Cover Image: Every Variable of Us

Every Variable of Us

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There has been ongoing discussion about whether young adult books are primarily intended for adult readers or not. While the target demographic for YA literature is undoubtedly young readers, the expanding landscape of YA books often presents stories that may resonate with individuals who have long left their teenage years behind. Some of these stories successfully capture the essence of adolescence, portraying teenage characters as impulsive, authentic, and even flawed—essentially, as young individuals. Within this context, it's always refreshing to encounter a YA book that truly allows teenage characters to shine, offering a realistic depiction of their experiences. This debut novel is one such pleasant surprise that deserves attention, although it doesn't entirely meet all expectations.
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Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to the advanced copy of this book to read.
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This is a great text for upper grade readers (8-11) who struggle to engage with texts. For students who live in areas similar to the one in the book, it will be easy for them to connect to the story line. It's the right amount of dramatic with a dash of inspirational. I would recommend this for personal reading or SSR for students but not curriculum,
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An undoubtedly important book, just not the right one for me. It wasn't bad by any means, and maybe it's the kind of book that will draw me in some time down the line. Sometimes it just isn't the right time for a book and it needs to be visited under different circumstances, and I really believe this is one of those. Well written with characters that felt so genuine, I just couldn't fall into it the way I normally do.
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Dnf at 5% because if the extreme fatphobia

Okay so the beginning of this book starts with two Black teenagers in a corner store who are actively stealing things and in walks a "fat ass" white cop who goes straight for the donuts and coffee because of course a fat person would go to the food. Then they start calling the cop "Tubs" in their head because he's fat so obviously we can make a fat joke. So when the cop does what cops do and is an asshole and blatantly racially profiles them he ends up chasing them but because he's fat he fumbles a lot and is really slow and can't really run it all making him even more incompetent. 

I literally had to stop because I get that this book is probably really important and is going to be liked by a lot of people, but I cannot read a book that is so fatphobic right from the start. I don't know if this will be the only fat character in the book. I don't know if this is the only villain in the book. I do know that the author made a conscious decision to take a character that people already will dislike because he's a cop and make him this fumbling large food obsessed fat person and play into every stereotype of fatness. Not only is he more obsessed with food than he is his job but he also can't do his job correctly because he's fat.

Cops are pieces of shit and we all know this and this was a conscious decision to make the cop fat. No one is going to like the cop in the book, okay. He is always going to be the villain and it is increasingly frustrating to see this happen where the unlikable character is defined solely by their weight instead of by their actual unlikeable characteristics, like being a fucking cop. There's also a joke about how she thinks he'll probably have a heart attack because he has to run and he's fat. 

I feel like it also says a lot about how the author views fatness and fat phobia in relation to other types of discrimination. Our main character is talking about a Muslim girl in the store and makes comments about how she really needs to find a different way to describe her because it's not really appropriate to say that yet at the same time is spewing all this fat phobic shit. I get that racial discrimination and fatphobia are not the same but they're also inherently linked and it is ignorant to believe that fatphobia and anti-Blackness are not connected.
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This was a really good novel. We optioned it for a first year seminar course. We didn’t choose it, but it’s a well written novel with good the mess
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every variable of us is a work of fiction, but it shows experiences that are so real and brutal till this very day. i could tell you that this is an important read, how alexis' existence is made up of so many intersections - female, queer, disabled, person of color - but that hardly feels sufficient.

i could tell you that this has a lovely sapphic romance, with two girls falling in love under the moon, the stars, the planets and craving the universe that awaits them (and you know i am a hoe for space), but that still feels insufficient.

i acknowledge that its a privilege for me to be reading this book in a safe space, where alexis' lived experiences do not reflect my reality although i saw parts of myself in her intersections of queerness and disability and that meant so much to me. so instead today i'm going to amplify charles a. bush's words on his book because and no one says it better.

he calls this book his "heart and soul". he dedicates this to queer black kids who are afraid to come out. kids who should not become another name in an article, another statistic, kids who had to grow up too early. but beyond that fear exists immense joy and hope, that regardless of skin or environment, people can be and do anything.

the heart of this book is honest and unashamed, of growing past learnt prejudices, coming to terms with your queerness and standing proudly in the face of immense hate and adversity, it acknowledges that life is messy and uncertain, but it can be pretty spectacular too.
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I love the authenticity of the characters. Basically, I love that all the characters are flawed and human (like real life teenagers). The diverse representation of neurotypical, LGBTQIA+, and characters of color make this a necessary read. While it was not the most compelling read, I believe this novel is allowing so many voices to be heard. I can't wait to hear the stories of inspired readers and other authors.
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Everyone should read this!

Charles Bush gives us Alexis with all her doubts and fear and takes us through her life journey. She resides in a poverty stricken neighborhood and has a dream to get out of there and be something on her own and to not live like them and die at the hands of others.

Her plans comes crashing down when she is shot in leg and couldn't play basketball to get scholarship. She feels lost. You call it a silver lining but Aamani comes like a force in her life and makes her question everything. She gets Lex on board for STEM and gives her another purpose.

This book was so much more than a sapphic romance. It talked about black lives their difficulties, the community or street they reside in all in another country, the descriptions provided by the author broke my heart. This had so much depth.

The author talks about Indian culture, their upbringing and strict ways with also including some Bollywood references and Hindu tradition, lot many things were so apt. I could understand what Aamani went through well.

I loved the books and the characters, STEM team is my favourite and Matthew, he makes me laugh. These bunch of misfits are amazing. They had me laughing so much in second half. 

This coming of age story tells us about not confining ourselves to one thing, finding out who we are, valuing our life, knocking on another door if one is closed, life challenges, teenage emotions. I loved every bit of this with not liking tid bits. I highly recommend this book.

Warnings ~ gun violence, drug abuse, drug addiction, murder, gang violence, homophobia, child abuse.
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Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years) and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Every Variable of Us by Charles A. Bush.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Trigger Warnings: Gun violence, drug abuse, drug addiction, child abuse, homophobia, gang violence, murder.

In Every Variable of Us, Alexis Duncan is a high school senior living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Watching her classmates turn to the local gangs one by one and wrap their lives up in drug dealing, Alexis believes she has only one chance of getting herself out—a basketball scholarship. So when she is seriously injured in a gang shooting and told she will never play again, Alexis sees her future instantly wither before her eyes.

Enter Aamani Chakrabarti. Aamani is the new girl in Alexis’ senior class and a member of the school’s competitive STEM team—something Alexis never even knew existed. Aamani believes that Alexis is much smarter than she ever gave herself credit for, and pushes her new friend to take up the final space on the team, allowing them to compete and hopefully win themselves academic scholarships. Alexis awkwardly ingratiates herself with the school nerds and soon finds a passion for astronomy, but as her mother’s addictions spiral and her best friend finds herself in too deep with a local kingpin, will she be dragged back into the worst elements of the neighborhood she longs to escape?

I’m going to start out this review by noting that as a white woman who lives in the English countryside, Alexis and Aamani’s lives are completely alien to me. The neighborhood they live in is the worst type of “hood” stereotype and this is something the author has acknowledged, stating that the fictional location of Hargrove is “a sometimes-exaggerated amalgamation” of the places he and his friends grew up and pointing out that not every block in the real world deals with those same problems. However, everything Alexis and Aamani go through is going on right now somewhere and the experiences of the kids living those lives need to be acknowledged, as does the systemic racism responsible for most of their hardships.

Alexis has grown up believing that her only “escape route” out of Hargrove is through excelling at sport—the same message the author received growing up. Every Variable of Us follows her journey through depression and hopelessness after having that opportunity stolen away, and sees her slowly come to accept that she is more than just her basketball prowess. The daughter of a drug addict and victim of years of abuse, Alexis has come to see herself through a distorted lens. She knows that people outside her neighborhood see Black girls like her as little more than violent thugs destined to become addicts, and initially she allows herself to give in and believe this is her only path. It takes Aamani to show Alexis the truth, that she is so much more than those lazy stereotypes, and to prove to her that she is both highly intelligent and deserving of a bright future.

