Well, well, well! What do we have here? Two books that have nothing in common besides the fact that I strongly disliked them. So even though they’re two different age groups and genres I decided to group them together because I have a backlog of reviews to get through and neither one warrants a full review.
Title: Orpheus Girl
Author: Brynne Rebele-Henry
Publication date : October 8th, 2019
Publisher : SoHo Teen
Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis : Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors’ other teen residents are subjected to abusive “treatments” by the staff.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Brynne Rebele-Henry weaves a powerful inversion of the Orpheus myth informed by the real-world truths of conversion therapy. Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, trauma, first love, heartbreak, and ultimately, the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance. (from goodreads)
*I received a copy from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
CW: homophobia, conversion therapy, transphobia, deadnaming, car crash, electroshock therapy, violent homophobic hate speech, starving, suicide attempt, self-harm
If I have one book I regret reading this year, it’s this one. My story with it started when I heard it was an Orpheus and Eurydice retelling, so in me fashion without looking for more information, I requested it and was approved. Later on, I find out that it centers conversion therapy, and even with my hesitation, I thought that since I had the Arc, I might as well read it. Big mistake on my part. My reading experience was awful from start to finish and not because of the subject matter, because if it were done well, I would’ve liked this Orpheus Girl but alas.
The one good thing I thought this book had going for it is the gorgeous writing style, it’s dreamy and made me feel like I was reading an old tale, it kept me captivated before things shifted and it took all my willpower to keep reading. The only thing that kept me reading is the fact that this book was so short so I was able to finish it in a day. Orpheus Girl is a chapter-less book, it’s divided in parts but other than that it’s just one huge block of words, one pages after the other, which, since the book is so short, I didn’t mind that much.
My biggest issue with it though, or well, one of my two big issues, is how hopeless it is. I know some queer people write books with utterly horrifying events for cathartic purposes and I wouldn’t want to take that away from anyone, but for me, it didn’t work. I love reading issue books, cathartic books, most of my favourites are like that. But what I strongly disliked about Orpheus Girl is that it didn’t have any kind of message, it had no purpose in my opinion besides queer pain for the sake for queer pain, and that was extremely hard for me to read. It had every single detail written on page, every single punishment, every single mental and physical consequence of it, every closeted queer person’s nightmare in less than 200 pages. And it was just. Too much. There was nothing for me to hold on to.
This all is just a matter of taste and what you are willing to read, so maybe I would still have recommended Orpheus Girl if not for the second issue I had with it and what truly made me hate it. It played off of stereotypes, for example: The narrator equates being gay with being a more masculine woman, and take notes gaydies, apparently only straight girls know how to sway their hips (?!!???!?), like being gay and being girly are mutually exclusive? I? don’t know? what was going through the author’s brain writing that stuff? On the other side of things, it also equates being ~obviously gay~ with being a more feminine man. Are we in the early 2000s? I don’t understand?
And the cherry on top of the rotten cake? The narrator simultaneously calling a trans character by her chosen and dead name when mentioning her in narration? Pick a side, ma’am? Do you want to be transphobic or not? Luckily (?) this didn’t go on for the whole novel and then she eventually stopped deadnaming. But it just left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Do I recommend it?
Um. no. not at all. I usually find something redeemable to recommend in a book but not this time.
Title: Well Met
Author: Jen Deluca
Publication date : September 3rd, 2019
Publisher : Berkley
Genre : Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis : Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?
The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?
This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. (from Goodreads)
*I received an eArc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
Compared to the review above this one will be very short, dull and boring…just like the book it’s about. There’s nothing wrong with Well Met per say, it’s a perfectly decent book. But there’s also nothing really right with it? Which is why I won’t have much to say.
My main problem with this romance book is that I was interested in EVERYTHING else more than I was in the romance. The Renaissance Fair was a very new concept to me and I liked seeing it be put together and what not, I also liked seeing the main character find herself after she lost who she was in her previous relationship. But the actual romance? I didn’t really get it? Especially not why Emily liked Simon so much when he spent 70% of the book just being so goddamn rude to her for no actual reason, just being in her vicinity made him huff and puff and turn into this grump that was exasperated by her breathing. Which means, they barely even talked to each other, and that made me understand the romance even less.
Listen, I love me some good enemies to lovers as much as the same person, but this? I didn’t buy it, I need to buy the enemy part but nothing about it was convincing, especially since it was one sided and just pretty much a girl falling for your classic Asshole With a Tragic Backstory. And there isn’t a single romance trope I’m tired of more than I am tired of this one. I could have even forgiven this if there were some chemistry between them but…there wasn’t, I just couldn’t buy them as a couple which means I wasn’t invested in them and didn’t root for them to get together. Not until the very end, where everything was resolved and they started actually talking to each other. That’s the only part of the romance I actually enjoyed, and even then the book did such an abrupt 180 that it felt like an entirely different couple.
And last thing I want to talk about, which might seem petty but is just a pet peeve of mine in any sort of media is that the phrase “His eyes looked almost dull brown until you saw them in the light and they had so much color” (not word for word but almost). Again? Are we still in the early 2000s? How are we still calling brown eyes dull in the year of our lord 2019? Anyway. That was just something that’s been nagging at me so I couldn’t not mention it.
Do I recommend?
Yes? No? Honestly and realistically, there are dozens of romance books I would recommend before this one even crosses my mind. Come to auntie Fadwa for some romance goodness.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read either of these books? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.