LGBT YA Week - Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock

This review is part of the LGBT Teen Novels Week, hosted here.
For more information about the week, head over here.

Summary from the back cover:
When Louie and Willa first meet, they don't know that their lives will change forever.
Self-assured Louie is gearing up for another successful year of high school. Kicked out of her last school, and hurting from a past relationship, Willa just wants to graduate and become a chef.
But when Louie first sees Willa, it's like lightning strikes. Everything the girls are sure of - their plans, their faith, their families, their identities - is called into question.
Can two girls fall in love? The answer is yes, fast and frantically. 
Can two girls navigate the strange, uncertain, and devastating waters of love? That remains to be seen....


Oh this book! It had me crying my heart out for the characters and rooting for love to win. This is a beautiful love story set in New Zealand.

Louie and Willa meet in their last year of high school and they pretty much already know who they are and what they want to do in life. Louie is a confident and gifted girl raised in a liberal family and she wishes to be a lawyer whereas Willa knows she prefers girls and is toughening up after a relationship gone bad and preparing to become a chef. 

But then they meet. It's fireworks, an explosion of sensations and a deep connection. None of them knows exactly how it happens, but it just does, and neither of them will ever be the same person again. You don't only read about how much they love each other, you can nearly feel it through the page and see how they ache about each other and how they can hardly breathe when the other isn't around. In Louie's words: 
"I'm in love with that girl," she said out loud in amazement, because she knew that this was a life-changing thing and life-changing things should be said aloud, should have a moment in time, and a place in the air, some molecular structure to make them real. I'm in love with that girl, she heard as it reverberated inside her head. And it was truth, she realised, as things are which you don't think, but discover have always existed.
The girls are quite different in their personalities but they complete each other in such a way that it doesn't matter. Louie is outgoing and strong on the outside but quite doubting on the inside whereas Willa might appear vulnerable but has this silent strength in her. I loved both of them and how multidimensional they were. The girls' parents also play a part in the book and I felt that they weren't set out to be the meanies. Their reaction felt real and the story was really worth reading. 

Religion plays a big part of the story with Willa's ex Cathy and Louie's family being very religious and questioning homosexuality through this angle. It is heart-breaking to read how Willa is led to feel when she keeps getting the same reaction from people. She feels wrong, evil, unnatural even and her heart is heavy with the knowledge. I'm really glad that this angle is treated the way it is, with well-meaning people on one side wanting to "cure" Willa, and more accepting others who see God's message as one of love. 

The story is told in the third person and focuses either on Willa, either on Louie and at first I wondered whether this book might have been better alternating first person point of view of the two girls. But the style grew on me and by the time I reached the end, it didn't really seem to matter how the story was told as long as I knew what was happening!

This is a really beautiful book and hints at many subjects surrounding homosexuality without being too heavy. It can be seen as a coming out story but I feel that it is more a story of first love and how sometimes, you just know this person is special. The writing is beautiful and the characters all stand on their own. I am really happy to have discovered this book and if you want to read about love (real love), you should probably read this, I can guarantee you'll love it!

LGBT YA Week - Guest Post by James Dawson

This guest post is part of the LGBT Teen Novels Week, hosted here.
For more information about the week, please head over here.


Please welcome James Dawson, author of Hollow Pike, who will talk to us today about queer characters in YA books.



I recently had the best email from a bookseller who had just finished Hollow Pike, my debut novel. she was thanking me for the inclusion of the three queer characters in the book. She said that when she was at school there weren’t any characters like her to relate to in books, and it was fantastic that today’s young adults were being represented in fiction.

If I may, allow me to introduce you to the characters she means. Hollow Pike sees a young Welsh girl called Lis arrive in the mysterious town of Hollow Pike where she is spellbound by the school outcasts Kitty, Delilah and Jack. Kitty and Delilah are a couple while Jack clearly hasn’t made his mind up whether he likes boys or girls yet.

The characters were vaguely based on people I knew at school, so their sexuality was a no-brainer. At my very ordinary school in West Yorkshire, a lot of young people were figuring it out. Those are experimental years. Some of us ended up gay, some ended up straight, a lot ended up somewhere in the middle, winding up in relationships with men and women – but then, as sixteen year olds, we were finding our way.

