Summer Bird Blue – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Genre: Contemporary
Publication year: 2018
Audience: 12+
Content warnings: Character death, loss of a loved one, grief/loss, car accident, abandonment by a parent (temporary), depression and violence.

Synopsis

Following the loss of her sister in a tragic accident, 17-year-old Rumi is sent to Hawaii to live with her aunt. She begins to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and heal, with the help of friends, old and new.

What I liked

  • Writing style
  • Emphasis on friendship and family
  • Diverse representation
  • Deep exploration of grief
  • The questioning sexuality storyline / aromantic and asexual representation

What I disliked

  • Under-developed characters
  • Lack of plot
  • Over emphasis on emotion/grief in places

Plot and Structure

The story follows Rumi as she deals with the loss of her best friend and younger sister, Lea. It’s not a particularly plot heavy book, it’s an intense look at grief and loss, and how we can begin to rebuild ourselves when our world has been completely shattered by the loss of someone that is fundamental to who we are and to our lives. It focuses mostly on Rumi’s emotions and healing process. Despite not having a strong plot, narratively, it was strong and had a clear focus. It felt like Akemi Dawn Bowman knew exactly what she wanted to achieve with this book and that every part of it was intentional.

It opens with the tragedy that sets the scene for the rest of the book. It’s mostly set in the present where Rumi is living in Hawaii with her estranged aunt and follows Rumi as she battles against the grief of losing her sister and her mother’s absence. Alongside that, we see the development of the relationships that she forms in Hawaii and how these people help her to heal. There are also flashbacks scattered throughout of Rumi’s life growing up with her family which help to flesh out Lea and the significance of the sister relationship that is at the heart of the story.

Writing Style

I really liked the writing style. Whilst this is clearly a YA book aimed at a younger audience, it had some beautiful metaphors and prose that conveyed the intensity of emotion present throughout. There were a lot of quotes I resonated with and found to be very meaningful. However, there were some metaphors that were a bit cringe and the writing was repetitive in places. The main weakness of the writing for me was that the emotion was emphasised too much. Grief is an overwhelming and all consuming emotion but the emotions were over-written and it bogged down the narrative too much. There needed to be more space from the raw emotions to enable the characters and other aspects of the story to breathe. The character development and plot was hindered in part because the grief was inescapable and constantly brought to the forefront. Nonetheless, I appreciated how Bowman was able to get to the crux of the intense emotions that teenagers often face and how lost in their own feelings and thoughts they can become. Rumi’s grief isn’t any ordinary grief; it’s heightened by her age and the lack of self that often happens to teenagers who are figuring out who they are.

And maybe that’s like life. You live for a moment—one single moment. And then you don’t matter. Because there are years of the past and years of the future, and we’re all simply one tiny blip in time—a surge of water waiting to leave our mark on the sand, only to have it washed away by the waves that come after us.

Characters and Relationships

I adored what Bowman did in terms of centring platonic relationships and how she really took the time to delve deep into Rumi’s inner-most thoughts and feelings. Rumi’s relationships with her sister, elderly neighbour, male friend, aunt and mother are the most important relationships in this book and it was so refreshing to read a contemporary YA that wasn’t focused on romance. As a character, Rumi was perhaps one of the most relatable characters I’ve read in a long time to the point that it felt like I was reading about my teenage self at points. Unfortunately, the other characters never felt fully realised to me and were rather one-dimensional. Their purpose was to serve Rumi’s development and journey in supporting her through her grief. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just means that the wider cast of characters were lacking in any real depth or development.

The depiction of sibling relationships was one of my favourite aspects of this book. As the eldest sister myself, I could see how shaped Rumi was by being the eldest sister and how that informed the relationship she had with Lea. Throughout the book Lea is considered to be Rumi’s soul mate and the most important person in her life. Just like Disney’s Frozen this book subverts expectations that a young girl’s “one true love” is a romantic male love interest and instead portrays it as being sisterhood. I also loved reading about Rumi’s relationship with her friend Kai and seeing her battle against the blurred lines between friendship and romance, and how this impacted her exploration of her sexuality.

