Spotlight is a new feature on my blog to highlight some of the books I loved (that weren’t full five stars) 💗 Usually, this will be around 3 books that I recently liked, with a Spotlight post happening whenever I have enough books I’d like to talk about 🥰 I shortened some of the reviews that were very long but you’ll be directed to my full Goodreads review by clicking on the cover! 😊 From this time on I’ll also be including links to my favorite reviews of the books by fellow bookworms, as I enjoy reading reviews and would like to boost some of them
CW’s: Homophobia, Transphobia, Racism, Mentions of parental abuse, Frequent Drug & Alcohol use, Cyber Bullying
Representation 🌷 Black Queer Demiboy MC, Biracial Black Bengali LI, all-queer friend group
➽ Felix is a trans, black queer guy and he’s got a fantastic Arc of self-love. He has convinced himself that he isn’t worthy of love due to his mom’s abandonment and the transphobic messages he encounters. Felix is fighting hard to live his life when people give him hell for just existing as someone with multiple marginalizations and he has to work twice as hard to get somewhere. Part of him just wants to get the scholarship and get into Brown because he knows it’ll prove a point – that he deserves to be there against the odds. It’s flawed reasoning but Felix starts out feeling like he has to prove he’s worthy of love and respect, which is why he also engages with the transphobic messages. It can be heartbreaking to see, as it’s not healthy but Felix cannot stop himself and has the hope that he might make someone see that he has every right to exist. He also doesn’t reach out for help because he thinks no one will be held accountable anyways. The book discusses how it’s often easier to seek out things that aren’t good for us and won’t work out instead of the things we want and might be afraid to actually get. Felix struggle with his art so much because he feels blocked and ashamed and unworthy at times. But throughout the book, he figures out a lot more about his identity, leaves his comfort zone, and manages to let in the love that people already give him.
➽ I did relate a lot to how Felix feels like he’s stuck as the Observer, eternally condemned to the sidelines and never the one who’s participating in things. He also only has one friend that he’s super close to and not a big friend group otherwise, mainly just acquaintances, but not people you often spend time with. I related to that so much, as I’m the person to get close to very few people instead of having a big friend group. I love how Felix is allowed to be messy sometimes, but realizes his mistakes and owns up to them when he also grows as a person. He’s sometimes unfair to Ezra about his financial privilege, but also realizes that his parents are so neglectful and Ezra is allowed to complain about that too.
➽ Felix’s best friend Ezra is a little cinnamon roll, who’s always there for Felix and allows him to stay over at his apartment. He’s his only real friend and they are basically inseparable, spending almost all their time together. Ezra’s super talented, good at talking to people, loyal, and supportive of Felix. He’s humorous, cuddly, and an all-around great friend. Ezra does struggle due to his neglecting and awful parents. They have money and he’s got that privilege but they see him more like an object and don’t support him at all. Felix is oblivious for Ezra’s feelings, but Ezra pines for him hardcore and it really tugged at my heartstrings to see how devoted Ezra was to his best friend. I actually loved the best friends to lovers here as Ezra is such a good person who is genuinely interested in Felix and his well-being ❤
➽ Leah was the most amazing character. She’s a proud Lesbian and fellow schoolmate of Felix. Leah is in the same friend group but like with the rest of them Felix and her were never really close, though he does begin to like her. Leah is a great photography student, as well as a super friendly, kind, and supportive person. She tries to help Felix solve who put up the transphobic gallery and that’s how they come to spend more time together and actually get to know each other. I love how Felix and she slowly became better and most importantly real friends as the book went on!
➽ I really hated Declan at first but he grew on me. I appreciated that his actions were explained but that he still owned up for acting like a jerk. We learn more about why he’s so pissed at Ezra (his ex) and Felix. Also, his family history (view spoiler) explains a lot of his bitterness and how he – like everyone else – has got a background story you don’t know about. I loved how close Declan is with his grandfather who took him in but now struggles to get the money to go to art school. Despite myself I enjoyed Felix and him becoming closer, though Felix does begin catfishing him at first, thinking he was behind the gallery. The book did call out his behavior though – especially once Declan finds out who he’s texting.
➽ Marisol was the worst though. That was kind of the point as her character shows that even within the LGBTQ community there is transphobia. Instead of supporting each other – especially as they’re already under prejudice – some people turn against others who are different. Marisol was a prime example. She’s a TERF and constantly makes Felix feel uncomfortable, as she made a hurtful transphobic comment that he doesn’t dare speak out about, as he’s afraid it’ll make problems for his friend group.
➽ Usually, I don’t like love triangles, but this one was well-done and subtle, there was a great balance between romance, Felix growth, his art, and the search for who was behind the gallery. His relationships with both love interests were well-explored and every different from each other, which made them so interesting to see in contrast. On the one hand, you have someone who’s been in his life for a long time and truly knows him. Then there’s someone new who he immediately connects to, but it’s more complicated as they haven’t been upfront with each other which later becomes a problem.