It makes sense to me, therefore, that a lot of young people are still finding their way and should be able to see themselves in the books they are reading. Something that I found hard back then was that LGBTQ relationships weren’t really presented as an option. You were straight or ‘wrong’. It would have been cool if there had been young gay or bi role models in films and TV shows and books for me to go, ‘ah he likes boys, so it’s probably OK that I do too.’ I have always been gay, but I might have figured it out sooner with more visible role models.

The main goal when writing Hollow Pike was to tell a cracking scary story, but I was determined that Kitty, Jack and Delilah would retain this element of ‘figuring it out’. These were never meant to be books about ‘coming out’. Issues books have their place, but I didn’t want it to be a sad, sad story about how hard it is to be young and queer. It is difficult, but being a teenager is always hard. In Hollow Pike, frankly, the characters have bigger things to worry about! What’s more, issues books often become ‘gay books’. I was gay and I wouldn’t have read a ‘gay book’ out of fear of having the shit kicked out of me. The hope is, that young readers will see Kitty, Jack and Delilah going about their business and simply think –‘ they’re OK, I’m OK too’.

But for this to really work, it needs to be on a much bigger scale than my lone book can achieve. We need more books, TV shows and films with queer characters front and centre. Not in a token, box-ticking way (no more sassy gay sidekicks, I implore you), but in presenting characters who are more than their sexuality.

 I can’t wait for you to get your hands on Book Two – Book One has only begun to scratch the surface of these complex characters! Writers shouldn’t be scared to reflect diversity – we live in diverse times so all we’re doing is painting an accurate picture. If it seems that young queer people are in a minority it’s probably because they aren’t empowered to be more visible in schools. We can help overcome that. I’m so thrilled that both Attitude and Diva magazines have chosen to review Hollow Pike alongside Bliss and SFX, this is recognition that a very mainstream release from a major publisher can feature queer characters without becoming niche gay fiction.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – presenting young gay characters in the media is the best way to make being young and gay normal. Because it is.


Thank you James for this fantastic post - I can't agree more on the media needing to include the diversity which exists in real life!

Hollow Pike is already out in the UK

Find James on:

LGBT Teen Novels Week - 27th Feb to 4th March 2012

Hi book lovers,

For LGBT History Month, I am organising a LGBT Teen Novels Week where I will review a few books with some guest reviews and there will also be a guest post by James Dawson, author of Hollow Pike.

Our societies take for a given that everyone is born either male or female and that a male is attracted to a female and vice versa. Not everyone agrees, but that's roughly how most of the societies work.

Now there is a whole lot of people in the world who just don't fit in any of these categories. They don't relate to any gender, or they're born in the wrong one, or they're against what everyone thinks their gender is. Then some are not attracted to the opposite sex, they're attracted to their own, to both or even to none. The whole LGBT movement is not a bunch of stereotypical gay and lesbians being fabulous and wanting to get married. It's a whole bunch of people who do not feel male, female or heterosexual and think they are not any less of a human being for being so. There are so many different people that you could add the entire alphabet after LGBT and start over again and you wouldn't have put a label onto everyone. Identity, gender and sexuality are at the heart of the debate and the more you talk about it, the more you realise that the world isn't black and white but every shade of the rainbow (yes, I just made that pun).

When you haven't gone through this identity or sexuality crisis, it is hard to even wrap your head around the idea. But reading about it and talking about it helps, especially the people who feel left out from all main media. This is even more important for teenagers to read about this because they already go through so many emotions during their adolescence and when they feel things to which they can't put a name on or find an explanation, it is even harder to cope with it. How can you feel ok if you are born a girl but feel like a boy inside and all you can see around you and in the media are people who are specifically male or female and who mainly see transgender people as unnatural? Raising awareness on these identity and sexuality issues is fundamental, especially to teenagers who might not be able to talk freely about this at home or at school because of social and peer pressure.

