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BOOK REVIEW: Redwood and Ponytail

This book was beautiful in so many ways, and at times really hurt my heart with how good it was. Huge thanks to Abrams Publishing for sending me an early readers copy to read and review! I am, of course, always excited to read new LGBT+ fiction, so to read this book about two girls beginning to have feelings for eachother and letting those feelings grow and blossom was beautiful.


Kate and Tam meet and both of their worlds tip sideways. Neither quite knows why. Tam figures Kate is your stereotypical cheerleader; Kate sees Tam as another tall jock. And yet, the more they keep running into each other, the more their expectations don’t live up to the real thing. Beneath Kate’s sleek ponytail and perfect façade, Tam sees a goofy, sensitive, lonely girl. And Kate realises Tam’s so much more than a volleyball player: she’s funny and confident and everything Kate wishes she could be.


Redwood and Ponytail is a delicately written book overflowing with emotion. Set in a brand new year of high school, it focuses on the characters Tam (Redwood) and Kate (Ponytail). The two have seen each other in school before in passing, not knowing one another, but as the school year continues they begin to grow as friends while beginning to develop something more. Something new.

Although the main story of the book is the two characters beginning to fall for each other, there are lots of other things that help or hinder this. Kate is trying her hardest to break out of the mould that her mum is trying to determine for her, and ends up juggling her feelings for Tam, becoming the mascot of the school team, and even running for class president. We see Kate battling with the person she’s always been and this new side of her that she desperately wants to let shine. Through the book, you can see the weight that all of these things have on Kate, and how she tries to deal with each one, and also how they affect Tam indirectly.

This book is written entirely in verse, something that works so well for the story. It allows the characters thoughts to be free flowing and clear, even when they are entwined with another character’s thoughts. I found it to be very clever when there were parts of the book when both Tam and Kate had very similar thoughts – the stanzas were made up of the same sentences, just in a different order. It really gave the view that both characters were ‘on the same page’ – they just don’t know it. The verse style also worked incredibly well when characters were

I adored the narrators in this book too – aside from Tam and Kate, there are also narrators of the story named Alyx, Alex and Alexx. They act as a typical ‘fly-on-the-wall’ voice, observing everything happening to the two girls and reporting on it with ease. It’s great to have a third voice in this book discuss what the girls are missing when it’s obviously in their face. The Alexes are cryptic, observant, and very vocal about what they see, and it’s a clever addition to the book, although sometimes can be a bit repetitive at times.

On the surface, Redwood and Ponytail may look to be just a verse novel about two girls falling for eachother. But as you read the book, you discover that it is so much more. It’s a book about self affirmation, about standing up for yourself, about doing things that you want to do rather than what others want. It’s a stunning piece of literature, made even more accessible as it can be read for a younger audience too. The affirmation of these developing feelings that both characters are feeling and also having confusion over is very raw and real.

I know I say it with lots of my LGBT+ book reviews, but I really do think that young LGBT+ readers will be able to find solace with this book. New feelings are often scary and confusing, and this book captures that perfectly. The characters find people they can trust to talk to and rely on with these feelings; Tam seeks solace with her neighbours – without spoiling the book, the neighbours become incredibly helpful for Tam when discovering her own sexuality – and Kate reconnects with her sister to talk to her about her troubles and fears. It’s a good and healthy viewpoint to show characters struggling and turning to others for help – something that everyone needs to do at some point in their lives. It humanises the characters and makes them believable and even more relatable.

Final thoughts: A beautiful and affirming story, sure to tug on your heartstrings with every page. 4.5/5

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BOOK REVIEW – THE BLACK FLAMINGO

I never used to enjoy reading poetry. It would remind me of the days in school where we would endlessly have to annotate and break down somewhat miserable poems. In fact, the only poem I can remember resonating with in school was one called ‘Half-Caste’ by John Agard, a poem that tells the reader that mixed race people are much more than just being mixed, and are certainly much more than the derogatory term ‘half-caste’. The poem really meant a lot to me as a mixed race reader when many people would look at me and be desperate to know my heritage before knowing me as a person.

When I found out about a new poetry novel called The Black Flamingo, I was incredibly excited. Not only does this novel follow a young gay man coming to terms with his identity and sexuality, it also has him understanding his mixed heritage. This made me eager to read it even more – would I be met with those same feelings of recognition as I had when reading Half-Caste?


This is Michael’s story.

