Sometimes there are books that you wish you had never read and… this is one of them.
Hi, this is my second one-star book of the year and I couldn’t be more excited to rant about it!!
(I’m kidding. I don’t want to have this discussion. Why do books like these—books with tragic dead gays—still exist. In 2018?? 20GAYTEEN????)
I’m sad that this book didn’t turn out to be better than I expected, but unfortunately, this book just makes me extremely angry. Though I received the ARC in order to promote it, I cannot, in good conscience, do anything but speak out against it, and that’s what I’ll be doing today, by listing reasons why you should AVOID THIS BOOK as much as you can!!!
Megan Shepherd, publishing October 2, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Anouk envies the human world, where people known as Pretties lavish themselves in fast cars, high fashion, and have the freedom to fall in love. But Anouk can never have those things, because she is not really human. Enchanted from animal to human girl and forbidden to venture beyond her familiar Parisian prison, Anouk is a Beastie: destined for a life surrounded by dust bunnies and cinders serving Mada Vittora, the evil witch who spelled her into existence. That is, until one day she finds her mistress murdered in a pool of blood—and Anouk is accused of the crime.
Now, the world she always dreamed of is rife with danger. Pursued through Paris by the underground magical society known as the Haute, Anouk and her fellow Beasties only have three days to find the real killer before the spell keeping them human fades away. If they fail, they will lose the only lives they’ve ever known…but if they succeed, they could be more powerful than anyone ever bargained for.
From New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd, Grim Lovelies is an epic and glittering YA fantasy. Prepare to be spellbound by the world of Grim Lovelies, where secrets have been long buried, friends can become enemies, and everything—especially humanity—comes at a price.
thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review! this did not affect my opinion in any way
OVERVIEW: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Basically, this is a story about some animals-turned-humans, who are suddenly faced with a problem when their mistress dies: If they don’t do something in three days to stop the spell from not working anymore, then they’ll turn back to animals.
It’s a Cinderella-inspired concept, and it’s actually kind of cool?? Except for the whole, you know, furries-tragic-dead-gays thing.
And I think the sad thing about this book is that 1) it had a lot of potential to be really great? and 2) I was actually lowkey enjoying it up until the ending (it would have gotten 3 stars).
But sadly, that’s not how things turned out and here are 4 reasons why you should avoid this book:
This aspect wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, and TECHNICALLY they’re humans that used to be animals… but this was just so ridiculous it made me laugh.
Me: Oh maybe the furries thing isn’t so bad!!
Said furries: You don’t know what it was like. Before we were human. It was all… dark. Empty. Nothing. No purpose, no worth.
That’s all I have to say.
2. BORING CHARACTERS
My dude, my guy… the characters of a book is the most important part, in my opinion, and this book just did not have interesting characters at all. The only one I was intrigued by were three side characters (whose diverse rep was not good). Everyone else was. BORING.
There’s firstly Anouk, who does not have a personality at all. She did undergo a LOT of development from the beginning to the end of the book. But it was so abrupt, and it was annoying. And it literally did not make her any more interesting.
There are four other beasties: Beau, Cricket, Hunter Black, and Luc. Here’s how I would describe them:
- Beau: irritating. can you please go away
- Cricket: LOVED her. sassy. quick tongue. thief. literally the only good character
- Hunter Black: intriguing. could’ve done so much more with his character
- Luc: hyped up by Anouk as mysterious nice dude but disappointing
The only character that develops is Anouk. It’s not even good development. Literally all of the characters are boring and bland (except for Cricket) and they all lack depth and I’m just… why.
The villain(s) were also very one-dimensional!!! No backstory!!!! Just “want to be powerful want to rule the world want to change the world for the better”!!!!! I, a teenager in high school, could write a better, more well-rounded villain!!!!! More well-rounded CHARACTERS in general!!!!!!!!
3. CRINGY, INSTA-LOVEY ROMANCE
I don’t even want to talk about the romance because that’s LITERALLY how little I liked it.
Anouk is annoying. And irritating. And has no personality whatsoever.
The love interest is annoying. And irritating. And useless. And boring. And hypocritical. And clingy. And jealous.* And has no personality whatsoever.
I mean, I guess their chemistry could be how irritating they were??? Maybe they just annoyed each other so much that they thought it was hot. Or attractive. I don’t know.
The love interest has essentially been crushing on Anouk for FOREVER and Anouk has always seen him as a little brother. In the beginning of the book it literally states that she sees him as a brother. But then, and I kid you not this is an actual quote in the book: “Sometime in the past few days, she had ceased to see him as a brother anymore.”
INSTA-LOVE. INSTA-LOVE. INSTA-LOVE. INSTA-LOVE.
*I GUESS I like the love interest less.
4. MISTREATMENT OF MARGINALIZED CHARACTERS
Here’s a list of the the how marginalized characters were mistreated in this book:
- implemented the bury your gays trope
- implemented the tragic gays trope
- misrepresented a trans character
- had one POC gone for 75ish% of the book
- had the other POC’s rep be so vague I’m not even 100% sure that they’re a POC
Yeah, that’s some really good stuff right there!!!!
There are two queer characters: one is gay and another is a trans girl. Neither had good rep.
[if you consider talking about a gay character’s death a spoiler, skip this! it is really important to warn people (especially queer people) about this stuff, so that they don’t have to read a book with this trope, but some people do consider it a spoiler]
Basically, it was revealed that a character was gay… 310 pages into the book. Literally THIRTY PAGES LATER, he was killed off. The book is about 380 pages long. For EIGHTY PERCENT of the book, we have no idea that this character is gay. And then thirty pages after finding out, he dies.