The good thing about books is that you can read someone else's experience and make it your own. You can read about a person coming to terms with his or her homosexuality and realise that maybe, what you are feeling on the inside, is not something weird and there may be other people who are feeling it too. I only started reading lesbian novels when I had already pretty much figured out that whatever it was that was wrong with me was not a genetic disease or anything wrong at all but a simple attraction to the same sex and I wish there was something, anything, in my life (home, school, media, friends...) which could have helped. Talking about having more LGBT-themed books published and talked about in the media is not some kind of affirmative action where we need a "queer quota" in each story, it is only a willingness to want reality to be described how it actually is, full of beauty and diversity.

You can visit the official website of LGBT History Month [here] - they have some great articles/posts on there and a great number of events being organised, so do go and have a look!

You can also re-visit my Lesbian Teen Novels Week [here] if you are so inclined!

Thank you to the lovely Nina from Death Books and Tea who designed this brilliant logo for the week!


The Week:

Monday - Intro post which is what you are reading ;)

Tuesday - Guest Post by Hollow Pike author, James Dawson, about queer characters in books

Wednesday - Review of Dare, Truth or Promise by Paula Boock

Thursday - Guest review by Kirsty at The Overflowing Library of Becoming Nancy by Terry Ronald

FridayReview of How Beautiful the Ordinary (short stories) by Beth over at Thoughts from the Hearthfire

Saturday - Guest review by Lauren at I Was A Teenage Book Geek of Beyond Evie by Rebecca Burton

SundayReview of Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher


Here are a few links for book recommendations:

I have also read this weekend a fantastic article about people talking about being asexual on the Guardian [link here]

If you have any more links to be added, please email/tweet me and I'll add them!

I hope you'll enjoy the week!

Caroline x

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg

Summary from Amazon:
The day IdgieThreadgoode and Ruth Jamison opened the Whistle Stop Cafe, the town took a turn for the better. It was the Depression and that cafe was a home from home for many of us. You could get eggs, grits, bacon, ham, coffee and a smile for 25 cents. Ruth was just the sweetest girl you ever met. And Idgie? She was a character, all right. You never saw anyone so headstrong. But how anybody could have thought she murdered that man is beyond me.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a mouth-watering tale of love, laughter and mystery. It will lift your spirits and above all it'll remind you of the secret to life: friends. Best friends.


Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe intertwines different narrators to tell the story of the little town of Whistle Stop and its infamous Cafe. Set in the South of America, the story touches various themes including racism, economic migration, homosexuality, growing up and old, feminism and disabilities. The Threadgoode family is one of the big families living in Whistle Stop and are supportive of their African-American neighbours, even when the Ku Klux Klan threatens them. Idgie (Imogen) and Ruth open the Whistle Stop Cafe and most of the towns activity revolves around it from then on.

In the 1980s, Evelyn Couch is an unfulfilled stay-at-home mom who takes to binge-eating because of how she feels. She meets Ninny, a retired old lady from Whistle Stop, who tells her the amazing story of her town. By those discussions, Evelyn gets a new insight of herself and wants to be more assertive and actually make something of her life.
Ninny tells the story of the Threadgoode and in particular of Idgie and Ruth who seemed to be accepted as a couple in the town and who raised Ruth's son together. As a background story, Ninny talks about Ruth's ex husband who suddenly disappeared and whose alleged murder should have been committed by Idgie. This gives a bit of a suspense quality to the book because you only find out at the end what really happened!
The book also features some funny snippets of the Whistle Stop gazette from the opening of the cafe to its closure. These are awfully entertaining, I was laughing out loud more than once while reading them!

I found that the various narrators worked well and gave another dimension to the story. I also liked that a large part of the story is told by people who witnessed what was happening and Ninny, in particular, loved Ruth and Idgie so much that she might be fudging a bit the details. The narrators are not exactly reliable and some characters or events are clouded with mystery so it gives an interesting edge to the story.

You might also want to have some snacks next to you while you read because food is a large part of the story and the Whistle Stop menu is quite simply mouth-watering (well, except for one exception, but you will have to read the book to know why!). There are also all the recipes at the end of the book in case you just give up on snacks and want to try them yourself!

The story in general is very rich and I think it's the type of book where everyone gets something different out of it. I personally picked up more on the women issues and being able to compare Evelyn's life with Idgie's or Ruth's but you could see the book as one centered on the question of race, or economic changes during the XXth century. I found that the various dimensions gave a real originality to the story.