Join him as he enters the world, with tiny feather eyelashes. Travel from school to college, where he discovers his flock, and comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen. At university, take a seat in the audience and watch him find his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo.


The answer is yes.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta well and truly hit me in the chest with some of the chapters and verses. As a teenager and now into adulthood, I often get asked the question “Where are you from?” followed by the startlingly rude “No, where are you really from?” – as if the only thing of interest to those asking the question is not who I am as a person, but the fact that I am brown.

Where are your parents from? Where are your grandparents from? Surely you can’t just be British? Are you Spanish? Are you Turkish? Are you Arab? Is your dad black? Are you half-caste? 

Yes, these are all questions I’ve been asked before, and no these have never been prompted. These are the questions that all came rushing back when Michael was dealing with instances of his race being questioned in the book, and similarly when questioning his own race. He often struggles with the idea of not being “black enough” or not being “Greek enough” when he thinks about his race, which is something that really struck a chord. To have these instances of internal struggle being laid out on the page is something that I feel will be incredibly affirming to other readers like myself who have gone through similar thoughts in life.

Michael’s journey throughout the book is written with such care and the attention to detail is brilliant. The pages go completely black when there are darker scenes being discussed, or when something hurtful happens, but even though there are many of these pages and there are things like racism, homophobia, internalised homophobia, sexism and violence all touched upon in the book, The Black Flamingo is still a read of joy, and your heart will swell with Michael’s journey as he discovers himself internally and externally.

There is power within these pages, and as the book goes on Michael grows and blossoms. As he finds himself in his university Drag society, he comes to realise that he doesn’t have to be defined by his race or sexuality, but he can make his own definitions through his drag character. The book starts out with Michael as a fledgling with crooked feathers, but at the end he has truly spread his fully-formed wings with pride, and shaken off many of his troubles.

I was lucky enough to attend the book launch of The Black Flamingo, and to hear some of these verses spoken out loud with passion and spirit, including the remarkable poem I Come From, a poem midway through the book where Michael discusses his identity. I got chills listening to some of the poems, and had tears in my eyes as Dean Atta discussed his dedication for the book to his late grandfather and how the idea for the book came from a real moment between them – now captured forever within the book itself. It was wonderful to hear some of these verses read out, and should there ever be an event with the author, I would urge everyone to attend.

The Black Flamingo is a book about identity and about becoming exactly the person you want to be. It is beautifully constructed, and Dean Atta has created a book that I am certain will affect many readers with just how raw it is. I don’t think that the book could have been written in any way other than poetry, as it really allows us insight into Michael’s mind and life in a more personal way, as if we are truly an observer rather than a reader. The poems come to life and quickly get rooted into your heart, which isn’t hard when every verse is drenched in emotion.

Final thought: A beautiful book of growth, acceptance and self-discovery. 5/5

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BOOK REVIEW: Can Everyone Please Calm Down?

I received some excellent book post recently, a book that I’d been wanting to read for a while! Huge thanks to Wren & Rook publishing for sending me a reviewer copy of Can Everyone Please Calm Down? by Mae Martin! I really enjoyed this book – I don’t often read non-fiction, but LGBT+ non-fiction was something that I knew I’d enjoy, and I was pleased that I enjoyed and learned from this book.


Why do we find sexuality so, well…scary? Comedian Mae Martin investigates in this hilarious and intelligent guide to 21st century sexuality. Covering everything from the pros and cons of labels, to coming out and the joys of sexual fluidity, Mae ponders all the stuff we get hung up about – and then a bit more.

Mae’s mission is to ensure that in a world that’s full of things to worry about, who we choose to kiss should not be one of them. And when it comes to sexuality, she asks: can everyone please calm down?


I found this book immersive and enjoyable, and can instantly tell that it’s written by a comedian. The jokes and quips are so natural, and I never felt like I was being forced to laugh along at a certain part. Mae’s take on sexuality, labels and coming out was certainly a refreshing one to read. In an age where LGBT+ people still aren’t treated equally (the recent homophobic attack on two girls on a London bus proves this), it’s good to read a book this isn’t full of doom and gloom, but also holds up a mirror to society, a mirror that asks the question ‘why is this still such a big deal?’

