Review: Love, Simon

So, I mentioned in my last update post that I wanted to get back into more regular posts on Queering the Mainstream. And what better way to do that than with a bang by doing my first Visual Review! In an effort to expand the things I talk about, I’ve decided to move beyond book reviews. But naturally, the main focus of this blog remains all gay, all day. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Warning: I’m trying to avoid major spoilers in this review, but proceed with caution just in case.


For my first Visual Review, I’ve chosen to go, naturally, with the film adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (a.k.a. my favourite book).

The movie has been rechristened as LOVE, SIMON. It officially releases this Friday, March 16th.

But thanks to the Canadian Centre for Gender+Sexual Diversity, I won passes to an advance screening on March 12th. I then went and saw the movie twice on opening weekend.

And let me tell you… I was blown away by this beautiful film, as I knew I would be. The book means so much to me and I went into the movie with high expectations. However, I was going in expecting a direct book-to-film translation, and with good reason.

I had the opportunity to meet Becky Albertalli and see her at a couple events last fall, where she compared the book and film to fraternal twins, not identical twins. Basically, the two are very similar but some changes had to be made for the film adaptation.

Regardless, I walked into the movie feeling very excited. Basically…

The story follows high school student Simon Spier who is not-so-openly gay. Simon meets another student, who goes anonymously by Blue, online and the two begin corresponding over email. Another student, Martin, stumbles across Simon’s gmail account on a library computer and threatens to leak Simon’s emails with Blue unless Simon helps Martin get a date with his friend Abby. In the meantime, Simon’s continues to grow closer (over email) with Blue, while trying to guess which boy from school his mysterious crush actually is.

Okay, now it’s time to spill my feelings on this movie. Warning: I have a lot of them.

Let me just say, this movie is everything I hoped it would be and more. While queer films have been making a lot of headway in recent years, with Moonlight winning Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards, and the recent Call Me By Your Name receiving multiple nominations and winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And while one half of Call Me By Your Name’s central couple, Elio, is seventeen (the same age as Simon), the film is more marketed for adult audiences.

Love, Simon, however, is a milestone. It is the first release featuring a gay teen love story from a major studio. With a PG-13 rating, it is also definitely aiming for a younger audience. Despite this, however, I’ve seen and heard of many adults that are flocking to this film in part for what makes me love this story so much: it’s the kind I have been waiting years of my life to see.

I was Simon’s age, seventeen, when I came out for the first time. But it took until I was twenty-eight to see my own experiences reflected in a similar way on film… in Love, Simon. For example, there’s a scene where Simon comes out to his friend Abby in the car. I’ve had similar experiences when coming out to my friends.

There have been some reviews of the film that have suggested teens today don’t need this movie.  This is a movie I needed thirteen years ago when I was struggling to accept myself. And while some may argue that we live in an age when coming out stories like Simon’s just aren’t as necessary, the number of Tweets I’ve seen from people saying Love, Simon gave them the courage to come out after seeing the movie suggest otherwise.

This movie is beautiful and funny and so much more emotional than I even expected. I cried all three times I saw it. I’m probably going to cry every future time I watch it. I have a lot of feelings about this story and I am so damn happy it exists in the world.

In the movie, Simon says he deserves a great love story. And queer people deserve to see those love stories on the big screen. Books and television are miles ahead of the film industry when it comes to queer stories, and here’s hoping that Love, Simon is a major leap in the right direction to getting more stories told like this.

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But I’m still trying to find it…

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Scattered Thoughts. I’m reposting it here as well, partially to explain why it’s been so long since I’ve last posted. But also partially because I’ve been thinking of merging the two blogs into one, but more on that later. I’m hoping to get back into regular posts on QtM soon.


There’s an Oscar Wilde quote at the beginning of Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End that really resonates with me. The quote goes, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”.

I’d like to say that I’ve been busy living the last few months, but to be honest I feel like my life lately has been nothing but existing. Sure, in the last seven months I’ve had moments that felt like living, but I’ve also found recent months to be some of the hardest I can remember.

I had a bit of a breakdown in early September and had to withdraw from school for a bit. I’m back now, having started my final course in January. I’ll now finish in April and graduate in June.