Although Every Variable Of Us is technically a sapphic romance, the relationship between the two main characters is actually fairly minimal. Alexis is scared of being labeled as gay, something she feels will put an even larger target on her back, and Aamani comes from a religious Hindu household with parents who are determined to “pray the gay away” and set her up in an arranged marriage. With so much else going on, there’s little time for romance between the pair but that doesn’t detract from the story. I loved watching the friendship evolve between the two girls and the rest of their STEM team as well which included some autistic representation. Aamani is a wonderful character who loves Doctor Who, Marvel comics, and cosplaying, and it’s great watching her slowly introduce Alexis to these fantasy worlds she’s never had the opportunity to explore before.

I ended up loving Every Variable Of Us and I hope it can end up in the hands of young people like Alexis to help them also see that they deserve more than the negative stereotypes they are too often burdened by.

GeekMom received a copy of this title for review purposes.
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We’ve often come across opinions about adult readers being a target audience for young adult books or not. Of course, the demographic is meant for the young readers but with the growing space for more YA books, a lot of stories might read like it’s meant for those who were teenagers. While all sorts of such stories can be great or dismissable, it’s always a surprise to see a YA book that actually gives space for teenage characters to be impulsive, true, and somewhat problematic—basically, young. This debut is one such surprise that is definitely worth picking up but doesn’t completely impress.

Alexis (Black) wants to get away from what her life offers at the moment: a drug-addict mother, shootings that are the norm, and an area where Black people are always living under the threat of being shot by the cops. She does have a plan: play basketball and get a scholarship which can help her escape from this mess to a better life. But when an accident takes away everything from her, especially her dream of playing basketball and that scholarship, she is left with something already scarce in her life: hope. Aamani Chakrabarti (Indian American) is the new kid at her school and seems like the light that can show Alexis the way forward. She is intelligent and witty, and shows Alexis that more than just one path can lead to her dreams—prompting Alexis to join her STEM team. What unfolds is a journey where Alexis learns the newfound way to freedom and Aamani helps her with studying and quizzes. 

The simplistic writing is easy to read but the plot doesn’t offer anything too refreshing and each subplot often turns too character-oriented. But in terms of the very same characterisation, Bush definitely creates a personality that makes space for growth while excellently exploring themes of poverty, neglect, gangs, drug abuse, unsafe neighbourhoods, living on the streets, and moving out of the systematically enforced confinements. The chaos experienced by Alexis is greatly unwrapped in contrast to the sequences at school where Aamani and her group of friends—a diverse cast including bisexual and gay teens, a Muslim girl, and a neurodivergent boy—give her an opportunity to not be defined by her past but by what the future holds for her. Not an easy read (and not just because the plot doesn’t have major turns to keep one’s attention intact) for the blatant racism, internalised homophobia, and significant slurs that filled the page, but definitely an important one in terms of character growth. 

Speaking of which, Every Variable of Us also tests its readers for how long they can give Alexis a chance to be impulsive, wrong, messy, and flawed before the story truly brings justice and righteous change to her. Whether it’s the “not like other girls” attitude she carries as a sportsgirl confident in her skills or the subsequent judgement she passes for the “nerds” and makeup-wearing girls around; whether it’s her outright racist description of Aamani’s desi lunch toward the start or an implied steamy scene between the two while a third character sleeps in the same room. Some of it is a mess but also realistic. Sure, comments made by other characters like a guy who undermines the #MeToo movement through an insensitive comment or a drug dealer who labels every brown kid as a terrorist, can be critcised as a reader but there’s no doubt it aids in making the novel exactly what it means to be: raw. 

Of course, as a desi myself, I did judge Aamani when she said her favourite film is Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and the Hindi dialogues were too translationary but the effort made by the author to show her as someone grown up in the Indian culture as a Hindu is quite praise-worthy—definitely stereotypical in some places but at this point, I truly don’t expect too much from non-desi authors. The sapphic relationship takes time to unfold but doesn’t emotionally move past the best-friendship vibe that it gives off at the beginning or throughout. The individual queer journeys, on the other hand, are well explored as Aamani acknowledges coming out to her Indian American parents and not being disowned but also not being accepted with that identity, or how Alexis grows from her own homophobia and allows herself a possibility, followed by her searching for “Black queer people” on Google—a small step but the first one nonetheless.
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A beautiful exploration into life, with real struggles and characters that feel so real. Not my favorite, and definitely check trigger warnings, but overall pretty awesome!
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DNF. I found the main character unlikable and really couldn't get into the book. Giving it a 3 star rating because someone else could still enjoy it and I have seen some really positive reviews that indicate this. I just don't think it was for me.
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Gritty contemporary YA novel featuring the fight of a Philly teen as she fights to save her future. Just wow. Absolutely incredible. This book features a great diverse range of characters including a black sports girl protagonist, bisexual and gay teens, a Muslim girl and a neurodivergent boy. I really appreciated seeing underprivileged teens on page as books often focus on unattainably privileged and wealthy teens. I loved the representation so much. So so recommend.
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The book was written very well and was an easy quick read that talked about some important topics but there was a lot that I didn’t like aswell.
I didn’t like there relationship at all. I just can’t get along with the bullying and the saying slurs. Lexi got Aamani involved with a lot of bad things and yet we were meant to ignore it with the fact that they exchanged their “love” for one another. I also thought that all these pop culture references made it a bit confusing to understand too.

