review

a new fav anthology! — Three Sides of a Heart

Three Sides of a Heart by Various — ★★ — releases Dec. 19

Average Rating: 3.81 Stars, but I’m giving a five because there were so many stories here on my new faves list. This was a fantastic short story collection, and I have to admit I was really pleasantly surprised after seeing some mediocre reviews.

What stands out about this collection to me is the creativity.So much speculative fiction and so many weird ideas! There’s a lot of weirdness hidden within this collection, and I have no doubt even some of my fave stories will be polarizing – I’ve already seen two one-star reviews for one of my fave stories, lol – but I think everyone will be able to come away with a few favorites out of all these weird and wonderful stories.

If you only want my recommendations for best stories in this collection, try the badass sapphic alternate history of Justina Ireland’s Dread South, the speculative character-driven scifi of Natalie C. Parker’s Cass, An, and Dra, the friendship-focused contemporary of Veronica Roth’s Vim and Vigor, the weird and wonderful magical realism tone of Brenna Yovanoff’s Vega, the fascinating characters and stunning setting depiction of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s A Hundred Thousand Threads, and the saddest thing I have ever read, Bethany Hagen’s Unus, Duo, Tres. You’ll notice that’s a full 6 of the 16 stories in this collection. I am SO. HAPPY.

# FULL STORY REVIEWS
Since I mostly wanted subversions out of this anthology, I’m going to put a 🏳️‍🌈 to indicate love triangles that aren’t three heterosexual individuals, and a ☀️ to indicate trope subversion or stories I felt did something totally new with the love triangle.

Riddles in Mathematics by Katie Cotugno – ★★★ 🏳️‍🌈
This is contemporary following a girl, her brother, and her brother’s maybe-girlfriend. This was cute, first of all, and I like that part of this love triangle was simply a guy and a girl who everyone thinks are dating but aren’t necessarily at all. Unfortunately, I think I misunderstood and believed they were dating for part of the reading. I also don’t love that the burden is put on our protagonist to deal with her homophobic parents; how, exactly, is it teenage angst to not want to associate with a mother who can’t shut up about your short hair? She’s the parent. She can deal.

Dread South by Justina Ireland – ★★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️
I’M SCREAMING AT HOW GOOD THIS WAS. It’s about a badass black zombie hunter girl in the post-civil war era and the girl who falls for her. And LOTS of trope subversion. Every racist trope, especially the “you’re the one good black person” trope, just died a very painful death. Writing style rocked, concept is of course badass – civil. war. zombie. hunters. – and honestly, I’m just so here for gfs murdering racists. Good concept and great story.

Omega Ship by Rae Carson – ★★ ☀️
It’s about… a naked girl and two hot naked boys having to repopulate the earth. Which, trope subversion, yay? I think Carson was going for a subversive feminist little story, and there was one moment towards the end I liked, but… I think the concept was just too fucking messy for this to ever turn out well. It just got cringey.

La Revancha del Tango by Renee Ahdieh – ★★★
This is about a girl in Buenos Aires and the boys she meets along the way. I think fans of good contemporary romance will enjoy this a lot, but it didn’t do a ton for me. Liked the banter, but the whole sexy-tango-dancing thing is just not me. Also, very weak love triangle and nothing new was done with it.

Cass, An, and Dra by Natalie C. Parker – ★★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️
This is a novella in which our main character, Cass, can see the outcomes of her decisions before she makes them – until she ends up torn between An, her best friend or maybe something more, and Dra, a hypnotizing person she’s just met. And it is really, really, really compelling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe towards the end. It’s more of an urban fantasy story about choices than anything else; I’d argue the love triangle is somewhat immaterial, but it’s a great way of conveying the story. (Honestly, the ideal ending to this one is them all getting together.)

Lessons for Beginners by Julie Murphy – ★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈
Bi girl falls in love with another girl while giving her and her boyfriend kissing lessons. Cute, cute, and cute. Nothing new with the love triangle, maybe, but I really enjoyed reading this.

