My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh // Book Review

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What is it about depressed, rich white women that automatically makes me rate a book five stars. Do I have some sort of vile fetish seeing wealthy people unhappy. Although, I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Nest. So maybe it isn’t about “rich people have problems too” but something else.

Say for instance, complex narratives about unlikeable women who manage to charm me anyways. The protagonist in this novel is the greatest antagonist to herself as she spirals into a life a seclusion. It begins with abandoning her appearance, watching more Whoopi Goldberg, and finding a doctor to prescribe all the drugs. Yet, is that really ground zero as the protagonist delves deeper into her life so far. She remarks on every aspect and regards it as unremarkable fodder resulting from a byproduct of being alive. Nothing truly matters as she examines the steps it took to come into her wealth, beauty, or relationships. These markers of success have a veneer of cynicism as she attributes her blonde hair and thinness as the magic words to grant access to this privileged lifestyle. Her friend-enemy Reva is always at her side to remind her that she earned nothing while Reva’s hard work falls short every time in comparison. Her parents tolerated her existence as obligatory in a facade of domesticated normality. Her sometimes boyfriend’s self proclaim misidentified sadism as another form of toxic masculinity.

It amounts to nothing and so she decides to take a break. A hibernation so to speak that will hopefully restore her energy the world has unforgivably stolen without replenishing. Armed with various drugs to knock her out and wake her up, she slowly drifts farther away from society. It’s a cycle of fulfilling basic human needs until she entirely refreshes anew.

Although the book can be tiresome and depressing, I found a lot of truth. People are fickle and irrational. We all indulge in thinking about disappearing whenever we may feel lost or hopeless. Sometimes people bounce back quicker while other times it doesn’t end so well. I see My Year of Rest and Relaxation as an anthem to the downtrodden. Yet, it’s not so pessimistic as the protagonist takes the gamble that if she wakes up, she will stay awake.

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Pretty basic. Were they even trying? The image is cropped nicely but I fail to see the correlation between the figure and the description of the protagonist in the story. The pink font would look better as a serif and not so bright. A muted pink or cream instead. It seems that the author’s name is more important so that justifies the hierarchy. Just out of curiosity here’s another alternative that I whipped up. It’s not perfect but I’m trying to make a point that there could have been further thought put into it. While the original cover screams blasé and contemporary A R T, it lacks intrigue. In fact, I thought that the title was more interesting and wondered why the cover looked as if it was designed in five minutes. This cover is the definition of “I don’t care” and “Because art” so maybe it’s fitting.

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Jasonest Jason // Dark Matter Thoughts

S P O I L E R S   A H E A D

Okay, humor me but there’s so much potential. After finishing Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, I realized that this isn’t my first foray into the multiverse. In fact, I am well aquainted with a rather destructive and humorous journeyer by the name of Rick Sanchez also known as C-137 also known as the Rickest Rick of them all.

So what’s the connection outside of the apparent science fiction element? Well, I wondered why Jason was able to succeed despite all of the odds stacked against him. Facing possibly hundreds of similarly status opponents, he out smarted countless versions of himself and convince Daniela he’s the One True Jason™.

That led me to thinking what would happen if the knowledge that we were an option and not a choice was ubiquitous? There could be a cult religion that championed the notion of a singular universe as the true universe. Everything else would be a tangent from a the initial stem. Obviously, that’s not how many worlds theory works but I have an inkling that people will conveniently gloss over it. I can just imagine the awesomeness to ensue if there was a book/movie dealing with flat earth conspiracy level of misinformation and a method to eradicate universes. This is getting out of hand but I want some high stakes bullshit the likes of Dwayne Johnson has not starred in yet.

In all honestly, I did come across a fan theory circulating the Rick and Morty fandom. In one episode, Rick contemplates suicide but decides against it being too distraught to even align his head underneath the death ray. However, many fans questioned the triviality of such an act. If Rick were to go down, he would take every version with him as well. While I’m glad that Dark Matter took a more realistic route, I think it could have been more ridiculous and not suffered for it.

☟ Tell me your thoughts down below if you’ve already given the book a read!

 

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch // Book Review

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⭐️⭐️⭐️

Um, so this book was awesome. Look, I don’t mean to throw shade on books targeted towards adults but they tend to fall into the same tropes as any other demographic. Usually, (in really general terms) there’s a guy who’s married and is somewhat dissatisfied with his banal life. He longs for the stimulation of the unexpected. Lo and behold, that very wish is granted unbeknownst. His wife is murdered/kidnapped/has a secret life and it’s up to him to exact justice. Now this 9-5, blue collar man is the ultimate detective/hit man/spy. It plays into the fantasy that we can escape our lack luster existence and I don’t trash it. All I’m asking is for some self-awareness.

What I like about Dark Matter are Jason and Daniela. They have chemistry which works in their favor as the threat at hand becomes bigger than Jason can handle alone. There’s so much that could go wrong but Daniela does something unbelievable: she helps the plot and isn’t an obvious obstacle to have Jason overcome. Maybe I’m putting the bar quite low but I appreciate that she’s not a throwaway character. She matters and has speaking parts and has her own thoughts! On the same spectrum, Jason doesn’t completely change. He’s not the one who knocks.

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Jason remains true to his character even if it may cost him everything. He contemplates all of the choices he could choose and decides that he has to transcend his Jason-ness to become the ULTIMATE JASON. In a way, it’s fitting how everything turns out.

So why can’t I give this raving reviews? The writing certainly bogs down the whole operation. It’s cheesy and riddled with cliches that belong in inspirational Facebook posts. The first couple of chapters had me fooled that it would be another mediocre escapist fantasy of a middle aged man going through a mid-life crisis. In some ways, that juxtaposition to the oncoming shit storm is perfect. The ending was a bit blasé and the insertion of “woke” diatribes in between the journeying was thinly veiled and superficial. It wasn’t until the endgame that I was truly annoyed and wanted Jason to face reality instead of shutting himself in his echo chamber of incredulity.

In the end, I still recommend.

 

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Yes. I live for this condensed rounded san serif. That negative space that’s also rounded and squared. I can’t breathe, it’s so beautiful. The cropping is just right. The splicing and duplication makes me want to cry in joy. I am afraid and mystified. That red is so saturated that it alludes sinister intent. 1000 points to Gryffindor for sneaking in “a novel” in between the chaotic shapes! It’s too good.

Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together (Sort Of) by Arden Rose // Book Review

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Why do I feel disappointed that people have to remind others not to live in absolute filth? I’m having PTSD from rooming in college with a girl who loves to cook and then dump any leftover food to fester in the sink. Some of the advice in Almost Adulting include doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom (the place you wash away your actual shit), and wiping down surfaces. I’m not impressed.

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No, cleaning doesn’t have to be your priority when you have a million of other tasks to take care of first. However, you’re not rolling in money from the stock interests you’ve invested in to hire regular service. So, yeah, be considerate if you’re sharing a space but otherwise who cares (except me). That pretty much sums up the first 50 pages. The rest is a mixture of anecdotes and attempts to deconstruct them.

At best, it’s a harmless memoir reaching out to the self-centered monster in all of us. Sometimes, it’s not so bad to take care of yourself either because you realize that no one else is going to do it for you. While I didn’t find a lot to take away, I do appreciate the whole “positivity vibe” that you might find in a quirky inspirational quote book at Urban Outfitters. Arden dispels sex myths and makes arguments about why the Internet is integral to our relationships. I think that if I had read this early on while still in high school, I would have honestly gained more confidence. Most self-help books tell you to be the best version of a human being instead of simply being a better you. I’m glad that Almost Adulting does the latter.

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I mean, do I have to say any more? It’s aesthetic af and if you didn’t enjoy the book then it’s a beautiful decoration piece.

People Like Us by Dana Mele // Book Review

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Slight spoilers because it’s that uncomplicated and I need to shake my head in disapproval. Now that you have ignored my warning, please continue reading.

