Backlist Review || Wild by Hannah Moskowitz

Note: This is a backlist review from my previous blog. To see more of my reading life, add me on Goodreads!

Wild follows high school graduate Zack, who’s training for a 100-mile marathon while caring for his 12-year-old sister and their mom as she deteriorates from her early-onset Alzheimers.

There are almost no white/straight/non-disabled characters in this book.

Zack, our main character, is a bisexual Filipino guy, and his girlfriend Jordan is a bisexual Jewish/Guatemalan Deaf girl. If that didn’t sell you, for some reason, Zack’s friend Chelsea is also Jewish, and Zack’s little sister Gin is a 12-year-old lesbian.

Something I really appreciated was how nobody questions anyone else’s sexuality—not even Gin, who’s super young, but just is gay. Nobody tells her that she can’t possibly know yet when she’s never had sex. Nobody tells Zack or Jordan that, since they’re now in a “straight” relationship, they’re no longer bisexual.

This book presents an honest representation of life after high school.

Zack and his two best friends are out of high school now, but none of them really follows the traditional path. Zack’s taking classes at community college so he can be around for his sick mom and little sister. His best friend Max is taking a gap year to “find himself”—and it’s not really going so well. Max’s girlfriend Chelsea is the only one attending a 4-year university, but she’s had to scrimp and save from her minimum-wage jobs just to afford to go.

All this was in the background, but I really appreciated the portrayal of the realities of being 18 or 19 and trying to figure your life out. Not everyone finishes high school and goes right on to a traditional college—and that’s okay.

Zack’s family situation is heartbreaking: his mom has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and he’s tasked with caring for her as well as his sister Gin. Although he could easily have become an unrealistic Hero Kid character, Zack really struggles with the situation he’s tasked with. He’s angry and bitter about having to care for his mom, who’s barely there at all and slowly digressing further as the book progresses. At one point, Zack goes on a rant at his mom about how unfair it is that he has to deal with her at all. He’s flawed—but it’s realistic. No 19-year-old should have to take care of his mom and sister, and Zack’s reactions are raw and true to life.

I really enjoyed the storyline that follows Zack as he trains for a 100-mile marathon in the wilderness of Tennessee mountains. In the beginning, it kind of seems like a quirky, unrealistic thing for him to do, but as we get to know him, it becomes clear that running is Zack’s way of trying to escape his circumstances. His now-absent father tried and failed to finish the marathon, so Zack’s hiding his running from his mom as well. It’s clearly his only time that he gets to be away from dealing with his home life. When he finally gets to the marathon, he starts to realize his own reasons for doing it, and ultimately he has to accept the ways he’s avoided responsibility in the past.

By far my favorite part of this book is the relationship between Zack and Jordan.

I loved that the book starts with an established romance: they’ve known each other for years and have a solid relationship, albeit one that depends on texting and chatting online. The romance plotline follows Zack as he learns that Jordan is Deaf, and as the two struggle to stay together despite the obstacles of distance (both physical and communication-wise).

There are several things to love about this. For one thing, this is a YA book that follows a relationship beyond the moment of them getting together, something that is so rare for some reason. It’s so enjoyable to see realistic struggles—because that’s how real relationships are.

On top of that, both characters are bisexual—which isn’t defined by the fact that they’re currently in a male-female relationship. Words cannot express how much I needed this story for that aspect alone. I’m bisexual and in a relationship with a guy, and my experiences are rarely accounted at all, much less still considered queer. I know I’m not the only one who needed this book.

The biggest obstacle for Zack and Jordan is one of communication. Zack takes it upon himself to learn ASL and it’s no easy task. Hearing readers get to learn about Deaf culture through Zack, from the way Deaf culture prizes blunt honesty, to the ways words and grammar change between English and ASL. I loved his little commentary about how translating his thoughts into ASL automatically makes the statements more up-front and honest—he can’t hide from Jordan when he’s talking with her.

I can’t speak for the accuracy of the Deaf rep, as I’m not Deaf, but anyone reading this book will notice that Hannah Moskowitz clearly put in the research for this story. Despite the fact that both characters recognize the near-impossibility of a Deaf/hearing relationship, they’re willing to make it work, which is such a positive thing to see. Zack and Jordan are there for each other in difficult times, even when they’re fighting. No matter how hard they have to work at being together, they know it’s worth it.

