Review of PULP by Robin Talley

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. However, I read 40 pages of the eARC, and I finished the book in the final published form.

Robin Talley’s PULP is a very unique new novel with a refreshing perspective in young adult literature that highly gets into the idea of representation matters so much in books.

PULP is told over the course of two different years: 1955 and 2017. The two story lines are seamless.

In 2017, Abby is her senior year of high school at a magnet academy that requires her to do a senior thesis project. She has chosen to do hers in a class called Advanced Creative Writing that would require her to write a novel. Before her initial meeting with her adviser, Abby is hanging out with Linh, her best friend and ex-girlfriend, when she stumbles upon 1950s lesbian pulp fiction in her attempts to figure out an idea for the project. At the meeting with her adviser, Abby decides to bring up this new find, and she decides in the moment that she wants to write a book that inverts the tropes of the 1950s genre.

Meanwhile in 1955, Janet has stumbled on her first lesbian pulp fiction book, and she realizes for the first time that the feelings that she had been having about her friend actually have a name for them and that she’s not the only person to feel the way that she does. She writes the author and actually receives a letter back, and she begins to try to write her own lesbian pulp fiction novel. However, being in the 1950s, this is a dangerous time to even be a closeted lesbian let alone one that is actually out. Janet faces pressure from her friend Marie who she wishes could be her girlfriend to keep these feelings secret because Marie has landed a government job where they could fire you for immoral doings like being a lesbian. Janet’s father also works in politics, and this makes it dangerous for her family as well.

In 2017, Abby becomes obsessed with a pulp novel called Women of the Twilight Realm, and she becomes intensely focused on trying to find out the real identity of the author. Life around her is complicated. She is having trouble focusing on most of her school work, forgetting due dates, putting off applying to college, and letting this obsession come in the way of her friendships. She’s worried about her parents who never seem to be home and certainly not at the same time.

The two stories told here are fantastic. The historical perspective from the 1950s is obviously very heavily researched, but it never feels like a history book in any shape or form despite the very true facts around the time. The 2017 perspective also gives voice to the idea that even though your problems may seem small compared to the world’s problems, they are still very much real problems. We witness Abby begin to fall apart over small quiet moments that become large roaring problems in her life. Honestly, this was one of my favorite things about this novel because I feel like these days, it’s too common for people to neglect themselves because they think that their problems aren’t significant enough to need help in handling when the world sometimes seems like it’s on fire constantly.

This is definitely worthy of a read, and I highly recommend.

PULP by Robin Talley is out now.

A Gratitude Post about Caleb Roehrig

There’s a canvas in my family room that reads “You deserve to be happy,” written out by Caleb Roehrig. I see it every single day, and I remind myself that I do deserve good things in my life.

2018 has been one of the hardest years of my life. While I remain on Lexapro, my medication hasn’t been fully working in quite some time, and I find myself unable to get in to see a doctor for a med change. What this has meant is that my depression levels are significantly higher, and my anxiety levels are consistently higher on a daily basis. Because self-injury was a way that I used to use to cope with these, I’ve had to fight off relapses into self-injury many days this year. While I’ve been very fortunate that my Lexapro still works to keep suicidal thoughts away, I’ve felt like I’ve been enduring life rather than enjoying life this year.

But when I think back to 2018, I will remember this year for a few reasons besides the mental health difficulties. This is the year that I started writing. This is the year that Caleb Roehrig made significantly better.

I first read Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving in December 2016, oddly enough, in the days right after I started Lexapro. I was initially sick with side effects, but his book was so good that I wanted to keep reading through waves of nausea and bad headaches.

I later met Caleb in October 2017. While my day-to-day anxiety was still being completely controlled by Lexapro at the time, my anxiety around special events like book signings was extreme. I wanted to meet Caleb, but my anxiety wanted to prevent it. Caleb’s interactions with me on Twitter were the reason why I decided to get the book signing ticket to go. He even offered to send me a signed bookplate if my anxiety proved to be too much to go. (Side note: Kara Thomas actually did this when my anxiety prevented me from going to her book signing, and it was the sweetest thing.)

At the event, Caleb figured out who I was from my Twitter picture, and I somehow even managed to ask a question because if you asked a question, you got an ARC of Caleb’s White Rabbit. In the signing line, Caleb asked me how I was holding up, and he told me as well that he was so glad that I got an ARC.

Fast forward to April 2018. I attended the launch of White Rabbit. Something had happened earlier in April that made me feel like I was a burden to everybody, and I was feeling especially low and especially anxious about this event. However, I was rather excited to see Caleb again which made the event worth it.

But what happened next isn’t all that explainable. Caleb and I started interacting on Twitter a lot. I’ll blame my obsessive thoughts on why I started tweeting him a lot, but to my surprise, Caleb frequently started interacting back.

Over the past seven months, Caleb has “seen” me at my lowest and highest points in my interactions with him, and somehow, he always seems to know what to say. He reached out in June too after there were a high number of high profile deaths by suicide to see how I was doing which was an incredible moment.