Let’s talk about something awkward that most authors and generally people have no clue about. Digital literacy.

So you need a “hacker” in your story but don’t want to put in the research? No problem because most people won’t be able to call you out on it if you get it wrong. Unless that person is me. I didn’t know if it was intentional but there was a glaring detail not even halfway through the book that alerted me to the killer. In effect, the later half of the story dragged because I didn’t see why we were prolonging the inevitable. It was almost laughable that the actual damning clue involved the killer remarking some niche literary reference that Kay coincidently heard before. Then to hammer in the obvious, the killer wrote down their evil plans and barely tried to hide the evidence from Kay. The mystery was definitely the least compelling part of People Like Us.

What I did like was the idea that we are all flawed individuals. We hurt others and confrontation is needed in order move on. Whenever the scheming starts is also the point of no return. Kay discovers that no one wants to be the villain of their own story. Admitting fault or even culpability is akin to being wrong. What better drug is validation besides real drugs. More than a murder mystery is the tense atmosphere of suspicion and righteousness. I get a sense that Kay deserves this lower end of the pendulum swing as more secrets surface. If we forget the cooling dead bodies, this may be great revenge porn to satisfy the slighted victims of boarding school bullying.

I recommend this to those who think everyone else is an asshole as it never could possibly be themselves.

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The positions of the empty uniforms have so much personality. I think it was a better choice than using a model. The precisely placed clothing is symbolic of an us versus them mentality. I like the hand lettering that reminds me of note passing in class. Although I wish the photography had contrast as it’s muted even further by the neutral background color.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky // Spoiler Book Review

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Humor is definitely subjective although I hesitate to include blatantly untrue sentiments under the guise of “just a joke”. Pair that with a lifestyle I don’t entirely understand and we get a book I just don’t get. I blame myself. I really need to start reading the summaries before I actually read the book. But even if I had, I still wouldn’t have been prepared to know how to react. Some people argue that it’s a parody and others are taking it seriously. I’m in the middle ground seeing that the plot seems far fetched for comical effect although it’s the characters that are the real problem. They bore me to tears and are straw men easily knocked down. They don’t challenge my perceptions of toxic fandoms so when the big speech occurs I couldn’t care less.

Apple’s fat and that’s funny because fat people are supposedly clumsy idiots. Isabel is the scary Spanish-speaking stalker and Erin’s a popular, pretty girl not living up to her intellectual potential. The narrator is our generic insert snarky protag that’s slightly above it all. Generally, that’s how comedy works as it inflate one trait and experiments how it’ll interact to affect the plot. But honestly, the humor is juvenile at best and simply not funny at worst. The jokes didn’t land for me and I found some characters to be simply off putting.

For example, WTF Erin. She trespassed into Rupert X’s backstage room, stripped naked with the expectation of having sex as if it would be outrageous to deny her (no means no), and feels as if she was the victim. Granted, she never consented to nude pictures of her circulating and Rupert X should have refused to have sex with her but she’s not entirely without fault. I also consider you a shitty person when you sexually harass others with unsolicited nudity. Imagine if it was a guy waiting for you with his sweaty asshole stinking up your couch cushion. 

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I do get that there’s a message buried underneath it all, but it’s sort of preaching to the choir for someone my age. Sometimes, the book offered great insight on character motivations. Their hopes hinging on a complex marketing warfare all with the goal to sell the band’s merch. The fabricated personalities to cater to any lonely girl out there and even those who want to exploit them. Yet, I wasn’t convinced that it had any lasting impact considering the unnecessary B plot that undermined the whole disillusionment warnings. Our wonderful protag miraculously has a heart to heart with Rupert K branded as the sensitive soul planning to make a debut in dubstep someday. In a couple of nods and silent misunderstandings, Rupert K projects his expectations onto the protag and quickly fashions together the idea that she’s different. In the end, it’s true love between two the out of reach star and the lowly commoner but I can’t tell if it’s fantasy or satirical.

