Cover Image: At Certain Points We Touch

At Certain Points We Touch

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to the free advanced digital copy of this book.

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Lauren John Joseph’s At Certain Points We Touch is a novel that is going to appeal to a niche audience. Put into the right hands, I think this book will be adored by those meant to read it. However, it is likely to be loathed by anyone walking in blindly, which is why I think this novel needs more info provided about its content in the blurb. Containing extremely graphic sex and overwrought language (it read as if the author used a thesaurus to substitute out all of the “basic” words in the English vocabulary), not to mention a toxic relationship to boot, this book was too much of the wrong stuff, and not enough of the right stuff for me. I am decidedly not the intended reader for this book and as I stated, some content warnings surrounding this book could help rectify other wrong readers finding it.

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Just okay.

Liked the idea, loved the title and the intimacy of the cover, but the actual content fell flat to me. The writing is a bit pretension for my taste. Lots of long winded descriptions that didn't come off naturally. or like, tumblr "I'm fourteen and deep". Needless to say, it wasn't for me but I can see how someone can enjoy this and take a lot from it.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for the advanced reader copy.

This week’s headline? Every time we touch

Why this book? The synopsis. The cover.

Which book format? ebook

Primary reading environment? Sprinting in bed

Any preconceived notions? Pretty sure I’ll like this one

Identify most with? Bibby

Three little words? “comic and sad”

Goes well with? Literary and artsy name dropping

Recommend this to? People who love literary fiction with LGBTQ+ representation

Other cultural accompaniments:

Grade: 4.5/5

I leave you with this: “The problem is, no one is really just a writer anymore. You have to be a slashie you know? A writer slash activist, writer slash filmmaker, writer slash performance artist. Or whatever Miranda July calls herself.”


/screams OMFG The. Writing. Is. So. Beautiful. I haven’t read writing like this in ages, it seems. This is a story about love. The kind of love that pulls no punches. It’s toxic as hell but you just can’t stay away. This book doesn’t have much plot as it’s mostly a letter to the narrator’s dead lover so this probably won’t be for people who don’t like character studies. Regardless, I still think it’s worth taking a look at, the prose is gorgeous. I want to buy this book so I can annotate the shit out of it. 1000% recommend.

At Certain Points We Touch is available now.
*Check trigger warnings

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Relationships are complex - understatement of the year. Grief and describing and remembering a relationship is beyond complex. It’s subjective even about things like dates and events. Our minds do that when we lose someone. I thought this was difficult and gorgeous and confusing and inspiring. It’s all over the place - which is how one feels experiencing loss irrespective of how long it’s been. It all felt so real. I’m grateful to Bloomsbury for the advanced copy.

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Lauren John Joseph has written a brilliant debut.Written in a lyrical matter speaking to a former love.There are difficult moments intense raw emotions.I was captivated by the story the characters their lives.#netgalley #bloomsbury.

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Is it possible to write a love story without writing a romance? Lauren John Joseph’s At Certain Points We Touch makes it profusely clear that it is. This is not a story with a happy ending—that is more than clear from the synopsis and within the first few pages. However, it is an ode to all consuming loves that leave us broken. The ones we cannot get over, but in the moment imbue us with an aching glory we become increasingly addicted to.
This may sound melodramatic, but this novel made me want to cup its words in my palms and sup from them with reserved sips so as not to sicken myself on the richness of the imagery and language. In the same way that JJ came to love Thomas, I came to love this book. All the while knowing it would emotionally break me. I think in that way At Certain Points We Touch is a novel that will haunt its readers. Something that we finish, but takes longer to truly leave us—and if that isn’t literary engagement for a story about toxic relationships, I’m not sure what is. Absolutely full marks, I loved this.

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DNFed at 16%.

Whilst I can see how this book could be a well-received novel, it is not my cup of tea. As a reader, I found myself continuously struggling to keep a hold on the plot through the overly affluent writing. The writing is gorgeous and very well thought out but takes away from the story being told.

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At Certain Points We Touch is a stunning, opulent, indulgent, and mortifying debut novel. I am deeply impressed with Lauren John Joseph’s candidness and courage. This epic, but immensely personal, eulogy for their lost but haunting lover is not quite like anything I have ever read.

