Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is the third novel in our YA Book Club Winter Games Series. We previously reviewed The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and There's Someone Inside Your House. For our final installment, we'll be discussing They Both Die at the End at the end of March. But for now, let's get into Little & Lion!
Emily: Little and Lion was, surprise surprise, a Book of the Month pick. As we have mentioned in past blog posts and podcast episodes, a lot of contemporary lit (especially thrillers) seems to get mental health issues completely wrong. When I saw that this was a novel that had a main character with bipolar disorder, I was really intrigued to read it because my experience with YA novels is that, generally speaking, they are a lot better at handling the topic of mental health than, say, The Couple Next Door. Just as a for instance.
So for a quick summary, Little & Lion is the story of Suzette (Little) who is sent away to boarding school after her brother Lionel (Lion) is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While Little is away at school, she has her first relationship with a girl, causing her to question her sexual identity. Little comes home for the summer, and those issues of identity are exacerbated when she gets a crush on two different people, her childhood friend Emil and a girl named Rafaela, who her brother Lion ALSO HAS A CRUSH ON. DUN DUN DUUUUN.
I want to preface this post with a disclaimer that I’m attempting to be as spoiler free as possible.
I won’t reveal any big plot points beyond the basic premise of the game, and I encourage you to play it to find out what happens for yourself! I will, however, be discussing central themes and mechanics of the game, so if keeping those things secret would make the game more enjoyable for you, save this post for after you finish playing.
Oxenfree, a 2016 game by Night School Studio, released to positive reviews, but quiet fandom about a year ago. I played the game when it first came out, and loved it, but I’ve recently picked it up again on the Nintendo Switch. A year is a considerable amount of time in some ways. Since I first played this game I’ve finished my comprehensive exam, immersed myself in my dissertation, moved, got a new cat, had some personal life changes, etc. etc.. The game feels different now in a way that’s hard to explain, but for this post I’m going to try to.
The game follows Alex, a high school senior who’s going to a semi-illegal beach party with her best friend Ren, his crush Nona, Alex’s new step-brother Jonas, and Clarissa—whose relationship to the group becomes clearer as the game progresses. The crew begins encountering some spooky things once Alex tunes her radio to a weird frequency and soon Alex begins a quest of self-discovery and memory and healing.
If this summary seems vague, that’s because it is. The meat of this story isn’t the gameplay mechanics or the puzzles—it’s the plot. The very intricate plot that gets slowly revealed over the course of several hours. There are a few key points this game covers, all of them favorite plot tropes of mine:
It's Month 2 of YA Book Club Winter Games, and I bet you thought you were going to see a picture of the book we read up at the top, huh? Well you guessed wrong, and you'll soon see why we chose a picture of Sonic slushies instead. Besides just being delicious, Sonic is an integral part of our January novel There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. Let's get into it, shall we?
Emily: So what happens when you mix Scream with YA Romance with a dash of Sonic slushies? You get this book, There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins, a book about high school and cliques and getting the hell out of your crappy small town, and of course, murder. Lots and lots of murder. This novel was advertised as a horror novel for teens, which was a shocker for many YA aficionados because Stephanie Perkins usually writes romance novels, such as Anna and the French Kiss, so this was supposed to be a big departure for her. What did you think of Perkins's first foray into horror fiction?
Mary: So The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is a young adult novel by Mackenzi Lee that has swept the young adult world by storm a bit. The novel is a piece of historical fiction, following young Monty and his best friend and traveling companion Percy as they embark on their Grand Tour around Europe. The boys are to take in the sights and sounds of Europe, escorted by a guide hired by Monty's father and Monty's younger sister Felicity. BUT things go awry when the group is ambushed by highwaymen. And it's just all hijinks from there. This book has a little bit of everything, which I really enjoyed--historical notes, adventure, romance, pirates (!), alchemy, and mysteryyyyyy!
Emily: Yeah so like... read on for spoilers I guess? Cause there will probably be some?
Mary: Yes, major spoilers.
Today Mary and guest blogger Todd Osborne talk about one of their new favorite shows, Runaways, a Hulu original based on the Marvel comic series of the same name.
The show follows a group of friends--Alex, Chase, Karolina, Gert, Molly, and Nico--as they discover that their parents are not what they seem.