Actually, I think saying a “bit of a breakdown” is a stretch. I had panic attacks, several of them, something that’s never happened to me before. I froze whenever I tried to do anything. I cried. I got mad. I got scared. Things got dark. And for one very, very brief moment, I honestly thought I’d rather be dead than keep going.

That’s when I knew I needed a break. That’s when I knew I needed to step back. And while I know taking the break was the best thing for my mental health, I also feel that, had I just been able to get through, I could have graduated by now.

I saw a counsellor who reminded me that I’ve been successful at so many things in life and that this is just a setback, but I still can’t help but wish that I was finished instead of still having another few months ahead of me.

At the end of August, I moved into my very own apartment for the first time. No roommates, just me and the cat. And as much as I absolutely love living alone, it’s been a struggle financially. Working a minimum-wage retail job makes it hard to get by some weeks. Another reason why I wish I was finished school. But as hard as it is, I’m happy being on my own, and I wouldn’t do anything to change that.

I still find myself in a rut though. Most days I barely have the energy to leave the apartment. If it wasn’t for work or class, I don’t know if I’d ever leave, to be honest. I don’t know if it’s because of the anxiety issues that lead to my breakdown or what it is, but I just don’t seem to be enjoying life as much lately.

There’s a Taylor Swift lyric from her song All Too Well that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It goes, “I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it”.

I’m still trying to find my old self too. I keep telling myself that this is just a low point and things will get better in the coming months.

I know they will. It’s just going to take time. So for now, I’m just existing. But soon, I want to start living.

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

And my review catch-up continues!

This one just may be one of my favourite books that I’ve read in recent memory.

It’s been described as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.

It’s been described as, “the Big Gay European Road Trip Novel you didn’t know you were waiting for”.

It’s, of course, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

And here’s the blurb:

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Basically, this book is pretty much a literal representation of heart-eye emojis. Because that’s how I felt the entire time I read it: 😍😍😍

 

I knew from the moment I read the description that I would love this book. I was BEYOND excited when I got my hands on it.

It’s got fun, adventure, love, thievery, pirates, kissing and more. Did I mention kissing and pirates?

The book also tackles some serious issues in very real ways, like illness, sexuality, class, race and gender. This is very much a historical book and Lee makes it as accurate as she can. All issues are tackled in a very real 18th century way.

Monty is an absolute mess, but he is perfect all the same and you will love him.

And Percy is basically goals. He’s beautiful inside and out, and he plays the violin. So like, move over Monty, but he’s mine now.

This is one that I know I’ll read again because it’s just so entertaining. Gay teen historical fiction at its finest, all thanks to the amazing Mackenzi Lee!

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue releases June 27th.

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Ramona Blue

As I previously mentioned, I’m using my time between semesters to get caught up on some reviews!

And I’m very excited about this one!

It’s Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy!

I loved Julie’s first two books and when I read the description for Ramona Blue, I knew immediately that this would become a favourite.

Here’s the blurb:

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

I remember being so excited when I read this description. I’ve written on this blog about my own sexual identity and how I believe sexuality to be fluid. So I’m all about books that explore themes like this, so the idea of a book where a girl who identifies as a lesbian falls for a guy was a story I just had to read. I loved this book before I even opened it.

Ramona’s story, and more like it, are some we need more and more of in queer YA. Stories showing sexual fluidity need to be more common to reflect the realities of teens who experience similar feelings.

This story is just so honest. But Ramona and Freddie’s relationship is far from the only thing at play here. We also see Ramona’s relationships with her friends and family, especially the bond she has with her sister, Hattie.

We also see a teen who is trying to find herself, in more ways than one. Not only is she discovering a new part of her sexuality, but she’s also trying to navigate the small town world she’s always known and all the other options that may exist out there for her.

Basically, Julie Murphy has written one hell of an amazing novel! You won’t want to miss this one!

Ramona Blue is available now.

Note: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Review: It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

I’ve been really slacking lately! I’m sorry! I’ve just finished a really busy semester with school and I’ve got a little time before my summer semester (and final two classes of grad school) begin. And that little bit of time means I’m back to books, and back to reviews, at least for a little while.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in with…

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Miss Sugiura!

