If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If you know anything about lgbt+ YA books then you will have heard of this book. It has been everywhere the past couple years, with a huge reason behind that being that this book was part of the Zoella book club. This is why I will never say anything bad about Zoella’s book club because she is bringing books like this to teen girls who either aren’t huge readers or just may not have heard of this.

content warnings: transphobia, homophobia, sexual harassment, suicide attempt discussion, forced outing

If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda who is a trans teen who has moved to a new school. She wants to start off at this new school on a whole new leaf, without anyone knowing her history. She makes friends with a few people but she is always concerned that they will find out and all her new relationships will fall apart. On top of all that she has a fragile relationship with her dad.

Right off the bat, I am not trans, I am a cis woman so I don’t pretend to know about the representation in this book or the challenges that trans people go through. I tried to find an own voices review to link to but struggled, and I don’t have much time on my hands right now but if you know of one please send me the link and I will edit this review to include it.

This book was so easy to read. Now when I say easy I don’t mean the subject matter was easy to read because it 100% was not but the way it was written it just flowed and was unputdownable. I had to know what was going to happen next. I ate it up. Sometimes I had to put it down for a minute just to gather myself because it’s intense, but so worth it.

I adored Amanda, I just wanted to take her under my wing and look after her. She’s just a poor wee soul and deserves all the love. The rest of the characters are so well developed as well and it makes reading really tough content a joy. You hope Amanda’s new friends are accepting when they find out because they’re just so nice in the course of their friendship with Amanda and are so welcoming. You want Amanda to have friends who will be friends with her no matter what.

I’ve read a few reviews talking about the fact that Amanda gets forcibly outed and how they hated reading that and they wish that it had happened for Amanda a different way. And I totally get that, I felt so uncomfortable reading it and I could tell from the way it was being written that it was going to happen, there was this kind of gloomy feeling building up (great technique by the way). But I feel like marking the book down for that isn’t the right way to go about it, as it is an own voices review. Yeah sure if it was from a cis writer I wouldn’t be happy because it wouldn’t be their place to have the discussion, but this is Russo’s lane and she felt that this was this discussion needed to be had i the literary world from her own experiences.

Overall I think this book tackled the trans issues so well, now of course every human is different and every experience is different so if you are going into this thinking that this is the epitome of the trans experience it is not and nothing ever will be. The author herself is trans and the cover picture on the US edition also features a trans girl which is so damn important. Russo has 2 authors notes at the end of the book, one for trans readers and one for cis readers. The one for trans readers nearly had me in tears and the one for cis readers was really important for highlighting to readers what I have just said about this not being THE experience of trans people.

Also I just want to highlight how disrespectful I think it is that whoever wrote the blurb did not include that Amanda is trans just that she has a “secret” like that completely alienates the people that this book is for.

This book does tackle a lot of really intense issues and I just want to make it clear that if you are interested in reading this book now but are worried it may trigger you and you would like to have a discussion with me to see if it something you can read my inbox is always open, my contact email is listed on my about page and my twitter is listed below.

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It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

Content warnings: mental health problems and substance abuse, discussions of consent and sexual abuse/rape

I don’t really know where to start with this review. I absolutely adored this book but I read it when I was staying at my Gran’s house a month before she unexpectedly died so it’s one of those books that I just have weird feelings towards now. I didn’t think this would be a hard review because the book was so good but here we are.

Audrey does not care for love. Her parents marriage ended and it left her mother in a weird state so Audrey does not want that to happen to her so she swears off romance. That is until she starts a new job at her local cinema and meets bad boy Harry.

If you have ever read any book by Holly Bourne before you will know that her writing style is wickedly funny and super easy to read. I get so lost in her novels and they take me back to my teenage years. Her writing is super truthful at times that it hurts, she talks about sexual assault, the lack of sapphic relationships in movies, racism etc. At one point one of the characters talk about not being able to orgasm through penetration which I think is just something that is super important to include off the cuff in YA. Like it’s just spoken about casually but having that being in books lets young girls know that it’s a thing and it’s ok to be that way.

I read this so quickly that I didn’t really take any notes and I kind of hate myself for it. I remember the mother in this story was a bit of a mess, but you can 100% see where it comes from and how poor her mental health is.

I’m not going to talk spoilers but I would love someone who has read this to let me know because I want to talk about the ending and how satisfying it was for me.

My only thing with this book was because he was called Harry I could not stop imagining Harry Styles, who is an absolute sweetheart and not a bad boy and it was a bit disconcerting every time I read the name.

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Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper UK for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Our main characters are unlikely friends, Gabby is completely introverted whereas Ryan is a huge extrovert. But they are super close and the novel starts with them sleeping together at the end of their final year of high school before going back in time so the reader can find out the top ten moments of their friendship that lead to this moment.

This was fun if slightly disappointing. I’ve heard good things about Cotugno and how she’s one of the queens of contemporary YA, but this was just fine.