Triangle Solo by Garth Nix – ★
Listen, I’m sorry, but it is laughable how terribly this was written. The constant ellipses. The obvious reveals. Everything. God, it was just terrible.

Vim and Vigor by Veronica Roth – ★★★★★ ☀️
Oh my god, this was so beautiful? It takes a story about a love triangle and turns it into a story about genuine friendship. So much trope subversion.

Work in Progress by E.K. Johnston – ★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️
This follows three possibly all in love with each other characters, Alex, Tab, and CJ. Each of the three stories has three sections, one for each POV. Mostly, I just found this a bit confusing: the gimmick is cool, but I didn’t catch on quickly enough and honestly found it a little too weird. Definitely not a typical love triangle, though – I really liked that none of the characters were gendered.

Hurdles by Brandy Colbert – ★★★
…huh. This follows a girl caught between her normal boyfriend and normal life, and a boy she deeply loves. Which is something slightly new, I guess, but even this I’ve seen done before. I have… so many mixed feelings. I liked all the characters and the idea, but I had too many issues to really get fully immersed. First off, our main character here read really similar to Suzette from Little and Lion AND the main character of Colbert’s Summer Days anthology story. And I suppose I just… found it kind of boring. The non-ending doesn’t help; it would’ve worked if I’d connected with everything more, but since I felt so apathetic towards the story, it did nothing.

The Historian, The Garrison, and the Cantakerous Catwoman by Lamar Giles – ★★★★ ☀️
…holy crap. Um, I’m not going to say anything about this, but I think you should read this to the end.

Waiting by Sabaa Tahir – ★★★★
This was a pleasant surprise! It’s contemporary about a girl caught between two great guys, each with their own issues and good parts. It’s not anything new, but I think I enjoyed this mostly because I genuinely liked both dudes. Another one where the ideal ending would’ve been them all getting together.

Vega by Brenna Yovanoff – ★★★★★ ☀️
It’s a love triangle between a girl, a boy, and a city. And I’m pretty sure half its readership is going to end it like “huh?” but it’s still worth reading because HOLY CRAP I LOVED IT. Brenna Yovanoff just knows how to get to the heart of the human soul, and this short story is no exception. Her writing is just… holy shit, I adore it. I loved the picture I had in my head of Las Vegas while reading; Yovanoff just excels at creating mood quickly, and making you care for stories.

A Hundred Thousand Threads by Alaya Dawn Johnson – ★★★★★ ☀️
This was really really lovely. It’s a story about a futuristic Mexico and rebellion. I don’t know exactly what I liked most about this, but I think it was probably the writing – just stunning – and the characters, who I cared about so much by the end I was near tears. The story, while occasionally confusing, had me rapt with its odd tone and intriguing worldbuilding. Can’t recommend enough – in fact, I’d love to read a full length novel.

Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️
This was quite odd; it’s a high fantasy story about an antihero, and there’s also some high fantasy polyamory going on? I felt that the actual story and worldbuilding was too confusing to truly adore, but I found the writing quite engaging.

Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen – ★★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️
Poly vampires and a whole lot of antiheroes. That was… the most painful thing I’ve read in my life. I cannot even begin to convey how painful this was. I reject this story and I very much reject this ending. I’m blocking all of you. Fuck. No one asked, Bethany Hagen. No one.

VERDICT: A collection of weird and fantastic speculative fiction stories that left me totally enthralled. This story collection was so much more than I expected and I can’t recommend this enough.

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review

five thousand plot twists — The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook — ★★★ — new release

There are three types of thrillers. There is the big ending twist, where a book of buildup leads up to one whodunit revelation that either blows your mind or makes you want to throw things. There is the obvious-twist-but-ability-to-guess-it-doesn’t-really-matter-because-that’s-not-the-point thriller. And then there is the “so many twists, you cannot possibly guess all of them, and you get a cookie for guessing one.”