The style differs because of the various narratives, but Ninny's voice is pitch perfect. After a few lines, I could hear a Southern accent reading the lines in my head and I could feel the heat and the atmosphere. You will definitely get your share of travel and discovery, reading this.

I've read the book for my Queer Book Group and the discussion was quite lively. Some people didn't like the different narrators and how you had to keep on reading the book to actually find out everything about Ruth and Idgie. The book is set at the beginning of the century all though the XXth century and some argued that Ruth and Idgie's relationship was never officially acknowledge anywhere in the book (so they *could* potentially just be friends) whereas the book was published in 1987. That issue was probably the biggest theme discussed by everyone in the group (were they together? Was the omission to fit in with the historical period? Was it to be more for commercial reasons?...). It's quite interesting that whenever you discuss a book, it's always the negative which comes out more.

I really loved it and even if when I discussed it with the book group I realised the story had some flaws, I thought it was a great book and I'd definitely recommend it!

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg | 1987 | Vintage | Bought at Gay's The Word

Sunday Brunch #9

Hi guys!

How are you on this snowy morning?
You can put chocolate cupcakes on my doorstep, I am not putting one foot outside!
Sunday Brunch is making a comeback and I have exciting news and links to share :)


Theme week:
I am organising from 27th February an LGBT teen novels week to participate in LGBT History Month. There will be reviews and a guest post by James Dawson, author of the wonderful Hollow Pike. If you would like to participate, send me the link to your review and I'll link it in the Introduction post.
To check out the LGBT History Month events, go to their website (here).


Book groups:
I participate in various book groups at work (woman fiction, crime and literary prizes) but I have recently joined a Queer Fiction book group through the website Meetup and I am loving it! The first book I read for it was Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown and the second was Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg and it was really interesting reading both of those. So expect some "what we discussed" paragraphs when the reviews come up!


I went to the Patrick Ness and Jim Kay event for A Monster Calls last week in Foyles and it was fantastic! The event was packed and even though many of the people were your usual YA author event crowd, there were several actual children (le gasp!) who were completely made of awesome. 

I'll probably do an event report next week so you can have all the deets! I was really thrilled to see (in realz) some bloggers I had never met before and to get my book signed!


Talking about Patrick Ness, he tweeted the link to this Rolling Stones article about bullying, anti-gay climate and teen suicide in America [link here]. This article just made me very angry and sad. I can't believe this type of attitudes are still going on...


RHCB and Transworld have given us an even better reason to buy a book by bringing Lauren Kate's Fallen In Love and Sophie Kinsella's I've Got Your Number jackets to life! If you download a free app on your smartphone, you only have to put your phone in front of the cover and the author photo to see the animated jacket and the message from the author. Check out Lauren Kate's animated cover:


I was very happy to learn in the Bookseller that WH Smith was promoting cross-over YA titles more directly to adults via promotional section (here). Young Adult books keep growing and growing and they aren't just being read by teens! While searching for the link I stumbled upon this article focusing on YA books and why they are growing (here), it is from July 2011 but still really interesting!


The brilliant Bali Rai was on Radio 4 last week and you can listen (here) to him argue that stopping talking about race is the best way to stop racism.


Strange Chemistry is a new imprint by Angry Robot dedicated to YA SF, Fantasy and everything in between. Amanda Rutter (Floor To Ceiling Books blog) is the Editor and she has already signed Kim Curran with Shift and Sean Cummings with Poltergeeks (find the blurbs here) as well as Gwenda Bond for Blackwood (blurb here).
Strange Chemistry is also holding an Open Door fortnight from April 16th to April 30th where unagented authors can send in their manuscripts (find all the details here).


If you are a dragon fan (oh come on, I *can't* be the only one!), you can finally fulfill your lifelong ambition of drawing one by following this step by step tutorial by award-winning illustrator and author Emily Gravett on the Guardian website. 
Which has led to THIS masterpiece:

I know what you're thinking, 
I really feel I missed a career in illustration too....


That's it for this week you guys, have a great time in the snow and don't break a leg!

Happy reading!

Caroline x