Can Everyone Please Calm Down? sums up the contents of the book perfectly. Mae discusses topics such as labels, coming out, gender and identity, but also discusses whether LGBT+ people are LGBT+ because of nature or nurture, what she finds important in a partner, as well as instances of homosexuality in our history. It’s certainly an interesting array of topics, and any reader of this book should come away with the thought that actually, sexuality shouldn’t be a big deal and shouldn’t have to be constantly debated by people who have no business in your life.

This book was a really easy to understand read. I didn’t feel bogged down or overwhelmed with any overly scientific topics, nor did I feel like the book was trying to be political. It felt like I was just having a chat with a friend, where we could agree on particular topics easily and have a laugh and a chat about how silly people really are to be concerned with what gender we like. The book made me feel comfortable and it made me feel seen.

Mae’s breakdown of labels in particular was a chapter that I really connected with and enjoyed, especially with feeling seen. Sometimes I get the impression that many people are obsessed with labels and putting people into boxes, but this book was refreshing in that stance. Mae, along with Dr Meg-John Barker, break down the pros and cons of labelling, which are excellent and eye-opening. It’s a reassuring section of the book for sure, and I’m certain that readers who may be having doubts about labelling, or may feel like the label they thought matched them years ago is somehow different now, will feel reassured by this section and definitely take comfort in knowing that labels don’t have to be set forever and ever. We are all people, and sometimes people change.

I’d definitely recommend this book not only to LGBT+ readers who may want to learn more and have a comfortable and open book to read, but I would also recommend it to straight readers. It could hopefully change the idea that some straight people have that LGBT+ people are strange, different and wrong. We’re not. We’re people too.

Final thought: A engaging and educational book that doesn’t shy away from making the reader laugh too. 4/5

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BOOK REVIEW: Heartstopper 2

Heartstopper is BACK! Our favourite boys Nick and Charlie return after the cliffhanger ending of volume one, which saw them kiss at a party before Nick hurried away, seemingly embarrassed.


Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows that Charlie is gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family… and himself.


Heartstopper vol. 2 is essentially a book about self discovery, and this is especially important for Nick. Over the course of the volume, we see Nick slowly coming to terms with being bisexual, researching what it means, and speaking to Charlie openly about his thoughts and fears. This is incredibly natural, and it’s so lovely to see this part of coming out in a graphic novel form. Often in books, we either see the fallout of coming out or we don’t see it at all, as the character is already established as out. These touching and prominent scenes with Nick will give reassurance to any readers feeling a little lost and confused with these brand new feelings.

This volume of the book is also incredibly sweet! Nick and Charlie are starting their relationship and are excited about what the future may hold for them. There is quite a lot of kissing and cuddling, and plenty of moments where they’re nearly caught out. This volume of Heartstopper really focuses on Nick growing as a character, and this can be seen so clearly in every panel.

Once again the artwork is something that really sets Heartstopper apart from other graphic novels. The art is always so free, and the style is incredibly expressive. Every facial expression shows just what the character is feeling without having to second guess, and the body language is clear and understandable. It’s great to read every single page and not have to wonder what the character might be feeling – you can see it clear as day!

What I always love about Heartstopper is just how cosy it makes me feel. I could quite happily read this again and again and not get bored of it. Heartstopper is everything that LGBT+ literature for teens should be about – happy relationships, loving partners, and taking your own time to learn about your sexuality.

Final thought: A charming and loving continuation to the series! 5/5

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BOOK LIST: LGBT+ Graphic Novels

Lots of people don’t know where to start when it comes to graphic novels, but sometimes the only way to start is to dive right in! When it comes to LGBT+ content, graphic novels have shown themselves as strong contenders for excellent content. So for Pride month, I thought I’d pull together a list of LGBT+ graphic novels that I’ve read and share them with you!


 

 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Gay & Bisexual characters

Heartstopper is and always will be one of my favourite stories, and I’ve gone on about it enough on this blog to last a lifetime. Heartstopper is the story of Charlie and Nick, who slowly start to fall in love after becoming close friends. It is a story of understanding sexuality and learning to accept yourself, as well as opening up a dialogue of coming out to others. If you want a delightfully charming love story this summer, Heartstopper is the one!

Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Gancheau
Gay characters

You know how when you watch a Studio Ghibli film and want to eat every single food made on screen? I felt exactly the same with Bloom. Utterly gorgeous illustrations pair nicely with a great story about being true to yourself while also showing respect and care to those around you. The characters in Bloom learn lessons throughout this whole book, and it really shows how much they’ve learned at the end.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Genderfluid character

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a joyous book, full of pride, and is utterly perfect to read during the summer. A young dressmaker is hired by the mysterious Lady Crystallia, who is actually the alter ego of Prince Sebastian, who feels far more comfortable in elegant gowns. The entire book shows the theme of acceptance, friendship and being true to the person you know you are, but also doing this at your own pace without letting others to rush you.

Spinning by Tillie Walden
Lesbian character

Spinning is more of a memoir of sorts from author Tillie Walden. It tells the story of how she figured out she was a lesbian while falling for a friend, but also tells of her rigorous skating regime that dominates most of her life. It is a beautiful story and heart-wrenching during some scenes. However, this is quite a sad read at parts and does deal with mentions of abuse so please keep that in mind before reading.

Fence by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
Gay characters, genderfluid character

Fence is the perfect graphic novel for fans of characters with deep rooted rivalries. Nicholas is the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champ, and now is a new student to private school Kings Row, famed for its talented fencing students. There’s a fair few LGBT+ characters in this, including genderfluid character Bobby.

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Gay characters

Continuing with more sports themed graphic novels, Check, Please! is all about ice hockey! Eric ‘Bitty’ Bittle is a brand new student at Samwell University, and has fallen head over heels for Jack, the teams very handsome captain. Check, Please! is quite a fun read and has swarms of online fans, so if you like sports romances, wonderful characters, and also cooking, this one is for you!

Dead Endia by Hamish Steele
Trans boy character, gay characters

Dead Endia is absolutely perfect for fans of haunted houses, talking dogs and even the odd demonic ritual. Barney needs a job desperately, and thankfully Pollywood is hiring – at Dead End, the haunted house. This is a quirky read, and touches on subjects like correct pronouns use. The art style is super bright and colourful too!

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Lesbian characters, trans girl character

Lumberjanes is an excellent series, and is one that’s also great for younger readers too! Lumberjanes focuses on five new friends at summer camp who embark on mysterious quests and find that the camp isn’t so normal as they expect. There is an utterly adorable blossoming relationship between two of the girls, and one of the characters comes out as trans later on in the series. One of the characters even has two dads, so it’s safe to say that this series is a beautiful mix of everything LGBT+!

 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Gay characters, trans girl character

While the main romance of Saga is straight, the graphic novel series doesn’t shy away from having LGBT+ characters in the supporting cast. We also don’t know of Hazel’s sexuality, the girl who is retelling the story of her parents lives to us, the reader. One of the major characters further along in the series has a discussion with Hazel about her transition, and teaches her about respect.

The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Bisexual characters, gay characters, lesbian characters, nonbinary characters, trans characters

The Wicked + The Divine will always have a special place in my heart, despite losing its way quite a bit storytelling wise in the later volumes. However, it has always done diversity excellently. Every 90 years, twelve gods return as young people, but die after two. We follow the stories of these gods, many of them who fall onto the LGBT+ spectrum in some way, and it almost becomes a celebration of these gods lives living however they want to be as freely as possible. Here is a really interesting article discussing more on this topic! Be warned for spoilers though!

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch
Lesbian character

This is one of my favourite graphic novels! If you love Dungeons & Dragons, witchcraft, and badass heroines saving the world from impending doom, then you definitely need to pick up Rat Queens! One of the main characters is pictured often with her girlfriend throughout the series too. This is an unmissable read!

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams & Sarah Stern
Lesbian characters

I may have only read one volume of Goldie Vance, but my goodness I loved every single second of it. Giving off strong Scooby-Doo vibes, Goldie Vance follows 16 year old Goldie who loves solving mysteries in her dads Florida resort. With gorgeous art and a colour palette to die for, this is such a feel-good story with a little splash of f/f romance on the pages.

Moonstruck by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle
Lesbian characters, nonbinary character

It’s been a while since I read Moonstruck, but I remember falling in love with the beautiful illustrations and the smooth, pastel-like colour palette. Moonstruck is the story of werewolf barista Julie, who starts dating a brand new girl and decides to take her to a magic show as their first date – which goes disastrously! As well as showcasing lesbian characters, Moonstruck has the inclusion of a super fun centaur character Chet, who is nonbinary.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chang
Lesbian character

Paper Girls is perfect if you’re a fan of Stranger Things – seriously, the amount of Stranger Things vibes I got while reading this were strong! Set in 1988, Paper Girls follows four newspaper delivery girls as they stumble upon the most important story in the world. Through time-travel, mystery and drama, their lives are about to be changed forever. This was such an intriguing read, especially including one of the main characters discovering her sexuality through time travel.