That’s the category occupied by The Hanging Girl. And how.

I am not exaggerating when I say the entire book flips on its head around three times. If you guess even a fifth of the plot twists, you’ve done the impossible. And with so many twists, it is really difficult to guess the final outcome. I doubt you will, and even if you do, I highly doubt you will guess the how and why.

I’ve seen plenty of reviewers mention a few moments they found weak, and I have to say I’m not sure I noticed. Maybe I’m just less analytical than some. But I think the real reason behind my lack of notice comes from just how wrapped up I was in this story. Here’s the thing: you are meant to enjoy this book, not analyze it. You are meant to find a kind of dark pleasure in the morally-shitty characters while also finding yourself lost in the dark atmosphere of the book. I don’t think this is a book you’re necessarily meant to question or think is the greatest thing ever holy shit; it’s a thriller you’re meant to race through and hang on every word. And you know what? I loved it.

I don’t agree that this is a weak or thin thriller, though – far from it. The narrative around poverty and what it can drive people to do is well-handled without being heavy-handed. I also loved how the book made a clear connection between being marginalized and being less-than-elite; the fact that many people in non-privileged positions are queer and nonwhite is something I see erased a lot in fiction emphasizing class, and it was good that the book made it clear.

There’s also a heavy focus on our lead character, Skye, who I absolutely adored. While I can’t say I’d actually like her in real life, as a fictional character, she’s written brilliantly. Her actions feel so highly motivated that I never found it hard to empathize with her. Even her decisions towards the ending felt real to me.

I honestly have very few complaints about this book; while I think the meta-narrative of the book is not pro-slutshaming, there are several moments of slutshaming that do go somewhat unchecked. There were also a few characters I thought had more potential: Drew and Paige are both incredibly intriguing characters and deserved much more development than they actually got. All that being said, though, this was a super interesting and entertaining read. I shot through it in only a few hours and I expect many will do the same.

review

it’s a METAPHOR, Hazel Grace — Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Marie Machado

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Marie Machado — ★★★, new release

“I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway.

Strange, visceral, but altogether, just too confusing for me.

I would recommend this to those who loved the metaphorical side of Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. (Before you ask, I was not one of those people.) Because these stories… well, you’re not going to enjoy them unless you getthem, at least partially.

And to be quite honest, some of my disappointment was just plain too-high expectations. The Husband Stitch was the only Machado I’d read before, and I adored it. I expected something even better. It is the only five I gave within this collection.

I feel like some asshole on twitter is going to find this book and decide to call everyone who didn’t get this a typical straight feminist or whatever, so to clarify: I’m a huge lesbian and the women kissing were not the confusing part. I really appreciated how unapologetically queer this collection is, and would definitely recommend it in my stack of great queer fiction.

The Husband Stitch – ★★★★★
I read this twice earlier due to Melanie‘s awesome recommendation. This is a story about being consumed, losing your own agency, and how much you can give before you break. One thing is clear, though; it’s worth the read.There were a few metaphors here I only understood on the second and third reads due to sheer exhaustion, which is really upsetting – I feel like this would be my fave story ever otherwise. You can read this story here.

Inventory – ★★★.5
A story of a woman’s sex life as a plague destroys her world. Honestly, I don’t even know what this was. Okay, I do; it’s an exploration of how sex alone can reflect an environment. There’s this sort of raw quality to it, but I can’t say it ever really got under my skin, and the character work could’ve been far stronger.

Mothers – ★★★★
No summary. Uhhh… somebody please explain what the hell this story’s ending means? Because I honest to god do not understand. I think I kind of loved it, though. Maybe worth a reread.

Especially Heinous – ★★★.5
This is a slightly-too-long rundown of a series of Law and Order: SVU episodes. Using the real titles, Machado makes up an intriguing plot full of supernatural elements and twists. The ending of this worked perfectly for me, but the story itself was too long; twelve seasons is a lot of episodes and apparently, a lot of repetition. I got the point about dead prostitutes 30 pages in and at points it just kept going. Have to admit, though, that several of the episode descriptions will stay with me.

