • Satisfied my need to read more things set in Ancient Rome
    • Cool use of Latin (which I largely understood, thanks to Spartacus)
    • Decent writing
    • Historically accurate - the author clearly knows her stuff without showing off too much; includes interesting author’s notes about the setting
    • Learnt some new things, such as curse tablets, and that Pompeii wasn’t always a Roman town (Sulla took it from the Etruscans in 80BCE)
    • Basically, the setting is the best aspect of the book

    The bad

    • The protagonists (Tag and Lucia) are tolerable, unlike a lot of YA characters, but I preferred Quintus, a main character who gets forgotten about, because I love arsehole characters
    • Written in the third person but the POV changes are unnecessarily marked
    • Having only two POVs (Tag's and Lucia's) is limiting, and I would’ve liked to read a least a chapter from each of Quintus and Cornelia’s perspectives
    • Repetitive likening of Tag’s good looks to Apollo's

    The ugly

    • Plot based on the romance (booooring!)
    • More gladiator and running-from-volcanic-eruption action needed (not at the same time; that drove me nuts about the 2014 film Pompeii)
    • Ending so disappointing it knocked a whole star off my rating (I was all set to give it four stars)
    • A whole lot of characters' fates forgotten due to limited POVs - what about Cornelia, Quintus, and the gladiators and slaves?

    The romance

    • Childhood friends suddenly fall in love
    • Would’ve liked to see the first move between Lucia and Tag at least another 50 pages later on (I prefer slow burn). However, I did appreciate Lucia considering the difference between love and lust this early on.
    • Love triangle avoided due to an unrequited love I’m proud to say I saw from the very start (although I had moments of doubt where I was wondering if my slash goggles were making me see things that weren’t there). The suggested solution for the trio's dilemma was on my mind since then, too.

    The blurb

    Two star-crossed lovers.
    One city on the brink of destruction.
    Tag is a medical slave, fated to spend the rest of his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But he yearns to fight in the arena himself and win the freedom to live - and love - as he wants.
    Lucia is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a man she doesn't love. But she's determined to follow her heart wherever it leads.
    Can they find each other before the volcano destroys their whole world?

    Add it on Goodreads

    Tuesday, 26 January 2016

    Top Ten LGBTQ Characters

    Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

    This week is freebie week, where you pick a topic "near and dear to your heart". Since LGBTQ representation is extremely important to me, I thought I'd pick my ten favourite characters belonging to this group. 70% are from TV, the rest from books and movies. (By the way, sorry about the lack of T in this list, but I know barely any transgender characters. They're out there, I just haven't come across them.)

    1. Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess, played by Lucy Lawless)
    2. Lucretia (Spartacus, also played by Lucy Lawless)
    3. Agron (Spartacus, played by Dan Feuerriegel)
    4. Saxa (Spartacus, played by Ellen Hollman)
    5. Jack Harkness (Torchwood, played by John Barrowman)
    6. Ianto Jones (Torchwood, played by Gareth David-Lloyd)
    7. Achilles (The Iliad by Homer & The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (not the Troy version, despite the image I've used!))

    8. Lisbeth Salander (Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson)

    9. Piper Chapman (Orange Is the New Black, played by Taylor Schilling)
    10. Alexander the Great (Alexander (2004), played by Colin Farrell (yes, the movie kinda sucks, but he's my second historical fave so we'll let that slide))

    Since this is a topic close to my heart, comments are more than welcome!

    Sunday, 11 October 2015

    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy #3) by Stieg Larsson

    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3)
     Date finished: 11 October 2015

    I just finished the last book of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and I'm worried that I'll never be able to enjoy anything I read ever again. I feel that no other book will compare in complexity and intrigue. It's by no means a perfect book but it is one of the most fascinating and gripping reads I've had in a long time. 

    The story picks up right from where The Girl Who Played with Fire ends, which is a good thing, because the previous book ends on a cliffhanger. The plot is complex, even more so than in the prequels, and takes you on a real journey of ups and downs - just when you think it's going one way, a single piece of information discovered by a character turns it around. The result of Lisbeth's trial (what I consider the first of two climaxes of the novel) is more or less what I expected, although the chapters from the trial are still necessary for us to see the extent of the deception inside the Swedish Security Police.

