Cover Image: Summer in the City of Roses

Summer in the City of Roses

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Member Reviews

trigger warning
<spoiler> boot camp, kidnapping, grief, homelessnes, drug addiction, mention of rape, mention of suicide, being orphaned, racism, misogyny, self harm </spoiler>

Iphigenia is shocked when she finds out the real reason for her fathers suspiciously generous decision to go and dine with her: It's so her brother can be kidnapped and placed into a bootcamp.
Enrages, she flees the scenes and wanders through Portland.
Meanwhile, her brother manages to escape the bootcamp, and is adopted by an all-female punk band.

The beginning is a lot of plot in one chunk, but only to set the scene. Afterwards, the novel gets characterdriven, and for once, I was fine with it.
Every single character is interesting. Well, the protagonist's father is interestingly revolting, but interesting nonetheless.

This book is set in the 1990-ies, but the main issue is that there is no mobile communication. Apart from that, it could be set anytime, really, as long as there is an active punk scene.

Both protagonists have their own chapters, and since they share the same parents, both deal with being biracial: Their mother is Mexican while their father is Greek, and they have this weird and normal thing where they feel between all cultures.
On top of that, I suspect that Orr is on the autism spectrum. He is never called an autist, but the description fits, the meltdowns, how the world sometimes is simply too much, his ways of coping with that - which is what makes his father think the best decision is boot camp. 

Similiarly, the person Iph meets is never called non binary, but is described without use of pronouns. Said person is George, and through George we meet a lot of people in Portland not everybody would want to see. The homeless, the sex worker, the drug addicts. George helps out in the local needle exchange, and thus we meet some more awesome characters.

Then, suddenly, from what felt like a road trip despite them being in one place, there is magical realism and it went from nil to 100 in a very, very short time which was weird, and unexpected, but I liked it.

I am sure I'll find my mind drifting back to these fictional people a lot and I am curious about other works by the same author, if there are any.
This was simply beautiful. In some places, it hurt, but not too much to have to quit, and then I was invested.
The arc was provided by the publisher.
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I loved this book so much for one very big reason, ALL THE REPRESENTATION! We had a novel that explored love and family betrayal, anxiety, the LGBTQ community, autism spectrum, identity, violence, and all in a YA novel? I am shook. 

However, I think the cover makes people think this book is going to be more light and fluffy but what we got wasn't that. It was darker, more trippy, but still wonderful. 

I also like how it was set in the 90's! *chefs kiss*
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An interesting story, this book took me a while to get into. I loved the lyrical style of writing from the author, but the dark content took me a beat to adapt to. There were a lot of layers to the narration style that I enjoyed, but at times it seemed to bog down the flow of the prose.
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"Pause point - a time where we can either open the door to something new or close it against something unwanted." - Michelle Ruiz Keil, Summer in the City of Roses

Trigger Warnings: drugs, smoking, suicide, death, homelessness, prostitution, family violence, abuse

I think one of the most meaningful ways to spend your summer this year (and let's face it any year) is reading. To me, summer is all about challenging yourself, finding new adventures, and creating new memories...it's about family and friends. I found this and more in Michelle Ruiz Keil's new book! 

Summer in the City of Roses was just what I needed to make this year's summer unforgettable. Now while I wasn't able to physically go anywhere due to the global pandemic we are still facing, reading this book allowed me to take off and rediscover a city I've been to in a new light.

Summer in the City of Roses is poignant, lyrical, and nostalgic. It celebrates the journey of not only finding, but learning to accept yourself in a world with people that won't. Keil's second novel follows two siblings, Iph and Orr, who become separated due to their father's misguided, but well-meaning sense of doing what he thinks is best for his son...i.e. sending him to a boot camp for the summer to make him "a man". Angered at the deception and betrayal her father has done, Iph runs away and begins her quest to rescue her brother with the help of gender-queer “Robin Hood” aka George. Meanwhile, Orr is on a journey to find his way back to his sister and at the same time, he discovers so much about himself while making his way through the backdrop of the 90's Portland, Oregon with a group of eclectic and exquisite characters belonging to an all-girl punk band, The Furies.

I am sad and shocked that this amazing book is not as well-talked about on social media. This story...what can I say? So much! It is unusual but extraordinary...and it is so achingly sad but encouraging and heartwarming. Everything about this is Summer for me. I enjoyed the many Shakespeare, punk music, Greek mythology, and Mexican culture interwoven into the dual storylines. 

