Cover Image: Body Grammar

Body Grammar

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Member Reviews

Queer lit has a special place in my heart, because these are stories that seem to be the ones under attack most. Body Grammar is incredibly moving, and I found the setting very insightful. As someone who struggles to understand the world of art and fashion, this story introduced me to things that I wouldn't otherwise know about, while providing a powerful queer narrative that kept me turning the pages.
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The prose here was elegant and breezy--loved that aspect of it. By the end, things got too aimless for my personal tastes, though I'm sure people who like less conclusive/more meditative novels will love this all the way through the ending. Overall a good read, and one whose writing I will be revisiting for closer study.

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This is a very promising debut and I will definitely look for Ohman's work going forward. I would have actually liked if this were a longer book, which is saying a lot.
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A tender, sharp, and gorgeous story! Great for anyone who enjoyed Nina LaCour's Yerba Buena or Julie Buntin's Marlena. I listened to the whole thing in a day and surprised myself with how drawn in I was to the story. Lou is a young model in NYC contemplating a tumultous desire for her adolescent best friend among a tragedy that left them scattered. I loved watching Lou grow and shift and found the story entirely compelling in its exploration of identity.
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I respected this one, but I think I picked it up at the wrong time to truly enjoy the craftsmanship of it.  A second round purchase for most libraries
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Love love love LOVE this. So much more than I was expecting. I read the first 10% and set it aside for a while because I didn't think I was in the mood to read about some extremely successful model who didn't know she was so beautiful and skinny. But this book had less to do with thinness and beauty than it did identity and love. It's more of a love story and a story of finding what you love and drifting through life. I dunno. It just felt so lived in and realistic, like you slide through the story as if its a dream. You don't fall in love with main character Lou and you don't obsess over the plot, but you love every moment anyway. It's real without being annoying. A marvel to me.
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I think this is a case of I'm not the target age range for the story. This queer coming-of-age story centers on a young adult (actual adult, not literary speak) finding her place in the world and within her own body. I took issue with some specific aspects of the lead, Lou, but they are not uncharacteristic of other leads at her age (lack of accountability, narcissism masked as "introspection", etc). Overall, well written but felt forced and dull to me. 

**Thank you NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the eARC**
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I was intrigued to see a queer coming-of-age novel not being advertised as YA – the central characters of BODY GRAMMAR are right at the cusp of "adulthood". They're still so young, but they've left behind childhood and adolescence in many ways.

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to like this book, it was just not for me. I didn't find any of the characters sympathetic, but more than that their conflicts and communication (and lack thereof, for the majority of the book) were annoying rather than interesting. I imagine that this sort of coming-of-age, figuring things out while grieving and healing narrative will be more striking for either younger readers who are starting to go through this process, or other readers who have had some temporal space from their own early-twenties mishaps.

BODY GRAMMAR is strongest when setting the stage–the atmosphere throughout is melancholy, and beautiful. The cities that Lou travels through are characters in their own right, and were my favorite parts. I think I paid a little too much attention to the title, rather than the description of this book though – "body grammar" is such an evocative phrase, and I wanted there to be so much more attention on the body and seeing how people communicate through movement.
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What an outstanding debut! Exactly the kind of representative literature I love to see! Everything about this story was relatable in some way. Thank you so much for a chance to read this book! I will be purchasing a copy for my library.
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Included in Apartment Therapy's June New Book Roundup: A coming-of-age, queer love story set in the world of international modeling.
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I really enjoyed this vibrant, complex book about teenagers growing up and coming of age and discovering who they are and who they are going to be. The main character, Lou, is very good and well-voiced, but I also enjoyed all of the side characters and the people she comes across; they’re complex in ways that don’t always relate back to Lou. This book is evocative and transgender and explores the nature of the body versus the self, which relates back to the title of BODY GRAMMAR. This book gets four and a half stars from me, rounded up for NetGalley
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This was extremely my kind of book: LGBTQ rep, but not tragedy: coming of age; finding yourself; the friends we keep and the friends we lose; first love; slow burn; modeling. It had it all! Great debut and would definitely read this author again
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A quintessential literary novel: follows all of the trade marks of the genre, which, in this case, work to the book's advantage and were masterfully executed. 

Beautiful, impactful writing that makes you want to reread the book immediately after finishing it. There are many things this book said that will stay with me for some time. 

Lou is a sympathetic main character -- it is easy to like her and to emphasize with her experiences. The way in which her experiences are shown to affect her is incredibly realistic. Lou is complex and she doesn't know herself fully -- watching her slowly discover more about herself is truly a special experience. 

I have never been a model, have no experience within that world but the modeling world portrayed within this book is magnetic; you can't look away from it, it draws you in and then reveals it's darker sides. 

The side characters are all incredibly vibrant, impossible to forget. Each of them has their own, unique story happening off the page, something we never get to see fully. The way in which different identities are casually represented within this book is refreshing. 

Overall, most definitely a book to check out if you enjoy literary novels and stories about feeling lost.
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Sad and beautiful, tragic and perfection, I devoured this book in a few hours. I love the voice Ohman gives to Lou, her descriptions of tragedy and how they affect and change a person feel nuanced and true to the story being told. I rooted for Lou from beginning to end, wanting to wrap her in a warm blanket and a hug, and cannot wait to put this novel on my classroom shelves!
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This is such a beautifully written novel. Each writing choice makes sense and Ohman creates an authentic world in the midst of what feels like very fake images. The juxtaposition of the world of modeling and the trauma the girls in this novel experience is striking. 

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I was so moved by this story but I was instantly pulled in and stayed that way until the end. 

