Love Is Love

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Aug 2017

Member Reviews

Great story plot and idea, but sadly i found the overall writing style not very enjoyable to read and i wish it would have been with the topic the book discuss. But as it is i don't think it is a book that most people will love.
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I ended up DNFing this title. This type of story would have been greatly improved with some sensitivity readers or if it had been written by an author who experienced the marginalizations that the characters experienced. There were too many messy descriptions of Jude's transness as well as the fat character. I was a little hesitant from the book blurb alone, but we rarely get books with trans men in them, and I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
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To short for me to form an actual opinion about, I'm glad at least that trans men are being shown in f/m fiction. Our trans character was a very good one, too, making me think that it wasn't just the author's whim, or a box to check. On the other hand, the book turns into mostly a trans book, with less focus on the plot and story and everything else and more of it being that the book is about a trans character. The book is, in my memory, defined by the transness of the book- I read it maybe a month ago and the plot took a background to the TRANSNESS in my memories now, which could just be me but is probably a decent description of the actual book. I'm interested in more books by the author, though, because even though it was short it was well written and important. It's gonna be a while before I can start being picky on trans books. This one was non offensive and kind hearted, which means there's no reason for me to pick at it.
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I was unable to review this book because of a conflict in my schedule. Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused the publisher or the author of the work. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review for you and  I look forward to reviewing for you in the future.
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I am to be completely honest, I did not finish this book - It was not my cup of tea. I tend to gear towards more through provoking books, as such this didnt hit the mark with me .
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I had my doubts about Love is Love. However when I started reading it, I was glad to find that I really enjoyed the story. Love is Love is way short than I expected it to be, but that just make the story short and sweet. -- I loved this book!
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[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by the author.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Novels, particularly short novels like this one, are not logical arguments, but this particular book, whatever one may feel about its "moral," demonstrates the sort of emotional reasoning that is common among the young people to whom this book is aimed.  The two romantic leads in this book are immensely appealing and relatable, and many of the other characters are not.  This may rightly be the account of stacking the deck.  Certainly it does not appear as if this is a fair and balanced characterization, but this novel seems to suggest a great deal of what is going on within the discourse of queer culture among the youth [1].  When heteronormativity is represented by the disgusting Ty, who Emmy (the heroine of the novel) gives a blowjob to at the beginning of the novel, the superficial cousin Paige, and Emmy's mother and her live-in boyfriend, the deck is clearly stacked in favor of normalizing and legitimizing the unconventional but also conventional romance at the center of the novel, which is framed in ways that make it easy for readers to relate to.

This short novel, under 200 pages, is not one that wastes any time in terms of moving from point A to point B.  The novel begins with the insecure Emmy thinking that giving a blowjob to popular guy Ty will help her to find the love and affection she desires, but it backfires as others assume she is merely desperate and think rightly that she can do better.  A fight with her mother soon thereafter leads her to move from Winnipeg to Vancouver (Canada), where she and her cool but superficial cousin Paige introduces her somewhat unwillingly to her friends and she strikes up an immediate bond with the handsome FTM trans Jude.  Complications ensue, somewhat predictably, as they engage in a shy but passionate friendship and then the novel ends with the two of them making out.  As the reader spends the entire novel in the head of the insecure Emmy, it comes as quite a surprise that the seemingly calm Jude is full of insecurities as well, at least to her.  Once the novel has the two romantic leads enjoying a passionate kiss, the author apparently loses any interest in having them work out the struggles of what their relationship would involve--or perhaps that is the subject of a future novel.

Whatever one thinks about the fairness and balance of the characterization of the novel, and I have some serious objections to how this novel stacks the deck in favor of its protagonists, there are some ways where this is a genuinely useful novel even for those readers who are more critical than its intended audience.  For one, this novel is written with an insecure young woman who is overweight and engages in comfort eating, comes from a broken home, and has mood disorders that are dealt with through medication.  Her dysfunctionality and burdens are fairly easy to understand for many readers.  The fact that she fails to appreciate the sprezzatura shown by her cousin Paige as well as the handsome Jude/Judy suggests that she is not very observant or understanding of the burdens that other people are under.  Nonetheless, the portrayal is a good one, and Jude too is shown as being a decent and complicated sort of person struggling with his own image and identity.  It's only a shame that the author doesn't focus on making the other people in this novel as rounded and sympathetic as its two leads.  One need not demonize average and ordinary people to make the couple at the center of this novel an appealing one, and it seems a shabby trick to do so.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/06/16/a-fair-question-on-homosexuality-and-the-bible/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/21/book-review-out/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/07/book-review-befriend/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/25/book-review-beyond-the-shades-of-gray/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/22/book-review-mr-darcys-daughters/
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This book was very short and so, it feels as though there are some important pieces missing.