Wild was an easy 5-star for me because of the nuanced way it tackles multiple complex issues, to the way bisexuality is handled, to the Deaf representation. Despite the hard topics, it was ultimately an uplifting story about two people struggling to make their relationship work, no matter how much it takes. I highly recommend Wild to anyone who wants to see what a real loving relationship looks like beyond the initial stages.

Find this book:
Goodreads | Amazon

Have you read Wild or any other books by Hannah Moskowitz? What’s your favorite book with disability rep? Let me know in the comments! Until next time,

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Happy Pride! | My Recs + TBR + Wishlist

Hello Blogosphere! Christine here, bringing you the obligatory Pride Month post…with a bit of a twist.

Here’s the thing: I don’t talk about this stuff offline.

Although a few close people know about my invisible sexuality, I’d still consider myself pretty closeted. As a cis woman married to a man, my identity as (some sort of) bi just doesn’t seem to matter most of the time. I have never felt fully part of the queer community, yet I’m drawn to it at the same time because I don’t really belong anywhere else. And yet, Pride Month is the time of year when I’m reminded to be proud of all the things that make me an outcast everywhere else.

So today, I’m talking about queer books that mean something to me, as well as sharing what’s on my reading list for this month.

My Queer Recommendations: Books I’ve Read & Loved

Note: to see more queer books, check out my shelf on Goodreads!
💫= intersectional 🗣= queer author (that I’m aware of)

Gay

Lesbian

Bisexual/Pansexual

Transgender/Non-Binary + Intersex

Ace Spectrum

My (Overly Ambitious) Pride Month TBR

This month, I’ve decided to attempt to read one book from every letter of the queer alphabet. I don’t know that I’ll be able to actually do it, but here are the books on my list for this month:

L – People in Trouble by Sarah Schulman🗣
G – You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
B – Small Town Hearts by Lilli Vale
T – I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver🗣
Q – Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
I – Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman
A – Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
P – Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss🗣

My Queer Wishlist

What’s on your TBR this June? Do you have a favorite queer book I haven’t mentioned here? Let’s chat in the comments! Until next time,

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Published in the Last 10 Years

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

Today’s prompt is a look back at the books published in the last decade. Join me on this journey back through time!

2018 – Home and Away by Candice Montgomery

I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this last fall—don’t ask how I was on someone’s list—and I absolutely loved this debut YA contemporary. The story follows Tasia, an 18-year-old who discovers that her family isn’t everything she thought it was, that her identity isn’t necessarily as cut-and-dried as she thought. Despite the heavy amount of teen angst, I really appreciated Tasia’s journey and I think this book deserves a lot more hype.

2017 – Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

This book absolutely blew me away. On the surface, it’s a story about a Muslim teen just trying to find her place in her American world. Underneath that, though, there are themes of what it means to be openly yourself, and what it means to put on a front. This book deals with attempted rape in such a poignant and understated way that really packs a punch. I’m also dying to read Ali’s new book, Love from A to Z!

2016 – Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnson

This is a beautiful, quiet YA that focuses on the aftermath of sexual assault. I’m a sucker for books about cheerleaders (don’t ask me why, that’s another story), especially where the cheerleaders are given respect for the athletes they are. I really loved the way Johnson shows the importance of female friendship in the healing process after sexual assault.

2015 – A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

I really want more people to read this book. It’s another quiet YA (I’m sensing a theme here) where it’s not so much about what happens as it is about the character’s emotional journey. I really loved this story about a girl who lives in the shadow of her best friend, and how she eventually learns to embrace who she is. TW: abortion.

2014 – Far From You by Tess Sharpe

This book holds a very special place in my heart for one main reason in particular: at the age of 24, roughly three years after figuring out that I am not necessarily completely straight, this was the first book I read with a character who uses the word “bisexual” as an identifier. There are too many instances of characters referring to “bicurious” folks in a negative, mocking way, so this book was really special to me. It’s also a brilliant mystery story that’s told in present and past tense chapters that alternate through time. It also is the only book I’ve read with a character who lives with chronic pain, although it does also contain elements of drug abuse. It’s not an easy book to read, but well worth it.