Generally, I loved the exploration of sexuality throughout and how Rumi’s character and her relationships were all tied up in a wider story of her exploring aromanticism and asexuality. It’s the first time I’ve read a fiction book that explores this so succinctly. It can be difficult to write storylines that involve questioning sexuality without it feeling forced, but in this case, Rumi’s questioning of her identity and sexuality fitted well with the wider story of loss. Losing Lea is what put Rumi in a real position to truly start exploring those parts of her that had always been there but that she had brushed under the carpet. I plan to do a separate post about the depiction of aromanticism and asexuality in the book soon, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on this 👀

Generally, the relationships were very sweet and drove the story forward well, but the characters (except for Rumi) lacked the necessary depth to enable me to connect to them on a deeper level. So whilst I enjoyed reading the character dynamics they weren’t as satisfying as they could’ve been. I think if Bowman had invested more time in developing the characters and less on the grief part of the story, it would’ve come together much better. Since the relationships were so pivotal in helping Rumi to begin to heal, it felt like they deserved more time and attention.

Concluding thoughts

Summer Bird Blue is a heart-wrenching and heartwarming story of loss and healing. It’s an ideal read for young readers as it explores so many of the painful things teenagers face such as unexpected death, identity crisis, abandonment by a parent, anger, having complicated feelings for friends and questioning your sexuality. The focus on platonic love and relationships is a breath of fresh air and the exploration of identity and sexuality an important conversation to be had in any YA book. Undoubtedly, the depiction of an aromantic asexual character is what will continue to draw readers to this book and is what shines most about it, but this book is so much more than that and is fully deserving of the credit it receives. It tackles such a hard and heavy subject with sensitivity and grace, balancing the hopelessness of death with the hope of healing.

I’d recommend Summer Bird Blue if:

You’re looking for a YA tale on the theme of grief that centres sisterhood, friendship and family and features an aromantic asexual main character.

Have you read Summer Bird Blue or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

If We Were Villains – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: M. L. Rio
Genre: Mystery / Dark Academia
Publication year: 2017
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Major character death, murder, violence, PTSD, depression, suicide, self-harm, slut-shaming, homophobia (mentioned), transphobia (mentioned).

Synopsis

Following his release from prison, Oliver Marks recalls the events that led up to the crime that landed him in prison, making some shocking revelations along the way.

What I liked

  • Writing style
  • Plot
  • Setting and atmosphere
  • Shakespearean influences
  • Depiction of queer relationships/identity
  • The ending

What I disliked

  • Under-developed characters (in some instances)
  • Predictable plot

Plot and Structure

The story follows Oliver and his friends who are students at a prestigious Shakespearean acting university. Beginning with Oliver’s release from prison as an adult, it returns to the past to reveal the events that led up to the death that landed Oliver in prison and to uncover whether Oliver really was the murderer after all. The plot was somewhat predictable, but no less enjoyable for it. It was well-paced and thoughtfully mapped out, with enough clues scattered throughout to keep me engaged and well-timed reveals that ensured the mystery wasn’t dragged out unnecessarily. The conclusion was emotionally hard-hitting and tragic but satisfying in true Shakespearean style.

Structurally, it takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays and is broken down into acts and scenes rather than chapters. Those that are familiar with Shakespeare’s works will recognise how heavily influenced the book is by Shakespeare from the themes to the language, characters and structure. The majority of the story is set in the past when Oliver was at school but does alternate between past and present. The structure serves the plot which was constantly moving. Generally, it’s very plot-focused with the plot driving the characters forward rather than the other way around.

Writing Style

I loved M. L. Rio’s writing style. Her passion for language and Shakespeare shone throughout the book; her writing is beautifully emotive and authentically honest. The descriptive nature of her writing style created a vivid imagery of the setting and her ability to craft an atmospheric tension throughout reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier. Similarly, her capacity to convey human emotion through the internal processes, behaviour and actions of the characters is incredible. I felt deeply connected to Oliver because his emotions were tangible throughout the story. My one criticism would be that some of the dialogue between characters sometimes felt awkward or stunted, but I really put this down to the fact that the characters and their relationships weren’t always fully developed.

Actors are by nature volatile—alchemic creatures composed of incendiary elements, emotion and ego and envy. Heat them up, stir them together, and sometimes you get gold. Sometimes disaster.