One thing I liked about this book is that the main character is bisexual and this is on page. She talks about her attraction to boys and girls, and if my memory serves me correctly she has relationships with both (I read this a while ago and my memory is hay I’m sorry). This isn’t something we find often in YA contemporary with an opposite sex main relationship.

The way the story was told was really interesting, it’s told from dual points of view and through 4 years of high school. I thought this was a cool different take on contemporary, but because this is only the top 10 moments of their friendship/relationship we only get to see those 10 moments and I would personally prefer seeing more, I would prefer seeing the day to day life as well as these moments.

I think this is what caused me to not connect with this novel in the way I would like to. The pacing is good because it is super fast to get through the 10 moments but that caused me to not really connect to the characters, like I didn’t have any emotional feelings towards the relationship and just didn’t really care. That isn’t to say I won’t try more of Cotugno’s work because it was fun to read and one of those books that you read when you’ve got a lot going on and you don’t need to pay a lot of attention to the plot.

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Kasie West and was really excited to read a book by her.

Caymen works in her mothers doll shop and they are struggling pretty hard with money. In walks Xander who Caymen instantly knows is rich and she wants nothing to do with him. But Xander just wants to get to know Caymen.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t hugely into this book. It felt very white. Like the characters had such white troubles. Which sounds like a weird complaint but all the problems just felt so over complicated and pointless. It was pretty predictable as well.

I did however like Xander, the love interest. He was a sweetie and it often felt like Caymen was being horrible to him just because he’s rich and like he can’t help that. I also enjoyed that a lot of the novel was set in the doll shop that Caymen’s mum owned. Though it did make the book slightly creepier than it needed to be.

The pacing was really good, I sped through the book. Apart from the problems I had with it I did enjoy reading it. I just wanted more from it.

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Cheer by Mia Archer

Cheer follows a girl, Alex, as she realises that she might not be straight. She decides to join her best friend in becoming a cheerleader and falls for her but all the while another girl in her grade has it out for her as she seems to think that Alex is after her boyfriend. TW: slut shaming, casual homophobia, casual ableism.

I got this on a whim from a bookbub email so I honestly hadnt planned to read it any time soon. But then I got into a romance kick and I wanted to read a wlw relationship so this one was the one I spotted in my kindle library so went with it not expecting much.

I was pleasantly surprised though. Yes the writing could use some work and it’s your classic WLW romance in that a person comes out in the process of the story but it was honestly just super cute at times.

I loved reading the parts where the MC was struggling over her feelings towards a woman because I’ve been there I know what it’s like trying to convince yourself that you’re not feeling that way for someone of the same gender because sadly some people still find it taboo and thought things aren’t as bad as they used to be it’s still a possible struggle.

There were random moments where feminist ideas were brought in about both sexuality and gender and it was so good to read in a YA novel. I say this every time I read a YA novel with feminist parts but it just makes me happy to think of teenagers growing up in a world where feminism is more “mainstream” as it wasn’t when I was a teen and I was so misinformed and it was awful.

I might get around to reading more of Archer’s books as she’s now on my radar and honestly I love wlw stories and I can’t get enough of soft girls.

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Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow when scheduling my posts I missed this one so I’m sorry if my review isn’t great because when I read this it was still May and now it’s September.

Alice buys her best friend, and crush, a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday and somehow it’s the winning ticket and Teddy comes into more money than you could even imagine. Then they have to navigate the new rich world they live in.

This kind of read just like any tv program where a young person comes into a lot of money. They go silly spending a lot of money, their friendship suffers, then they realise what they’ve done. And I’m sorry if you thank that’s a spoiler but I mean it’s the same story every time. The writing was good though, so I’d definitely be open to reading more stuff from Smith as I think she would be good with a less cliche story line.

There were 2 love interests in this book, though it wasn’t a love triangle it was just the main character trying to explore new people. Honest to god though Teddy was the worst guy ever, like honestly. He was just such a dick for the majority of the novel and I really struggled to feel sympathetic to Alice when her best friend was an arse and she knew it but continued to be upset by it. I get that they had a long history but my god I just wanted to slap that boy.

However I did feel like I read the book pretty quickly, so if you’re wanting a light read this might be the one for you. If you haven’t seen to many shows/films with a kid coming into a lot of money give it a shot because it was ok, but I’ve just seen it too many times.

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Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Juliet writes letters to her mother and leaves them on her grave. One day someone writes back.

Honestly this just felt like your classic YA novel about grief. I didn’t make any notes to myself when reading it so clearly I didn’t feel like there was anything of note. It was fine. I didn’t love it didn’t hate it. I will have to say though that even though it’s not exactly anything new the writing style really pulls you in and you can’t put it down. I think part of what drew me in was that the were writing letters to each other and didn’t know who they were writing to and it reminded me of You’ve Got Mail which is one of my favourite romance films.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Juliet as the main character. Her voice kind of annoyed me and at times she was super self indulgent and had really bad reactions to things, but I had to remind myself that she’s a teenager and teenagers are dramatic. I kind of had a soft spot for Declan though he wasn’t the greatest guy ever. They were both pretty flawed characters, which of course makes it good writing because they’re human.

