the NOPE tag

This was originally created by A Booktube Book. By the way, guys, I will link reviews for all of these books within the answers, in case you want to check out extended thoughts. Some are longer than others.

Also, I was saltier than the dead sea while writing this?? so uh please don’t hate me

1. NOPE. Ending: A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.

Maybe the ending of More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. (Vague spoilers, of course. And I still need to edit this review more.) I really loved this book, and I think if the ending had been hopeful or offered a hopeful future, I would’ve given it five stars and a spot on my favorite-books-of-all-time shelf. But the ending is really so needlessly tragic.

We already got that being gay sucks!! But how is it good to end in tragedy after all that? It sucks. The last 400 pages have shown us that. Isn’t it more productive to end in hope for the future? Maybe give the queer kids reading this book something to look for? Why is it deeper to end in sadness?

I honestly just got annoyed at how much this felt like Queers Die For the Straight Eye. Maybe I just didn’t get it, but I really don’t understand the point of the ending. What’s the message? What’s the moral in this outright tragedy? Clearly many loved the ending. But frankly, I hated the ending. After 350-some pages of angst over why you shouldn’t change yourself, why should the protagonist forget everything about who he is?

2. NOPE. Protagonist: A main character you dislike and drives you crazy.

This isn’t a protagonist, but I am in a Ranty mood today and I want to talk about a character that a lot of people love and I kinda hate?? Well. I like him as a villain. But as a character he rlly grosses me out.

EDIT: I forgot to type this????????

I fucking hate Kavinsky from the Raven Cycle. I love him as a villain, think he’s wonderfully complex and interesting. I’ll be honest, a redemption arc for him wouldn’t even bother me much, though I have to say it doesn’t interest me at all. But shipping him with Ronan is really… ugh?? some of the shit he does to Ronan really struck me as implied sexual assault. There’s a scene where he drugs Ronan and then touches his tattoo, which is used as symbolism for intimacy earlier in the book, and man, that’s not something I really want for a ship.

3. NOPE. Series: A series that turned out to be one huge pile of NOPE. after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Okay, two things. First of all I’m going to mention a series ending I just despise, and then I’m going to talk tropes. The series ending in question? Allegiant. I just hate this book so much and I’ll never stop being bitter about it. I don’t even care about the character deaths – I’m bitter about how shitty this book is. The weird love triangle? The nonsensical plot twists? The destruction of Tobias, formerly one of the Only Men I Trust? Whatever. It’s terrible and I hate it.

Related to trash series endings: I generally tend to hate those “villain suddenly dies in the last book because Narrative Punishment” endings. It doesn’t make me hate the series or anything, it just feels way too neat and tidy for my tastes. This is for a couple reasons. I’m a redemption arc person, first of all – honestly I think characters can pretty much come past anything and I love when they do.

Second of all, I think it bothers me how many of the characters who die (rather than being redeemed) were clearly manipulated or abused and became what they are as a result of what they’ve been through. With characters like that, I almost feel like killing them just leaves a bad taste?? There have been a couple times where I was genuinely shocked by characters surviving a series just because they’ve been through some shit.

For examples of books that DIDN’T do this and it made me really fucking happy!! Some of the characters that survived Six of Crows shocked me just because I thought they were earmarked for death from the first page. Yet another reason why that book means the world. Also, a couple characters that survived the Raven Cycle genuinely shocked me. (I can’t believe Adam Parrish managed to survive both Bury Your Gays and Bury Your Abusive Survivors what a fucking ICON)

4. NOPE. Popular pairing: A “ship” you don’t support.

I’m trying to vary my answers and I already talked about Shitty Men later in this post, so let me just talk about some others. Any ships with weird relationship dynamics where one character has all the power and the other one doesn’t. For a great example, I’m going with Elias and Laia from An Ember In The Ashes. I’m sorry, but this relationship feels so imbalanced and unhealthy?? There’s a scene in this book where the male romantic lead pretends that he’s been raping the female romantic lead. It’s so… it’s not actually abusive, Elias is kind of a fuckboy but he’s not an emotional abuser. this just makes me so uncomfortable personally?

I’m also not a fan of ships that cause female characters to lose their personalities. A good example is Captain Swan from Once Upon A Time 🙂 and also that one ship from The Fifth Wave. They just kinda gross me out because I feel like Cassie’s entire arc revolves around Evan. So not a fan.

5. NOPE. Plot twist: A plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. Holy god, the ending of this book make me so fucking bitter. Because this book is a masterpiece. Every bit of it is horrifying, every bit of it is tense, every bit of it broke my heart into a million different pieces.