➽ There was also a lot of nuanced discussion about figuring out your identity and labels. I loved that both liking labels as a sense of identity and empowerment and also feeling caged in by them were accepted. Characters had respectful discussions about this without invalidating anyone and seeing the advantages of labels and no labels. I especially loved the discussions in Felix’s LGBTQ support group – I do wish we had seen more of that. I love how Felix was allowed to question his identity, as it shows that even after coming out you can still question and grow to understand yourself, there is often no fixed point in completely knowing. Things can change and evolve.
➽ The book also touches upon racism, intersectionality, and privilege. Felix knows firsthand how hard intersectional identities can be, as it feels like people think you’re ‘too much’. He knows his life expectancy is so low because of transphobia and racism and homophobia intersecting and putting him at risk of being killed by bigots. Felix is also not well off financially unlike most people at his fancy art school and he sees how this privilege also affects his daily life and opportunities. He remarks upon how he thinks no one will help him because other people have easier times getting out of things, while someone like him only gets one chance.
➽ I also related to so many of the fantastic discussions about midlife crisis and finding out purpose. Felix and other characters struggle with this and it made me feel so seen. How Felix questioned if he’s even supposed to be an artist and if he’s even good enough, or if he wasted the chance to do something else that he is ‘meant’ to do. It also reminded me of how uncertain I feel at times and that it can be hard to not doubt your own path once in a while.
- Faith @ thepagesleftunread’s Review
- Adri @ perpetualpages’ Review
- Acqua @ acquadimore’s Review
- Sophie @ sophiexli’s Review
10 Things I Hate About Pinky
CW’s: Mention of illness/cancer and racism
Representation 🌷 Indian-American MCs
➽ Meet: Pinky. Like Samir, she was introduced in the previous book, and even back then I knew that I wanted to learn more about her. Pinky’s definitely a firecracker: she’s fierce, determined, snarky, and not to be messed with. Her intensity and impulsiveness don’t always go over well with those close to her, but Pinky has got a lot of passion that even Samir cannot help but admire, though he sees her mainly as a stubborn hothead. Beneath all her spark and sarcasm, there is however also vulnerability as Pinky is tired of always being put in the box by her mother and reminded that she’s someone who makes bad, immature mistakes. Most of all, she wants to prove to her mother that she can make good decisions, which is what prompts her to fake date Samir: the type of guy her mother would respect.
➽ Meet: Samir. He’s probably my favorite character of the Dimpleverse because I relate to him the most! Samir is a very security-oriented guy who always needs to plan ahead and feels the safest when he feels in control of his life, especially after his mother’s illness left him feeling helpless. His tendency to know exactly what career he wants to pursue combined with his politeness and manners makes him boring in Pinky’s eyes but she quickly learns that he’s much more than she thinks. Compared to There’s Something About Sweetie where he was introduced, Samir managed to gain more confidence, especially now that he was friends like Ashish and is less isolated than he used to be. Samir can definitely hold his own against Pinky’s sharp tongue and as an outsider challenges her to think differently about her relationship with her mother. I liked that the book discussed Mental Health and later possible therapy for his mother and him, though I wish it had been a bigger part of the story.
➽ This is hate to love, fake dating excellence! Set at Cape Cod during summer vacation this is the perfect book to read during the summer, especially as it’s fast-paced and engaging. Both characters have great chemistry and there is so much tension, attraction, angst, and all the sparks that make for a great hate to love romance! Sandhya Menon did an excellent job of bringing out the bickering between those two but also showing the confusing and growing attraction they both try to ignore and hide from each other. Inbetween the petty fights, Samir and Pinky begin to understand each other better and question what they thought about the other. Later their bickering turns more into outright banter, which is something I always enjoy!
➽ There were a lot of great themes present throughout the story. It deals a lot with parental expectations and attempts to provide their children a good life, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Samir’s mother is overprotective after her long illness and genuinely afraid to let him go after she almost died. Samir loves her, but often feels stifled by the constant attention, which is why he agrees to Pinky’s fake-dating plan. Pinky herself is always at odds with her mother who constantly susüects her of trouble and doesn’t seem to value her interests, though the reason behind that has been kept hidden from Pinky. Even her cousin Dolly struggles with her parents. Though she’s the model student and all-around a lovely person with a track record of volunteering and helping out, she feels put in a box she cannot escape. Though she knows it might end in disaster, she’s trying to have different experiences and get out of the routine of her everyday life.
➽ I wish a few things had been explored more in the end though. The main point is Samir and his mother’s relationship. While Pinky gets to have a scene where she talks to her mom, Samir sadly only tells us that he talked to his without us being able to see what they talked about specifically.