Having said that, however, it was a well written and thoughtful book.  Showing how three YA girls go through different life events and how they handle them.  The main character Emmy is unhappy and deals with an eating disorder and much body and mind shaming.  Paige, her cousin deals by trying to be popular and by being insensitive and self centered and finally Jude who is transgender and is trying to make his way into a difficult world.

While the story is from Emmy's point of view, I admire the author being sensitive to all of these YA.  Parents are almost without a voice here and the YA are left to handle things pretty much on their own.  There isn't a lot of judgment in this story, but there is a lot of pain.

Hard story to read because of the subject matter, but I enjoyed this book.
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Emmy is a very realistic teenager.  Her self-confidence and self-esteem issues are true of so many teens today. Jude's character was very interesting and I would have loved to have more focus on him and get his POV.  Overall it was  sweet story and quick read.
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I liked that the book was short. Does that tell you anything about how I felt about this book? 

Emmy is unbearable as a MC, Jude is one-dimensional, and Paige was a terrible person with no redeeming qualities. I wanted to love the LGBT story but it was lacking and not genuine.
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This book couldn't work.

Its 176 pages long and we've got a character who needs to learn to accept herself, needs to learn to trust her love interest, falls in love with said love interest and then have a lot of drama and resolve everything? How should that be possible? But I wanted to give it a chance. Maybe it could have worked out?

I've re read the description... I can't remember the trap of casual sex? And again? Was there anything in it about casual sex? But let's start at the beginning.

There is no drama in this book. I was promised drama. I wanted drama. To be honest it is very boring to read and there is not much happening. The things that are happening are way too easy. You will not be surprised that there is insta love in Love is Love.

I'm really sad about this because this book could have been great. There is a trans* male love interest and a fat girl MC. You don't read about characters like this very often.

But then they get rushed through everything and it's without any emotion or... anything really. It's not been that long that I've read this but I feel like I can't remember a thing about it. If it weren't for my notebook...
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I requested this book because there are still very few YA books where a transman is one of the leads. It is especially rare when the book is from the perspective of the straight girl that is interested in him. So I was beyond stoked to read this book, but as always I had really low expectations as I am used to books about transmen or having a transmale character being pretty terrible.

This book blew my expectations out of the water. I am really particular when it comes to the grammar around transgender (Note: "transgender" is correct, "transgendered" is not). This book was amazing at getting that right. That alone made this book stand out for me. There was even a passage where the flippant cousin was shown to be pretty self-absorbed and uncaring that hit so close to home. The cousin had introduced the two main characters to each other, but then kept referring to Jude as "she". Emmy was confused by that action. It was not confusing to me, that is the reality for trans teens. People you think are friends will actively misgender you. It made the book so much more realistic for me. Props to the author for either knowing that was shitty or doing her research on it. 
There were scenes that made me physically uncomfortable. I am a transman and I remember the issues I had/have with my body. I hate being touched, even to this day because of the breasts I used to have. Jude explains that he has body issues and he actively talks about his boundaries when it comes to touch. Emmy as a straight and ciswoman doesn't know basic trans manners, but is open to learning and she fumbles a lot. The fact that she is trying is so endearing. There is a scene where she actively describes feeling Jude's breasts through his binder when they hug. It hit so close to home and my fears that people could tell what I was hiding. That Emmy thought it was appropriate to muse about Jude's breasts was so painful, but so realistic. 

I LOVE this book because it was so realistic and it didn't beat me over the head with trans 101. I already know this and a lot of teens who will be reading the book are trans or know people that are. They don't need the basics. I appreciate this book meeting me as an equal. Instead of "what is trans?" the author addresses "what is the appropriate way to interact with a trans person?". There is even a whole section on asking about pronouns. 



5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book!
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Content Warnings: Unnamed eating disorder, unnamed mood disorder, deadnaming, misgendering, alcohol/drug glorification, attempted rape, emotional abuse

Review:

The summary of this book sets it up to be such a good story, but it would be an understatement to say it fell flat for me. I wanted a story about a fat girl with anxiety loving a trans boy unconditionally, but instead I got a typical YA romance with two characters that have marginalized identities on the side. Emmy's mental health and abusive home life could have been explored so much more deeply, but it was only mentioned once in a while. The same thing happened with Jude's transness. I understand this part could have been because the author may not have wanted to overstep her bounds, but if that were the case she could have either hired sensitivity readers or picked a different subject to write about.

