In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan

In-Other-Lands-Sarah-Rees-Brennan

Source: Goodreads

Elliot Schafer is obnoxious. No one at school can stand him, his father at home ignores him, and his mother left when he was a baby. Then one day his teacher drives him to the middle of nowhere and sells him to an oddly dressed woman because he can see a stone wall where his classmates cannot. What ensues is part adventure, part education, part self-discovery, and all about the love.

 

A review of this book popped up on Goodreads about two months ago, and I requested it from my library immediately. Blurbed by many well-known authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Cassandra Claire, Gregory Maguire, and Holly Black, this book was a definite addition to my TBR. In Other Lands was published just under a month ago, on August 17th, and a copy arrived at my library a day early! I can’t even tell you how exciting that was.

Let me start by saying that there are no chapters. The book is sectioned by year, following Elliot from the ages of 13 to 18. The ‘otherland’ is a fantastic world full of diverse peoples and even more diverse cultures. This book is not only a play on the portal-world trope but also a narrative on how our culture is being constantly blended and added to with new words and beliefs. From sexuality to gender stereotypes to machismo and sexism, this book hits it all right on the head. With a Trigon ball.

Being CisHet and having people close to me who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum made this book all the more dear to me. While I’m sure not everyone will agree, I felt that it did a good job of handling the differences in sexuality and not blowing them out of proportion, as often happens in literature and in other media. It wasn’t anyone’s defining characteristic, and that’s exactly as it should be. That being said, there is quite a bit of discussion throughout of intimacy and menstruation, as well as actual (but not overly detailed) intimacy. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you’re under the age of, say, 14, or if you are uncomfortable at all with that kind of scene, whether CisHet or LGBTQ+. With the addition of a few of the other cultures whose major sexism is the reverse of humans, it can all become just a bit much all at once.

 

Overall I am glad to have read it and will be recommending it to many of my friends, CisHet as well as LGBTQ+, to read.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas

Source: Goodreads 

Martha Sullivan LOVES theater. It’s her passion. So when her parents decide to send her to a girls-only Catholic high school, Martha’s only condolence is its amazing theater program, which is staging Into The Woods (with BOYS!). Her best friend for the last four years, Jimmy, is attending the local public school. He’s making new friends and deciding who he wants to be – even finally coming out of the closet! – all while Martha is just trying to keep her head above water with her parents new ‘teenager rules’. Everything changes when Jimmy meets Derek, and Martha meets Felix. Will their friendship survive their relationships?

I had never heard of Linas Alsenas before I picked up Beyond Clueless. Actually, I picked it up because it had the word clueless in the title and I was kind of hoping it was a sequel to the fantastic 1995 film (because it’s based on a play and this book has little theater masks on the spine), but I was wrong. By the time I had read the dust-jacket though, I was intrigued and I had to read it. Apparently, Alsenas has written some very well-known LGBTQA books, so this is simply another to be added to the list! I have to say, I really liked how everything was presented. I often avoid certain themes in books because authors spend exorbitant amounts of time pounding them into the reader. Romantic preference and body type are, sadly, themes that fall into this hole fairly regularly. While this book definitely used the characters’ romantic preferences as a central theme, it didn’t allow them to overpower all of the other themes and ideas that were crucial to the story line. (round of applause for that!)

Although at one point there are a bunch of characters introduced rather vaguely and all at once, Alsenas does a phenomenal job in developing them each into unique people who remain easily identifiable throughout the story. I was worried that with a large cast of characters (They’re putting on a play, so besides the main friends there’s also a whole cast of people seen regularly) I would lose track of the story and who people were, but with the good character development, I had no trouble. This story is richly woven with confusion and misdirection of the kind found in a Shakespeare play, which made it all the more entertaining when the characters stumbled across a new piece of information. Despite its shortness in length, Alsenas’ book is so full of story that it took me much longer to read than I originally thought. I would definitely recommend it to teen readers, as well as anyone who enjoys a good high school storyline.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars