Thank you to NetGalley and Harper for the audio galley to review!
This is an excellent coming of age story about discovering one's sexuality--or lack thereof. It asks and answers the difficult questions that many kids--particularly asexual kids--ask themselves, particularly about whether they are normal or even human. Asexual people often get dehumanized and told they're broken, "too young" to know for sure, or "probably interested in animals" (as one kid disgustingly teases Lizzie with when she makes her science presentation on asexual lizards). This story tells those kids (and anyone who isn't asexual) that there are many different ways to be human and while we can relate to asexual plants and animals (or in some cases, rocks--which Lizzie mentions), we're still the same species--we're human and we don't need validation from the larger natural world to confidently be who we are.
What I love about this story is that it gently tells the reader that there is no one way to be asexual and that there are some questions that cannot be answered by other people. Asexuality, like many sexualities, is a spectrum and though there is some general advice to get the ball rolling, no two people are going to experience asexuality the exact same. There's a part where Lizzie says she doesn't just want to know herself, she wants others to know her so she can better understand herself, and that level of acceptance is the real starting point.
This journey of Lizzie's as she's inundated by talk of dating and sex is also juxtaposed with her menstruation cycle, something that gets sexualized simply because it is a process for reproduction. Lizzie is told often she needs to get to know her body and it's with the implication that she needs to know what she likes. There's also a part in the book where a ceremony is conducted between mothers and daughters and I really enjoyed this part because it challenges the social norms about what it means to be a woman and an adult. Lizzie declares that adulthood isn't just about one relationship with someone (your sexual partner/spouse), but about all relationships you cultivate in your life. I think that's a really important message for kids to hear so they don't end up trying to revolve their whole lives around one person who may not even be good to them.
And in fact, abuse in relationships is a huge part of this book. Lizzie's neighbor stalks and attacks her mom for the simple fact that she was kind to him and he felt she was owed to him. There's a discussion between Lizzie and her father about whether he teased any of the girls he knew in school, because the silly and quite frankly dangerous notion of boys teasing/bullying girls is a sign that they like them is prominent in Lizzie's own school life as a boy keeps bullying her. There's an entire section of the book dedicated to a self-defense lesson for girls in P.E.
So not only is this a story dedicated to helping kids understand asexuality as a completely normal and okay thing to be, it teaches feminism along the way. It's also all completely age-appropriate on top of it, making this a perfect book to recommend to any kids around Lizzie's own age as they, too, go on that self discovery journey. The second half of this book after Lizzie gets her epiphany from the asexual reproduction of plants is truly where the story shines and everything ends on an inspiring note. I really believe we need more stories like this as we continue to discover just how wonderfully varied we are in experiences.
Growing up, I never understood I was asexual until much later into my twenties. Being able to read someone else's experience from a young age makes me feel seen. I related a lot of my experiences to the main character. I hope that this book will help other young readers feel understood in a way they are often not. There's nothing wrong with just being a kid. There's no need to rush the process. I wanted to try the netgalley narrator, but I found that it was not my cup of tea.
Thank you NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I am planning to purchase this audiobook or ebook for the digital collection in our middle school libraries. I enjoyed the story and think my middle school students will too
Just Lizzie by Karen Wilfrid is a moving debut that resonated with me as an ace reader. This story is full of difficult issues like sexuality, stalking, domestic violence, and mental health issues but it is also a beautiful exploration of a middle school searching for identity and reason in an uncomfortable world. Lizzie is a curious child with neurodivergent coding who is trying to work through a recent traumatic event and find her place in the world. The author approaches her discovery of asexuality with such care and understanding and I feel like Lizzie will have support and love in her future. The narration was ok but I think it would be better received with a warmer more youthful narrator.
Lizzie has been feeling insecure ever since her old neighbor tried to break into her old home, and even though her family has moved to the other side of town, she can't help but worry. Meanwhile, her friends are going on about crushes and boyfriends, and even her brother, who is leaving for college, isn't immune from the persistent sex drive. But Lizzie isn't feeling it. When she finds the word "asexual" and discovers it means a person who doesn't experience sexual attraction, things finally start to make sense. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what the word means or believe that a 14-year-old can give up on romance. Lizzie didn't have a lot of confidence to begin with, but without some special help, she worries she might just end up alone.