So, the story starts out with Emmy being pressured into sexual acts with the most popular boy in school. When she gets home, her mother is furious because somehow she knows exactly what happened. This is where the reader is introduced to Emmy's unstable home life, from which she abruptly moves away after agreeing to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Paige in Vancouver.

"Emmy was a pervert with an obsession that wouldn't go away no matter how hard she tried"

So the main plot of this story is Emmy's growing relationship with Jude. Unfortunately this is typical Instalove™. The quote above is in reference to Emmy looking through Jude's public Instagram account and feeling like she's stalking this boy she's known for like a week. There are similar quotes throughout the book that show Emmy feels so strongly about this person she's barely talked to and doesn't actually know very well. Somehow vice versa happens as well, because, while Jude is a flirty person, he's totally into Emmy back. I also have to add that Emmy first swoons over Jude because he's wearing a RuPaul pin and wonders if it's fate because he's got to be the only other person in the world that idolizes RuPaul. Because RuPaul not a popular LGBT+ icon or anything.

As I said, this felt like a really cliche YA romance where both lovers are from marginalized groups. Yet we only touch on their marginalizations. Emmy is a high school poet who wants to be noticed for her talent and to experience more of the world. It's just shown in a small scene that she has an eating disorder and her abusive background is merely hinted at. I'd like to talk about this quote as well:

"This dress would look so much better, she thought, if I could just get down to the size I was when I sucked in in front of the mirror."

I'm not the most educated on fat rep, but if she can suck in her stomach and look skinny, then she's no different than I am, and I'm not at a weight that's unaccepted by society. Of course, the best part of this rep (sarcasm) is when Emmy goes to buy some makeup before her first date with Jude and is given a total makeover. I wish this harmful trope would stop.

Speaking of Jude, he's truly the typical YA love interest. Jude hosts a super popular poetry slam show at the coffee shop where he works, and is liked by everyone he comes across. Also he has hidden talents like juggling that captivates everyone at the park, and is so respected that a group of drunk men quit harassing him and leave as soon as Jude tells him to. He just happens to be a boy with a vagina. Normally, that casual transness would be a good thing, but it doesn't affect his life at all until the end when he tells Emmy that he was denied a loan for top surgery. The reader's not given any other details about his transition either. Is he on testosterone? Is he treated like a cis man because he passes? These aren't details to focus on, of course, but they would have been nice to mention, especially since this is a book where his being trans is part of the major plot.

Later in the story Emmy acts out and steals a small bottle of wine from a liquor store, and this scene could have been so much more intense! The whole thing happens in a paragraph and I'm disappointed. On top of that, she gets drunk in the park that night and these guys come up to her and act real creepy, as guys do. I think this is supposed to read as an attempted rape, but Emmy just up and walks away and they don't pursue her so I don't know how to feel about that scene either. Up until her walking away, I was really scared something was going to happen to her. Then it just ended so... underwhelmingly, like the burglary.

Final thought: This book had so much potential! If only Emmy and Jude's stories had gone into more depth, maybe they would have felt more human than book characters. It also would have been nice to hear the motivations of other characters like Paige and Emmy's family back in Winnipeg. There are so many social statements that could have been with this book, but it just didn't meet my expectations.
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This review contains mild spoilers for the book. Please read with caution.

I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was very hard to get through for me. While the cover and summary caught my attention, reading the contents proved to be a struggle. For a lot of different reasons, Love is Love just did not work for me.

While reading, I couldn’t help feeling like the version I’d been given was a draft, something that needed to be revised again. There were a few spelling and grammatical errors here and there, and the writing itself just wasn’t incredibly stellar. I found myself highlighting many passages that felt out of place, whether they were statements I didn’t particularly agree with or if I felt the pacing needed some work. There were some passages I absolutely adored, but they were far and few between. Overall, most of my issues with this book sit with the writing itself. 

Another major issue lies within its characterization. I couldn’t stand Emmy through half of this book. I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to have the happy ending or not. Really, I don’t think she deserved it. There are plenty of romance scenes in the book, but many of them read as Emmy being a stalker. She obsesses over Jude, makes assumptions based on his interactions with other people, and treats their friendship like a relationship at times. She has one moment of saving grace- when she accepts Jude’s gender identity. In the end, Emmy is a character I didn’t feel anything for.