It’s the story of an aspiring writer attempting to remember and enshrine a previous lover spanning years and continents. Through their flowing, mystifying pros I felt every raw emotion of the cast of complicated anti-heroes and genuinely real characters/people. I hesitate to say ‘characters’ there, both because I am uncertain how much this work toes the line of biographical, but also because they seemed so honestly real to me. Beyond the raw emotional core of the novel is a fantastical presentation of lyrical writing and repeating motifs that stoped me cold every time I encountered them. “When did you know you were dead?”, “It is not ten years since we met, six years since we last spoke, four years from your death.”, “Back now.”. Each of these phrases binds together a story that is about both reality and what we imagine to be real (about ourselves and others). “Back now.” I will never hear these words the same way. To that end I need to emphasize that this book achieves in that special way that only rare books can: it changed me. In every practical sense I am the same person I was before reading this, but in all the important ways I am newer, wiser, more afraid, and more resolute. Every single page is heavy with meaning and though the language is admittedly pretentious at times, it is in the best possible way.

I do not think this books is “for everyone” but of those of us who this is a good fit, it feels like we were meant to read it. Or perhaps this fell into my lap at just the exact right time; who's to say? I was pleased to see mention of Ocean Vuong around the 85% mark because there are so many things about At Certain Points We Touch that reminded me of Vuong’s work. The poetic pros, the intense (at times graphic) imagery, the commitment to memorialized past, and even the narrative structure. I am convinced that any fans of Vuong’s On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous will find a new favorite here.

I have already pre-ordered a physical copy so that I can re-visit this story many more times in my future.

Lauren John Joseph, thank you. What else can there be to say? Thank you.

I hope this novel gets all the praise it is due, and I hope the members of Booker Prize selection committee are watching.

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There are two ways to look at this book.

1. At Certain Points We Touch by Lauren John Joseph is the heartbreaking story of a lost, first love. It's clear from the start that this isn't going to be a happy ending, that this isn't going to be a reunion story of two lovers who circle each other for years and come together in the end. The narrator, a trans writer living in Mexico, writes the story of the love - all the messy details of the affair.

Some of the details are timeless, they could be from an Austen novel if MySpace or texting wasn't involved. The narrator also keeps themselves honest and puts it all out there - they do not create a narrative where someone is the good one and the other the bad one. All the ugly parts are included. The selfishness, the hurt, the wrongdoings.

2. And then there's the other way of looking at this book..... oh my god.....of all the boring, self indulgent, queer, millennial, self-important bullshit...... A Little Life, you are NOT.

A few month long sex based hook up is not a relationship. Two people who used each other for sexual gratification.... This is two people who need therapy and medication STAT.

But....what do I know. I'm a woman in my 40's who has been on medication for many years who still sometimes has dreams about her old boyfriends.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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This cames with massive content warnings that should be adressed somewhere. I did not see any in te book description nor in the comments. The biggest one would be CW: Graphic sexual intercourse descriptions.

I absolutely loved the writing style and would have liked getting to know more about the characters, but I am definitely not in the mood for this right now. I DNFed it at 10%.

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I wanted to love this book because of the subject, but the writing style just did not work for me. The focus on plot and telling as opposed to showing was too much for me.

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The narrator in At Certain Points We Touch explores what it is to mourn a past love and one who it was often detrimental to love. The story structure which often read as a direct letter to this lost love fits stylistically with the narrator's personality and writing aspirations but took away some of the stakes for me as we continued to have confirmed for us what we knew from the beginning - that the love story was doomed.

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At Certain Points We Touch by Lauren John Joseph is beautifully poetic in its delivery. Although I appreciate the style and emotions of this writing I had a difficult time following along to the story. For me there was just too much imagery and simile in each sentence that I found it challenging to get into a steady flow.
As I was reading I just kept imagining hearing this tale in spoken word. I also could imagine this work performed in theatre. Unfortunately I just had a hard time getting through this as a book.
I truly appreciate the talent of the author but just don't think I am the right audience for this book.
I am grateful to NetGalley and the author for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I don’t really know how I feel about this. The writing is indulgent to the point that it often takes away from the story, however this fits with the character of the narrator. Lauren John Joseph is exploring some interesting themes here, using fiction as a medium, around what we do with memory and grief, and how looking back at our lives changes what we see, and I appreciated the nuance with which they tackle this subject matter, especially around the things that we can discover about ourselves when looking back at the people we used to know. That being said, I really didn’t like the epilogue as the final image of the book, and the format as a letter meant that there were some narrative threads that I wish had been tied a little tighter. Overall, I appreciated what the author was trying to do, and I wish that the indulgence of the writing style didn’t bring me out of the story as much.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for a review!

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It is important to note that the majority of the themes explored in this book deal with sensitive subject matters. My review, therefore, touches on these topics as well. Many people might find the subject matters of the book as well as those detailed in my review overwhelming. I would suggest you steer clear of both if this is the case. Please note that from this point forward I will be writing about matters which contain reflections on bigotry, the death of an animal, animal abuse, substance abuse, financial insecurity, promiscuity, poverty, graphic depictions of sexual acts, grief, the sexual acts of a minor, & others.