As always, we begin with the blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

Okay, but first of all, how cute does this book sound? From the moment I read the description, I was in, especially since it was described as Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. So yes, I was excited.

And then when I realized that both Sana and Jamie are girls of colour, I was even more excited.

Basically:

Sana and Jamie’s relationship is cute, but also not without it’s issues. But the way Sugiura writes their story is so real, and that’s what YA fiction needs: real relationship stories, especially with people of colour.

But It’s Not Like It’s a Secret also deals with family issues, like Sana’s suspicion that her dad is having an affair. There are also honest discussions of race, expectations, friendship, and more.

There’s no secret here: It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is a beautiful story with very real moments that we need more of in YA fiction!

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is available now.

Note: I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review. I am an Indigo employee.

Dear Disney, Please Stop.

batbI’ve always been a Disney fan. I was raised on Disney movies. The Lion King is the first movie I can remember seeing in theatres. And I’ve been very, very excited about the live-action Beauty and the Beast that’s coming out this month. I mean, Emma Watson as Belle?! How could I not love it?!

But today I find myself very, very disappointed with Disney in light of recent events. Yesterday, Attitude Magazine revealed that Beauty and the Beast is set to make history with Disney’s first canonically gay character.

And at first I was like…

cheering

The idea of Disney having an actual, canon-endorsed gay character excited me to no end. Queer representation is so important, and the only place I’d kill to see a queer character more than in Disney is in the Harry Potter universe (hint hint, J.K. Rowling!).

But sigh, because my excitement was short-lived as I clicked on the Attitude article and it was revealed exactly who the gay character is…

lefou

Josh Gad as LeFou in the new live-action Beauty and the Beast.

LeFou!

Yep, you read that right. Gaston’s bumbling sidekick, best known for singing about no one is like Gaston. His obsession with his boss/friend/overlord kind of makes sense that he’s gay.

But while this makes sense, it’s extremely disappointing, and in many ways it feels like a cop-out from Disney, who are just now trying to queerbait and drum up some extra publicity for the film.

This was my reaction to reading the announcement:

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Reaction across Twitter was swift: many people are also just as upset and angry and disappointed as I am.

And here’s why:

While I fully appreciate and embrace the idea of a queer Disney character, LeFou is not the best choice for that character. Yes, he’s obsessed with Gaston, but therein lies the problem. For its first canonically queer character, Disney has chosen someone who is in love with his straight companion. Gaston is a character designed to be a misogynistic prick, a typical ultra-macho, Type A heterosexual cisgender male. LeFou idolizes Gaston, as director Bill Condon says in the Attitude article: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston”.

Yes, he’s gay and wants to kiss Gaston, cool! But Gaston will never love him back. So he’s being set up for heartbreak. But on top of that, LeFou is evil. He’s a bad guy, and as Ana Mardoll points out in her Twitter thread on this fiasco, LeFou is an active participant in Gaston’s schemes to pursue Belle, despite the fact that she wants nothing to do with him.

But what’s more, the Attitude article quotes the film’s director again talking about how LeFou is confused and unsure about what he wants. He promises “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie”. BUT HOW?! Disney finally decides to have its first canonically queer character and it’s an evil, confused man who’s in love with literally the worst possible person who thinks of no one but himself!

I’m just so angry and hurt by this decision. Like…

table_flip_alan_rickman

Queer representation is so important, but it has to be taken seriously and done right. And while I haven’t seen the movie yet, I just have a really bad feeling about this based on LeFou and Gaston from the original animated film. This feels like queerbaiting, and nothing more. It’s Disney trying to give itself a pat on the back by saying there’s a gay character in the film.

I’m currently researching identity and representation in young adult novels with queer characters for my Major Research Essay for my Master’s, and I’ve looked at studies that talk about how important proper queer representation is, especially for youth in the process of figuring out their identity. It’s very possible, and even highly likely, that children and teens going to see Beauty and the Beast could be struggling with who they are. I should know, I wrestled with my sexual identity for over five years before I finally started coming out.

LGBTQ+ youth need to see realistic portrayals in the media. They need to be able to see characters they can relate to and see themselves in. Seeing flawed representations on screen likely won’t help anyone grappling with themselves, especially when that identity is portrayed through a confused, malicious character whose feelings likely won’t ever be reciprocated by the object of his desire.