And then that ending happens. And it flops so much. And I’m so bitter about it. Why the fuck would you end your powerful, important, brilliant book with this cheap and idiotic twist?

6. NOPE. Protagonist action/decision: A character decision that made you shake your head NOPE.

Every single decision made by every single YA thriller character. Lmao. I’m excluding YA suspense there, and honestly, I think the main distinction between YA thrillers and YA suspense at this point is “how stupid are the characters?” Tune in next week for me of me roasting the YA thriller genre and telling you to read YA suspense instead!! And being bitter that some people like to pretend it’s the same genre when it’s rlly not!!

7. NOPE. Genre: A genre you will never read.

I guess New Adult? I just don’t care for some of the love interests in this genre. They bother me. We’ll talk more about this later.

I’m not putting in all New Adult, though – just the overly romancey kind really bothers me. For example, I’m trying to read all the books written by Elliot Wake (you might know him as Leah Raedar) and I think I’m going to read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover just because of the subject matter. I’ve also enjoyed a few lgbt+ new adult books – for example, anything by J.C. Lillis gets my wholehearted support.

8. NOPE. Book format: Book formatting you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition

I guess weird sizes?? I don’t love weird size books. There’s short US paperback, normal US paperbacks, normal US hardcovers, and tall US hardcovers. WHY DO Y’ALL HAVE OTHER TYPES OF BOOK SIZES. Have I told you about how I have the super big US hardcover of Crooked Kingdom but the tiny short UK paperback of Six of Crows? I want to delete my blog because of that just let me die

9. NOPE. Trope: A trope that makes you go NOPE.


emotionally abusive bad boys!! Y’all have got to stop romanticizing this amount of shitty men!!

And before you come at me, there is a huge fucking difference between Morally Ambiguous Interesting Male Characters and Waddup I’m Jared I’m 19 And I Treat Women Like Shit. and there’s a big difference between “they’re both terrible and then they fall in love after some massive character development” and “they fall in love because the girl is turned on by really weird power dynamics.” Some of the men y’all romanticize in books are Literally Actually Abusive. Like. The actual men are abusive. THEY ARE ABUSIVE

and I’m not going to get on you for liking morally ambiguous characters trust me I am the fucking QUEEN of those super morally ambiguous male characters. Good example: I love Kaz Brekker. You know why he’s morally ambiguous? Because he tore someone’s eye out. You know what he didn’t do? Manipulate, physically intimidate, and emotionally abuse Inej for the entire book!! Excuse me!! Not the same thing!! Their relationship isn’t unhealthy. They don’t depend on each other, they both keep their lives and their moral codes, they just love each other. that’s GOOD. you know what isn’t good?? the amount of “I DEPEND on him I’d die for him but he’s always angry at me” romances out here

I GET that it’s fiction and y’all want to escape but can you please… say in your reviews that the Men are Shitty?? jesus i’m so bitter about the amount of books with Really Shitty Men that I’ve been recommended over the years I don’t understand the appeal!! of men who treat you like crap but it’s “hot” no!! heslyingtoyougirl.jpg leave his emotionally abusive ass and find yourself a non-abusive male character to date!! he can be as morally ambiguous as y’all want just don’t make him a Literal Abuser??

bye I’m really bitter about this??

10. NOPE. Recommendation: A book recommendation that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven I read a full spoiler review of this and not to tell y’all what to read or judge you – i’m sure there are great parts of that book – but this… romanticizes suicide lol

11. NOPE. Cliche/pet peeve: A cliche or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

I guess we’re going for things that just make me sign in annoyance, not things that make me legitimately bitter. Instalove or any dynamic where we know the characters will end up together in the end. This is just so weird and boring and annoying. I LIVE for relationships I don’t see coming until I’m already invested in both characters. Hence my absolute love for multiple-pov romances.

Since I’ve been bitter enough here, let’s list GOOD examples of ships that snuck up on me and I genuinely did not anticipate:

  • that one ship and you ALL know which one from The Raven Cycle
  • every ship from Six of Crows other than Nina / Matthias, but especially the Cute  Pure Ones
  • THAT ONE SHIP FROM NOW I RISE this isn’t even multiple POV but MAN THIS SHIP KILLED ME it takes so long to figure out they’re falling for each other and it kills me I love them and would die for them, personally, at this very moment

12. NOPE. Love interest: The love interest that’s not worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.

Unpopular opinion, I think, but maybe Nik Malikova from Gemina? I don’t hate his character towards the end – I just don’t like that he basically harasses Hanna until they form a relationship. It’s a yikes beginning. But I really shipped them towards the end, so I feel like I really can’t be too bitter about this??