For me, having had someone in my life that I was close to call me a burden and tell me that’s why everyone in my life leaves me, even after that person knew about a person in my own life dying by suicide and my involvement in trying to find him after finding the suicide note, I was distrustful of most people by this point.

That made Caleb reaching out even more meaningful because it gave me a direct contrast and reassured me that there are still good people out there and out there in my life.

Caleb has also been a huge champion of me writing. He’s been very encouraging as I drafted my first draft and then revised it. He’s encouraging now as I write a new project (which I should be working on now instead of this post, but oh well).

Caleb didn’t have to do any of this. But he chose to do so, and that’s the primary reason why even though I am rather depressed right now, I keep enduring rather than finally giving into the dark and just staying in bed (or on my couch) all day everyday.

So here’s to some gratitude in 2018.

 

ARC Review for You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ariel Stone is a high school senior who has worked hard since his freshmen year to get into Harvard. He has a plan. He wants to be the first chair violinist and the class valedictorian, and he believes he has both firmly secured. However, when he fails an AP Calc quiz, everything that he has worked for feels like it’s slipping away.

He visits his guidance counselor’s office to discuss how to best handle this, and his guidance counselor suggests a tutor. Ariel decides to ask Amir, a fellow classmate who graded Ariel’s failed quiz for help. However, Ariel realizes that he may have asked the wrong person to tutor him because he may actually be falling for Amir.

Laura Silverman’s You Asked for Perfect is a brilliant book that a very specific number of teenagers need to read. I’ve gone through this high stress cycle of constantly doing homework, feeling like I have no time to do anything but that and volunteering for college applications. I’ve felt the exact pressure of what it’s like to finally get that coveted position in band, only for it to not be what I expected. I even ended up as the valedictorian.

But at what cost?

I wish I had this book earlier because I was doing to myself the same things that Ariel is doing to himself, but I didn’t realize what I was doing until I was no longer in that high pressure place.

Other high points: Ariel is Jewish, and this is very much a part of who he is. We see his family celebrate some of the high holidays, and he and his family regularly attend synagogue. His faith is important to him. Ariel is also bisexual, and this is not an issue at all in the story to anyone. His parents actually encourage a relationship with a male before Ariel is firmly committed to wanting to pursue a relationship. There are also strong family relationships, and parental figures are very present in this book. The diversity in this book is also very present and very real.

This is a book that’s just too perfect (sorry for the accidental pun) to fully convey how awesome it is so you will need to pick this one up to see for yourself how amazing it is.

You Asked for Perfect comes out on March 5, 2019.

Preorder Links:

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

ARC Review of Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Disclaimer: The ARC was given to me by the author, and I am not obligated to write a review.

Caleb Roehrig’s Death Prefers Blondes is a fantastic foray into the world of sophisticated crimes–all committed by teenagers. Margo Manning is well known for who her father is, the CEO of Manning Corporation. But Margo Manning’s crimes are well known too–from art theft to jewel heists.

While Margo is rich, she has reasons for what she does: namely, Axel, Joaquin, Leif, and Davon also known by their drag queen names: Liesl Von Tramp, Anita Stiffwon, Electra Shoxx, and Dior Galore. While Margo and Axel began this out of boredom, they now do this because the crime pays well. After Axel’s and Joaquin’s father was sent to prison, their family was left fairly destitute and desperately in need of money. After Davon’s mother and father died, he was sent to live with a relative that didn’t approve of who he was so he finds himself homeless. And Leif is at a dance boarding school that his mom won’t pay for and needs a way to pay for it and to be free of his overbearing mother who wants to pray the gay away.

Did I mention the drag queens? Yes, the crimes are committed by Margo, Liesl, Anita, Electra, and Dior. All highly trained in the art of various combats with Margo’s access to high tech tools through her father’s work, they haven’t been caught yet.

Death Prefers Blondes begins right in the middle of a heist at the Los Angeles Museum of Fine Art. This book will immediately draw you in and will not let you go until you have finished the very last page.

Throughout the story, we see the team pull several more heists before heartbreak and the heist pulled on the wrong person leads to impending disaster. If the team can pull off one last heist, they can potentially save what remains of a legacy, but in order to do so, they will need to rely on someone that they hardly know.

Aside from the amazing plot, the details that Roehrig has put into each character makes this story even more special. Margo is bisexual, and we actually see her romantic interests in same gender and different genders. We also see gay rep and a little nonbinary rep as well.

Roehrig’s Death Prefers Blondes will also have great crossover appeal to those fans of adult thrillers that normally scoff at YA literature. However, not to fear: this is definitely a YA work and not one where an adult book was written with adult characters were aged down to sell as YA. (I’ve read ones like that which is the ONLY reason I make the comment.)

For those fans of Roehrig’s earlier works, while Death Prefers Blondes does feel quite a bit different, overall, it is without a doubt a signature Roehrig work. In fact, I think it’s best work yet.

Definitely preorder this one. Comes out January 29, 2019

Preorder Links:

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon