The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce // Book Review

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asking more questions than it knows what to do with
stairs go both ways
creating a device that lets you sidestep reality
you can’t escape death but you can escape taxes
you can love more than one person in you lifetime

The Afterlives asks more questions than it answers. Jim had a cardiac arrest. His heart one day just decided that it didn’t want to work anymore which results him being dead for five minutes. However, he doesn’t see anything. Just darkness. What follows is Jim navigating through living a normal life to searching about what he saw. Jim encounters The Church of Search, holograms, a haunted stairwell, and a device that lets you bleed through your consciousness.

I found all of the characters Jim meets fascinating no matter how little their role were in his life. The many conversations with kooky people who wanted to cryogenically freeze their brain to the stable minded Annie who becomes his wife was like reading a really cool forum of fellow enthusiasts. I came for the exploration about life and death but stayed for the hot gossip in a small town.

While we meander a lot, I found these moments like side quests in a video game. Much more interesting and meaningful than the main plot. This includes the relationship between Claire Lennox and the Lennox brothers. It shows how the decisions we make can result in monumental consequences and how something innocuous can ruin a life. What really sticks with me is that at the end of our lives we often regret what we haven’t done as opposed to what we have done.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy // Book Review

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This was such a frustrating experience. I’m well familiar with the misunderstanding trope. You know how a conflict could be resolved or transformed if only the characters talked to each other? However, that would result in the story ending pretty quickly because the author simply cannot imagine more for their characters. So they use this device that frankly cheapens the story for me.

It’s understandable that Michael, who has abandonment trauma, would rather disappear than confront the issue. What I don’t understand is why it takes until the 90% of the book for Michael and Ann to learn the truth. Even when Poppy, their sister, tries to tell Ann that she found the will, Ann interrupts not once but FIVE TIMES. Reading that scene still makes me pop a vein. By the end of the book, I found myself annoyed and despising all of them. Fuck this family.

In the summer of their junior/senior year of high school, the Gordons plan to adopt Michael. Sure, people think it’s odd for a family to let a teenage boy into a family of two daughters, but the Gordons are not ones to turn a blind eye to someone who needs help. Despite the attraction Michael and Ann have towards each other before the adoption, they decide to bury it for the sake of this new relationship as siblings. Everything seems to move along great as Michael and Poppy form a new alliance as best friends. Ann, being the controlling sister, decides there’s no place in the family for her (seriously, she’s portrayed as emotionally inept and it shows a little too much). All of this leads to a summer none of them will forget. Ann is sexually assaulted by her employer resulting in an unplanned pregnancy that she keeps. Michael gets roped into a scheme by her rapist. Poppy dissociates through drugs and surfing.

At first I thought it was implausible but as we find out, a lot of the hurt feelings can be placed on the rapist. I get that. But when he’s out of the picture and it’s time to talk to one another, Ann simply refuses to talk. She takes a more passive aggressive stance that allows her to be mad at Michael without understanding how this all happened? Isn’t it weird to just take your rapist’s word at face value over your own brother’s? Ugh, that was the least unenjoyable thing I’ve read this year so far. Michael on the other hand never thinks to confront Ann because he’s so down bad that when he thinks the girl he loves may be in love with someone else he just punishes the whole family by never talking to them? Idiots, every one of them. At least Poppy seems to be able to find her footing first after being neglected by these two incesty ego maniacs.

I seriously wouldn’t waste my time with this book. It sucked so much with some of the most unlikeable characters with hardly a redemptive ending. In fact, the ending seemed like an afterthought. Oh, they’re better because they got matching tattoos. Ta da. The grandkids are alright.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton // Book Review

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Ugh, maybe you can write really well but still miss the mark when it comes to the plot. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get aside from the fact that the characters are bullies during adolescence and grow up to still be those people who care too much about appearances. I know this isn’t an inspirational Facebook video that teaches you the lesson of being kind to others least they have more power over you in the future. Rather, this book is a stark contrast about people who are born into privilege and who go on to have little in the way of any obstacles in their life. Sure, rich people have problems but can it be safe to say that those are usually small problems.

Who actually wants to read this book? Jo is part of a boarding school elite. Girls who make trouble (or think they do when in reality they’re just really annoying and mean). Everyone goes by boy’s names and none of the townies can touch them. The book switches back and forth between the past and present as Jo describes in detail her life as a Divine. The writing is top notch with careful descriptions that actually captures the perils and stakes of being a teenage girl. For instance, feeling left out that you’re the last one to get your period or saving particular gossip for the perfect moment to solidify your place at the top of the social hierarchy. It doesn’t seem important in retrospect but at the time it meant everything to be that girl where everyone wishes they were you.