Also, another random Gemina opinion: Ella Malikova is a beautiful angel and she deserves a girlfriend. (I’ll happily take the role. Just saying.)

13. NOPE. Book: A book that shouldn’t have existed that made you say NOPE.

I’ve mentioned a ton, but to add another one – Kids of Appetite by David Arnold. This book literally juts exemplifies every issue I have with the YA contemporary genre and I’m bitter even thinking about it.

Are you ready for my controversial theory? No one actually liked this. You all read this, were confused, and then gave it a five on the general principle because you thought you didn’t get it. You know why you didn’t get it? Because there is nothing here. These characters are not based off actual personalities, they’re based off idiosyncrasies. They’re interesting because they’re different, in some way, from “regular” teenagers. These. are. not. characters. They. are. props. Damn it, characters don’t have to be “unique” for me to care about them. Honest to god, this angers me so much. This is lazy. It’s lazy writing meant to look deep.

And what bothers me even more is the handling of trauma and mental illness. Because the Quirks that are being used in substitute of personality aren’t even quirks – they’re mental illnesses or differences. That is so fucking tiring. Mental illness is not a character trait. It’s not a character trait, it’s not, it’s not, and I am so fucking tired of authors pretending it is out of pure laziness.

14. NOPE. Villain: A scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.

I already did My Boy Kavinsky so I’m actually going with a character from Game of Thrones who I just really hate?? Littlefinger. I really can’t get over the fact that this dude is a pedophile. I know she doesn’t look it, but Sansa is thirteen at the beginning of this show. This dude is also just super creepy and weird and sinister. I do like how the actor does his role – he’s appropriately terrifying – but man, I’m haunted at night by the fact that some people romanticize this dude. And ship him with Sansa. Okay, that’s the really weird part. The fact that people love him as a villain doesn’t bother me at all, although I have to admit I don’t even really appreciate him as a villain because he grosses me out so much.

15. NOPE. Death: A character death that still haunts you.

That one terrible fucking death from the Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee. Not to rant, but why can’t y’all stop killing every single lesbian/bi girl in literature. Not to be weird but We Get It, You Hate Gay People And Don’t Want To Give Them Happy Endings.

This book is also kind of super racist?? I mean literally 3/5 of the characters are these rlly uncomfortable stereotypes I’m generally not a fan

16. NOPE. Author: An author you had a bad experience reading for and have decided to quit.

Ellen Hopkins. Can I just put my reviews here. I can feel her disdain for lgbt+ people driving through her pages and it makes me super uncomfortable.

Comment below if you have any similar opinions to me!!

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

I was tagged for this by lifeofaliterarynerd. And it looks so interesting that I have to do this.


I talk about the Holy Overrated Fantasy Trinity down below in popular authors, so for now let’s go with a less-popular choice. A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Maas is a terrible book!! That sends out a terrible message for little kids!! And really changed me as a person in a bad way!!




I’ll literally fight everyone about Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. (How dare y’all hate on this gem!!) This book is a little confusing, but… I guess in a good way??





I also really loved Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. Yes, the romance is idiotic and nonsensical. This is also one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read. Also, please just look at the cover. It’s… perfect for this book. And stunning. This gave me vibes of Revenge the tv series.




I’m going with two here, because the thing that always comes to mind is from a tv show and it’s a SUPREMELY unpopular opinion.

First of all, to talk books!! I absolutely fucking hate Evan and Cassie from the Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. Just hate them. They ruined the final book for me to the point where I DNFed it. I hate them.

And then to talk tv shows.


Emma, the main character of Once Upon A Time was once a fabulous badass. She is now a prop for her love interest, and I’m afraid this has totally colored my feelings of this relationship. I hate the fact that she’s turned into a prop for her own character, and I hate that all her storylines are turned around to focus on him. I actually finally dropped this show after the show did this yet again with the season five finale. A storlyline meant to be about Emma’s character exploration was suddenly plot-twisted to be all about how much they’d sacrifice for each other. That’s not cute when she never gets any storylines of her own. He wasn’t even around in season one. It’s not his show.


Nowadays, contemporary!! I really have begun to get upset with this genre. Today’s contemporaries often come off to me as either fluffy romances without much substance or really depressing books about how terrible mental illness / abuse / whatever issue is. You know exactly what books I mean with BOTH those categories. There’s the Kasie West / Stephanie Perkins type, which can be entertaining for a while but never stick in my mind. And there’s the John Green / Jennifer Niven-esque type, which is a genre I sometimes enjoy but get annoyed with easily due to the abundance of mental-illness-to-force-a-romance stuff. Sorry. I know y’all enjoy that. I have depression and I can’t. There’s a time and place for both of those, but I’m getting really tired of it all.

