“For us, the places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”
A long quote, but a lot of my review is going to focus on that and, more or less, examining why I enjoyed it so much. But, first I want to talk about the things I didn’t like so much.
- The various worlds needed more work done. I wanted more on the page about them.
- I felt like I got to know the side characters more than I did Nancy or Kade, although I liked them both.
- I wish that Nancy’s asexuality and (possible) anorexia had been touched on more.
- The general plot could have used a bit more development.
- It could have been longer to fix most of these problems.
Those are my main critiques, something that I thought about a few times as I was reading it. What it boils down to, for me, was that this could have been a full-length story. It would have been a fun one, too. You learn about everyone’s worlds and you watch a slow development of the plot and characterization. It felt a bit tossed together in the end, even though I still really enjoyed it.
What I really loved was how the story was easily constructed around the quote I opened with. I’m trans, so I really understood how Kade felt. Deeply so. He’s a transman who (unlike me) has no support from family and is openly discriminated against. Yet, it was still beautiful to see how that quote shows you need to find a world where you can be your own.
Growing up, I really read a lot of books that were more male-focused. My parents didn’t care. They let me read/wear/watch whatever. No shits were given so long as I was happy. I loved Captain Underpants and my dad and I read them together. Harry Potter was my jam and I always connected with the male characters more. Anything by R.L. Stine was a fave.
I have a great memory of one of my friends in school, Tyler, wearing the same sweater as me and we were so fucking excited about it. This was when I was around nine, so not realizing I was trans but so damn happy about wearing the same shirt as a friend of mine and proclaiming we were twins. (It didn’t work. He was blond with freckles. I had long, dark, curly hair.)
Anyways, you find that world you can escape to. Kade found it in his Goblin Prince role after his world figured out he was a boy. Nancy was allowed to fully embrace her stillness and lack of food, along with that she didn’t have to actively pursue anyone sexually like she was expected to in her other world. Her real world allowed her to be who she was.
People who have been rejected by society for whatever reason can really relate to that quote, which was how I took it. It nearly got me tearing up because it was just so damn good at pinpointing exactly how the outcasts feel.
And this story, with the more thematic vein that runs through it, is focused on outcasts. Even in a world full of outcasts who found other worlds that fit them better, Kade and Nancy are the outcasts. He’s trans. She went to the Underworld, somewhere not many go. I just wish that they were better-developed characters. While I connected with them — for being, respectively, trans and ace — I also didn’t feel like they stood out. There were more interesting characters around them that I was more interested in knowing about.
Still, I enjoyed the book. It connected with me on a deep level and the plot that follows dark happenings (which I can’t touch on since they happen too late into the book and I don’t want to spoil things) was intriguing to follow. My main critique is that it could have been longer to fully expand on everything rather than split it up into novellas.