Characters and Relationships

As a character-driven reader, the characters were the biggest con of the book for me. There were 7 main characters that formed the friendship group that were at the centre of the story. Excluding the protagonist Oliver and his best friend James, the other characters were underdeveloped and felt like caricatures. Every character fit a stereotype whether it was the “mean girl” or the “nerd” etc. and this occasionally led to some troublesome prejudices and bigoted comments. However, these characters weren’t written to be fully-realised individuals, they were written to fulfil a purpose within the narrative, and that’s exactly what they did. This meant that I was able to overlook the lacklustre characters, even as a character-driven reader, because they fit within the type of story that they were in and served the plot well. Oliver’s development also made up for the other characters.

As the protagonist, Oliver was given the most development and despite being a deeply flawed and sometimes frustrating character, I connected with him and sympathised with him. I particularly appreciated the depiction of Oliver’s queerness which was presented as something that was simply part of him rather than something to be used as a plot-point. Although Oliver’s sexuality was never explicitly labelled, I felt it was one of the better portrayals of bisexuality that I’ve seen in contemporary literature and appreciated how M. L. Rio wrote the “love triangle” (I use quotations because it’s not technically a love triangle in the traditional sense) and Oliver’s romantic relationships.

In regards to relationships, most of the friendships within the core 7 were generally superficial and standard. There were a few friendships that received more attention and were endearing, such as Oliver’s friendship with Filippa, but there was one relationship which stole the show – the one between Oliver and James. This was a complex, well-written and tragic relationship. It’s this relationship which was at the core of the entire book and elevated it to the next level for me.

Concluding thoughts

We Are Villains is not typically a book I would reach for but was a pleasant surprise and one of my favourite reads of 2021. It’s a passion piece devoted to Shakespeare, drawing huge influence from Shakespeare’s works which are scattered throughout in the writing style, structure, plot, style and characters. This created an atmospheric, fast-paced dark academia steeped in drama, with a well-built mystery and satisfying ending. These components came together to make up for the shortcomings of the underdeveloped characters, which were used to serve the plot rather than being fully realised individuals. I appreciated the inclusion of queer characters and that these characters were able to exist as people without their identity being used as a plot-point. The plot is well written and well-paced with a fantastic pay-off. Overall, I immensely enjoyed reading If We Were Villains and feel that the book does a fantastic job at taking Shakespearean works and adapting them into an original story that appeals to modern audiences.

I’d recommend If We Were Villains if:

You’re looking for a dark academia with a well-written mystery, lots of drama, Shakespearean influences, queer romance and a tragic ending.

Have you read If We Were Villains or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Song of Achilles – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2011
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Major character death, murder, violence, slavery, abduction, abandonment, torture, rape (mentioned), human sacrifice, human trafficking, self-harm, child abuse, and war.

Synopsis

A modern retelling of the Greek myth the Trojan War from The Iliad told from the perspective of Patroclus and Achilles.

What I liked

  • Patroclus’ characterisation
  • Patroclus and Briseis’ relationship
  • Historical elements
  • The depictions of love

What I disliked

  • Writing style
  • Slow pacing
  • The ending

Plot and Structure

Since the book is a retelling of a popular and widely known Greek myth, as expected, the plot and structure is largely based on The Iliad. Madeline Miller definitley put her own spin on it, but the core essence of the story is the same but written for a modern audience and exclusively from the perspectives of Patroclus and Achilles. It’s structured chronologically, beginning with Patroclus’ childhood. It builds his backstory and traces the origins of his relationship with Achilles before progressing to the events of the Trojan War. It includes the major plot points from the original myth but tweaks some things, particularly at the beginning and end. As all retellings should, it takes a popular story and gives new insight. The emphasis on romance was a little excessive for my tastes and I would’ve preferred more plot. This was particularly apparent towards the end where the tragic romance story took front and centre stage.

Whilst I generally enjoyed the plot and most of the changes that were made, it did feel slow throughout. This isn’t necessarily a disavantage, because it allowed space for me to get to know and connect with Patroclus, but there were parts that I found boring, particularly in the first half. Futherore, although Patroclus and Achilles’ perspective brought new insight, it hindered the story in other ways, leaving little room for some other significant characters.

Overall, the book wasn’t very plot-driven and was very focused on setting, themes, characters and relationships. Generally, these are the aspects of books that I enjoy most but there was something that just didn’t quite sync up in the way I expected to, but more about that in the Characters and Relationships section.