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Like, if they really, really wanted to include some legitimate queer representation, why not go with Lumiere and Cogsworth?! Fans have shipped them for years anyway and they bicker like an old married couple. AND, Cogsworth is played my literal gay wizard Ian McKellen in the new film! Just imagine, at the end of the movie when all the objects are human again, and Lumiere and Cogsworth confess their feelings for each other and it’s just so cute and perfect and gay. HOW MUCH MORE DIRECTION DO YOU NEED HERE, DISNEY?!

In all seriousness, I just can’t even fully explain how upset I am. This just feels like such a betrayal from Disney. I will still go see Beauty and the Beast because it is one of my favourites, and I love Emma Watson, but I’m still so hurt by this.

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Review: We Are Okay

img_6729Okay, so I’m writing this review literally half an hour after having finished the book–mainly because this book gutted me. I’m a roller coaster of emotions right now and I need to talk about it while it’s still fresh.

I am of course talking of the emotional whirlwind that is Nina LaCour’s new novel, We Are Okay.

Side note: I’m kind of reminded of the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s All Too Well, “And I might be okay, but I’m not fine at all”. That’s a little how I’m feeling after reading this book. I read most of it sitting in the middle of a bookstore and was actually fighting back tears. Consider yourself warned if you read this one in public, y’all.

Anyway, here’s the blurb:

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

I have yet to read a Nina LaCour book that I didn’t love, and I honestly don’t expect that will ever happen. Everything Leads to You is just amazing, and I’ve already talked about how You Know Me Well (co-written with David Levithan) was my favourite LGBTQ+ YA book of 2016.

We Are Okay, however, is on a whole different level. This book is just so raw and emotional and it will make you feel things. Marin has left her life in San Francisco behind and finds herself alone in New York with nothing but her phone, wallet and a picture of the mother she doesn’t remember.

The book flashes between present day and the the last four months leading up to when Marin left for New York. It tells us of her life with the grandfather that raised her, a man who was still a stranger to her in so many ways. It tells us of her friendship and relationship with Mabel and the rift that now exists between them.

More than anything, this is a story about a lonely girl who is so filled with grief. She is trying to pretend she is okay, but she is really far from it. This is a book about loneliness and how you just need to get away sometimes. But this is also a book about finding yourself, about healing and hope and love and finding ways to be okay.

This book is just so honest and real. It is heartbreaking and breathtaking and it will break you and then slowly put you back together all over again as you make your way through it. This is the book that I needed to read today and I didn’t even know it.

Review: Our Own Private Universe

oopuHello, and a belated Happy New Year! I’ve been away for far too long (school, life, etc.), but now I’m back with my first review of 2017!

And let me say, this book is one that will definitely not disappoint. It’s Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley!

As always, I’ll begin with the blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it’s mostly about sex.

No, it isn’t that kind of theory. Aki already knows she’s bisexual—even if, until now, it’s mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki’s theory is that she’s got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she’s got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It’s time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Ok, so this is going to be one of those moments that I say some words that may not necessarily make sense to you right away, but alas… THIS FREAKING BOOK! OMG! YAAASSSS! PRAISE! 🙌

In case you can’t tell, I loved this book. The story is just so sweet because it’s all about a journey of self-discovery and figuring out one’s identity and who you’re supposed to be. I love books like this and Robin Talley just wrote it so well. The story is just so enjoyable and real. Aki’s thoughts and her view on things are just so relatable.

The book touches on so many important things, not just exploration of sexuality, not just teen romance… but also issues surrounding friendship and family and doing what’s right.

Beyond that, it also features some of the youth from the church groups talking about some majorly important themes, like same-sex marriage, war, helping others, etc. And this is important because these are issues young people should be talking about. Youth are the future and it’s especially important today when the most powerful country on earth is suddenly at the mercy of a grabby-handed cheeto.

But also, this book is important from an LGBTQ+ standpoint too, and I can definitely see it becoming a staple in LGBTQ+ young adult fiction. Not only does it feature Aki exploring her sexuality (a.k.a. on-page bisexual representation, y’all!), but Talley doesn’t hold back or sugarcoat things, and this makes the book all the more real. I’m talking on-page F/F hookups and on-page sex education (a.k.a. the characters talk about protection, where to get it, how to use it, why it’s important). This is huge. I don’t remember my sex-ed classes all that well when I was younger, but I sure as shit know they didn’t include explicit details about anything non-hetero-related.