Steven Universe by Katy Farina & Melanie Gillman
Lesbian character, nonbinary characters

Steven Universe is one of my favourite cartoon shows, and it’s actually a wonderful resource for teaching and showing children about same sex relationships and gender identities. It’s excellent to see this reflected in the graphic novels too! All of the gems are confirmed to be nonbinary by series creator, Rebecca Sugar, but many present as female. There are also love interests between characters, mainly gems Ruby and Sapphire who, when together, fuse through love and mutual understanding of each other to become Garnet. Here is an interesting article I’ve been reading about Steven Universe and the importance of its nonbinary representation.

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin & Nina Vakueva
Lesbian character

More badass heroines galore in this one! Heavy Vinyl mainly follows the story of Chris, who has started her brand new job in the record store, Vinyl Mayhem. By day, this is your usual record store, but in reality the store is a front for teenage girl vigilante club! Romance is peppered through this story of crime-solving and ass-kicking, and the art style is absolutely stunning!

 

Love is Love (various authors)
All sexualities and gender identities covered

In response to the horrific murders of many LGBT+ people in Pulse nightclub, artists and comic creators came together to create Love is Love, a wonderful graphic novel anthology, celebrating everything there is about LGBT+. The greatest thing about this graphic novel is that 100% of the proceeds go directly to the families, friends, survivors and victims of the shooting, via Equality Florida,

On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Lesbian relationship, nonbinary character

This has got to be one of the biggest graphic novels I have ever read. Clocking in at 544 pages, On A Sunbeam is a story that follows a group of space exploring restoration experts. Deep down, it is a story of lost love and reminiscing, as main character Mia reflects on her previous relationships and how everything went wrong. There is also a nonbinary character named Eliot. On A Sunbeam is told in both flashbacks and present day for the book, but it does take a little while to get sucked into the book completely!

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Lesbian characters, gay characters

This graphic novel deals with the idea of toxic partners, and how they end up affecting people’s entire lives. It deals with a toxic lesbian relationship, and also includes a gay relationship through the supporting characters. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is essentially everything the title says. Freddy likes to believe she’s in love with Laura, but how can that be real love when Laura keeps cheating on her and treating her like dirt? Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is actually quite an important read to show that there can be toxic relationships in LGBT+ partnerships, and that the important thing is to look out for your friends instead of ignoring them for one relationship.


I’ve read all of these graphic novels, but I’m always eager to read and hear about more! If you have a recommendation, especially if it’s LGBT+, let me know in the comments! For some of them, I made sure to research the representation as it has been a while since I read some of the titles. I’ve included a link here for a database containing all graphic novels with LGBT+ representation, which ended up being incredibly helpful for me!

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BOOK REVIEW: ALEX IN WONDERLAND

As a huge fan of Simon James Green, I was delighted to receive an early reading copy of his brand new book, Alex in Wonderland! Huge thanks to  Scholastic for sending me one! I wondered whether the book would be just as good as Simon’s previous books, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint – I read it in about three hours!


In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben… who, as Alex’s bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.

Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems…


I’ve said it on Twitter but will say it again here: Simon James Green is the king of awkward gay boys. Alex is a wonderful addition to the characters from previous books; he’s shy, awkward, doesn’t quite know how to flirt, and keeps falling for straight boys. Of course, that means a recipe for an entirely awkward summer shyly talking to – and falling for – Ben, who Alex is convinced is straight. The book doesn’t disappoint on the humour scale either, and is full of hilarious moments too, ranging from quick giggles to full on riotous laughter.

Alex in Wonderland is one of those perfect summer reads and teenagers everywhere will love to read about the adventures of these unlikely friends who pull together to create a brand new summer project in determination to save something they love. Alex also goes on a personal journey of building up his self confidence after a few months of being downtrodden by his dad’s new partner. It’s wonderful to read the blossoming that Alex goes through in this book, as well as the self love and growth that happens.