Please note that for the sake of my being unaware of how the main character—JJ—would like to be addressed I will be employing ‘they/them’ pronouns.

JJ was in love once, that is what they suppose, though it’s with uncertainty & something like a catharsis that they type out a book formatted recollection of their time with the man who was an obtuse villain whom everyone enjoyed sexually encountering but whom no one desired to know on a deeper level. Perchance should you wonder, as JJ does, what is deeper than the confines of our physical insides, I feel that the discussion is pointless. There are two sides of the same coin & neither is necessarily wrong. One can be in love with a soul, a body, an entity’s whole; none of it really matters because in the end we can drop dead at the flip of a crusted silver dime & be gone forever after.

I will be upfront & state that I was instantly enamoured with this story. This is one of the few—if not the only—case wherein a prologue has enticed me to read on; sweetly drawing me in with a writing style that was heavily prosed without being excessively vapid for the sake of keeping a word count. However, upon reaching the 30 percent mark I began to lose interest in what the author was presenting; I simply did not care. Therefore, should you have come upon my little review sent into the void of the inter-webs, please note that my sentiments are purely subjective. This is not necessarily a bad book nor does it present a necessarily bad story.

JJ is someone who is incredibly naive while being willfully ignorant, almost seeking to place themselves into situations wherein they are tumbled like dry leaves. They abhor work—they have no ethic for that if we’re being honest—& spend all their time squatting at friends’ houses until they decide on a new location to sustain their nightlife needs. The flamboyance of life is not lost on JJ, they take full advantage of the freedoms of youth yet, in all the time that has passed since the introductory paragraphs, leading us to the moment we encounter this written eulogy to a dead lover, JJ has made zero progress in developing a sense of self.

All that being said, I couldn’t finish this book because the gratuitous use of drugs as though casual encounters of an ice-cream truck in summer, put me off. That’s on me & has nothing to do with the quality of the work, I simply do not care to read about chapters on the end of someone popping all manner of pills for the simple pleasure of doing so while they bum off their friends who are trying to make their way in the world. We all live different realities & I am certainly not ignorant to the fact that this book presents one facet of an otherwise endless realm of lived experiences. However, in combination with the fluctuant & detrimental use of substances, there were so many scenes where very graphic sexual encounters were described that I realized very early on that this was not the book I thought it was going to be.

Once I hit the 60 percent mark I began to skim the remainder of the book. I didn’t have it in me to read about the detailed descriptions of male genitals as JJ reminisces about the nude pictures they had been sent. I acknowledge that some of these earlier encounters were pertinent to the book—I suppose one could say that each scene was pertinent given whom we know JJ to be—yet, once again, I found myself reading something that I would not have selected for myself had I known that sexual encounters were to be described with such specific detail.

At the end of the day, this is not a bad book. This is a case wherein I am not the target audience & I recognize that this work will find its way to those readers who will adore every aspect of it. The author is a dedicated & tender writer, I felt very moved by certain passages & immediately immerses in the narrative. However, I was hoping to see more of what was expressed in the prologue. I was hoping for this story to be just as tender as the prose. I suppose that is quite like reality; we might hold out hope for something as much as we wish but, in truth, we come upon things unprepared.

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At Certain Points We Touch is a beautifully written novel that seeks to answer the question: When did you know you were dead? While it is a queer novel, it’s also a story about grief. We follow our main character Bibby Elliot (also sometimes known by the name Liza) in her journey with grief and flashbacks of her relationship with Thomas James – a flawed individual who she both loved and hated. None of the characters in this book are meant to be likeable or fit into our definitions of morality, especially Thomas, which I found satisfying, if not a bit enlightening. Usually delicate writing and unlikeable characters would trigger some emotional response from me, but I found myself constantly reminded that these were just words on a page, and I was unable to really envision the story being told. The expansive writing also made it somewhat difficult to stick to the story, and I ended up putting down the book shortly after picking it back up again. I found myself enjoying the book more when things started to pick up with dialogue around two-thirds of the way in, but that slowly spiralled into ramblings again in the last couple pages. It’s a good book with interesting themes, but I don’t think it’s for everyone.

I was given an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you, Bloomsbury Publishing,, for allowing me to read At Certain Points We Touch early!

Lauren John Joseph wrote a spellbinding debut with will mesmerize all its readers.

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Thanks to NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I was kind of disappointed in this book. I went into the story expecting something tender and emotional, and while the writing was lyrical and raw, I found it hard to connect with the narrator, who seemed almost apathetic at points. The characters were unlikable, and while I don’t usually have a problem with that, it just made it hard for me to feel invested in the story emotionally, which was what I was hoping for by reading this,

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This book was funny and tragic in the best way possible. I laughed and cried my way through the whole thing.

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