This book could have potential. It could very easily read as a nice romance with well fleshed out characters, a more refined plot, and better practices at handling LGBT issues. There’s good intention in the pages, it just doesn’t work in this version. Some of the main issues with Jude, a transgender character, aren’t with how he’s written, but how other characters talk about him. Emmy’s cousin Paige is constantly misgendering him, which speaks on her character but reuses a plot point that’s almost present in every story involving transgender characters. Emmy’s mother throws a fit over the idea of Emmy dating someone like Jude. Emmy is good about accepting Jude, but romantic scenes almost always have a side note about his gender identity, which isn’t necessary. One scene that really sticks out is when Jude outs one of his friends as a transgender woman completely at random. Not only is this character not present, but her only use throughout the story is to make Emmy feel jealous. Jude only explains this character’s importance to him once he outs her. Having a reveal about her gender identity is completely pointless, not to mention it shouldn’t even happen the way it did. If anything, it feels entirely convenient.

Overall, while I wanted to like this book and felt it tried to carry good messages, I just could not enjoy it. I don’t even think I could recommend it to anyone in its current state either. I would love to see a revised edition later on correcting the issues I had with the book.
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Sent to live with her cousin's family in Vancouver, Emmy feels continually out of place and lacking in comparison to her more glamorous cousin. Then she meets Jude, who is confident, cool, funny and transgender. Emmy is sure that he doesn't like her, but the two of them do share a real connection.

This is a short novel targeting a YA audience. Emmy's insecurities about her appearance, weight, and sense of self lead her to do just about anything to be seen as worthwhile to other people, and it's hard for her to connect with her mother. She's just as insecure around her cousin Paige or all of her friends, and the outsider feeling never really goes away unless she is with Jude.

He has the same feeling of being an outsider: because he is transgender, his family all but disowned him, friends misgender and put down his choices, and he feels out of place in his own body. The two bond well, with awkward moments; we really feel Emmy's anxiety and awkwardness, and it definitely resonates with any aged reader of the book. Those kinds of worries are universal, regardless of the source of it.

Possibly because this is such a short book, we really don't see much about why Emmy and her mother don't really connect. There are some mentions of Emmy taking medication, but we never see it or any of the care that should go along with having some kind of prescription. She's on her own a lot so that most adult figures are absent and conveniently out of the way for her.

It's a failing that most YA stories seem to have, and I was disappointed that Emmy's bonding with her uncle didn't really go anywhere. I would have liked to see more emotional growth for Emmy, but it was great to see someone like her be the main character and get the guy in the end, as well as having Jude as a nontraditional love interest. Neither are caricatures played for laughs, and we really root for their happiness along the way.
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I would sum up my experience with this book by saying I don't know that I'm the appropriate target audience for this book.   This is surprising since I am queer and fat with mental illness; nevertheless, my opinion stands. (Spoilers contained herein.)

I would not call "Love Is Love" an objectively bad book, but it's a book that feels in-progress. The characters don't feel fully fleshed-out; the story doesn't feel finished. As I read I was constantly confronted with areas where the story could have been improved with revision. I understand that the story was meant to be brief, but there is such a thing as too brief. Characters and character arcs suffer when a story is too short to give them their due. Plot takes a backseat when there isn't room to tell a more intricate story. "Love Is Love" suffered from a lack of complexity.

CHARACTERS

I didn't care for Emmy. I didn't feel that the main character had much of a character arc to speak. She sailed from social disaster to social disaster without changing. She was self-involved and self-loathing from the first page to the last. She obsessed constantly over other people and even when acknowledging how unhealthy this behavior was, she neglected to stop or seek help. She was as guilty of cruelty and snap judgments as any of the secondary and auxiliary characters we're introduced to in the story, with the sole exception being she wasn't transphobic/transmisic. Emmy's fixation on Jude bordered on fetishization because she simply doesn't know Jude well enough to be this fixated on him early on. To my eye, Emmy seemed to like Jude because she perceived him as being different like Emmy was different. 

I was very uncomfortable with the constant references to her having broken up with Jude when they weren't really a thing yet. I can't tell if I'm supposed to see this as a manifestation of her mental illness (and if so, which?) because the story doesn't call her out on it at all. There is a scene at Dude Chilling Park where Emmy is having a pity party after being told off by Jude about being whorephobic and is approached by several men with questionable intentions. At one point, she thinks something to the effect of not letting herself get hurt and I was flummoxed because this was clearly not a scenario where Emmy would have had much choice. I don't think this was meant to read as insensitive to people who don't have a choice in being sexually exploited but it read that. A lot of things about Emmy read as insensitive.  Which brings me to my next point of contention.