Real Women Have Bodies – ★★★★
This story is one of women who become translucent over time. I really appreciated it; the detail is visceral and the emotion raw. It is far more metaphorical than I tend to prefer, though.

Eight Bites – ★★★.5
An exploration of disordered eating and fatphobia in society especially among women! and yet I also just didn’t fucking understand 75% of this, so?

The Resident – ★★★
This one is about confronting your past and all it comes with. The thematic conclusions are good, but unfortunately, I felt it was a bit overly long.

Difficult at Parties – ★★.5
I 👏 didn’t 👏 understand 👏 this 👏 at 👏 all 👏 what 👏 does 👏 it 👏 mean 👏

VERDICT: Recommended tentatively, to those who enjoy metaphors (you’re a rare breed) and feminism (a less rare breed).

review

wow, YA is nailing abuse narratives — The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones — ★★ — new release

“This was how normal people survived their own fairy tales. They became their own kind of monster.”

my heart actually still exists but I’m going to sell it to a demon because I no longer truly have it. this was SO. CATHARTIC.

There are books that make you cry of sadness, and then there are books that make you cry with a sense of beauty. A sense that no matter how terrible things get, everything will eventually get better. Books that you emotionally connect to. And this book… wow. The Hearts We Sold is one of the best explorations of abuse and self-hate I’ve ever read.

Our lead, Dee, is an abuse survivor trying to hang on to college when she finds out she’s lost her scholarship. It is this ultimatum that leads her to sell her soul to a demon. Her arc primarily focuses around her history of abuse and her self-hatred: her feeling that everything is her fault, and that she deserves nothing. The thesis of the importance of finding family beyond your blood, and not putting up with blood when they’ll give you nothing – it’s so important to me. And wow, Lloyd-Jones captured how it feels to come from a bad household really, really well; the only other book I’ve read that captured this topic so well was Heather Demetrios’ Bad Romance. While I definitely think this one could be triggering, it’s definitely not torture porn about how much abuse sucks meant to cause tears. This book is a totally different beast.

“This must be why the demon took their hearts. Because it was the only way a human might survive this—by hollowing themselves out.”

What struck me about this book was the sympathy given to every character’s struggle within the narrative. Lloyd-Jones strays very far from making moral judgments about character action, even when certain side characters do things that are undeniably terrible, leading to a sense of amorality for every character. The side characters are each given their own narrative agency and development, and while some might not be likeable – Cora especially is not a character I’d consider likable – all are developed enough that they become hard to hate. Also, found family trope. So much found family trope.

Oh, and speaking of side characters, I adored the queer rep in here. This is one of the only YA books I’ve ever read with a relationship between a lesbian, the iconic Gemma, and a trans girl, my new book girlfriend Riley, which is lowkey sad. While I’m not trans, I personally thought Riley’s character was really well-written – she’s not a tragic trope and she’s not written in a fetishistic way at all. I also liked that several of the characters were people of color and a few had chronic illnesses or disabilities; the casual diversity is lovely to see.

While there is a romance here, there are two points in its favor: 1) it’s not the focus, and 2) James is so fleshed-out and well-written that it is impossible not to love him. The relationship between Dee and James is built so well, without too much focus towards the beginning and a focus on a slow-burn instead. I adored it, and you all know how picky I am with my book couples.

In terms of plot, though, I do think some readers may be disappointed. This is primarily a subtle story, rather than one full of action, and your enjoyment will primarily depend on how much you connect to these characters. While I do adore the worldbuilding – come on, demons everywhere making deals? – I think this story could’ve had a much smaller amount of worldbuilding and I still would’ve loved it just as much. The demon vibe is amazing, but the plot itself isn’t necessarily the focus. And I do feel quite a bit of this book was mostly buildup. It’s one of those lovely books that’s more of a beautiful buildup to a stunning final conclusion than an I-loved-this-from-page-one-couldn’t-put-it-down story.

