Reviews tagging 'Toxic relationship'

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

23 reviews

briaraq's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

I really enjoyed this book!
Being bi in a homophobic family is rough, and I'm glad Elsie has people around her to support her, including queer people she can relate to. I didn't have that growing up, and I don't really have that now, but I'm glad that I can read books like this and know that some people irl do have these people.

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nightstitch96's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful lighthearted reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0


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mel_muses's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful lighthearted reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

”If you still recognize me, I must be doing something right. It means I haven’t changed so much that I’m no longer myself after all.”

IYSRM follows Elsie, a bi girl in the UK who has just one summer before starting at Cambridge for uni. Elsie is determined to use this summer to finally admit her crush on her Internet best friend, Ada. But then her childhood best friend comes back into the picture and Elsie’s summer turns into a whirlwind of evolving feelings, family secrets, and an attempt at reconnecting long-lost loves.

Elsie has so much of me: a queer girl who struggles to make friends, but when she does, it’s with her whole heart. An awkward person who uses fanfiction and fandom as an escape from her life, as something to keep her going. Even in our differences, there’s something about her that’s striking: where I’m obsessed with mounds of queer books, she’s obsessed with a queer-coded comic series. And as someone who is also academically-driven, I felt her need to escape into fiction in such a matter of fact way. Where I don’t crush on people, Elsie most certainly is in love with Ada. I can relate to that feeling of loving someone across thousands of miles, even if it isn’t romantic.

There are also so many parts of Elsie I don’t — and can’t — understand. I am not Chinese like Elsie, nor do I have trauma from a toxic relationship like she does. But the fact that she exists for other people too and has touched the lives of my friends — Meilin and Naomi, who I read this with, and Micah and Cel, who I associate with this story — makes this book needed.

But beyond the characters, I loved the journey Elsie goes on, trying to reconcile who she was with who she is with who she wants to be. The romance, the friendships, the family relationships are all handled with such nuance and care. There’s something so special about how feelings evolve, how they can bloom into something unexpected and make you realize some of the most personal discoveries.

This book is for all Elsies out there: I hope you find that there will always be someone who recognizes you.

Trigger Warnings: homophobia and biphobia (internalized, targeted, microaggressions), toxic relationship recounted, off-page grandparent death, off-page disownment, internalized racism, fetish for Asian women by an off-page side character

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sammy_nor's review

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emotional
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes

3.5


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emily_mh's review

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emotional hopeful lighthearted reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

There’s part of a sentence in this novel that perfectly sums up what it is: “my summer imbued with a cosmic sheen of queer magic.” For this story is summery, and queer, and magical, and perhaps the sweetest softest sapphic romance I have ever read. 

I am just in awe of the way in which So crafted this story. There are many different threads we follow, yet all of them are given the space and time they need, and all have satisfactory resolutions. They are expertly woven together to form this stunning book, giving the plot and the MC Elsie so much depth. It was a delight accompanying her on her summer of discovery! 

I first need to discuss the ROMANCE. Oh my god does So know how to write pining!!! The fact that it was MUTUAL pining in a childhood-best-friends-to-lovers context just about finished my heart off. I also love love love when you can tell the LI is in love with the MC but the MC is oblivious, and that was the case here. Judging by the blurb, you’d think there’d be a love triangle but there really isn’t. Elsie’s changing feelings are handled really well. Simply based on how well these tropes were handled, I can tell that So writes really good fanfic. As well as loving the tropes, I totally saw and believed in the connection between Elsie and Joan. All their history, combined with Joan being a fully realised character outside of being a LI, meant their love was believable with a solid emotional base. I completely got what they saw in one another, and why they wanted to be together. And they were just so gentle, loving, earnest and open with each other. It just felt very healthy but no less passionate and devoted for it. Also, there is no third-act breakup here (another yay!) and the way they finally got together was perfect. The one critique I had here (and the only one I had for the whole book, really) was that Joan could sometimes get a bit lost in among the other plot threads. But this didn’t end up impacting my rating, obviously. 

While romantic love is a major focus, So includes some wonderful depictions of platonic love. I appreciated that the story demonstrated how these relationships are not always perfect, but what I liked the most was how it showed that platonic connections are just as deep, meaningful and important as romantic ones. Elsie’s friendship with Ritika was my personal favourite; there was so much trust, understanding and fun there. 

As well as navigating romance and friendship, Elsie is going through a process of coming to terms with her past and present. With the benefit of distance and hindsight, she is discovering that her first relationship was toxic and harmful, and that realisation is changing her perception of what love should look like in the present. Moreover, Elsie is trying to figure out why there is such a divide in her family, bringing to light just how complicated family dynamics can be. As well as these things, Elsie is understanding more about the intersection of her Chinese and queer identities, and how this has affected her view of herself and romance. All these elements are treated with care (as far as I can tell from my limited perspective), and make for a real richness in plot and character. 

Another portion of the plot leads Elsie to meet queer people who aren’t young, which I loved. Representation of queer elders, and even queer middle-aged people, is so special not just because of its rarity, but because of how much hope it gives and beauty it shows. 

Finally, the fandom element here was so fun. The book was like a letter to fanfiction in particular, the author really capturing what it’s like to be a part of that culture. So got me fully invested in the fictional fictional characters that Elsie was obsessed with, which is further testament to her skill as an author. 

Basically, I am begging Cynthia So to write more books. 

Rep: bi British-Chinese MC, lesbian British-Chinese LI, queer biracial Nigerian-American SC, questioning sapphic British-Indian SC, questioning ace SC 

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emilycrowleyyy's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring lighthearted reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0


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emilo's review

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adventurous emotional funny inspiring lighthearted mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

I had the joy of meeting Cynthia So at the Edinburgh Book Festival and the joy!!! of reading this book!! queerness so effortlessly intersects with gender, culture, fandom and food in this book and i love it. one of the best YAs i’ve read in years. i CANNOT wait to see what they do next!!

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teaskate's review against another edition

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  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

Enjoyed the diversity that is really missing in the current media we are presented with. A lot of people don’t get representation, which is just plain said awful. So I liked to see the representation. Other than that is the message really heart warming and so important. Seeing Elsie grow was pretty great. Thank you :)

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puttingwingsonwords's review

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emotional hopeful fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I loved reading about Elsie’s journey. Through looking for her overseas crush’s grandma’s old friend, she meets queer people of different generations and ends up learning more about herself and coming into her own.

And that’s just one story-thread; Elsie is also uncovering her own family secrets, rekindling a relationship with an old friend, dealing with a past toxic relationship, and trying not to neglect her current best friend in the process. All in the summer between graduation and starting uni. Definitely a stand-out in YA queer contemporary!


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vampire_burrito's review

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emotional hopeful medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5


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