Starting this book with an assault (not sexual or graphic) was definitely a downer. I understand why this had to be there, but it casts a sour light on the first few chapters. Once we get into Lizzie's story and experiences, though, well, this mirrors my own experiences so well. I cried when Lizzie learned, as I did, that not wanting sex doesn't make a person broken, and I found her friends' and family's reactions entirely relatable. This is very much the kind of book I wish middle-school me had been able to read, and I hope it finds its way into many such hands.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. All opinions are my own.
Like many young people, Lizzie feels different from her peers and social expectations. This book is a gentle coming-of-age story with the important elements of friendships, family, school, and bullies with the added frustration of trying to figure out and honor her identity. Through a science project, Lizzie learns what asexuality is. But it's still a journey to convince others that it's a valid identity for a human, and to explore whether or not it applies to her.
A really well-written middle grade novel that explores what it feels like to be different as one pre-teen girl ponders whether she might be asexual. I loved how relatable Lizzie was! I feel like a lot of readers will be able to identify with her as a character struggling with their sexuality and figuring out how to share that with friends and family. Recommended for fans of authors like Alex Gino or AJ Sass. I listened to a very early audio copy and the synthetic voice narration wasn't the best. Hopefully the final version will have a much better narrator to make Lizzie seem a little less robotic. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review!
Has your microwave “dinged”?
Lizzie is a middle school student for whom the world has shifted- her family has just moved due to a traumatic event, her brother is off to college, and she is starting the school year unsure of who her friends are.
An asexual coming-of-age novel that is delightfully cliche in the best of ways- I wish this book had been available to me in high school. The author of “Just Lizzie” addresses some of the most common, and confusing, aspects of an individual coming to terms with their own (a)sexuality. Lizzie grapples with her sense of self and her understanding of relationships, poignantly demonstrating how labels and words aid our comprehension of the world around us. I listened to the audio book. At this time only a stock narrator was available (the narrator will be replaced with an actual narrator). I do not recommend this version of the audio book as it was difficult to distinguish between characters during dialogue.
I do recommend the book in general. It is a relief to know that a readable coming-of age story exists for LGBT+ individuals that identify as asexual.
"Just Lizzie" is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of a 8th grader, Lizzie, whose study of asexuality in science class leads her to understand her own sexual identity. Throughout this story Lizzie deals with not only self-discovery and self-advocacy as it relates to her asexuality, but also the aftermath of losing her childhood home due to a move across town, her brother going off to college, and the all-too-common "boys will be boys" attitude.
"Just Lizzie" is an engaging middle grade story that's accessible to students and families, is moving, and breeds compassion.
I listened to this as an advanced audiobook (with a synthesized voice) but wasn't able to read an E-copy. I recognize the time that it would take for an actual person to read and record an audiobook, but there are some serious problems with AI voice. Primarily, it wasn't able to provide any intonation, didn't pause between sentences or when switching POVs, and often mispronounced words made for a difficult listen.
TW: References to and instances of stalking, reference to and a scene containing physical abuse of a parent by a neighbor.
Lizzie is a thirteen year old girl experiencing a lot of change in her life, her family's move, her brother going to college, her uncertainty of her friendship with her best friend. While researching for a capstone project she discovers asexual reproduction in the plant and animal world and the more she learns, the more she wonders if this is finally an explanation for why she has felt so different from her peers.
The relationships Lizzie has with her family and friends are as big a focus of the story as her discovery of asexuality and I like the way we see her navigate them throughout the story. Lizzie's story was very relatable for me in a lot of ways and I hope that stories like this can maybe give answers to teens and pre-teens that I wish I'd had at that age.
In the author's note Wilfrid makes a point of acknowledging that there is no one way to be asexual and that there are other identities that can come in to play as well as things like class, race, gender identity, religion, etc that can change how someone might experience asexuality.
I was given an arc both as an ebook and as an audiobook with an automated narrator and I spent an even amount of time with both and both were an enjoyable experience. I will admit that the audiobook was just a tad bit funnier though if only because in one scene Lizzie receives a text with a keyboard smash and the automated voice tried to sound it out. I listened to that about ten times and was immensely entertained.
Thank you to NetGalley for making this available in exchange for an honest review!
I very much enjoyed Lizzie‘s exploration of herself and her circumstances. She has very complicated life, but the author did a great job portraying, her world, her emotions and her relationships in such a way to create a very genuine and believable character. I have made a mistake by choosing to listen to the book through a synthesized voice as it did take away the tone of the book. It will definitely be one I encourage my school library and future students to buy.