I think mostly what annoyed me most, and this is a bit spoilery, was that a character finds out who the other is way earlier than the other and then didn’t communicate with that person and let them know. So half the novel is just a lack of communication, which is ok if it’s only a small part of it but I got pretty frustrated.

The book was well written and I liked reading it but it didn’t feel like anything new, it was like I’d read it before. Which is fine for someone who doesn’t read a lot of contemporary novels, but I do and it just didn’t bring anything memorable to the table. But if you’re a fan of You’ve Got Mail definitely give this one a shot.

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Aw this book is honestly so sweet. It was one of the books I was super excited for this year and it did not let me down.

It surrounds a convention for all the youtubers and geeky types like us lot where a group of friends travel from Australia to LA for the weekend of their dreams.

The book is pretty short and whilst I really liked my time with the book I felt like there isn’t much for me to say.

This could’ve easily been a 5 star read for me as the style was so easy to read and the representation was on point. There was Asian Rep, aspie rep, anxiety Rep, chubby Rep, bisexual Rep, lesbian Rep. However I felt like there was just something a little lacking and it’s not something I could ever pin point but it just wasn’t quite in the favourites position for me

The book follows 2 blossoming relationships and it was honestly just really sweet to read. There was little miscommunications and classic tropes from YA romance that just makes you squeal with delight.

Even though my review is a bit thin on the ground I do hope you read this book because it just made me really happy when I read it and I can’t wait to read the next Jen Wilde book because I feel like it’s going to be a 5 star.

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The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. TW in this book for mentions of abuse, transphobia, homophobia, death and suicide.

I wasn’t sure about this book after reading the blurb as it centres around a girl from a very typical white church background, but I thought hey it’s Emery Lord it can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t the description is so deceptive. This book is about a kid meeting new people and cultures which she has never really been exposed to before which isn’t exactly a novel idea but I feel like Lord’s take on it was a good read.

Lucy’s mum has been in remission but her cancer has reappeared and her wish is for Lucy to go to the camp across the lake from the camp she normally goes to. Lucy isn’t exactly keen on the idea but wants to do it for the sake of her mum. She starts off with some prejudicial thoughts but gradually begins to get to know her fellow counsellors and makes friends with them all and learns that just because they’re different to her doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her.

If there is one thing to say about this book it’s CHARACTER PROGRESSION ON POINT. Like I didn’t like Lucy to begin with and I felt uncomfortable with her character, I was expecting her to be a typical white, but she learned so quickly and adapted so quickly. If you want to do a book about something growing up in a privileged background and learning to see the world different this is how you do it not like how The Black Witch did it. Which I’m not going to go into but if you haven’t seen the deal with that book where have you been?

This book really struck a chord with me because I grew up in a very white place, obviously I knew people with different skin colours existed because of TV but in my school there was 2 kids of colour and they were from the same family so when I moved to Glasgow for uni it was a huge change not just because I was moving out from home on my own but because there was so many cultures living around me that I’d not really experienced before. I am completely aware of my privilege now but when I was 17 I had a lot of learning to do and it was interesting to read that in this book.

The side characters are what made this book, they were all so wonderful and diverse and I fell in love with each of them. And honestly even if this is a daunting book for you because you’re worried it’s either going to annoy you or upset you it’s worth it for the side characters.

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Thank you to edelweiss and for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If this book isn’t on your TBR now add it because it’s so adorable and funny.

Tash (pronounced Tosh) is in love with Leo Tolstoy, the dead author. She makes a web series based on Anna Karenina with her friends playing the roles and sees little buzz until one day a big youtuber posts about the series and they receive instant online fame.

So Tosh comes to the realisation throughout the book that she is asexual, now I’m not ace so I can’t tell you if the representation is good and not problematic but it felt like it was. It felt accurate to what I know about asexuality from my friends and the experiences they’ve had. If you are ace and have read this book and think it isn’t accurate please let me know.  I would also say that there is a warning for aphobia from other characters.

I really loved the parts of this book which focussed on the web series. It reminded me of the time when I binge watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and how much I loved them. It made me want to read Anna Karenina so I bought a copy, I probably won’t read it for a long time but I own it now.

I loved Tosh I found her so relateable, her anxieties read so well and were completely accessible to me despite having different anxieties. I loved that she was vegetarian, I never read books with veggie MCs, and so many people these days are veggie or vegan that it was just really nice to read. She was also Buddhist which is another thing that doesn’t feature in books much.

Something I really loved was that you get to read about youtube creators in a way that felt real, a lot of the time you read a book with youtubers in it and there is no mention of the amount of work that does into it but this book spoke about that a lot. It spoke about the stress of constant creation and relying on people to be there when you need them to be and also how hard it is to be in the limelight.

I loved that the MC ended up in a relationship with someone who was happy to be with her, there wasn’t any weird feelings from his side about her being ace, he didn’t try to pressure her. He liked her for her.

There was some really good side character representation as well which I absolutely adored.

I hope more people read this book because I haven’t seen much hype about it but it’s so worth the read.

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