I especially love the strong bond between the two siblings and how that bond only seems to grow stronger despite the distance between them. I am reminded of my bond with my siblings and how fortunate I am to have them in my life.  

Thank you to Netgalley and Soho Teen for gifting me with an eARC of this esoteric tale of what it means to grow up and just be yourself. I highly recommend this book and I can't wait to see what this author will come up with next.
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While I enjoyed Michelle Ruiz Keil's first book,  and had high expectations for this, I simply couldn't get into the story. It was written well, but the point of view was strange, and lacked something that I cannot put my finger on. There was also quite a lot of heavy topics that were not handled as well as they had been in her debut novel, and I had to stop reading about 50 pages in. This was one of my first DNFs of the year, and it was incredibly disappointing that one of my most anticipated reads of the year was not as enjoyable as I was expecting.
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I have been trying to read this book for two months and though I usually stick out a book for better or for worse, this is one I unfortunately have to give up on. 

The writing is beautiful, poetic, evocative, highly descriptive, but its intense description is sometimes so detailed and so precise that you have to stop and reread, pause and wonder at its true meaning, and oftentimes lose track of the plot in the process. Though told in 3rd person subjective, the characters felt eternally at a distance, as if I was watching their story through a foggy glass; they never felt REAL. I cannot begin to tell you how confused I was by the events of this novel, and each additional chapter only served to confuse me further. 

After reading through a plethora of reviews, most adoring, some questioning like me, I came to the conclusion that the darker subject material and content warnings -- combined with my own inability to decipher the story -- make this book a bad fit for a reader like myself. 

I am, however, very interested in the author's other works. As I said, the prose is gorgeous, and the idea of fairytales blended with Greek mythology is right up my alley; this just isn't the retelling for me.

DNF at 20%.
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This book was fun! It's a quick, jaunty, fairytale whirl through Portland. I couldn't totally take it seriously at times, the dialogue was a little silly and the plot just felt sort of overly convenient and improbable, but I think this is great lower YA. Some of the reviews call this "dark", which it definitely isn't, especially not in tone— it covers some serious topics, but I never got the sense that the characters were in any real danger. Their problems are generally solved quickly and at the hands of kind strangers. And, I'm not knocking it for that, I don't think this book was trying to be anything else! It's a coming-of-age fairytale that tackles themes of homelessness and drug use and abuse without really asking its characters (or readers) to confront the reality of poverty.

I have a lot of respect for what Ruiz Keil pulled off with the character of George. I hesitate to call George a nonbinary lesbian, because they don't use either of those words, but what I will say is that as someone who very well may be a nonbinary lesbian myself, this is the closest I've seen to someone like that in mainstream media, especially as a love interest. I was suspicious of the lack of pronouns, but it was way more subtle and well-executed than I expected, so props for that. I'd love to hear from autistic reviewers about Orr (and I'm gonna go read reviews after this lol), but I can't speak to that element myself. Overall though, Ruiz Keil seems to have put a great deal of thought and compassion into writing a diverse cast of characters.

Finally, this novel has some truly lovely moments of prose, and I'd definitely pick up an adult book from Ruiz Keil if she ever released one in the future. While this book wasn't anything memorable for me, I think it's solid, and certainly admirable for what it tried to do and succeeded in doing. Thank you so much to Netgalley and Soho Teen for the opportunity to read this ARC!
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Pros: the writing style was so beautiful and the way it flowed *muah* chef's kiss. QUEER. 
Cons: darker than I was expected or prepared for. you kinda need to do some pre-game reading to fully understand it
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Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of Summer in the City of Roses in exchange for an honest review.

This was both a lot darker and a lot trippier than I expected it to be, but once you get into the narration style it's easy to love this for all it's uniqueness. I absolutely adored the end, but I do think a combination of our two POVS being separated and the heavily metaphorical narration makes the middle drag a little bit. All in all though, this is my favourite queer Orpheus and Eurydice retelling (that might sound like a really lackluster compliment, but I've read so many of them that I promise it isn't).
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Michelle Ruiz Keil draws from Greek mythology, Grimm’s fairy tales, and the Latin-American tradition of magical realism for her sophomore novel, Summer in the City of Roses. The gorgeously-written novel is one of those books that straddles the line between young adult fiction and literary fiction, although some readers might struggle with the more fairy tale-ish plot twists.

Keil’s debut was All of Us With Wings, a coming-of-age story set in San Francisco. This time, it’s Portland in the 1990s. Siblings Iph and Orr are adrift in the city, separated for the first time from each other and their parents. While their mother is away for work, their father has fifteen-year-old Orr shipped off to a boot camp. Furious, seventeen-year-old Iph heads into the city to find her brother, unaware that he’s already escaped. On separate, parallel journeys, the siblings meet a colorful, eccentric cast of characters. Among them: an all-girl band of punk rockers, a group of sex work activists, and a genderqueer archer named George.

The first chapters made me expect that their father would be the villain looming over the book. Instead, both Iph and Orr get in contact with him early on and receive permission to stay in the city. As I read, I was surprised to realize that this book isn’t really about siblings trying to find each other. It’s more about the fact that they needed to go their separate ways to figure out who they are.

Iph is seeking Orr, but the urgency of the mission lessens over the course of the book. She spends at least as much time flirting with George as she does looking for her brother. Orr, who is autistic, blossoms among his new punk girl friends. He also discovers a love for performing when he stands in for their bass player—although he still doesn’t quite fit into the regular world. 

It’s difficult to write a helpful review of Summer in the City of Roses without spoiling the last fifty pages. Essentially, the story takes a hard turn into its fairy tale source material with a very magical plot twist. Some readers will love it; others may have difficulty accepting the turn. I wanted to love the abstract strangeness of the ending, but unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me.

Glancing at Goodreads, I see a few other early readers who had the same reaction to the book that I did. They fell in love with the book’s setting and characters, but couldn’t make it all the way with the ending. (One reviewer opened my eyes to the fact that the book’s cover references a painting of nineteenth-century author George Sand. Much like the George of the book, Sand defied gender norms of her day by dressing in masculine clothing and publishing under a male pen name.) I would still recommend Keil’s novel to anyone who loves beautiful prose and magical realism, as well as anyone who enjoyed Phoebe North’s Strange Creatures.
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trigger warnings- kidnapping, child abuse, drug use, panic attacks / disorders, animal cruelty, medical content, grief

honestly, i really wanted to like this book, since i feel like people do like it, and the whole plot of this book just was so good. but, for one, i do feel like the description of the book did tell to much of the story, hence why i also think i didn't enjoy it that much, since i already knew what was going to happen and than what is also happening currently. but, i also think that the description wasn't even that good, so it probably didn't help that much. 

but, also this book was way to much darker than i thought it was. like, for one i feel like this book did have some parts in the description when i thought it also was going to be dark, but not that dark as it actually was. which, i feel like it was so dark that i don't even think i would consider it as YA, maybe like new adult, since of some of the themes and then i guess it could even go darker if they wanted to go into that. 

but, i also feel like the book also the writing style was just bad. granted, i do feel like there is a specific writing style that i do like, and this one was just not this. and i also feel like there could have been improvement, even if they just do a little bit more editing here and there. since i do feel like there could have been other parts just fixed or better. 

i also feel like the characters too, like iph was just flat and boring and also kind of uninteresting, and i feel like she needed a personality in this book, but also the sexualization for the minors, especially her brother, were just so gross and honestly were just so shitty. and also just the way that orr was handled and how they talked and abused him was just so gross.
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I really wanted to like this more than I did!! I am a 90’s child, so I thought I would love this! I think it was a bit weirder from my usual reads, but don’t let that stop you from reading it! If you’re into mythology, give it a try!
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This book found me at exactly the right time. As soon I started, I knew how special it was going to be- NEURODIVERGENCE REP!!!!

Suuuuuper quick summary:⁣
The summer their mother leaves for a dance residency, close siblings Iph and Orr find themselves separated and on very different paths back to each other.⁣
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There are fairy tales and myths dolloped all over this book. I don’t always recommend prerequisite reading, they can be spoilery- but I’m going to absolutely suggest some homework so you can enjoy all of the lovely Easter eggs. So, take a look at:⁣
- “Brother and Sister” by The Brothers Grimm (Mandatory.)⁣
- The myths of Iphigienia and Orestes⁣
- Stanislavski’s The Method, helps to be vaguely familiar with it⁣
- Bonus points for locating the poem “The Boy Who Changed Himself into a Stag Clamors at the Gate of Secrets” by Ferenc Juhász (Worth it.)⁣
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It’s clear this book had to be set in a place like Portland. I’ve never been, so I’m about to spew out a whole lot of projection- but it seems like the ideal location to set a book that features queer rep, found family, feminism, Shakespeare, lovable misfits, the 90s, amazing character names, sex work positivity, a pink house named Penelope- and ALSO includes a storybook cottage in the woods where books leap off of shelves, food appears out of nowhere, and tarot is performed along with rituals that include a psychopomp.⁣
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There are some narrative turns that may not be for everyone- this book is heavy on magical realism. I loved it, but…. I love most magical realism, sooooo….just remember to keep your mind wide open. (Which…..is kind of the point of the book.)
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This was honestly a weird read and more of an experience than anything. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. This book delves into many topics like homelessness, sex work, spirituality, and queerness in a kind and sympathetic light while also acknowledging the struggles. The first half of the novel reads as a typical coming of age, but towards the end it devolves into this nature based identity search that can be confusing but enjoyable.
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This book was so strange y’all, but I liked it. If you’ve been here a minute you know me and magical realism don’t always get along, but I really just let myself vibe and get lost in the story this time. The prose was a huge part of that as its beautifully descriptive and really drew me in. I stayed for the characters though because Orr was one of my faves, and I needed to see his entire journey.

At it’s heart, this story is two siblings on separate adventures trying to find each other but most importantly themselves. Summer in the City of Roses touches on a lot of important topics like sex work, drug abuse, and teen homelessness. It's a very sex positive story with queer characters. I always love books or scenarios when a group of girls take a boy under their wings, and the girl group in this story did not let me down at all. They were chaos personified but also very cool and supportive. 

I looked up the myths after I finished reading and the way she weaved them together blew my mind 🤯 like if you think this book is weird just look at the source material lolol. It got so extremely weird in the 3rd act, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't crying by the end. There was a lot of theater talk and method acting in the story that I enjoyed, and it blended well with the magical realism aspects. There was also some Shakespeare reciting in this that made me swoon.

Overall, I had a great time reading this retelling and would recommend if you love magical realism, teens with realistic problems, and a surprising ending.
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This one was interesting! It had mythology, and it was kinda historical (but also not in my eyes, but that's because I born in the late 90s hahaha). 

It was also dark, and definitely combined both fantasy and realism - something I don't read a lot of. It was definitely something to me.

I felt that Iph and Orr were written well as characters, and that is something I do appreciate in a book. The plot and world were a little odd to me, but that may have been just me at the time.

Rating: 3.5/5

(Review live 7/7 at 8am AEST)
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Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz Keil features a great time and setting with 90s Portland. This world is vivid and fully realized. Like Keil's first time, Summer in the City of Roses is full of beautiful writing. I also appreciate that she is unafraid to broach risky, potentially taboo topics like teenagers and sex work. However, even though I loved the setting, I struggled to connect with the characters or truly get "hooked" by the twins' stories.
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I'm sad to say that I DNF this book, I was 45% in and I just couldn't get into it. It could be because I was more excited for other books that I had, maybe. The writing is good, it has so much detail and a very character base. Every thought that each of the siblings had would take us to a reference from their life or their mom and I get that, at the beginning to get to know these characters but it became too much for me. There are a few deep topics, like abuse and prostitution but it touched it lightly and with delicacy. I really loved the cover and the synopsis seemed interesting enough but it wasn't my cup of tea. I do appreciate Net Galley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this.
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This one just didn't do it for me. I really wanted to get into it but I just didn't feel that invested in the plot or main character's. I think it was beautiful writing but just not for me.
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I loved this story so much. It felt original and beautiful, even though it wove together so many familiar fairy tale elements. The city of Portland is as much a character here as any of the people, and I loved reading the slow transformation of Iph and Orr as the novel went on. Everyone here felt full and complex, including the minor characters in the story. I was a big fan of Michelle's first novel, and how she seamlessly brings together fairy tale, myth, city, and music into a story that feels modern and new, and this one does the same and explores family dynamics and social issues sensitively.
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