It’s not that the author has to spell everything out. We can make our own judgements which evolves as we gain more experience. Maybe we still like OG Bieber or now we’re posing as jazz enthusiasts. I appreciate the consideration that we don’t have to be ashamed of our interests. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the actions of zealous fans who hold lofty standards for others but aren’t willing to measure themselves to it are guilty. Dedicated to living someone else’s life and going as far as to create elaborate conspiracy theories is not okay. For example, aggressively shipping celebrities so that it borderline categories as harassment is overwhelming. Following all social media to track their every movement so you become an all around the clock surveillance. These are snippets of the sense of entitlement that we fans feel we deserve because a public figure has a large following. We clamor to every detail and attempt to find that one connection explaining why our relationship is special. I don’t think this is healthy behavior and I wish that the novel explored the true obsessiveness.

 

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson // ARC Review

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Content Warning: Emotional abuse

I’m conflicted because the author includes resources to seek help for abusive relationships and mental health treatment. However, I thought that the story was a bit hypocritical in its execution. Maybe too much happens at once to focus on a central theme but it felt like watching a CW show like Riverdale where nothing makes sense. It’s theatrical and sacrifices authenticity which should accompany these sensitive topics.

For example, gender matters when it comes to stalking apparently. When Sasha breaks and enters, puts in hidden cameras, or privately installs a tracking device on a phone she is painted as unhinged. Crazy even. This is rightly so as no one is allowed to be manipulative and controlling. Yet, when Gabe persistently talks to a girl who initially seems uninterested, he doesn’t take the L and bow out. Instead, he’s always on the look for her, secretly follows her home to see where she lives, texts her ‘half a dozen times’ even though she doesn’t reply, and spies into her privacy.

Of course, there really is something up and it’s all justified. Gabe is caring, worried, and heroic. It’s all done in the name of love despite how eeriely similiar his behavior is. I know we want to defend him since in the end, he was in the right and manages to be there like the savior he is depicted as. But this isn’t always the case as many stalkers convince themselves that they are a benevolent protector to unsolicited victims. The logic states that “she doesn’t know she loves him yet” so all it takes is a little nudge. Granted, the main difference is that Kat eventually asks for his help after he proves that he doesn’t have malicious intent (although he’s extremely nosy). Just for the record, a red flag was raised the first time Gabe explains he absolutely has to trail Kat without her consent because she’s not giving him the answers he wants. I want to point out victims have the complete right to decide what happens even if it means waiting to come forward. It’s frustating to see the people you love hurt, but it has to be on their terms.

Anyways, rant aside, Lies You Never Told Me is like watching a car wreak. Specifically the victim falls in love with the hit and run driver. Hmmmm. It’s one thing to have flawed characters, but it’s another to label their actions differently. I’m not sure how I feel about Kat trading in one questionable guy for another. Gabe didn’t make it hard to come across as a creep.

What I liked are few and far in between. The drama did stir up my emotions and there were valid points. Gabe is brown so his testimony is less credible than a white person’s unfortunately. I wanted the story to go in a direction to highlight the ways in which we readily believe lies because they’re beautiful. Elyse is more than happy to accept these inappropriate feelings from someone she respects. She’s never been the center of attention so what better person to fulfill that than a literal stalker or child predator. It’s tone deaf to call that romantic when victims of abuse already struggle explaining how intrusive it is to their rightful privacy. I’ll link a video called Stalking for Love by Pop Culture Detective that goes into depth about why this is problematic narrative as it always rewards the stalkers and undermines the victim’s experiences.

P.S. So you’re telling me that a single teenager can:
✓ hire actors to orchestrate a scripted illicit rendezvous
✓ deep fake video footage/audio recording
✓ wipe all fingerprints
✓ leave no witnesses behind
✓ steal a house key, make a copy, and slip it back before you notice
✗ and almost get away with it only to confess?!?

I recommend this for fans of ‘edgy’ high school drama without the emotional investment it requires to develop characters who have to face the consequences of their actions.