My ideal contemporary is coming-of-age that doesn’t focus on either romance or any particular issue, while still touching on depression and social issues.


Every single jerk dude character who the protagonist falls in love with because he’s Hawt and has Abs. So Stalker Alien from the Fifth Wave, Teen Angst Boi from The Mortal Instruments, Literal Physical Abuser Holy Fuck from Article Five, Other Physical Abuser Except This Time He’s Harry Styles from After, and Piece of Kale from Throne of Glass. Sorry.


Oh my god, so many. I usually mention the Holy Overrated Fantasy Trinity here.

Number one is Sarah J Maas, author of Throne of Glass, where I read book one and hated. This book is written terribly. Maybe the next books get better and I don’t want to disrespect that!! But this book is actually legitimately bad.

Number two is Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes, which is fairly well-written and well-plotted, but has some of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a book. They’re flimsy and badly written, but I could’ve handled this if I hadn’t gotten so annoyed. This is one where I genuinely get the hype and I’d maybe check out more of Tahir’s stuff in the future, especially given her fantastic presence online. I just don’t agree with the hype for this particular series.

Number three is The Mortal Instruments, and I actually forced myself through all three of the first trilogy. I have to admit, book three was genuinely pretty good! If the entire series had been like book three I would’ve totally understood the hype. Yes, the characters are flat and boring and stereotypical, but if I’d been entertained it would’ve been fine. I was just so bored.

And a bonus number four that I actually forgot because it’s so damn bland!! Morgan Rhodes and her Falling Kingdoms series. A terrible book.


Mental illness as a plot device. And cheating, of course.


Anything by authors that I’ve mentioned. But also probably The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, because I just don’t care about that love triangle. Even thinking about it makes me not care.



The 100. Honestly, this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It’s terrible. And the show is one of my favorite shows ever.

To copy some of my rant:

• Clarke is not a badass slytherin with complex morality. She’s a shallow, undeveloped prop for a love triangle.
• Bellamy and Clarke have crappy romantic development. I don’t even ship them hard in the show but their relationship is fucking beautiful as a friendship too. Here, their relationship is terrible and based entirely on his abs. Hate it!!
• Wells is basically a creepy stalker, rather than a guy who wants Clarke to be happy even if he can’t be a part of that
• Octavia is whiny and annoying rather than being a badass with a great character arc
• I can’t believe I forgot this but where the fuck was my son Lincoln
• No Raven Reyes whatsoever (was her character based on Glass?? Well, Glass sucks. In contrast Raven is my fucking wife)
• No subversion of a typical love triangle, meaning no takedowns of girl hate, meaning no book version of the Spacewalker episode, meaning no Raven and Clarke’s gorgeous beautiful perfect relationship
• Every single character is white and straight?? oh my god there are literally no characters who aren’t straight and white
• And it pulls the brutal-race-of-brown-people-trope out. I’m not saying the show was immune from this trope but the show had so many major nonwhite characters that I didn’t feel disgusting, and the “other race” was sympathetic in the show.
• Did I mention that there’s literally no moral conflict? Or plot?
• Did I mention Raven was literally not here
• This had nothing to do with the tv show
• The tv show is much better
• Even though I hate season three with the burning passion of a thousand suns


Anyway, hope you all enjoyed this rant about things!!

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I wasn’t actually tagged to do this, but I’ve seen it on everyone’s blogs and definitely wanted to try it out! Basically, this tag just gives me an opportunity to talk through some books I liked and didn’t like. EDIT: Romie from RomieWeDeserveLove tagged me!! She’s one of my fave book friends, so go check her out.

1. Best Book(s) You’ve Read So Far in 2017:

  • My best answer is probably Vicious by V.E. Schwab, because I love that dumb found-family with villains trope. This is the adult version of Six of Crows. Not quite as fabulous, but what is?
  • Wayfarers by Becky Chambers, because I love to be hopeful about our far-distant future and so does Becky Chambers.
  • The ADSOM series by VE Schwab, because MULTIPLE LONDONS.
  • Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas and Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, because I like my heroines morally black as they come.
  • Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by Various Artists, because plot twists and moral blackness is all I care about.
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, because magical realism is a character-driven glory.
  • No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky, because I have a sense of humor and Goldy Moldavsky has the same exact one.
  • A&B + How To Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis, because sometimes I just need happy romcoms.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, because of some of the most clever plot twists I’ve ever read. Holy shit, I’m still reeling.
  • The King’s Men by Nora Sakavic, because love doesn’t have to be linear.
  • Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, because sentient robots are people too. Apparently.
  • The DOSAB trilogy by Laini Taylor, because when devils kneel and smile, they sometimes fall in love too.
  • And Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, because plot twists and f/f romance was all I needed this year.

2. Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2017:

This is such a weird question, because I actually only loved one sequel this year where I didn’t binge the entire series at once. So I guess it has to be The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie, which killed my gay heart and left it in cold pieces on the floor. Or maybe that one Unwind story collection that made me sob. Why, Neal Shusterman?

3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To:

So, so many. I am failing at the new releases right now. The top ones are Release by Patrick Ness, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, and Want by Cindy Pon. I have copies of every single one. Why haven’t I read them? God knows.

4. Most Anticipated Release of the Second Half of the Year:

There are so many?? And I’ve honestly read a ton of them. Maybe All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. Yes.

5. Biggest Disappointment:

Hm. I’ll avoid ranting here, but maybe The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins. Christ. If we’re going to avoid the rant, I’ll go with The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson. This was just incredibly mediocre, confusing, full of flat romance, lacking in character development, and boring, complete with a bullshit ending. I honestly don’t know why I gave this two stars. I kind of hated everything past page 100. And it’s so sad, because the first hundred pages made me so excited for a fabulous book! But no.

6. Biggest Surprise:

So many!! I saw good things about J.C. Lillis’ contemporaries, A&B and How To Repair a Mechanical Heart, but I didn’t expect to love them quite as much as I did. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill was surprisingly awesome, when the first hundred pages made me expect a typical scifi romance. Despite the hype, I think I also had some pretty low expectations for The Foxhole Court by Nora Sackavic. And I have to admit, I expected absolutely nothing out of Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart, but ended up loving it.

Maybe my biggest surprise of all was Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. I only read this because of one good review by a trusted friend, and I have to admit I loved every second. Slow-burn romance and environmentalism. What’s not to love?

7. Favourite New Author (Debut or New to You):

Laini Taylor and Victoria Schwab. I’ve now read both DOSAB and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, and I’m planning to read her one remaining YA release, Lips Touch Three Times, as soon as possible. I’ve now read all of Victoria Schwab’s adult releases, and I can’t wait to get to her YA!!

8. Newest Fiction Crush:

I’m not much of a book crush person. If we were going to name one, I suppose there’s Ivy from Jane Unlimited, who’s a ton of fun. But really, I don’t have a crush on her. My newest real fictional crush was probably Nazira from Now I Rise by Kiersten White, which was back in November. It counts because I reread two chapters of this book and started crying. Fight me.

9. Newest Favourite Character:

Haha. Probably all the main characters of Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and those of The DOSAB trilogy by Laini Taylor. I love Liraz, Ziri, Karou, and Akiva so so much. And there’s just something about the morally black mcs of Vicious.

10. Books That Made Me Cry 

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill really made me sob. Full-out sobbing on my bed in the middle of night. I think The King’s Men by Nora Sakavic made me cry a bit too. And definitely Unbound.

11. Books That Made You Happy:

A&B and How To Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis. These are just so funny and happy and make me hopeful about the world?? Perfect.

12. Favourite Book to Film Adaptation You Saw This Year:

The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu series. I actually think I like this more than the book so far. The character work in the book lacked on a large level, but the show goes so much deeper into each of these characters. I get the book wasn’t trying for character work, but I feel the show is more my speed.

13. Favourite Review You’ve Written:

Oh, definitely my review for Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga. This was a three-star book, which would usually mean a fairly short review compared to my reviews of one-star or five-star books. But I went on a nitpicking session and came up with a lot of interesting points about the book. I feel really proud that I’ve learned so much over the year that I can write reviews like this.

14. Most Beautiful Book That You’ve Bought so Far This Year (or Received):

These two gorgeous covers come to mind. One of which I don’t even own yet.


15. What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of the Year:

This is a pointless question, because I have so so many! Here is my 2017 Must Reads list and my 2017 Summer TBR. Also check out my SeriesSummer TBR!!

Alright, guys, that’s it for this tag. Feel free to do it if it looks good – consider it a tag to me. You can even link me – I’d love to read yours!!

Book Chat: LGBT or just GGGGGGGGGGGG?

This isn’t so much a post as a collection of thoughts and a discussion piece. I’d really love feedback and comments on this one, because I find this topic interesting to discuss. Let’s get into it!