2013 – Want Not by Jonathan Miles

I honestly can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but I picked it up back in 2014 when I was living in New York City. The book follows three sets of characters: a middle-aged professor who’s wife has just left him, a sketchy and uber-rich businessman, and a couple who squat in abandoned apartments in Manhattan. This is another book that’s not about the plot, but about the characters and their reactions to their circumstances. Ultimately, it’s a story about what desire does to humanity.

2012 – The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

This was one of the first queer YA books I ever encountered, but it was also one of the first YA books I read that made me realize just how literary and beautiful YA can be. The story of a teen lesbian who gets sent to a gay conversion camp, this is a heart-breaking story woven with intricate descriptions of 90s Montana that blew me away.

2011 – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I actually read this one pretty recently, despite the fact that it’s been out for a while. Although I’d like to think I’m not a sucker for vampire fiction, this book proves me wrong. I love the way Harkness explores prejudice through the use of vampires, witches, and daemons. Another thing I loved about this was the slow-burn romance that includes a discussion of sex that doesn’t revolve around penetration! Yay!

2010 – Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

I bought this book for the title, and it sat on my self for six years, following me from Oklahoma, to Philly, to New York, and then back to Pennsylvania. When I finally read it, I couldn’t figure out why I’d put it off so long. This darkly comedic tale about a pretty pathetic guy who just wants to find love is really about so much more than that. Shteyngart constructs a future world where China owns everything and an individual’s worth is defined by their social media presence. It was horrifyingly funny to read, and definitely still relevant after all these years.

2009 – Holding Still for As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall

Set in Toronto, this book follows a chaotic group of queer twenty-somethings as they struggle to figure out what the hell they’re doing in life. I read this one when I was living in NYC as well, and the portrayal of city life in your twenties is so spot on. I loved the explorations of queerness, the confusing love triangle/square, and the forays into life as a paramedic. Although this book is obviously limited, it still strikes me as being incredibly ground-breaking for the times.

Do you have a favorite book released in the last 10 years that I missed? Did you post a Top Ten Tuesday this week? Let me know in the comments! Until next time,

Review || Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Genre: YA Contemporary | Diversity: Anxiety rep
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.🌙

Eliza and Her Monsters is not just another contemporary.

At the age of 18, Eliza is the anonymous creator of a web comic and online phenomenon, Monstrous Sea—but she doesn’t talk to anyone offline. When she meets Wallace, a Monstrous Sea superfan and brilliant fan fiction writer, her way of life completely changes. No longer completely tied to an online world, Eliza struggles to maintain her anonymity, even from Wallace. Meanwhile, she has to figure out how to write an ending to the series she’s worked so hard to create. I read this book on the brilliant recommendation of the lovely Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books, and I’m so glad I picked this up.

Francesca Zappia is clearly a talented artist, and her inclusion of Eliza’s artwork in the story took this one step further than the average contemporary novel.

As I read, I discovered more about Monstrous Sea, which is its own world with its own lore and magic. I found myself desperately wishing there was a whole book of Monstrous Sea, because it’s definitely something I would devour. Zappia does an amazing job of combining elements of online conversations and posts, so that I got a really good feel for Eliza’s online world as well. Eliza’s two best friends are people she’s never met IRL, but they each have a distinctive voice that comes through in their message threads; as a writer, I was blown away.

Eliza Mirk is the kind of character that either makes or breaks a story. In my opinion, she makes this one.

I really related to Eliza as an artist, strangely. Although none of my work has ever come close to being as famous as Monstrous Sea, Eliza’s desire to maintain her artistic integrity while being literally invisible IRL really resonated with me. As a writer, few people I encounter in my daily life have so much as read my blog, much less any of my fiction. Eliza’s emotions at 18 reminded me of my young self and almost made me weirdly nostalgic for that time of my life, in all its grittiness.

That being said, it should be acknowledged that Eliza is an unlikable character.

She’s angsty to the extreme. Despite having parents who love her and give her everything she could ever need, she resents them for not understanding what her art really means. Plenty of people deal with family situations that are much worse than what Eliza does… yet I related to this too.

When I was in high school, I hated my parents. They didn’t understand why I chose to spend all my spare time writing bits and pieces of a novel on scraps of notebook paper. They didn’t take me seriously as an artist (although pretty much no one did). They wanted me to go to a good college and get a real career, and I resented them for how much they wanted me to be a successful adult. While I can see why some people would find Eliza’s treatment of her parents problematic, I related to it so much, and I think this is the first time I encountered this representation of what my life was like as a teen. I do think Eliza grows over the course of the novel, that she learns to communicate better with her parents.

