Crushing by Sophie Burrows


Crushing by Sophie Burrows

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute and wonderful silent graphic novel based on two people who are living separate lives.

You meet a young lady who is single and hoping to connect with someone. You then meet a young man who is also single, but seems to not like crowds or connecting with someone right away; however, he does seem to want to pair up with someone, but only on comfortable terms.

This is a parallel story of two strangers who are looking for similar experiences. They are both looking to connect with someone, but are not finding opportunities to their liking.

We can feel some of the emotions the artist invokes in her drawing; loneliness, hope, sadness, searching, looking, longing, feelings of being a bit overwhelmed, anxious, etc. The drawings really capture what it may feel like to be single, but longing for connection, friendship, relationships. We can also see comfort, and how one may want to be out there in the streets dating, but feel the call to be home in their own comfort and not wanting to go out, not wanting to be in the midst of crowds and loud places, etc. Also there is a sense of being out there in the crowds, around everyone, and still feel alone.

We see a glimpse of online dating, and the obnoxious behaviors you may face when dating online. We see in-person anxieties when it comes to meeting people face-to-face, and how even if we want to be in a companionship, easing out of the comfort of our home/personal space is daunting at times. We see people coupled up/booed up, and think that’s what’s missing in our lives, but sometimes it feels good to be alone.

You also see women looking at beauty standards trying to figure out how they stand out in the world among other women. Making changes to be more presentable. The book also shares how men may see themselves as attractive or not, and battling with their self-image as well. We are all trying to fit in and find a place in the world where we matter, and with those that care for us. This book packed a ton of things in here without even saying a word, and that is genius in itself.

Topics I gleaned from this:
– Self-care
– Loneliness
– Companionship
– Social awkwardness
– Beauty standards
– Dating (online/in-person)
– Dating

I really enjoyed this silent graphic novel, and I really got a good sense of the message here in this book.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers and the illustrator Sophie Burrows for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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Clean Air by Sarah Blake

Clean Air

Clean Air by Sarah Blake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very unique type of literary work that talks about a post-apocalyptic world set in the future. This book is also very unique in that it discusses COVID in a historical setting, which seems quite interesting, as we are in the midst of the pandemic as we speak.

This story discusses a climate apocalypse where the trees are essentially fighting back and over-pollinating the earth to such a degree in that the air is unbreathable and the earth is overgrown.

It has been a decade since the “Turning” of the climate, and now humanity has rebuilt their world in airtight domes. Isabel and her family, is trying to live a somewhat normal life inside of these domes, but now the peace that has been stable for a a decade is now being shattered by a serial killer. Isabel is obsessed with trying to find this killer before her family is harmed, and also fascinated at the same time on why and how this person is trying to destroy the little peace that have while also trying to survive the air that they can’t breathe.

A very suspenseful read, and the story keeps you on your feet making you wonder who it is that is trying to destroy the world they carefully built in these 10 years since the “Turning”, and how she can protect others from these random killings.

The events that happen in the story are somewhat believable, but the dialogue between the characters seem very off putting to say the least. I didn’t get a sense of great character development in this story, as many of the main characters seemed 2D, and underdeveloped.

However, I’ve never read a post-climate apocalypse type book, and for me it was quite unique. I will caution though, the ending was very anti-climatic for me, especially with the amount of tension that the author was careful to incorporate, and I personally felt the ending was too nice and neat and cancelled out much of the tension that built the book up.

For me this book resembled a reverse story of “The Lorax,” in that although in The Lorax, there were no trees, so there was no air, this story, the trees were over pollinating and making the air toxic to breathe because of the damage humans have done to the ozone layer and environment.

The story was also very female driven in a way, which I appreciated, and inclusive of race, though a bit on the side of tokenism. The author was carefully open about LGBTQIA+ and/or normalized. I enjoyed the discussions centered around mental health and self-care. I liked that therapy was normalized. Overall, this book a fairly good read, and I would recommend it to others who are interested in a futuristic, dystopian, post-apocalyptic world.

3.5 stars ~ rounded up to 4 for Goodreads

Thank you to Algonquin Books and Sarah Blake for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Let's Get Back to the Party

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A robust and emotionally packed story from debut novelist Zak Salih. This book was a beautiful and thought-provoking take on the lives of two gay men with a historical nod to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and the period of time leading to the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.

The story follows Sebastian and Oscar, two friends who met in elementary school, and who grew apart after Oscar moved away at 13, as they were coming into their own with their sexuality and puberty. They meet again as adults, each of them going through life with two different takes on the gay culture in which they live. Sebastian is a more reserved man who is very emotional and thoughtful, who yearns to have love in his life, but also grappling with envy as to how the youth of the day is able to live life unencumbered with ‘coming out’ to their friends and family without being shamed or judged. Oscar is a wild free spirit, who relishes the days of old, when people stayed away from the queer, and how gay men didn’t want to be anything like the heterosexual norm, and how their gayness was apart of this rebellion of the cultural norm. Oscar is now growing disillusioned and disappointed in the gay community as many of his friends want a life of domesticity and married life with a family. He wants the old community back, and he relishes those nostalgic thoughts after meeting Sean Stokes, a former famous gay writer, at a club one night.

This story is told in streams of thought with dialogue mixed in. At first it was disconcerting, but after a few pages, I was able to find my rhythm in reading this writing in this format. However, the author does address many things that are discussed in the gay community, which helped restore my interest in this story.

Salih does an excellent job in depicting the emotional burdens that men have that oftentimes gets reduced or ignored in many settings by various people. Salih also does a wonderful job in identifying the fears that many gay men have as they age, as their friends pair up, as the gay community around them starts to get ‘gentrified’ in a way.

Topics include:
– Loneliness
– Becoming invisible after a “certain age”
– Fear
– Relationships
– Mainstream/normative culture
– HIV/AIDS (plus other STIs)
– Online dating

Going back and forth in between flashbacks and present reality, the story blends Oscar’s and Sebastian’s stories as they meet again after a 10 year gap. I really resonated with the emotional impact this story showcases within these two men, and how this story put historical context in between the pages for a more effective and meaningful message with the LGBTQIA community.

Overall a 3.5 for me. The stream of thought writing didn’t really work well for me to give it a higher rating. It may work for others, but personally I didn’t really like it. I did enjoy the overall messaging though, and I appreciated the inside look and feel into their thought processes as they were moving throughout this book, but I would have liked it more if it was not a stream of thought type of book.

Thank you to the publisher Algonquin Books and the author Zak Salih for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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