Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

(Caidyn)

4/5

Chantel read this last year, so check out her review!

“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.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kahn

Let's Talk About Love

(Caidyn)

DNF at 14% – 1/5

Okay.
So.
First thing’s first.

I am asexual. I’ve identified as such since I was about 15-16 (and I’m nearly 22 now). Sex doesn’t interest me that much. While I, personally, would never discount that I could find someone I want to do that with or would feel comfortable doing it with, I’m not interested in it.

And when I heard about this book, I was so excited. Finally, a book about asexuality while embracing that you can be attracted romantically to people. Last year, I read Tash Hearts Tolstoy and thought it was a really solid book. So, I was getting excited that there would be another one out there for teens figuring out their sexuality.

Yet, it reminded me more of Vanilla, minus it offending me to the core. It just made me sad.

From the first chapter, something felt off.

I thought that it was the writing at first. Instead of it being in first-person, it was in third and Kahn kept putting comments that were what Alice, the MC, was thinking. It made the page very cluttered and confusing. Just put them in the story. Or make it first-person. Or just make it omniscient. Either way, it grated on my nerves to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on the words.

Then, it kind of got odd with her ex-girlfriend. She was demonized for wanting a sexual relationship to feel fulfilled while Alice was asexual. Maybe, just maybe, Alice should have said something before entering the relationship with someone who, as the book says, is hyper-sexual? (I have issues with the use of that, especially with the judgy tone it was used with. Everyone has different libidos and it’s all okay.) I get Alice was nervous about telling someone, but if you want an open and honest relationship, you kind of have to say something about your needs.

Then, the ace rep felt… problematic. I’ve studied asexuality for my BA in psychology, along with having my personal experiences. Most studies have found that aces respond to pornography like sexual people. They just have no interest in doing it. Alice, however, apparently didn’t respond sexually at all, even when having sex.

It just… struck me as odd. As inaccurate. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t aces who honestly feel nothing down there, even when stimulated, but that’s not what studies have found on average.

I’m not saying that the statistics found in studies covers all ace experience. If you read this book and felt that it represented you perfectly, I am so happy for you! And I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m happy that you felt represented. However, I don’t think this covered all the nuances of asexuality that are out there.

It got weirder when Alice stated at one point she didn’t have any code or whatever for a shirtless guy. She’s biromantic. So. She doesn’t find a shirtless, ripped guy aesthetically pleasing? Then, a few chapters later, she has a freaking break down over some guy who looked cute to her? It just… it didn’t add up to me. You don’t have a response to someone shirtless but you lose your shit like a twelve-year-old over a cute guy.

It felt like it was perpetuating old stereotypes that aces don’t feel sexual pleasure when research says a lot of aces masturbate or are able to call someone who is hot really hot… without wanting to have sex. Speaking for myself here, I can look at people and say that they are really attractive, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex.

Add on top of that annoying characters who I couldn’t connect to at all because they felt like children and a writing style and characters that got on my last nerves within 10 pages equals a very unhappy Caidyn.

It’s even worse since I really wanted to like this book. I would have pushed through it, but I could tell I’d end up in a slump if I did. It upset me to write this review, but I wanted to say something amid all the glowing responses. Again, if you felt represented, that’s amazing. Just that I didn’t and I’m really sad that I didn’t when I thought I would.