There has been a good increase in amounts of lgbt books in literature recently. And a lot of those books have gotten popular. Which is great, obviously. As the chief Lesbian Diversity Stan, you know I think that’s awesome. I am not here to complain about the increase in gay main characters. If you don’t think that increase is awesome and you want to save the eyes of the children, this post is not for you.

But here’s the problem: it is all focused on gay guys. “Focused” might not be the right word; it’s pretty much only gay guys who are getting this treatment. And very, very rarely, bi guys in relationships with other guys. I haven’t seen nearly the same increase in popular books about trans, intersex, bi, or wlw (i.e. women loving women) characters. And when those books do come out, they rarely become popular. Can you name a single popular fantasy book with major wlw or trans characters? Because I can’t, and I’m someone who specifically seeks out lgbt books, especially in sff.

The thing is that despite the rise in diversity in YA, the only kind of diversity that gets popular is focused around (usually white) gay guys. It’s great that we’re seeing more gay guys, but I’ve gotten to the point where I hate reading “diversity recommendation lists”. They’re all like “here are ten books about gay guys, 90% of them written by straight women! and here are two contemporaries that use mental illness as a plot device! diversity!! confetti!!” Okay, okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s also… not. I am constantly shocked by the amount of lgbt recommendations list that don’t have a single book with gay or bi women or with trans characters. That’s not an lgbt list.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely a complaint about the people making those recommendation lists. It is also true that there are very few high-quality books published by the big four that focus on wlw, trans, intersex, etc characters. However, those high-quality books get totally ignored 90% of the time.

I don’t know exactly how to phrase this. I just feel like a lot of diversity lists in the last few years have been very superficial, not offering any diversity beyond gay men. And that’s important; it just could be more, you know?

Book Chat: Trauma Narratives in YA

I have a lot of issues with YA. There are the harmful romance tropes, and the love triangles, and the instalove, and then there are more harmful romance tropes… okay, I complain about this a lot. That’s a different post. But right now, I want to address something different. Let’s talk about tragedy and trauma as they’re used in YA, because this is probably my biggest issue with current YA and NA books. We’ve all talked the topic of romanticizing mental illness to death, but here’s the question: how do you treat mental illness or trauma right?

THIS POST IS GOING TO BE REALLY LONG. I’m sorry, I had a lot to say. Feel free to just read my bolded points.

As someone who has depression herself, I find it hard to see myself in many of YA’s “depressed” characters. As YA books go, I have two major issues with books focusing on mental illness. Obviously, every depressed person has a different experience, but it’s not the portrayal of depression itself; it’s the portrayal of recovery that bothers me so. Because so many books choose to use romance as a method of recovery.

As a side note before I begin: romance as a method of recovery is an issue with disabled characters too. This post is focusing more on mental health issues, but I’d suggest checking out Disability In Kid Lit for more info.

There are several books I’ve read which use this trope. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins is a standout example, with the quote “I’ll never stop cutting; only love can make me stop.” Which is completely fucked up and I really think I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s fucked up, but I WILL DO IT ANYWAY. The idea that mental illness or trauma can be cured by love is so messed up. As a depressed teenager reading books like this, I interalized the idea of some great love to solve my problems. Obviously, love is a good thing, and your partner & you should have a beneficial relationship. But love is not the solution to depression. It can’t save anyone from depression, it can’t save anyone from rape trauma, it can’t save anyone from their mental problems. It’s fucked up to say otherwise. I’d recommend reading this post about the trope as well.

Even when this trope isn’t explicitly used, and love doesn’t explicitly cure trauma, many books have characters begin to work through mental illness only once they’re in a relationship. This applies to a few books I’ve genuinely loved as portrayals of their respective mental illnesses. Examples include History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, All The Rage by Courtney Summers, Ten Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac, The Foxhole Court by Nora Sacavick, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, and The One Memory Of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Even Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which is my literal favorite book and contains a fabulous portrayal of trauma and mental illness, even comes close to this with one of the characters. Let me be clear: I’m not calling any of these books problematic, because most of them are fucking fantastic. I would recommend almost all of these for mental illness / trauma rep! In fact, some of these are ownvoices mental illness rep! It’s the trend that bothers me. The connotation here becomes that love is required for healing. One way to avoid this is to have relationships happen after the character has already begun / come a long way in recovery, as in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

A related trope is the idea that all mental health problems or trauma must go away by the end of the book. Spoiler alert: ALL YOUR ISSUES WILL NOT GO AWAY. You learn to cope with your mental illness, not get over it. The idea that trauma and mental illness will just disappear into the wind someday is so, so toxic. It sends the message that mental illness is a temporary struggle. I prefer for characters to cope with their issues, but still have those issues. Possibly the only book I think does this perfectly is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and wow, I’m going to mention this book’s every sentence, huh? This trope occurs in almost all the “cure” books, as well as many issue books. This thread by DisabilityInKidsLit contains a great comment made by contributor S. Jae-Jones, author of Wintersong; mental illness is cured in issue books because the major conflict is the mental illness itself. Issues books try to solve problems, and unfortunately, this often leads to solving the mental illness itself.