As always, this post will be full of spoilers (though lighter ones than usual). Read more under the cut!
Thanksgiving can be a hard time. Stuck with family and friends and forced to be social, many of us retreat to the comforts of literature. This Thanksgiving, pair your favorite foods with 8 captivating young adult books to get you through the holidays!
List after the cut.
I’m late to the game on a lot of things, and though I love podcasts, I’m chronically behind on all my favorite shows. Last week, my friend Jen mentioned The Bright Sessions, a fictional podcast that follows Dr. Bright, a psychologist, as she has short sessions with her young clients. The catch is simple: all of her clients have superpowers.
Emily: Let's just get straight into it. We're wrapping up our Summer YA Book Club Reading Series (TM) with The Sun is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon (author of Everything, Everything, which was just turned into movie starring Rue from the Hunger Games all grown up and beautiful, but anyway, back to the book at hand). This novel follows two teenagers as they meet and fall in love over the course of a single day in NYC. Natasha is an undocumented immigrant who is about to get deported with her family back to Jamaica. Daniel is the son of South Korean immigrants who are pushing him to apply to Yale and become a doctor when all he really wants to do is daydream about love and write poetry. When Natasha and Daniel first meet, Daniel is convinced they are destined to be together, but Natasha is obviously skeptical. So Daniel vows to spend the rest of the day convincing her to fall in love with him. If the plot itself seems a bit too tried and true, the narrative style definitely adds a twist to the story. In between Daniel and Natasha's alternating POV chapters, we get chapters from many other people who pass through their story, including my favorite, the suicidal security guard. The narrative style seems like a good place to start with this novel. Mary, how did you feel about the way Yoon decided to tell this story?
Mary: Yes, I love it. Typically HATE YA romance because it's so cliche at this point, but Yoon does a fantastic job of showing how everyone's story is connected--everyone is connected! I haven't loved a love story this much since Eleanor and Park (Kelli is somewhere cringing at that I bet).
Mary and Emily are all in on their July Young Adult Book Club selection, The Upside of Unrequited by Beck Albertalli, which is why this review is coming a little early in the month. They just couldn't wait to talk about it. Let's get into it, shall we?
Mary: This month we're reading The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. On its surface, this book is a typical teen romance, following twins Molly and Cassie as they navigate growing up and relationships. Molly has had crushes on 26 guys before, but never actually dated anyone, while Cassie has been more vocal about her likes and dislikes, but also remains somewhat inexperienced. One thing that sets this book apart from other YA novels is that Molly is fat--but she doesn't really let it define her. I study YA lit and focus on fat characters specifically, and I have to say, I loved this book so much. I was shocked at how Albertalli communicated Molly's discomfort in her own body while also not having it be an issue to some extent. Or having how society views fat people be an issue.
Emily: I also loved this book. I think it was great to see a fat character whose soul desire wasn't to lose weight and "be prettier," but rather she wished to live in a world where she feels more comfortable with the body she's in.
Emily: And a lot of her discomfort was around how other people acted towards her or how she imagined other people acted towards her, rather than how she felt about herself. In fact, at one point she says she doesn't hate her body, but she's afraid other people will hate her body.
Mary: She's internalized what others say about fat bodies and started to think that way, even though she rationally knows she shouldn't.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Mary: And I mean, really, it's hard not to internalize a lot of that stuff. Fat people are one of the last groups people can make fun of without offending.
It’s long been a source of shame that I, a 29-year-old writer and book podcaster who studied literature for well over a decade, have never read the Harry Potter books.
That’s right. Not a one.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the United States in 1998, the year I turned 10. I was the perfect age to find and love this book and grow along with the series, but somehow, I missed it. And I kept on missing it for years after.
The 20th anniversary of the first book’s publication in the United Kingdom was just last month. From June 26, 1997 to 2017, people had loved and treasured the world of Harry Potter, and I still knew almost nothing any of it.
I decided that the time had finally come for me to read the series for the first time, while many of my friends and fellow literature lovers are on their third go-round (some more).
With the encouragement of my fellow Book Squad members (and lots of encouragement from listeners and friends!), I decided to document my journey through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as I read it for the very first time.
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.