Ultimately, this is a story about what it means to be a teen artist in an online world.

Through Eliza’s eyes, the reader can see just how valuable online relationships can be to a young person. We live in a world that’s full of scare articles about how dangerous the Internet is for kids, but very few people openly talk about how helpful it can be to someone like Wallace, who’s dealing with trauma and doesn’t feel comfortable talking and interacting in person. Sure, one can lose themselves on the internet; but if you’re reading this lengthy review, I’m pretty sure you agree that the internet can also be a place of belonging for so many of us.

Eliza and Her Monsters also has one of the most beautiful, slow-moving romances I’ve read in a long time.

Wallace is such a sweet character. It’s rare to find a male character who’s both tough and soft, and I loved his story so much. He recently lost his father and lived in a blended family, which is another thing that I want to see more of in YA. Beyond that, the relationship between Eliza and Wallace is sweet and flawed and real. Their slow-motion romance completely fits the two characters: Eliza never interacts and makes friends IRL, but learns to do so through Wallace; Wallace learns to use his voice slowly but surely. Both of them still have a ways to go as characters, which is part of what makes it real.

The main thing I felt was missing was a bigger discussion of mental health.

[Note: mild to moderate spoilers ahead.]

Eliza’s anxiety feels very realistic: she puts an incredible amount of pressure on her art, and added to that is the fact that she begins to feel responsible for Wallace’s future as well. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, and when her anonymity as an artist is shattered, Eliza finally cracks. Again, this felt incredibly real to me. Sometimes, with a mental illness, you can be going along just fine until something whacks you over the head and makes you feel completely broken.

Yet I wanted to see more in terms of Eliza’s recovery from anxiety. There’s exactly one scene of her in therapy, and while it’s a beautiful scene, I wanted more. Additionally, there’s a scene where Eliza contemplates suicide (in the exact same way as Wallace’s father) and is really only deterred when Wallace himself actually shows up. Setting aside the fact that there’s no way Wallace could’ve known where Eliza was, this terrifying scene is set aside in the narrative and not really addressed as being a truly serious moment. Whether or not Eliza really would’ve committed suicide, the moment feels over-dramatic in part because of how it’s shoved aside; it can be read as teen angst, rather than a serious cry for help.

Overall, though, this is a book I highly recommend.

Once I started reading Eliza and Her Monsters, I could hardly put it down. I was easily sucked into Eliza’s world and that of her web comic. I rooted for her relationship with Wallace and cheered on both of them in their mental health recovery. If you’re looking for realistic anxiety rep, or just something that explores internet relationships, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

Find This Book:
Goodreads | AbeBooks | Book Depository


Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite backlist read that you feel deserves more hype? Let me know in the comments. Until next time,

Why I’m Embracing My Love of Self-Help Books + My Recommendations

Hello bookish friends! Welcome back to Lady Gets Lit!

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Today I’m bringing you another bookish discussion! One of my goals this year is to write more discussion posts, whether it’s about books, writing, or mental health.

I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to Self-Help books.

When I was about ten years old, I went through this phase where I was obsessed with Chicken Soup for the Soul. I read the one for kids, then I read the one for pet owners, then I read the one for pre-teens, then I read the one for teens (which definitely scarred me a little bit). Why did I love these books so much? Because as cliched as the feelings were, they rang true to some extent. Reading them was cathartic in a way I didn’t know how to articulate.

I’ve been in the closet about my love of Self-Help (or, as we call it at work now, Personal Growth) books for a long time.

As I got older, I started to realize how these types of books essentially say the same thing in a variety of ways. In some ways, Self-Help capitalizes on human emotions and struggles. These authors claim to have all the answers to the problems of being human, yet most of their advice boils down to things we could figure out on our own.

More than that, Self-Help gets a bad rap as being pretty hokey, encouraging you to live like you’re already rich, manifest your own destiny, and other (potentially harmful) ideas. As someone who grew up Christian, these ideas sound a lot like the oft-touted “pray about it!” that appears in religious circles. Some of these solutions aren’t necessarily practical for most people.