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Gorgeous. Thank you for left aligning the title instead of the standard centered. I love how the type seamlessly weave in and out of the smoke. The black background offers a stark contrast to the font which seems to illuminate. Yellow is a fantastic choice with a rounded serif. I don’t know why but it works.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange of a fair review!

Little Mama by Halim // ARC Review

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Content Warning: Abuse

Brenda is living in a domestic war zone trying to survive her hostile mother who later on introduces a violent boyfriend. Born to a teenage mother, she learns to depend on herself in all things concerned earning her the nickname of “Little Mama”. Proud of being independent, Brenda also feels the need to protect her mother even if it means getting hurt in the process.

There’s redemption and forgiveness that pervades the illustrations. Imagery of butterflies and suffocating/escaping underwater are metaphors for Brenda’s feelings throughout the stages of her life. Little Mama deals with forgiveness as a device to move forward and at first I had reservations. I personally do not believe you are obligated to forgive someone if they haven’t earned it or do not want it. Prematurely forgiving an abuser can result in a false sense of security before their next episode which happens often to Brenda and her mother. You began to think that they can change easily because they feel remorse, but it’s an act of betrayal when they lash out and attempt to justify it. It’s never their fault obviously because they were doing just fine until you incited their wrath. To be frank, it’s a co-dependent relationship as the abuser blames the victim and the victim feels guilt so they decide to stay. Brenda has to reconcile with her decision to walk away and what it means to those she left behind.

It was difficult reading the comic because there is graphic content depicting the abuse. I think it was necessary in order to hone in on the emotional rollercoaster that is an abusive home life. These include imprisonment, insults, and starvation. This only gets worse as Brenda grows older and both her and her mother face abuse from Vincent. At times, I was shocked and others I felt frustrated. Running parallel to Brenda’s story is one about a social worker trying to intervene. Her perspective mirrors the audience which helps ground the story to discuss the role of outsiders amidst abusive relationships. How do we properly broach it and how difficult it is to not cross the line.

The comic is engaging with a medium that can reach young readers who might not fully understand the extent of abuse aside physical ones. Maybe it’s intentional that Brenda is personified as a little girl in the future timeline to track her mental transformation and interpretation of painful memories. It can just be confusing at times as there aren’t clear transitions. I recommend a second read as it does change how the reader perceives events from the first time around.

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The gray cover needs to be darker so that the yellow title doesn’t fade so much. It’s hard to read it as well as lessen the impact of the glowing stomach. As it is now, the cover lacks impact.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange of a fair review!

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill // ARC Review

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Lana has recently lost her mother out at sea which prompts her grieving father to turn his back on the very thing his wife loved. Growing up without a parent presents its own challenges and Lana has to rely on herself now. After a storm hits their hometown, the both of them take a trip back to help rebuild.

While this story is nice and has a competent message, I’m still missing something. Whether it’s the absence of childhood wander or unfathomable loss, I can’t decide. The sequence of events bare little consequence as we accept how the story unfolds. It’s not satisfying to read about a problem that hardly presents a challenge only to have it resolved so easily.

T H E   A R T

The style is flat but that’s not necessarily bad since it’s a comic. No need to haul in the hyper-realism. There aren’t many textures like wood grains and the most adventurous it gets is the spray paint brush tool. However, the backgrounds in particular is desperately begging for contrast like darker tones within the same hue to heighten the character’s surroundings. For example, the pine green gives depth and makes the composition come alive as oppose to the single blue to fill in the sky. Despite the mountains being off in the distance, they are colored in the same tone as the foreground which really flattens the scene.

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So, I also hate to admit it but this comic is kind of untidy and I wish the artist worked on a grid to tighten up the panels. I could tell that they were organically drawn but that leads to some scenes being cropped awkwardly. Like a sliver of the car that’s almost but not quite cut off bothers me. Or two panels sitting on top of each other looking too similar in composition that it took me a bit to notice they are supposed to signify time lapsing instead of a white bar intersecting a single panel.