- Fanna @ fannatality’s Review
- Kav @ xreadingsolacex’s Review & Video
- Aishwarya @ writingyouthereviewsyouneed’s Review
Loveless (Alice Oseman)
CW’s: Internalized Aphobia (challenged), Alcohol Abuse, Mention of past abusive relationship
Representation 🌷 AroAce MC, f/f side couple, lesbian, gay ace & pan supporting characters
➽ The book shows Georgia’s journey of finding her identity. This definitely wasn’t an easy story to read at times as Georgia addresses her internalized aphobia and how the allonormative society has made her feel like she needs to have a relationship. Throughout the book, Georgia is constantly hoping to finally find her ‘love story’ because she’s been socialized to think that this is the ultimate goal in her life. Georgia is almost trying to ‘fix’ herself and finally feel romantic (as well as sexual) attraction but deep in her heart, she feels like this isn’t right. The book definitely challenges her own thought patterns and Georgia grows a lot to understand and accept her identity, but this might not be the book for everyone. Yet, despite my heart breaking for Georgia and her attempts to do what she had been told again and again ‘was the only normal thing’, I also appreciated the discussions of hetero and allonormativity. As Georgia explores her identity as an AroAce (aromantic and asexual) person who is also sex-repulsed, we see how difficult it is to come to terms with that. That romance (and sex) is held up to be the standard for everyone is super harmful and what made Georgia try to be different for such a long time. She learns a lot about herself in this book and notices that even her friends are struggling with society’s obsession with romance at times. I have to say that Georgia also makes her fair share of mistakes during her misguided quest to find a love story. She could be selfish without even realizing it and hurt her friends in the process, but she’s genuinely trying to make up for it and I could see where she was coming from.
Note: Please also read Ellie’s Review who discusses in-depth a lot of criticism that has also been voiced. Many have critiqued how Georgia’s sex repulsion was portrayed without also highlighting asexuals who aren’t sex-repulsed. There has also been criticism about the way Rooney, a pansexual character is written, specifically how she ‘uses sex to fill a void’ something pansexual readers have found harmful representation.
➽ There were a lot of fantastic secondary characters! The book did a great job having an interesting character cast and I was invested in almost all of the characters.
Sunil is the president of the Pride Society and probably my favorite secondary character! He’s asexual and knows what it’s like to be pushed out even in the LGBTQ community, which is why he vows for the society to be a safe space for everyone, especially those who are still questioning. I liked that Sunil was never judgemental and let Georgia figure out herself in her own time, never making her feel unwelcome or pushing her.
Rooney is Georgia’s roommate and such a complex, interesting character. She has a lot of emotional baggage from the past but tries her best to put on a bright, smiling face for college. Georgia notes how charming she is and how easily she seems to make friends, but we also see how Rooney is putting on an act to be super positive and optimistic all the time.
Pip and Jason are Georgia’s best friends. They have known each other for ages and are already a great team with a very strong bond. While Jason is the calmer one in the trio, Pip is the firecracker with a lot of temperament and passion.
➽ The book also tries to explore other experiences on the ace spectrum. There are several characters who are also on the ace spectrum who have different experiences from Georgia and I loved that we got to see them and how in the end, especially Sunil became such a good friend of Georgia’s. Sunil is the president of the Pride Society at college and he’s gay and asexual. Now he’s proud of who he is, but he also used to struggle with his identity and only felt accepted when he meets his future best friend, who’s aromantic and bisexual. On a trip back home Georgia also sees her cousin Ellis again, who’s in her 30s but scorned by her parents for not having the ‘typical life experience’ as Ellis is Single and has no children. Ellis was only in a couple of scenes but she grew on me so much! Georgia and she have some deep talks and I appreciated that we saw an older character who only now found out that she might be AroAce.
➽ There’s also a huge emphasis on friendship! Georgia’s going to college with her two best friends Jason and Pip, who have been by her side for ages. I appreciated that – despite conflicts and new experiences – all of them remain close and none of them grow apart because of college. I understand that sometimes people change and find other friends especially with such a big change of scenery, but it was refreshing to see a friendship bond that’s so strong and endured. I also especially loved Georgia’s growing friendship with her new roommate Rooney. It’s not always a given to get along with your roommate, but I’m loving when an unlikely friendship emerges, specifically with someone that you spend a lot of time with by proximity. Georgia and Rooney are different in a lot of ways, but I loved how much they supported each other and tried to look out for the other one. Furthermore, by the end of the book, we have such a strong, found family and the ending couldn’t be more perfect 💕
➽ I also loved the college setting! Georgia and her friends just started their first year of college and even though I wish we had seen more of their classes, I liked that the book also showed their different experiences with college. I also loved that Georgia and her friends made their own Shakespeare Society! It was a lot of fun to see them fighting to get the funding and creating a fun play.
- Margaret @ weirdzeal’s Review
- Jenna @ jennaclarek’s Review
- Veronika @ wordyandwhimsical’s Review
- Anniek @ anniekslibrary’s Review
- Ellie @ beyondabookshelf’s Review
Have you read any of the books I featured? What did you think about them? Any similar books that you’d recommend? 💖