And speaking of endings— that ending. This story’s ending was one of my favorite things I’ve read this year. It’s two pages of solid crying. It’s a perfect balance of sad and happy. It’s exactly why I LOVE emotional catharsis so much.

Basically, this is a really impactful emotional arc I’m sure will be a new fave for many. I can’t even put my finger on exactly what about it hit me so much, but this book came very, very close to making me cry. This was a buddyread with the buddyread-luck squad Melanie and Destiny, and considering we all gave it a three or above, we’ll all hopefully be looking out for more by this author. I know I plan to follow Lloyd-Jones in the future.

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review

fairy tales are SAVED — The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo — ★★ — new release

These are so, so utterly beautiful.

I have not actually read the Grisha Trilogy, only Six of Crows, but Bardugo’s attention to detail in planning her Grisha world comes through in every one of her books that I’ve read. This one is no exception. Somehow, these stories are more than just folktales; they feel both like folktales told by your grandmother and ghost stories told by your friend beside a campfire.

It wasn’t the cannibal witch that bothered me. It wasn’t even the selfish stepmother. For me, the real villain was Hansel and Gretel’s father, a man so weak-willed, so cowardly, that he let his wicked wife send the children into the woods to die not once but twice.Don’t go back, I would whisper as we approached the inevitable final illustration—happy father reunited with children, evil stepmother banished—and I was always left with a feeling of unease as I turned the last page.

Above all, this collection subverts its source material in ways clever and creative and, always, compelling. If you’re a fan of trope subversion, you’ll love this.

// THE STORY REVIEWS

# Ayama and the Thorn Wood: 5 stars. This is like a mashup of Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast. It’s a story about the power of being heard in a world that wants to shut your voice off. It’s brilliant, and all the stories within are even more so.

# The Too-Clever Fox: 4 stars. I can’t believe a story this short managed to make my spine tingle. Here, Bardugo tells the story of a clever fox and a hunter who is just as clever. This novella reads exactly like a word-of-mouth-tale, with an archetypal trickster character and several minor plot twists. This gets a five because I happened to guess a major plot point.

# The Witch of Duva: 5 stars. This is one of the best short stories I have ever read. I ended in near tears. It’s filled with Leigh Bardugo vibes. You can read this here.

# The Little Knife: Another five. Oh my god this was just beautiful? It’s a story about agency, especially of women. And the last illustration is genuinely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

# The Soldier Prince: Yet another five! This story is eerie and heart-tingling and utterly fabulous. I adore how each fairy tale changes in vibe based on what country it originates from; this is a Kerch myth, and you can completely tell.

# When Water Sang Fire: A four, sadly. This was very good, and the artwork – especially the mermaids – was some of my favorite from the whole book. I also love the subversive nature of the retelling. But… idk, I feel somewhat baited? I thought the two girls were a couple for around ten pages when they’re in fact just friends.

VERDICT: What a collection. Highly recommended for anyone who’s a fan of the Grisha world.

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review

A NEW FAVORITE BOOK — Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore — ★★ — new release

Each spring felt like all of them, not just the gardens, coming back to life. They spent winters giving their flowers to ceramic pots they kept indoors, or pulling snowdrift roses out of patches of land soft enough to grow. But now all of La Pradera was theirs. They had every acre to let out the blooms that had been waiting in their hands all winter.

I have never, never, never read anything more deeply beautiful in my life. This is the type of book I’m not quite sure how to review; something about it just hit me. The characters, the love story, the writing, the atmosphere, the imagery. I don’t particularly know, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the other two members of this buddyread – my faves Melanie and Destiny – both five-starred as well.