Also, I don’t mind the font but black is too harsh. Perhaps, a dark blue would make it less jarring so it doesn’t break my emersion. Honestly, it’s the one thing that stands out too much. I enjoy when the artist handwrites the sound effects and wonder if that aesthetic can be carried throughout the comic.

It doesn’t help that the story lacks tension. The climax hardly was one because Lana miraculously starts running and calls upon the powers that be to fix this mess. Maybe larger panels or different angles could add suspense and incorporate interest. The pacing started to become monotonous and then the final panels were essentially an info dump explaining to us the lesson of the day.

I was underwhelmed. I fundamentally understood that Lana is sad but there wasn’t much time dedicated in favor of the B-plot consuming everything. Like shout out to my lesbian underwater sea girlfriends. I just don’t think their relationship was well developed because they literally never leave the same room design despite it being a coral reef Atlantis! Aquicorn Cove is a comic written for kids when I think it would have benefitted as a story written for adults which just happens that kids can also relate to.

Thanks to the publishers for this ARC in exchange for a fair review!

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I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness // ARC Review

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Content Warning: suicide

This story has been told many times over and it never ceases to be heartbreaking. Yet, does it make any insightful contributes on the correlation of the LGBTQ+ community and negative mental health due to society’s poor treatment of them? I’m hard press to say that this book handles the material outside of the normal depiction of it already circulating.

Hamish Day is a kid who obsesses over gender norms and makes frequent remarks criticizing himself. Referring to how he talks to how he looks, he constantly compares himself to a girl. Obviously, in a way that’s meant to be an insult. Gathering clues, you can discern that he has been bullied and these are labels that society has given which he internalizes. It’s an intriguing portrayal of toxic masculinity and insecurity.

His home is a place filled with grief as his parents largely ignore him consumed by a tragic event. Martin, a fellow loser, is his only friend that he barely tolerates. This is a character who doesn’t illicit sympathy. He lies to his parents, ghosts his friend in favor of newer, cooler people. He hates himself so much that you also hate him, too.

Overall, the narrative can be abrupt and disconnected like random thoughts strung together. All of this gives an animated quality despite his social anxiety or maybe because of it. In addition, I can’t always tell when he’s joking so some of the shit he says is off-putting even more so because he actually believes it. For example, Hamish’s idea of a gay person involves stereotypes which he safely thinks he has avoided. Innocuous behaviors like checking your nails fall into scrutiny. It’s hard to read this bullshit but misinformation leads to unfair judgements.

He also lacks self awareness but is semi-conscious of how he’s perceived and a bit cynical. Sometimes Hamish would say things such as,

“I had no funny little quirks like a boy in a book might do; one who secretly collected yellow clothes because they reminded him of the sun and piled it up on his wardrobe so that on rainy days he could open the doors and let the sunshine fall into his room. No, as you well know by now, I was not that kind of boy. “

I was fucking dying at this bit because it came out of nowhere. How delusional are you to personify who you desperately want to be in the form of ridicule. This is basically all bullies to an extent. Hamish finds comfort that as long as there’s someone lower on the social scale he can explain his own bullying. Despite having outward markers of someone totally insecure, he shows his vulnerability whenever he talks about his dead sister and cries often. It’s nice to see that. Hamish seems to regard his life as uninteresting offering an entry into the lives of others he finds more fantastic given that the story opens not about him but about Charlie Parker.

However, the ending was rushed and doesn’t explore much in the way of depression and sexuality. I think other books like More Happy than Not or Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe have handled this topic infinitely better. It’s just frustrating to have a meaningless death be justified like it is here. The bullies cry and the parents are hysterical turning the death into tiny spectacle. At least the author attached materials about where to get help, but I wonder if it’s enough (it’s at the very end, hope you don’t miss it).

P.S. What’s up with Annie and why did anyone think that was a good decision to shove in an obligatory hetero third wheel?

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for a fair review!