TW:  Gun Violence, Murder, Racism/Racial Slurs, Homophobia, Child Abuse, Physical Assault/Abuse, Drug Abuse/Addiction.
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i loved this book!! loved loved loved it!! an amazing novel with amazing writing and characters i adored. the development and exploration each character went through i thought was very well done, leading everything to a satisfying conclusion. the subject matter was well thought out, everything was handled with sensitivity and care and it all flowed.
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4/5⭐ to Every Variable of Us by Charles A. Bush. Thank you to Flux Books/North Star Editions & Netgalley for an egalley to review. My first impression of this book is that it is an important story that needs to be told, and I hope it gets more publicity. Firstly, I think there will be so many inner-city young readers, particularly those who are BIPOC and/or Queer who can relate to and see themselves in Alexis' story. Secondly, as someone who cannot relate to living in a lower-income urban area and is white, this book really opened my eyes further in the same vein as The Hate You Give and Dear, Martin. The author absolutely did not sugarcoat Alexis' experience and I respect him for that. Not only did he tell a story of this teen whose life plan to get out of her neighborhood & situation by playing basketball is taken away in a gang-related injury, but he also includes conversations around ableism, racism (particularly between POC groups), and homophobia (both systemic and internal). After her injury, which involves extensive nerve damage to one of her legs, Alexis realizes how much of the world was not created to be fully accessible to people with disabilities. We also have a side character with autism who was a lovely addition to the story and the main friend group of the book, and I believe his representation was written with love and care. As much as I say this, please check out own-voices reviews in terms of the disability representation for both Lex and Matthew. Besides Lex trading basketball for STEM trivia as her way to build a successful future for herself (I liked this storyline as a reminder to not limit yourself to one future or skill), Alexis' relationship with Aamani is a huge part of this story. Their eventual friendship-turned-relationship has many sweet moments as well as some toxic but also paves the way for some important commentary. As they get closer, Lex is forced to reflect on her identity and the fact that she has feelings for and is falling for a girl. The two must also overcome some significant cultural difference, and notably some racism on Lex's part towards Aamani. Aamani patiently shares her culture, food, and family with Alexis while strongly correcting her racist and misinformed assumptions and Lex shares with Aamani the reality of growing up on the streets in her situation, and what it's like to be Black. As messy as it is, I truly loved seeing their relationship and love for each other blossom, especially with the prom scene at the end <3 I'm so glad I read this book, and I really hope many others do!
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This book and these characters are going to stay with me for a long, long time. After reading Every Variable of Us, Charles A. Bush is now an auto-buy author for me.

This story is so many things: it’s about loss and grief, it’s about abuse and survival, it’s about resilience and adapting to not-so-great circumstances. It’s about gangs and relationships. It’s about fears of what the future holds. It’s about family and the people we hold dear. And it says a lot about race too. 

Lex is a seventeen-year-old Black girl who’s caught up in a drive by shooting and shot, ending her basketball career. She’s angry and desperate, and so flawed—but understandable and relatable. Her friends are mostly in the ‘gang culture’ and she thought basketball was her way out of the town. After the shooting, she feels she has nothing. Until new student Aamani introduces her to the STEM team and Lex becomes the final After Philly teenager Alexis Duncan is injured in a gang shooting, her dreams of a college scholarship and pro basketball career vanish in an instant. To avoid becoming another Black teen trapped in her poverty-stricken neighborhood, she shifts her focus to the school's STEM team, a group of nerds seeking their own college scholarships. Academics have never been her thing, but Alexis is freshly motivated by Aamani Chakrabarti, the new Indian student who becomes her mentor (and crush?). Alexis begins to see herself as so much more than an athlete. But just as her future starts to reform, Alexis’s own doubts and old loyalties pull her back into harm’s way member of the team, meaning they qualify for competitions. 