Emmy took "was not like other girls" to the extreme and the story never lets the reader forget this. Every moment she is on the page she is being compared to other girls and found wanting, but it's done in such a way that we're clearly supposed to see the non-Emmy girls as lesser. For being popular, for being pretty, for being thin or having a different (usually differently unhealthy) relationship with food. There isn't ever a point where Emmy gets to be at peace with it, so the reader never gets to be at peace with it either. Emmy is never at peace, with her body or her mental health or her home life and this manifests in some ugly casual prejudice (fat-shaming, ableism, and whorephobia). She, the main character who is meant to undergo the most notable change throughout the narrative, remains static throughout and the reader is left to wonder what the point is if she never changes? She gets a boyfriend? Considering all the mental anguish Emmy endures, that hardly seems worth the trouble.

As for Jude, he's cool. He isn't really much of a character, however. He's more of an archetype, the cool, sensitive musician with foiled dreams. I sympathize with Jude because I care about his struggle to pay for top surgery and to find his place in the world, but I never got the sense Jude existed as anything more than a prize for Emmy to attain. I would have preferred to see Jude as the main character of this book, because I feel like the story would have been better for it. It also would have given the reader a clearer lens to view Emmy through that wasn't clouded by the relentless self-loathing she has for herself as a result of her weight. I'm not entirely comfortable with the non sequitur Jude made about formerly thinking he was asexual. This is another subject that could have been expanded on in a much longer story, because it's a literal throwaway line here and that does the matter a disservice.

Every other character, aside from Emmy and Jude, was flat and static, only present to serve a purpose and then discarded once that purpose was served. Emmy has no friends besides Jude. Her mother is only brought up to be the wrong-headed authority figure. Her aunt is practically non-existent. Her cousin Paige is, again, just a mirror held up to Emmy's insecurities. Her uncle is there to give some poignancy to Emmy's father's passing--and I have to be honest, I'm not sure the time spent on her father served the story well; it seemed like a digression. These characters are cardboard cutouts meant to emphasize the importance of our two main characters, but I feel like their two-dimensionality only emphasizes how relatively shallow the protagonists are.

PLOT

I recognize that perhaps plot wasn't the point here, given the length of the work. That's generally all right if you're writing a very strong, dense, character-driven piece. This wasn't that.  Emmy isn't the kind of character really driven by anything but self-loathing and obsessive tendencies. From page one, she obsesses over a boy to her near ruin and that doesn't change for 178 pages, only which boy it is changes. In fact, there are times when she says she *can't* change her addictive tendencies, which is patently untrue. She doesn't have to be this out of control, she can get help, but for whatever reasons nobody suggests it? She's on medication, she's clearly been under the care of some kind of mental health professional, but for some reason she can't go back to deal with all her unresolved issues with food, body image, addiction, and alcoholism. The book doesn't seem to tell us why and I would really like to know.

Wanting Jude is simply not enough of a plot for a story this long. It's a short story plot with fewer, non-descript cameos or it's a novel with better characterization. The execution of this plot is wanting. Even the neat happy ending feels unearned.

OVERALL

I was really intrigued by the synopsis of this story. Trans guys should absolutely be love interests and I'm dying to see this become the norm in YA romance. I'm also eager to see plus-size characters included more, and mental illness tackled more frequently in YA. (And I recognize that some portrayals will be less than rosy; that's life.) That said, despite the best efforts to include a variety of representation in this story, the story falls short of its potential. I largely chalk this up to length, which required the author to condense some truly complex matters into relatively few words. I would probably read a work by this author again, of a similar subject matter, provided it was much longer. I just don't think contemporary YA romance novellas are their strength.

Thank you for the e-ARC. I appreciate being given an opportunity to read this book ahead of publication.
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Quick, easy read. Subject matter was dealt with expertly, however, could have done with more of a plot re the main characters move and upheaval, as well as what happened to drive her to move
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Overall, the book was okay. My intention was to read more stories that dealt with Trans-main characters. I think my biggest issue was that I was expecting a lot from this book. I initially thought that the main character was the trans character but he was a secondary main character. Nothing really happened in the first half of the story and I did not feel invested until I was about 70% in. I did not like the writing and how it jumped a lot in the beginning. I wish I got to know more about the main character because I could relate to her on a surface level but that was it. If this book was longer and more developed I think I would have enjoyed it more. I was sadly disappointed.
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I'm going to be bluntly honest here. I didn't like this book. I gave it two stars because it was a quick read and I'm sure there are people who would enjoy this. 

To me, it was rushed and there wasn't a chance for me to get to know the characters and feel for them. I felt nothing for the characters and I felt nothing for the relationship. I appreciate the diversity in it but I just didn't like it. 

I can appreciate why people like it though. It's a cute little contemporary. It's a very quick read.
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