Archive for April 2nd, 2016

April 2, 2016

March Reading

(Things I read in March)


Andaleeb Wajid, No Time For Goodbyes: Many words about this are available here.

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, Split: See above.

Kim Fu, For Today I Am A Boy: This is richly, gorgeously written, and yet and yet. For Today I Am A Boy is about Audrey, the child of Chinese immigrants (one of them an extra-conservative father with Ideas about masculinity), coming to terms with the fact that she’s a woman. I say this, but it’s not really true–the only time we ever see Audrey, female pronouns and all, is in the epilogue, in a fuzzy future; for the vast majority of the novel she’s going by her masculine-sounding given name (which I’m not using here for reasons). Which might be fine; the long process of someone coming to terms with (and finding ways to think about) their gender is a story, but. A pause here so you can read this Casey Plett piece. Having said all of which, there’s a section towards the end when our protagonist has befriended a young trans man and his friends, and they have all the words and the clear definitions, and Audrey resents this certainty (and perhaps my insistence on using “Audrey” here is a part of that imposition of certainty) and that feeling felt familiar and nuanced and right.

Payal Dhar and Vartika Sharma, A Helping Hand: A series of letters from an unnamed protagonist to the new kid in school, who has a prosthetic hand. For what is clearly A Book About Tolerance it manages not to be cringingly preachy, and the format leaves a lot to the imagination (what is the incident that “happened at lunch,” mentioned more than once?). I wish the title was less “lol, see, because prosthetic hand”, and I wish (as I always do with this subgenre of children’s books) that we actually got to  hear from the person in question, rather than the “normal” kid coping with this intrusion of otherness into daily life. Vartika Sharma’s illustrations are good though.

Robin Stevens, Jolly Foul Play: Who wants a couple thousand words on how the queer subplot in this book is so much less good than the queer subplot in Murder Most Unladylike and why that is? (I exempt the two people at the next table at a restaurant last Saturday; they probably heard all of this.) It is still a very good book though, and still excellent at its main characters and their feelings.

William Mayne, It: Everyone in this book is alarmingly sanguine about being haunted. I first discovered that this was probably a very thesis-relevant book about a year ago, when Nick Campbell did a conference paper on it, and I’m not sure why it has taken me this long to actually read it. It’s a very William Mayne book, in that there are landscapes and churches and dreamlike detachment, and it’s just generally gorgeous.

Sophia McDougall, Space Hostages: I like this for the reasons I liked Mars Evacuees, the first book. I also rolled my eyes at a throwaway line about the protagonist’s knowledge of Hindi, and while McDougall’s clearly trying to avoid the “Earth-kids-swoop-in-and-save-oppressed-natives” trope in scenes later in the book (by having the natives do quite a bit themselves), the odour of said trope and its history for me permeated the whole episode anyway. But apart from that. This had genuinely delightful aliens, and a ship who is finding herself (can the sequels just be about this spaceship travelling across space by herself?) and other good things.

Evelyn Smith, Val Forrest in the Fifth, Milly in the Fifth: I think I’ve said here before that I love how Evelyn Smith does character. Val Forrest herself is just another good schoolgirl, but her spoilt friend Nina is not, and the cool girl who is contemptuous of Nina is not, and the abusive boarding house lady is so impressively poisonous. I think, though, that I like Milly better–it questions lots of basic schoolgirl ethos things (though backtracks in the end by making the girl who does that questioning a fine sportswoman and Loyal To The School), again has poisonous, manipulative characters done well, and most importantly has a timid, not jolly-schoolgirl-ish heroine who likes looking at, and being fascinated by, other girls.

Amandla Stenberg , Sebastian A. Jones, Ashley A. Woods, Darrell May, Niobe: She is Life (issue 2): Everything I said about the first volume a couple of months ago still holds true–the story and the world are unfolding, slowly; the artwork continues to be very beautiful; I’m still not sure what’s going on but continue to be fascinated anyway.