But on the flip side: books shouldn’t always end in tragedy for abuse and trauma survivors. Honestly, just finding a book where the abuse survivor doesn’t die is ridiculously hard, especially if the character is lgbt or non-white. There’s this odd trend of abused characters and traumatized characters being villains, or being narratively punished despite being protagonists. Honestly, name a couple abuse survivors who aren’t super morally ambiguous or, at the very least, don’t begin the story as terrible people. (To be fair, I do love my abuse-survivors-getting-a-chance narratives, and will recommend them constantly. It’s just the trend of ALL ABUSE SURVIVORS BEING TERRIBLE that bugs me.) I honestly almost cried of happiness when I realized Adam Parrish survived the Raven Cycle – my impulse that he was going to die was so ingrained in me. That’s how bad this trend is. This leads us to believe that being an abuse victim makes you a bad person. I don’t even know how to explain how much this trend fucked me, personally, up. We really need to start talking about this more, NOW.

  • Half Bad by Sally Green. Bi abuse survivor dies at the end. This one’s especially gross because the author apparently promised happy endings.
  • This is the entire plot of the ridiculously popular movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Good movie, shitty narrative.
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma portrays a teen as a villain for killing an abusive parent, which I… understand somewhat? But he physically beat her constantly. I almost feel like she didn’t deserve to die as a punishment.
  • Not even going to go through the list of villains with abuse as a backstory. It’s not even worth it. It’s one thing if these characters get redeemed, but using it as plot device is just… gross.

As another example, there’s the of the depressed-person-dies-but-teaches-their-partner-a-lesson trope. There’s a great discussion here. Again, this trope isn’t necessarily terrible on its own (well… it kinda is), but it’s such a pattern. Mentally ill people are not a plot device. Let’s do some examples. While I have not read this book, in contrast to almost every book on this list, I’ve read enough about it that I think it bears mentioning – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven absolutely uses this trope. You can’t even argue it doesn’t; it’s literally a plot point. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher also qualifies. Plus every single novel about that friend who committed suicide, like I Was Here by Gayle Forman. Related is the “mentally ill sibling” trope, which is almost always used for the protagonist’s sadness. Again, trend is the problem, not the fact that we have stories about sibling bonds. It’s just that as many books focus on siblings than on the mentally ill people themselves. Maybe In Paris by Rebecca Christiansen a good example.

Related, although less egregious, is the dreaded “mental illness is quirky” trope. This trope is just terrible and needs to go away. This fits Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, and from what I’ve heard, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

There’s the flat-out misinterpretation too. There are the anti-medication books, like Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (a book which I otherwise love). Disabilities In Kid Lit has a fantastic post about the topic. And of course, there are all the many books that portray mental illness badly, like The Program by Suzanne Young. Another example is one I have mixed feelings on – in fact, for a few years it was one of my all-time favorites – but 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher should qualify just for the sheer amount of people who have been harmed by the rep. Again, this is one we can disagree on. Also, having all mental health hospitals or therapy sessions portrayed as terrible torture machines leads us to fear places that should help us heal. Don’t even know how to list examples for this – The Murmurings by Carly Anne West I remember pretty well although I don’t have a review, and I’ve read things about Splintered by A.G Howard as well.

Oh, and of course, there’s mental health being used as a plot device for psychological thrillersThe Murmurings by Carly Anne West and If You’re Lucky by Yvonne Prinz and though it somewhat sidesteps this trope, The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Again, it’s more the trend of this happening that annoys me. I get that it makes books more thrilling and is an easy way to make unreliable narrator happen – I just don’t like it much. What about Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas? That has an unreliable narrator and is fantastic, but has no bad mental illness rep. Hell, now that I think about it, most of my fave psychological novels have unreliable narrator without mental health issues.

Obviously, there are just my opinions, and I’d recommend looking at a few different people’s opinions on mental illness romanticization and trauma portrayal. Let me know any thoughts you have on these tropes and any others. Feel free to question me or disagree on anything – just be polite, and understand that I am talking from experience here. Empathy goes a long way!!