Wild Beauty follows a family of women who lose everyone they fall in love with. While they live in a gorgeously decorated set of gardens, the Nomeolvides women are incapable of leaving, and under control by a family called the Briars.

Estrella – One of the youngest of the sisters, and the arguable protagonist. And my icon in every way possible. Her story is one of personal agency and self-hate. Her starflowers appear when she sleeps, unwelcome, unlike those of the rest of the family, and I loved how McLemore balanced. Also, I ship her and Fel so hard. I ship her and Fel so hard.
Fel – Fel’s story is, again, one of agency. I won’t spoil his exact character arc, but I really appreciated that he’s SoftTM but doesn’t feel emasculated by Estrella’s boldness.
Dalia – I just really appreciated her, as a side character. Again, no spoilers! But the narrative around recognizing those you love as people was so powerful.
Bay – My fav genderqueer girl! She was just absolutely lovely. I love her narrative about being an outcast.

All these characters are so well-written and easy to connect with, which is something I think is hard to achieve in magical realism novels. All this beautiful imagery and lovely prose can easily be used to cover up a situation in which not much is happening, but that’s not the case with this novel. The prose is beautiful, but the story itself is just as important.

For months, Bay had been choking. Her flourishes had grown stiff, her smiles more nerves than charm. But with every meal in the Nomeolvides women’s stone house, with every plate of mole poblano, Bay sat up a little straighter.

This is an interesting book because it’s not explicitly about racism or about the oppression of queer people. But those themes are there, woven throughout every aspect of the book. It’s such a quintessential queer fairy tale, and I adoredit. So, so much.

They had pretended they were there to clean it, and because men who stood so proud in pressed slacks and wrinkled shirts were used to having brown-skinned women wait on them, he seemed not to notice.

I love that we can have books like this now: books that aren’t explicit coming out narratives or Issue Books – not that those aren’t important – yet still manage to fundamentally tie all of these issues in. It may not be the explicit conflict, but marginalization is at the forefront of this book and this narrative. This is a narrative marginalized people have been writing for years and years. Look at so many narratives about agency or forbidden love – A Streetcar Named Desire, even Beauty and the Beast – and you’ll discover marginalized people behind the scenes, writing those narratives. But it’s a narrative we have never gotten for ourselves. And it means so much to me that we finally have these.

The robbery of agency of queer women and colonized peoples is right there, right at the forefront, and this time, we get to star.

I am so grateful for how far we’ve come.

Hearts that loved both boys and girls were no more reckless or easily won than any other heart. They loved who they loved. They broke how they broke. And the way it happened depended less on what was under their lovers’ clothes and more on what was wrapped inside their spirits.

This book speaks to so many different things, from environmentalism to agency, but all I can say is: you need this. It is such an important book, but it never ceases being enjoyable. And while I’ll admit this took me a long time to read, I adored every minute, and the last 30% sold me completely on a new all-time favorite. I’m sure not everyone will enjoy it as much as I did – the lyrical writing isn’t for everyone – but personally, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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review

so. many. opinions. — Jasmine Warga’s Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga – ★★.5 – releases Nov. 15

To be clear: three stars is a fairly positive rating for me. I think this will work for a lot of readers. It’s deep and meaningful in all the right ways that can touch your soul. It’s also still an arc version, and with a few aspects improved, I have no doubt many will fall in love. It just wasn’t for me.

The book suffers here from an issue I like to call TMHTLD: too much happening, too little development. For example, one theme in this book is Julian’s relationship with his father. Unfortunately, they only have one two-page scene and then one scene right before he dies. Most of their relationship is built through exposition. Tom and Julian’s relationship needed to be built up more earlier and with less exposition. Same with Harlow and Tal’s relationship; we see so little that it’s hard to actually care. In general, I liked the ideas more than the execution.

In contemporaries, my main desire is to find characters I connect to. It doesn’t matter how deep the book is; if I can’t connect, I can’t fall in love. I didn’t fall in love with the characters here, sadly.