The thing is: If anyone had to die, it was logical that he was the one. But he didn’t have to be gay. He didn’t have to be the ONLY gay character. And he died as a sacrifice for the other STRAIGHT characters to live. What happened in this book is the literal definition of the bury your gays trope and I only know of one other person who’s mentioned this trope in their review.
(And yes it’s not CERTAIN that he’s dead but why. do. you. have. to. make. us. think. that the ONE. gay. character. is dead.)
And!! as if it couldn’t get any worse!!! when it was revealed that he was gay, it was revealed that he had been and still was in love with a straight boy who would never love him back!!! He was a tragic gay!!! And whether or not it’s intentional, the message being given out to gay people is: Oh yeah you’re going to live a bad, sad life and then you’re going to die!!!!
And oh yes you’re just gonna LOVE this: The gay character was also written as standoffish and cruel and lonely and kind only to one person at first. Then as the book progressed and he showed “less cruelty”, the main character thought “maybe he wasn’t SO bad” in reference to him. (And then of course at the end of the book, because he just LOVES these people now and all traces of “cruelty” are gone now, he dies so that they can live!!! WOW!!!!!)
I actually gave this book 2 stars at first. But talking about the treatment of this gay character made me so angry I dropped it to 1. I’m just… no. I’m not going to deal with this anymore.
And now, about the trans rep. It’s just… sigh.
Basically, the trans character is like “I didn’t start out a girl”. Anouk is confused. Cricket explains and asks if she remembers a story that Luc told Anouk. Anouk narrates the story in her head and it’s essentially this:
A prince looks into a mirror that shows someone’s heart’s desire, and it shows the reflection of a princess. Blah blah blah stuff happens and at the end the prince transforms into a princess.
The thing that’s wrong with this is: It’s essentially saying that trans people, before they transitioned, WANT to be the gender that they end up transitioning to. Which is….not true.
Man -> doesn’t feel male anymore -> identifies more with female than male -> is female
THERE IS NO:
Man -> wants to be a woman -> is a woman
Because if you’re trans, you’re trans. You just are. There’s no want. Like: Gay people don’t wanna be gay?? They’re just gay?? Why and how is it different for trans people???
(OBVIOUSLY!! There are some trans people who “want” to be a gender that they can’t be because of unsafe environments, and there are some trans people who did go through that “want” stage—but the majority of trans people that I’ve talked to / researched about never WANT to be trans; they just are!!)
And this is getting a TINY bit personal but when I started questioning my gender, I never “wanted” to be genderqueer/fluid*. I questioned my female gender, and when I found a label that fit me, I identified as that.
Finally, the last mistake in the trans rep was saying that this trans character was “born a girl”. Gender is a social construct. You are not born a gender. You’re just assigned one. And this is a concept that a lot of people can’t grasp, but if you’re going to write a trans character: do the research to get it right.
*I don’t want people to get the wrong idea: Genderqueer/fluid people can be trans if they identify as trans, because they were not assigned that gender at birth! I just don’t identify as trans because it’s not something I feel comfortable labeling myself.
This is going to be a short rant, because it’s pretty straightforward, but basically:
One POC wasn’t there for 75ish% of the book and I think it was mentioned once offhandedly that they were a POC.
The other POC I can’t even say for sure is a POC without looking through the book (and trust me, it would take me a long time to find where it said that the character was a POC because I can think of maybe only one time it was mentioned).
First of all, the rep is so MINIMAL. Like, so minimal that those two sentences are above are literally all I can say about its minimalism.
Second of all, this book is set in the urban world in Paris. If you have POC in your book that takes place in this world now, IT’S GOING TO BE A BIG THING, because race is and has always been a big thing. Mentioning the color of their skin ONCE isn’t going to do anything and it’s not good rep.
(And the thing that makes me the most annoyed is that I see people giving this book brownie points for the POC and queer rep, saying things like “even had a fair amount of representation!*” “some racial and sexual representation too!” THIS??? THE QUEER AND POC REP??? IT IS NOT SOMETHING TO PRAISE. HOW ARE YOU PRAISING THIS.)
*I hate this phrase with everything in me, like “oh yeah great characters, plot, story, loved the setting, oh and there was EvEN a fAIr amount of REprEseNTaTiON!!!” Marginalized people always gonna be an afterthought huh!!
The thing with this review is that I could list so many more reasons why this book was not good: The plot was uninteresting. The worldbuilding was insufficient. The writing was so dry.
But with just 4 reasons (1 not being even a real one), I’m at 2K words. That’s how much this book makes me rant. That’s how bad it is. And frankly, I’m too exhausted to say anything else, because talking about the queer and POC rep in this book just makes me so tired.
If nothing I say in this review doesn’t make you take the book off your TBRs, I don’t know what will. Just know that I would regret picking this book up SO MUCH if I wasn’t the only person warning people (especially queer people and people of color) away from it.
:: rep :: (*upside down smiley face*) gay side character, side character of color, trans side character, possible side character of color?
:: content warnings :: slavery, death, murder, captivity, detailed descriptions of blood, violence (fight), death of the one gay character
are you going to be reading this book? (please say no) what books do you know of with the bury your gays trope? do you know any books with furries??? RANT TO ME!!