Writing Style

I struggled to connect to Miller’s bland and simple writing style. The tone of the writing didn’t match the tone of the story and pulled me away from the story multiple times. Whether it was the use of short sentences, lack of fluidity or plain language, it didn’t sell the story in the right way. It’s an epic tale and Miller portrayed Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship as a tragic love story, yet the writing was just okay. It achieved what it needed to but didn’t evoke the emotion from me that truly great writing usually does. It was clear and concise, but I would’ve liked more flower, this is a retelling of The Iliad afterall.

We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.

Characters and Relationships

I liked Patroclus as the main POV Character. His characterisation was standard for the “average guy turned hero” archetype, but his empathy and desire to do the right thing. In a world where power and status was what men most valued, Patroclus defied expectations. He acted out of his conscience, love, loyalty and duty. His compassion offsets Achilles pride and their differences sets the underlining moral message for the entire story. Patroclus was the most defined and nuanced of all the characters. The other characters were in the background, and even Achilles himself suffered from a severe lack of development, feeling more like a caricature than a fully rounded character. This was most likely because most of what we learned about Achilles was from Patroclus’ perspective who had rose-tinted glasses when it came to Achilles.

Leading on from that, this is where the review gets controversial – I didn’t like the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. My issues with this relationship were in part because Achilles was under-developed but also because their love seemed to magically happen despite having nothing in common. It’s particularly unfortunate, because the romance was the main focus of the story and the emotional impact of the ending was very dependent upon how invested the reader is in Achilles and Patroclus’ love.

Interestingly, I was more invested in Patroclus’ relationship with Briseis. It felt more complex, nuanced and sincere, and explored the blurry and complicated lines between platonic and romantic love. It was built on genuine connection, companionship and a liking for one another, none of which Patroclus seemed to have with Achilles to the same extent. Patroclus’ dynamic with Briseis was definitely the most captivating to me of all the character dynamics.

Concluding thoughts

The Song of Achilles has receieved a lot of hype in the book community in recent years and although it has its merit, it didn’t blow me away. Madeline Miller has proven with this book and Circe that she’s able creatively take myths and adapt them for modern audiences, making them accessible and entertaining. By shifting focus to Patroclus and Achilles, Miller was able to add new depth and perspectives to the ancient myth. Whilst I enjoyed reading the book overall, it was lacking in a few areas. The emphasis on the romance was a barrier for me in emotionally connecting to the story because I disliked the way Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship was written. However, I enjoyed the underlying themes around love and pride, and the exploration of different types of human love and bonds. Overall, it had all the ingredients for a 5-star book, but the execution fell short and the overtly cheesy romantic ending left me feeling luke-warm.

I’d recommend The Song of Achilles if:

You’re looking for a romantic, modern retelling of a Greek myth with a gay romance.

Have you read The Song of Achilles or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Outsiders – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: S. E. Hinton
Genre: Classic
Publication year: 1967
Audience: 12+
Content warnings: Abuse, neglect, gang violence, bullying, criminal activity, major character death, arson, violence, murder, grief, suicide.

Synopsis

Set in the span of two weeks, The Outsiders, follows 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis and his friends the “Greasers”. When a gang war breaks out between the “Greasers” and “Socs”, a series of tragic events follow.

What I liked

  • The social commentary
  • Fast paced plot
  • Character development
  • The friendships between the characters
  • The emotional stakes of the story

What I disliked

  • Nothing?

Plot and Structure

As stated in the synopsis, this book is set in a two week period and is structured chronologically. The plot can be best described as a gang war and friendship drama. The main character, Ponyboy and his friends, are part of the Greasers who are enemies with another gang, the Socs. After an altercation takes place between the Greasers and the Socs, a series of dramatic events unfolds with devastating consequences. The gangs are defined by social status and class with the Greasers coming from the working class and the Socs from the middle/upper classes. It’s a fast-paced, relentless plot which keeps building and building, creating high emotional stakes and multiple climaxes. Although I enjoyed the plot and it kept me invested in the overall story, it was the characters, friendships and social commentary which I loved the most.

Writing Style

Since S. E. Hinton was only a young teenager when she wrote this, the writing style is very simple and accessible. It’s a YA book and the writing style is accessible for all age groups and reading levels. I wasn’t in love with the writing style, but it was solid and in-keeping with the overall tone and plot of the story. It wasn’t very descriptive in nature but closely examined the characters’ thoughts and emotions, particularly of Ponyboy as the POV character. But despite the concise writing style, I felt that S. E. Hinton sprinkled in some wonderful quotes and metaphors which tugged on my heart strings. She was also able to convey the complexity of the class issues she was exploring in a beautiful and clear way. Considering just how multi-layered the themes were in this book, they were presented in a relatable and authentic way with little exposition.

It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.

Characters and Relationships

The characters in this book stole my heart. Reading this for the first time as an adult enabled me to connect with the characters way more than I think I would’ve if I had read it as a teenager. I was able to put into context just how young these boys were and how awful the neglect, abuse and instability they were enduring was. I immediately felt a sense of love, protectiveness and empathy with these boys who were all lost in their own way and looking for a place to belong. I just wanted to give them a big hug!

Most of them are orphans or have absentee/neglectful parents, no positive adult role models and are school drop-outs (except Ponyboy). They’re living in an impoverished neighbourhood where there’s a lack of opportunity, high crime rates and on-going gang feuds. Although the characters are far from perfect, in many ways they’re victims of circumstance making them incredibly sympathetic. Perhaps the saddest part is that they’re aware that the lives they’re living were unfulfilling, miserable and toxic, but they don’t have the tools to break the cycle and choose a different path.

Each character is well-developed, authentic and has a different way of dealing with their situation. Darry sacrifices his own hopes and dreams to elevate those of his younger brothers (Ponyboy in particular); Soda masks his pain with his “free-spirit” attitude and optimism; Dally is apathetic and hardened to a world that he acknowledges is cruel and unfair; Johnny wants things to change but doesn’t know how to change things so goes along with it because the gang is all he has; and Ponyboy actively challenges their lifestyle and plans to escape by succeeding at school and moving out of the neighbourhood.

Ponyboy as a POV character was so insightful and relatable. Despite only being 14 years old, he has wisdom beyond his years and is able to reflect on situations from a fresh perspective. Where his brothers and friends are blinded by their prejudices, he tries to remain open-minded and optimistic even in the most hopeless of times. Seeing the world through his eyes was equal parts hopeful and heartbreaking. Ponyboy is the future and the potential for him to break the cycle feels close yet so far.

Dally, the typical “bad boy” archetype, had me rolling my eyes at the start. I’m not a fan of this archetype at all but S. E. Hinton exectued it so perfectly by creating a flawed, complex and sympathetic character. Dally being a “bad boy” is not just a mask to hide his vulnerability but part of who he is and a reflection of the philosophy he has developed as a result of the hardships he has faced. At no point is his behaviour or attitude justified, but we do get to see other sides to him and to understand his actions and motivations.

Obviously, it goes without saying that I loved the relationships every bit as much as the characters. They’re kids that have had it tough and deserve a chance, but to the rest of the world they’re delinquents and wasters. Nobody sees or hears these kids and nobody cares. It’s heartbreaking to see how little they matter in the wider world and how aware they are of that. For most of them, all they have to live for is each other. Since many concepts of masculinity are synonymous with detachment from emotion and a lack of intimacy with other males, I loved that the characters were sensitive, emotional and deeply connected to each other. These guys love each other and they might not always openly express it, but their devotion to each other is obvious from their actions. The loyalty, compassion and sacrifice that these guys make for each other made me cry…more than once! It’s a prime example of found family trope done right.

Concluding thoughts

The Outsiders both touched my heart and broke my heart. S. E. Hinton’s achievement in writng this at 17 years old cannot be understated. She captured the complexities of life in the wider context of class, inequality, violence and crime so vividly. It gets to the heart of what it is to be forgotten, side-lined and unloved, and through the stories of Ponyboy and the gang, reflects the lives of many young working class boys who are being left behind by society today. The complexity of the characters and their relationships with each other was palapable, and the heart and soul of the story. As the reader, you form a deep attachment to them because you see how little the world cares about them. Despite how short the book is, it’s so tragic, raw and honest that it makes for an unforgettable read and is one of my favourites. The characters will stay with me for the rest of my life and the injustice and the class inequalities that are explored resonated with me so deeply based on my personal experience and the work I do with disadvantaged young people.

I’d recommend The Outsiders if:

You’re looking for a short, face-paced modern YA classic which is full of drama, friendship and emotion, and explores complex themes surrounding social class and masculinity.