Talliah isn’t interesting. She’s just ordinary.

That’s… kind of how I felt about her. She’s got some development and some character, but she was hard to emotionally connect to for me. I can’t blame the author for this, I suppose; she’s a very different person than I am, far more dependent on others. Her guarded nature, however, is a trait I should’ve related to. I’d have liked her trust issues to be expanded on, rather than mentioned once and not again. Her character suffers from her traits not being expanded on.

These two issues bled into my biggest issue of all: even though there were parts I really liked, I was just really freaking bored. It’s a personal issue, but it dropped this from a solid 3 to a 2.5.

Let’s go into some individual likes and dislikes here.

 

// MINOR DISLIKES AND NITPICKS

I think with some people you can just tell you’re going to have a history with them. Even if that history hasn’t happened yet.

This is another book in which the author makes a slight case for why instalove is okay, and it works… surprisingly well. I didn’t roll my eyes when usually I would, so… success. The romance itself, though, is so flat that I couldn’t even bring myself to smile when they got together. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t belong here. The romance should’ve been cut to give more pagetime for Julian, Lena, and Tal’s family issues to get sorted out.

The writing was good, but had a few issues. These are all fairly minor and nitpicky.
• Sometimes the story will skip forward a day and Tal will tell us what happened yesterday in her internal narration. This style didn’t totally work for me. I know I’m nitpicking. Jasmine Warga, if you’re reading this, I’m really sorry.
• The writing in Lena’s story, which was done in third person past tense, felt oddly stilted. The language used in Tal’s story didn’t bother me at all, but there was something off about Lena’s first few chapters. The author hit her speed fairly quickly and from then on it was fine. Again, nitpick, doesn’t impact much.
The romantic writing. Jasmine Warga has a nice writing style, but some of the romantic lines dropped in this book are more cheesy than romantic. There’s a “since you walked in, I’ve looked at no one but you” dropped on page 219 of my arc edition. It’s just cringeworthy to read. Lena and Julian are an interesting couple, but the romance is so, so cheesy that I kept feeling disengaged. Take out a few more cheesy lines and they’re a couple I definitely root for.

Lena’s story should be amazing, because she was a character I found easy to connect to. Unfortunately, it ended up seeming out of place. The problem is that Lena’s story is meant to build into Tal’s – yet her story doesn’t flesh out Tal’s story, it is firmly her own story. Lena has too little pagetime and development to be a protagonist, but far too little information on Tal to be a side character. She either should’ve gotten protagonist treatment or not been included at all. Given the interesting themes in her story of immigration, and how much I genuinely liked her, I definitely think she should’ve been a protagonist. Multigenerational stories are awesome!

// THINGS I LOVED

• The characters, despite my complaints, weren’t terrible by any means. I’ve already mentioned previously that Lena was easy to connect to, and I have to admit, while I didn’t connect to Tal, she was still a fairly good main character. I love reading family drama stories, and the issues between Julian and Lena seem genuine.

• Everything was heartwarming. This is a quiet little story, and everything is very subtle, but it’s all very sweet.

I liked the ending a lot! Honestly, the ending was half the reason this got three stars instead of two. It was clever and a little meta and I respected it so much. It could’ve been a total cop-out, but instead it was perfect.

The diversity was awesome! I liked the background gay girls not being a big thing, and I liked the subtle themes about immigration and interracial relationships. The latter could’ve been expanded on a little more, but the development those issues got was perfect for Warga’s subtle story.

The writing. I know I mentioned a few nitpicky issues with the writing, but there was a lot to love about the writing too. There’s a simple beauty to the quotes. The romance writing is cheesy, but everything else is really nice. I might do a quick listing of quotes after the book comes out to end this review on a nice note.

IN GENERAL: A great book for hopeless romantics, especially fans of Nicola Yoon. From what I’ve heard about her, this will be perfect for any fans of The Sun Is Also A Star. Just not necessarily for me.