Lots of representation and fluidity of sexuality.
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These days I always tell myself that I am too old to read and connect to a coming of age story, so usually dismiss them as not for me.  The blurb for this one, however, spoke to me, and not because my life mirrors Lou's life but because I felt there would be elements here - like the exploration of gender, finding a sense of self, and learning to inhabit one's own body - that I could connect to.  And I was right.  This is a gorgeous book, and one that I wish I could have read years ago when I was 18 and directionless.

Two things struck me the most:

(1) I am an older Millennial and I think it's easy for people my age and older to dismiss the feelings of teenagers as unimportant and to consider the challenges they face insignificant when compared to the challenges adults my age and older face.  But this book is written in such a way that it somehow evoked my 18 year old self.  Rather than experience Lou's story from a distance, as  an adult disconnected from this teenager on page, I felt more like a friend along for the ride and witnessing Lou's journey alongside her as it unfolds.  As a result, her struggles felt very real and very relatable to me.

(2) There is a sometimes subtle exploration of gender here that I found very relatable.  At the start, Lou feels disconnected from her body, as though it's something separate from her Self.  And because those two things - body and Self - don't inhabit the same space in her mind, she feels almost dysphoric (I'm using this word; the author does not use this word) when she's scouted by modeling agents who value her as a body rather than a whole person (body + Self).  This book is about making that connection between body and Self, and through that, discovering who you are and what direction you want to take in life.  Though she never states her sexuality and gender, I think we're intended to believe that Lou is possibly a gender nonconforming lesbian.  She does not identify as trans, but I think my trans and non-binary friends will find aspects of the development of Lou's relationship with her body to be relatable.  As an agender person, this element of the story certainly resonated with me.

This is a beautiful book and there is a lot in here to digest.  I can't wait to read it again.
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It's so refreshing to read a messy, lost queer character who does not have all the answers--and isn't even sure what questions to ask. BODY GRAMMAR by Jules Ohman is beautifully written and surprisingly grounded given that so much of it is set in the fashion industry. Lou's story is one of trying to find your way as an individual as well as within your family, including found family. Characters lift each other up, whether it's through offering food or advice or a place to live or an outlet for their art across generations, which is one of the best parts of this novel. 

BODY GRAMMAR fell short in two places: 1. Lou never seemed to suffer from her choices (or lack of making decisions). Everything always worked out: a super-successful career, places to live, etc., without Lou really having to work for anything. It missed an opportunity to examine privilege in terms of race, socio-economic status, body shape, and others. 

The second miss was regarding the title BODY GRAMMAR. It's a phenomenal title, but there was very little of Lou learning how to use her body for work or otherwise. I had hoped for a more visceral experience, with a character who truly learns to occupy and live in her flesh. However, Lou always felt very ephemeral and unattached to her physical presence. 

Still, I'm so appreciative to have read the e-galley and I know this is a book that will come up with some of my summer students. No doubt I'll recommend it and then ask my students how they responded to Lou.
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Recommended For—
💜 Lovers of slow burn coming-of-age romance
💜 Fans of WLW storylines and a diverse cast of characters
💜 Readers with an interest in the world of modeling, fashion, and photography

This book is quiet, contemplative, and melancholy. The setting feels timeless as though it belongs to no specific era. If not for the mentions of social media, I would have guessed it took place in the 80s or 90s. The book has such an interesting dichotomy because Lou clearly has a unique, sought after look in the modeling world and she almost effortless catapults into the scene… but, does she even want it?

Therein lies the dilemma of Body Grammar. Lou and her friends experience a traumatic event together, but instead of being trauma bonded through that experience, they all seem to fling themselves in different directions. Lou’s goal at that point is to just get out. She wants to get away from her secret crush on her friend Ivy; she wants to get away from the grief and the guilt. There’s also a part of Lou that doesn’t want the tragedy to be in vain. She wants to pursue something concrete.

But regardless of where she lives, how many shows she books, or how many international flights she takes, Lou can’t get away from the morose longing she has for her friend back home or the guilt of what happened. She finds herself enjoying modeling well enough, but does she like it more than photography? Lou feels like the further she gets into the modeling scene, the further she separates herself from the individuality that once made her who she was.

A slow burn, meditative examination of coming-of-age, self-identity, and finding love against the backdrop of the modeling world, I think this book will speak to its readers. For me, I enjoyed the book quite a bit although it did take a while for me to finish. I didn’t find it to be enthralling, especially in the beginning, but once I got into it the backend half went pretty quickly. I do wish we had more information on some of the characters earlier in the book because I think it would have helped to connect to them more easily, but I still appreciated the book taking its time.

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
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Thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Body Grammar by Jules Ohman follows Lou, who after seeing a deadly accident, leaves her hometown to pursue a modeling career. She kind of falls into modeling and finds herself along the way. She loses contact with most of her friends from back home, and we follow her into the messy modeling world, and then we follow her as she finds her way out of it. In terms of the usual young woman goes through the motions and finds herself at the end stories, I really liked this one.

I felt a bit at arms' length at points, but I liked the characters enough to keep going. I would've liked to go a little deeper with some of the side characters, but what's on the page works well enough for me.
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Jules Ohman has a wonderful way with words, vivid and descriptive and wonderfully emotional. This is not a full-throttled bildungsroman but one that hits you in all the soft spots in ways you don't even realize until long after it's over. I really loved Lou as a character, who was constantly at war with her own emotions and sometimes in denial of them but always really genuine. Her group of friends/acquaintances was also really well-drawn and relatable - I've known quite a few people like Harrison and Mari in my younger years so I found them very endearing.

I would have loved a more conclusive ending, but then, in a way, it was conclusive in its own way and left just as it should have been. There was just something very sweet and innocent about Body Grammar, not in an immature way but almost in a nostalgic one. Who among us can't remember searching for something we couldn't quite put our finger on while that very thing was right in front of us all the time?

Thanks to NetGalley, as always, for the ARC.
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