Have you read The Outsiders or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

In the Dream House – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Carmen Maria Machado
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Publication year: 2019
Audience: 18+
Content warnings: Domestic abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, body shaming, adult/minor relationship, homophobia, biphobia, explicit sexual references, PTSD, trauma.

Synopsis

In this abstract and surreal memoir, the author shares her experience of being in a long-term abusive lesbian relationship. Drawing on themes of domestic abuse, queerness and feminism, Machado seeks to raise awareness of abuse in queer relationships which is often excluded from domestic abuse discourse and activism.

What I liked

  • The audiobook narrated by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Writing style
  • Storytelling techniques
  • The themes that were explored

What I disliked

  • Nothing?

Structure

Structurally this memoir was bizarre, but it really worked for me. It wasn’t presented in a linear way or chronologically but instead in fragmented pieces, almost like a jigsaw. Machado briefly touched upon this fragmented structure in the book itself and I think it was genius. It was refreshing, unique and raw. Psychology has proven that scientifically memory is very unreliable – we forget events, details become distorted and the more often we recall a memory the less accurate it becomes. Choosing to structure the book this way felt authentic in a way few memoirs do because it was an acknowledgment that memory is unreliable and that some incidents of abuse have faded from Machado’s memory or that she cannot recall specific details. It worked because it enabled her to tell her story and stay focused on the central themes of the book without going through a play by play of her life from birth until the present day in a stagnant, stylistcally dry style as many memoirs do.

Themes

The primary theme of this memoir was the abuse Machado endured for years at the hands of her long-term girlfriend framed within the context of queerness and feminism. She included research on domestic abuse in queer relatonships between women accompanied by discussions about the ways in which perceptions of domestic abuse have been shaped by heteronormativity and gender (e.g. domestic abuse = hetreosexual relationship between cis man and cis woman with the man as the abuser and woman as the abused) and how this, unfortunately, often exludes queer relationships from the discourse and research. She did a brilliant job at demonstrating the ways in which the lack of education and awareness of LGBTQ+ topics blinded her (and many others) to the abuse she was experiencing at the time. Her assumption that men were the perpetrators of abuse meant that the possibility of abuse being present in a same gender relationship was unthinkable to her.

In the Dream House served as a metaphor for the illusion of the perfect happily ever after that a lesbian relationship represented for Machado and for many other queer women. Chapter by chapter and piece by piece, she dismantled the dream house, revealing the ugliness that lay within and shattering any preconceptions she may have had prior to entering into this relatonship. Her insight into this experience was fascinating and touched upon the abuse and harm that queer people can inflict other queer people. She pointed out that whilst the LGBTQ+ community exists to protect queer people, sometimes it does not always provide the safe spaces and relationships that are expected.

Writing Style

I adored Machado’s writing style. It was definitely more flowery than I’d typically expect from a memoir, but absolutely stunning. There was a lot of symbolism, metaphors and similies paired with a deeply emotive style. Her writing was eloquent, thought-provoking and sincere. The narrative voice was uniquely hers, which was undoubtedly elevated by the experience of reading the audiobook, and despite the shortness of the book, I felt close to Machado as though I knew and understood her. I also loved that there was a self-awareness throughout with the author explaining or justifying her writing process such as her choice of structure, the unreliability of memory and the effect of trauma throughout time.

I speak into the silence. I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.

Concluding thoughts

In the Dream House was an emotional and harrowing tale of domestic abuse in a queer relationship. Although it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable to read because of the emotional impact of the content, the structure and writing style were uniquely brilliant and captured the essence of the author’s story honestly and authentically. It provides educational value in regards to abuse in the queer community and the necessity for more education on LGBTQ+ relationships. I gained a deeper insight into a topic I was quite unaware of and I deeply connected to Machado’s storytelling style which capture the complexity of the human experience, emotion and memory. Her story, thoughts and arguments were eloquently presented and had a profound impact on me as a reader. Overall, the message from In the Dream House highlights the importance of raising awareness of the complexity of domestic abuse and of including queer people’s voices in the research, discourse and activism.

I’d recommend In the Dream House if:

You’re looking for a unique, thought-provoking, emotional memoir from a queer woman that touches heavily on gender and sexuality, advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and raises awareness of abuse in queer relationships.

Have you read In the Dream House or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

P. S. This is my first new 5-star read of 2021! 🥳

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.