There’s mystery too, a common theme in Simon’s books! The staff of Wonderland start receiving threatening messages in the post, warning that they need to shut down or suffer the consequences. Alex and his new friends strive to save Wonderland, opting to remodel and bring in new faces, despite it usually being quite empty. All the while, Alex is juggling his crushes; the boy in the lemonade stand, Caleb, is quite handsome and flirts with Alex often, and Ben seems to mysteriously avoid any topic of his girlfriend… I won’t spoil what happens, but know that Alex does end up romantically involved and what follows is tooth-rottingly adorable.

However, Alex in Wonderland is not just a book about summer romance, mystery and friendships. It is also a book about gentrification, and how devastating this can be for residents. The Merriam-Webster definition of gentrification, for those who may not know, goes as follows:

“the process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents”

This is so visible in this book. The townsfolk are being priced out, with fancy sourdough pizza joints popping up and local businesses being forced to close down to make way for swanky new apartment blocks and trendy businesses. Local people are moving away as they can no longer afford to live in Newsands, and there are many references of richer Londoners moving there, only to be able to commute back and forth for work. It’s a situation that many people would probably be able to see in their own towns and lives.

I’m glad that Simon has chosen to write this topic into a YA book – it’s incredibly important, and far too often teenagers and young adults are terrified of the future as to not being able to afford living spaces and seeing their hometowns unrecognisable. It was definitely a good choice to bring this up in such a light-hearted book to show that life isn’t always candy and rainbows.

Final thought: A brilliant and thought-provoking summer holiday read! 5/5

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BOOK REVIEW – I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST

As one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, this book certainly didn’t disappoint. This book is a triumph, and with such utterly beautiful passages it would be hard to not read this book and have your heart break and swell while reading.


When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.


Right off the bat, this book punches you straight in the gut with feelings. The first chapter is agonising, truly agonising as Ben is about to come out to their parents as non-binary. They’re hoping that their parents will be accepting, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. What follows is the story of Ben trying to get their life back on track while trying (and failing) to not make friends. Ben moves in with their sister, joins a new school, and straight away meets Nathan, an excitable teenage boy who is eager to become Ben’s friend.

Out of all the characters, it’s really hard not to love Ben and Nathan. Ben is an artistic yet shy teenager, and really comes into their own when given free reign to paint to their hearts delight. The scenes with Ben and their therapist are some of the most important chapters of the books. Very often, therapists are painted as the ‘bad guy’ characters by either giving incorrect information or acting uncaring. Ben’s therapist is a wonderful character, and really helps Ben as they begin to understand more about how their mind works and the anxieties they face.

Ben’s character is written delicately and I am certain that this will give non-binary readers happiness in their hearts. Ben talks about misgendering, and how it makes them feel, and also touches on the subject of body dysmorphia. The supporting characters also touch upon these topics; there is a scene where Ben’s sister, Hannah, corrects someone for misgendering Ben which is so important, and also scenes where Hannah helps Ben with their dysmorphia as best she can, letting Ben be as free and as out as they want to be when staying with her. As the novel progresses, so does Ben’s confidence and happiness, and it’s great to see them find something that really gives them joy – that being friendship, comfort at being out, and Nathan.

Onto the subject of Nathan, he was a character I had high hopes for and he didn’t disappoint. As a black, bisexual character, I was so worried as to how the author would portray Nathan – far too often, there is a stigma within black communities about LGBT+ people which is incredibly saddening. I Wish You All The Best made me relieved. Nathan is proud and confident about his sexuality, and has a supportive family who he feels safe with. I’m thrilled that Nathan has been given a fantastic light for young black LGBT+ readers to see and relate to positively. Nathan is so supportive of Ben too, giving more strength to an understanding and accepting black character of gender identities.

I Wish You All The Best is definitely a powerful and likeable book. The characters are all likeable and voiced appropriately as teenagers with worries, doubts, anxieties and first experiences. There is never a moment where you question why a character is doing something, as everything is so appropriately fitting for each situation. It’s well written too, and I found myself flying through it only to stop and savour some of the passages and chapters.

This book was brilliant, and I feel that it will end up being a rather helpful tool for teens and young adults in similar situations; it will definitely be reassuring to read a book with a character POV that they can relate to, but also something to help them understand and realise that they are not alone and can do great things. Mason Deaver has written one of the most open, educational and delicately beautiful debut books that I have read in a long time. They are clearly a genuine watchable talent in the world of books right now, and I long to read more penned by them in the near future.

Final verdict: A timely and emotional debut that will resonate, support and ultimately help its most important audience: non-binary teenagers. 5/5