For a long time, I resisted the pull of Self-Help. Instead, I went to therapy, I made compulsive to-do lists, and I asked a lot from myself. And then, on a whim—and because I could read it for free—I picked up You Are A Badass.

Jen Sincero’s book didn’t change my life. I read through it pretty quickly, and while I found myself nodding along at certain points, I didn’t necessarily buy into all of what she says. Most of the advice is recycled and reformatted from what other writers have said time and time again. Additionally, much of her advice erases the experiences of people dealing with mental health issues; for instance, she insists on having a positive attitude, which is nearly impossible for me when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode.

I didn’t love You Are A Badass, but it did spur me on to read more.

Here’s the thing: there’s a reason Personal Growth books are so popular—because many people are always looking for ways to become better than they are currently.

There’s a lot of unhelpful, cheap trash in the Self-Help genre. It’s not always possible to quit that job you hate, to treat yourself like you’re already as wealthy as you hope to be. Not everyone can (or should) manifest their own destiny.

And yet, there’s a lot of hope in these books. There’s a lot of wise advice that is only repetitive because, for many of us, it takes repeating for it to really sink in.

So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned along the way—even if it’s cheesy and repetitive. Because I’m done living in the closet with my love of Self-Help / Personal Growth.

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things I’ve learned from self-help books

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled – Life sucks, but once we accept that life is hard, it ceases to be hard.

Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird – You will never achieve success or happiness as a writer if you only write out of the hope of becoming published. You have to love writing, otherwise it’s not worth it.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness – The key to mindfulness is to try and be fully present with whatever it is that you’re doing—even if it’s washing the dishes.

Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass – Don’t let anyone else define your self-worth, and don’t waste your time chasing external validation.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way – I am allowed to nurture myself.

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – You can’t possible care about everything, so choose your values wisely and don’t waste your time on what’s not valuable to you.

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, Make Time – There’s power in choosing one thing each day that you’re going to focus on and then setting aside time specifically to do that. Also, delete all the distracting crap off your phone.

Erin Falconer, How to Get Sh*t Done – Beyond just getting clear about what you want (not what other people want), narrow your goals to three big things. You can’t possibly do more than that, but if you’re specific about your Big Three, you can focus your energy on accomplishing them.

Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face – When you make promises to yourself that you can’t keep, you’re training yourself that your words don’t matter, and that you don’t matter. Stop lying to yourself.

bonus: self-help books on my TBR

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Do you read Self-Help books? Who are your go-to authors for inspiration? Are you a closet fan of a category of books? I’d love to hear from you!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Standalone Books That Deserve a Sequel

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

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I love a good standalone book.

To be quite honest, long book series are really intimidating to me. I’m bad at getting invested in a series because I don’t enjoy being sucked into one world for too long. On the flip side, standalones* leave a lot to the imagination. As I was compiling this list, I realized that mainly what I want is more of my favorite characters, in all their flaws and especially their triumphs.

*does anyone else feel like standalone and sequel are just really weird words? No? It’s just me? …

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Top 10 Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

The Book: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Why I want a sequel: I loved getting to know Cam so much that I miss her, still.

The Book: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Why I want a sequel: I still want to see what happens with Arthur and Ben grow up and go off on their own in the world.

The Book: Home and Away by Candice Montgomery
Why I want a sequel: further development of Tasia’s relationship with her birth father + more steamy romance.

The Book: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Why I want a sequel: the vagueness of the ending made me desperate to see what happens next for Bri.

The Book: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Why I want a sequel: I’m in love with boarding school settings.

The Book: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Why I want a sequel: mostly I just want to see more out ace characters, period.

The Book: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Why I want a sequel: This book has one of my favorite recovery narratives of all time – because it’s messy, and incomplete, and a constant thing in Ella’s life.

The Book: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Why I want a sequel: I want to see more of Suzette’s bisexuality (because I love bi rep and I’m selfish)

The Book: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Why I want a sequel: the book shows Nora really struggling with her mental health, so I’d like a glimpse of her on the flip side of things—and maybe even dealing with a relapse while she’s in a new relationship.

The Book: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Why I want a sequel: Juliet makes such a powerful character and I’d love to see more of her personal growth into her twenties.

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Do you prefer standalone or series books? What is your favorite standalone book that you wish had a sequel? Do you participate in Top 10 Tuesday? Let me know in the comments!