The character arc for Lex is phenomenal. She goes from looking down on ‘nerds’ to wanting to study and really cares for her STEM teammates. She goes from nearly failing school to improving her GPA by two points, and she finds her own family among new friends. She struggles to navigate her new life as disabled and the effects this has on her career, future, and self-esteem. She wrestles with her sexuality, afraid of being Black and queer, but eventually choosing to embrace her feelings for Aaamani. She examines how much of her fears and beliefs about not being straight are rooted in ideology and her need to minimise the target on her. 

Representation in this book is phenomenal. We’ve got Black characters, Asian characters, disabled characters, and neurodivergent characters. We examine white privilege and straight privilege, and we also look at drug addiction and poverty. 

Lex’s mother is an addict and her mother’s boyfriend is abusive. Lex has been in multiple foster homes, at least one of which was also abusive. She’s beaten in this book and moves to a ‘crackhouse’ for safety—but she finds people who care for her and are in a position to look after at the end.

Because Lex undergoes such a strong character transformation, there’s very much her old life vs her new. Her former best friend Britt is deeply embedded in the old life—stealing, dealing drugs, living in an abusive foster home, trying to outwit other gangs—and we see her trying to pull Lex back into this life. These moments really are agonising to read. I was begging Lex to not go back to that, to stay with the STEM team, but of course, she didn’t. It was heartbreaking. And especially when Britt is then killed. I did not see that coming, but really I should have because it was inevitable. 

And when Britt is murdered, Lex feels she has no choice but to avenge her—something that Aamani gets roped into when trying to stop her. I could not read fast enough here. So powerful and heartbreaking. 

Aamani herself is also a great character. She’s Hindu and experiences racism, especially when other characters think she’s Muslim. In the story, she comes out as lesbian first to Lex and then to her parents—and her parents don’t accept it at all. We see Aamani struggling with this and the marriage her parents arrange for her, all the while trying to be Lex’s STEM tutor. 

Matthew is on the STEM team and he’s Autistic. There’s an Author’s Note at the start of this book about this representation, emphasising it’s not own-voices autism rep. I loved Matthew’s character and Lex’s friendship with him, but I have seen a few autistic reviewers saying his character is a little stereotypical in places. 

Lindsay is also another STEM team member, and Lex doesn’t get on with her at all at first, viewing her as a privileged white girl. Lindsay does seem cold and quite against Lex most of the time, but when we see her family it makes sense. She lives with parents who verbally (and maybe physically?) abuse each other. They have little money and live in a very dangerous neighbourhood. Lindsay is worn out and emotionally exhausted. Her collected, cold persona at school is a facade, and Lex acknowledges that she’s impressed that Lindsay has survived where she’s living. 

And the love story. It’s a slow-build f/f between Lex and Aamani, and it challenges a lot of Lex’s misconceptions and her own stereotypes. Lex comes out as bisexual toward the end, as her relationship with Aamani has given her the courage to do this. 

There is just so much packed into this story, and I wasn’t expecting it.
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A cute read. Beautiful representation and lovely own voices read. This is the book that I needed in my queer young adulthood. The challenges that LGBTQIA teens deal with can mold them into harsh adults or kind ones. This book was everything and I will recommend.
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Every Variable of Us follows a young black woman, Lex, who is trying to get out of her bad home life by getting a basketball college scholarship. After she is injured in a drive-by shooting, she is unable to play and finds herself in the unlikely position of being invited to join the school's STEM team by a new student Aamani.

As their friendship grows, Lex realises she has romantic feelings for Aamani and struggles to come to terms with her queerness. This book addresses many issues: racism in America, poverty, addiction, gang violence and homophobia. It does so very well and this book is a great read for both young adults and adults as well. 

I found it a little slow to start and it took me a while to get into it, but by the end I was really rooting for Lex and Aamani.
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