AND BEFORE WE GO: some positive recs for books about depression, mental illness, or chronic pain that DON’T kill off the trauma survivors OR use romance to cure mental illness!! Obviously, this is somewhat subjective, but these are some books that personally worked for me.

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, for a fabulous narrative around two character’s sexual / otherwise trauma, a great narrative around abuse, a major ownvoices disabled character who is an absolute badass but still realistically disabled, a character with dyslexia, and a character with ADHD. None of these characters are cured of any of their issues at any point :’)
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, for one fantastically portrayed abuse survivor and a suicide attempt survivor with a fantastic arc around depression. Neither of these arcs are tied to relationships.
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – pretty much every main character has well-handled depression and trauma, but the best treatment is pertaining to the main character. She has a beautiful arc surrounding trauma and depression. This is part of a companion trio, and it’s better with books one and two, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. Definitely does not use love as a cure.
  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky – I really connected to this character and his arc. He’s fabulous.
  • Both A Monster Calls and More Than This by Patrick Ness – I’m pretty sure Patrick Ness has depression himself, given his excellent portrayals of the issues with it in his books. Both these books explore depression in a very real and tangible way. Also heard good things about Release, but haven’t read it quite yet. Can’t wait, though!
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe – the main character is a drug addict and works through it herself. Also, suspense with lgbt rep. Yeah, the mystery isn’t great, but I love Sophie more than my own life. This book deserves more attention.
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman – A book about schizophrenia with no romance and a focus on recovery and a collaboration with Neal’s son, making the book ownvoices? Sign me up. And yes, it was just as good as expected.
  • Exit Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston – This book manages to be quite optimistic despite being about the aftermath of rape. There’s no romance, there’s a real focus on friendship… it’s awesome. Definitely worth the read.
  • Run by Kody Keplinger – Character and friendship driven! Follows a bi abuse survivor and a blind character as they run from their old life. No romance!! Ownvoices for blind rep!! Really good!!
  • Perfect by Natasha Friend – Follows eating disorders. Again, no romance and focus on friendship. It’s more middle-grade. Whatever. This book is positive and emotionally real and fabulous.
  • A couple other books recommended by DisabilityInKidsLit include When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez and This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers. I haven’t read either but definitely intend to!

That’s it, guys. Bye!!

Book Chat: Tips For Keeping Your TBR Low

So I’ve been trying to get my tbr completed for around two years. Along the way, I’ve come up with a few strategies for quicker completion.

Obviously, these are just things that worked for me, but hopefully they’ll work for a few others too. Good luck!

1. Read short books quickly. If you find a ridiculously short book on your list, read it immediately. Don’t keep twenty add-on short stories on your tbr.

2. Split up your tbr lists. Having one short pile to focus on is always good, and moving books you don’t plan to read until a long time from now onto a different list creates the illusion of having a shorter list.

You can split up any ways you want, but here are some suggestions.

Category one could be books that have just released, series you’re in the middle of, and the books from your shelf that you’re most interested in. Don’t put more than one or two new series on your priority tbr— that can kill motivation. Category two can be books that have yet to be released. It feels so good to have these separated, you can get 100 books off your tbr with no effort. Goodreads lets you order lists by priority, and I’d suggest ordering this list by release date so you always know what book is coming out next. Having this list is so much more helpful. Category three can be everything else. You can even split it up more! I have a whole other list for classics and literary fiction I won’t get to for a while.

3. Delete some books. If you do this on a goodreads account, sort your list by date added. If you added a book back in 2014 and don’t even remember why you wanted to read it, delete it. Delete books you feel obligated to try but aren’t actually interested in. Delete the continuations of series you hated. And delete any books that have universally bad reviews. You’d be surprised how many books you can get off.

Even if you have an owned tbr, donate any books you dread having to read. Try a bookswap service with those you’re not interested in if you want. #booksfortrade on twitter is always worth a try. Sure, you’ll get books back, but hopefully only books you really want to read. If there are any books you’ve heard good things about but aren’t really interested in yourself, gift them to others.

If you have A LOT on your tbr, delete everything except 150 books. I’m serious. You are never going to read all 1000 of those books when new releases keep coming out. Ask yourself how much you really want to read any of these books. Keep only those you’re desperate to read.

4. Focus on short standalones unless you have a lot of free time. Series and long books are better enjoyed when you can fully engage with them, rather than shoving in reading time. But you can finish short standalones in very little time. Also, having three series beginners on your tbr looks easier to tackle than having eight standalones.

5. Read multiple books at a time, especially if you’re tackling long classics. Forcing yourself through a 500-page book will get you nowhere. There’s no shame in reading three books at once.