All this is to say that Our Own Private Universe is an incredibly significant book that touches on some real-life issues, things that we need to see more of in LGBTQ+ YA books. I praise Robin Talley for including them in this amazingly wonderful book.

Seriously, buy this book. You certainly won’t regret it.

Our Own Private Universe releases January 31st.

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review. I am an Indigo employee.

2016 Top Ten: The Complete List and Some Honourable Mentions

top10twoI’ve spent the month of December so far counting down my Top Ten picks for the best LGBTQ+ books of 2016–the best of the ones I read, at least.

Here’s the complete list:

 

And a few honourable mentions (alphabetical by author last name):

  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
  • Boy Robot by Simon Curtis
  • The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
  • Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
  • True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan
  • As I Descended by Robin Talley

Some LGBTQ+ YA books I missed this year (a.k.a. books that could have potentially made this list had I gotten around to reading them–my TBR list is miles long):

  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
  • Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate
  • Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
  • Beast by Brie Spangler

A non-YA honourable mention (more of a middle-grade book, but is also incredible):

  • George by Alex Gino

Finally, some extra special mentions (a.k.a. three of my favourite books that I read in 2016, but they were all advanced copies that won’t be published until 2017, so they don’t really count yet. Keep an eye out, though–they could make my Top Ten next year!):

top10Finally, an extra special shoutout to all of the incredible authors mentioned on this list. Recently on Twitter, Adam Silvera described Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda as a book he needed at 16, but was damn happy to have at 26.

I feel very much the same. LGBTQ+ YA is so important and I just love these books so much. Being able to read them and talk about them means so much to me. These are books I wish I’d had as a teen, so I will never stop reading them, and sharing them because you never know when a teen who needs to hear about them might be reading.

Here’s to all the amazing LGBTQ+ YA coming in 2017!

2016 Top Ten: #1, You Know Me Well

01ykmwAnd now here we are, my top LGBTQ+ young adult book of 2016!

I read a lot of wonderful books this year, but this one really struck me.

So, I’m super happy to say, #1 goes to You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan!

This really was my favourite book this year; I actually read it again recently just to make sure it’s as wonderful as I remembered it from my first read back in the summer. And it was.

Without further ado, here’s the blurb:

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

I’ve been a fan of David Levithan for a while now, and while I haven’t read all of his books, I’ve read quite a few and I’ve enjoyed them all–especially Boy Meets BoyTwo Boys Kissing and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green). I’ve also read and loved Nina Lacour’s Everything Leads to You twice now, and and her book Hold Still was also pretty great. Nina has another book out in early 2017 that I’m very excited for! Anyway, the point to this is that I knew I would love this book even before I read just because of who wrote it.

Mark and his best friend Ryan are in a bar at the kickoff of pride, where Mark has entered a dance contest in his underwear when Kate spots him. Kate has just run away from meeting her longtime crush, after she got nervous. Upon seeing Mark and realizing he’s the boy she’s sat next to in calculus for the last year. That’s when Kate decides she and Mark need to be friends.

Their bond forms quickly, and soon they’re wondering how they were never friends before. Mark helps Kate as she struggles to get out of her own way and decide if she’s ready for the connection she feels with Violet. Mark, on the other hand, is trying to cope with the fact that his best friend Ryan (who Mark sometimes fools around with) is interested in another guy, when all Mark wants is for him and Ryan to be together. But above all else, this book is about Mark and Kate and their new, but strong, friendship.

I really loved this most of all. I loved reading a book that, yes, has some romance, but above all focuses on friendships. That’s one thing that I really related to most. But also, I really related to Mark and his feelings for Ryan and not seeing them reciprocated.

But also, I love love love that this book happens during Pride, and that most (if not all, really) of the characters are queer.

This book is super important, in my opinion. We need more books that are full of queer representation. But also like I said, it focuses so much more on friendship than anything else, which is what really made it my favourite book this year. That’s why it’s my number one choice!