    As with the rest of the series, the writing is very dry. I won't go too much into that because I'll just be repeating what I've already said in my reviews of the first two books, but we are spoon-fed a lot of information. I felt exhausted after reading an almost 20-page explanation about one character and the Section, only for him to be virtually killed off a couple of chapters later. We don't even see the characters working that out on their own, we are just given the dump of information, which interrupts the flow of the story.

    The ending is nice. The plot is resolved in the epilogue and the last chapter, but in the last page and a half of the epilogue the relationship between Lisbeth and Blomkvist, the two protagonists, is finally resolved as well. The characters themselves don't change much, if at all, but because the series focuses more on an amazing plot than character development, that doesn't matter. In any case, Lisbeth remains amazingly resourceful and Blomkvist just as clever and confident to the point of cockiness as she does. It's only while writing this that I'm realising how similar they are.

    Since this is the last book in the series, I didn't like that there new characters introduced, adding to the long long list of minor characters. One of them is a blonde police officer whose role seems mostly to fall in love with Blomkvist and show up his one flaw: his inability to commit to a woman. Although she does get some cool police action.

    This book and the series in general includes very cool use of technology, most of which goes over my head, but it's impressive. However, the series is dated, confined to its early to mid 2000s setting because past events are always given a specific date, and it's possible that in ten years it won't be relevant anymore.

    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is a great conclusion to the memorable Millennium trilogy. The series is not for the faint-hearted, the common theme being violence towards women and violation of their rights, but it's like nothing I've ever read before, and I would recommend it to readers over 16 who enjoy the crime genre. Now, another author has written a sequel, , and while reading the reviews I considered not bothering with it, partly out of respect and partly because of other things people have mentioned, but I decided that I will read it, if only for the purpose of reviewing. So my adventures with this series are not over yet!

    Saturday, 22 August 2015

    Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

    Date finished: 22 August 2015

    Ask the Passengers is one of the best novels I've read in 2015, and as you can see from my previous reviews, I've read some pretty good books this year. It's so good that I read it in one day, unable to put it down.

    The plot is pretty simple, but nice. I think I'd read somewhere that it's a character-heavy rather than plot-based novel, but I enjoyed its simplicity - it's more realistic, considering the 21st Century, small-town America setting - you don't expect huge tragedies or monstrosities, or quest for the good of mankind. Instead, you get petty teenagers, small-minded townies and family getting in the way of a girl who just wants to be herself. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a happy ending that will make you grin. There are a couple of points that didn't seem to be resolved, such as a court appearance that didn't happen, but I loved the plot in general.

    The protagonist, Astrid, is a very cool character who I could connect to. She's smart, perceptive, and funny, a non-mainstream teenager who doesn't want to be labelled by her peers. I think one of the reasons she's such a success as a fictional character is that so many of us can relate to her, no matter who we love or where we're from. I don't know how you could read this book and not love her.

    Most of the supporting characters aren't as loveable, including Kristina (Astrid's dishonest best friend), Dee (Astrid's pushy love interest), and Ellis (Astrid's selfish sister), and I disliked many of their actions, but their behaviours are justifiable and Astrid forgives them, so you can't help forgiving them too. The parents are far from perfect and understanding, but how many parents are? As Astrid herself philosophises, nobody's perfect. Her relationships with all these characters are rocky, but in the end everything is sweet.

    The writing is beautiful, a requirement for me giving a five-star rating. Sometimes first-person point of view in the present tense gets old, but no other style would be suitable for this novel. Astrid's voice is fantastic and it feels like a teenage girl could really be telling this story - it doesn't feel like a middle-aged woman trying and failing to write about teens, it's authentic and not overly complicated just for sophistication. I even laughed out loud once or twice, as it's funny too.

    This isn't your usual kid-realises-they're-gay LGBT teen novel, because there is so much more in it. I especially loved the Greek philosophy aspect, when in YA books I usually find it a bit pretentious of a young character to be that philosophical, but it's done in a neat way that instead of hurting my brain made me go along with it because it made sense. I also enjoyed the whole sending-love-to-the-aeroplane-passengers idea because even though it's unusual, it's believable, as people do have quirks like that. Of course, I did like the questioning-your-sexuality part too, which is the main theme of the book after all, but these other ideas make it wonderful and unique.

    There are so many reasons why Ask the Passengers is worth reading, some of which I've probably forgot to mention, but I can't recommend it enough to fellow teenagers and young adults, and any people who don't like their identity being put into boxes by society. Astrid questions the paradox that nobody's perfect, but this book is pretty close to it.
    I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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