However, as Jo continues to talk about her present life being married to a famous foreign artist and pregnant with their first child, it just made me lose hope that there was a general direction for the story. I didn’t even like Lauren who appears in her memories. A townie from the neighboring public school who constantly teased Jo for being a Divine and almost always pushing the limit of what was comfortable. Sure, I know that Jo will and is okay being that wealth affords you a moat to protect yourself from true harm but Lauren just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think I could ever be friends with someone who made fun of the way I talked, acted, and lived. That’s not really friendly.

While I do appreciate the accurate depictions of girl dynamics, I just don’t think this book was for me. It felt like I was waiting for something big to happen and it never comes.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi // Book Review

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when your previous books all had the asian girl only date white guys
and then you address the fetishization of white guys in your current book
and then you toss in some complicated immigrant family relationships
jayne is such a simp
never design for free

There was always something uncomfortable that I never really talk about because it’s hard to explain. Asian girls sometimes date mediocre white men because there’s a chance that it’ll increase your proximity to whiteness and in turn your proximity to being treated like a person. Having a white guy to shield you from racial attacks and abuses can be persuading. The distinction I’d like to make is mediocre white men. Settling for a guy who doesn’t know how to take care of himself. He can’t cook, he can’t clean, and he can’t fuck.

Instead, there’s an exchange of power because using a white boyfriend for his whiteness can give you status you weren’t previously privy to access. It’s unfortunate especially if you don’t actually love him and this relationship is transactional which, let’s be honest, is not what I want to shame. Rather, the fact that racism exists is what I disapprove. I would love for a world where interracial relationships were more common and motivated by genuine love for the person. It’s just obvious as it is in Yolk that Jayne does not love Jeremy. He uses her for her body and as she explains his sex is dispassionate. He freeloads her apartment and even brings other women in there for one night stands. Even though he’s wealthier and she works minimum wage, he constantly asks for her to spot the entirety of rent. In addition, she designs for his writer’s magazine without getting paid or credited. She’s so down bad.

For what exactly? Simply because he’s white and wealthy (that generational wealth amiright). Girl, don’t do it anymore. Don’t do it at all.

Aside from her dating life, Jayne is a walking Instagram slideshow meaning she gives the worst advice. For example, not texting someone you like back too fast because you don’t want to make them anxious that you’re going to be a problem for them. Granted, this is a traumatic response and we all need a little real life therapy. Jayne decides to reconnect with her sister, June, because Jeremy won’t move out and her sister is a rich now. The two have a visceral bond. Not the healthiest but more real than the lovey dovey relationship of siblings who text each other everyday. They’re prone to hurl insults and even tear each other’s hair out. Wait, maybe I need to reevaluate my definition of siblings.

Jayne discovers June’s secret and the two embark on a reluctant journey to the center of their childhood together. This book has feelings I’ve never read from a white author. It has dynamics I’ve never seen a white author acknowledge. I totally recommend this for fans but most importantly a message for people who hurt themselves because they think they deserve it. You deserve to be happy.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood // Book Review

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This was such a clusterfuck. Yes, I get it but it didn’t need to be a whole book. I would rather read a twitter shitposting thread and that would have been more enjoyable and to the point. Yet, at the same time the punchlines hit and even if one joke didn’t land the book didn’t dwell too long and moved on to the next joke. All of this accumulated to the constant onslaught of meme after meme. Good news of the day which wasn’t really good because it reminds you that capitalism is crushing. And most importantly you can get famous from tweeting, “Can dogs be twins?”.

I don’t know how I got through the first half of the book without ripping my hair out. It was relentless and suffocating. I could barely keep up with the narrative and calling the internet, “the portal”, actually made me think if real life is science fiction. One minute we’re giving a talk at a university about virality and the next we’re trying to post our way to making legislative change. I’m sure all of this is scalding burns but it’s not unless you’re living underneath an internet rock.

I’m sure the second half would have a lot more impact on the reader as the protagonist is made to realize that the portal isn’t real life. That she has a real life outside with more immediate consequences other than getting cancelled. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t muster myself to care. Maybe that’s what I tend to do when I’m confronted with uncomfortable situations. I think we all do that from time to time. I recommend this book for people who want to unplug for a while.