Reviews tagging Grief

Can't Take That Away, by Steven Salvatore

12 reviews

hannistudies's review

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emotional funny hopeful inspiring lighthearted sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5


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misssleepless's review

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

2.5


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melaniereadsbooks's review

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challenging emotional 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? It's complicated

3.75

This book is a heavy-hitting YA contemp about a genderqueer teen dealing with extreme homophobia from classmates, teachers, and school board members.  Throughout it all, Carey manages to stay hopeful and strong and surrounded by a few people that make their life better.  I was so angry at the school. As someone who works for a small school district, I 100% know the likelihood a similar queer-phobic incident occurring, and the saddest part about that is most of the time things don't get changed like they did in this book. I'm glad for the hope of that, and I loved seeing Carey grow throughout the novel!

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foreverinastory's review

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

4.0

The school/principal really made me mad. But otherwise I definitely loved this! However, the audio quality was TERRIBLE and it's not even from Netgalley--wtf @Bloomsbury!?!

Rep: white genderqueer MC with anxiety and anxiety/panic attacks, Black female side character, bisexual male love interest, disabled elderly grandmother who can't speak much--implied side effects of a stroke possibly.

CWs: Alcohol consumption, biphobia, bullying, death/death of grandparent, dysphoria, gaslighting, grief, hate crime, homophobia, lesbophobia, mental illness (anxiety), panic/anxiety attacks, misogyny, sexism, transphobia.
 

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endemictoearth's review

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challenging emotional hopeful informative inspiring sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.25

 I really liked this a lot. It was a pretty straight-forward ya contemporary, tho the romance plot was kind of oddly paced. I wouldn’t read this for the romance alone, but I did enjoy the characters. The villains are fairly villainous, but like, in a way that allowed for some social commentary. Just something about how the whole thing hung together worked for me.

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seawarrior's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad tense 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? Yes

4.0

There's a lot of ways I feel about this story and how I relate to it, but I'll try not to go on too long. I sincerely hope this book was as validating an experience to write as it surely will be for the genderqueer people who read it. 

I began this story feeling that I couldn't see much of myself in Carey and was somewhat at odds with their melodramatic perspective of the world. Yet after reading further, I quickly became invested in their life and their dreams. Their wish to just exist authentically without having to make a political statement to do so is painfully close to my heart. I loved that as Carey grew kinder to themselves, they learned to apply similar kindness and understanding towards the people they were close to. It's very rewarding to watch a character who's a self-described diva learn to de-center themselves and prioritize their loved ones, along with those they have the power to inspire. Carey's love towards themselves and their friends and family made me love and respect them too as a reader. The supporting characters don't feel like props in Carey's play of life. Instead they are written with their own dreams, and anxieties they learn to overcome over the course of the story.

Really my only significant criticism of this story was that some of the character's speeches read more like a well-plotted lecture than organic dialogue that would realistically occur between people. However, I understand how difficult these moments must be to create as a writer, especially when your character is representing a piece of yourself. For the most part I felt this story was refreshing and inspiring, and the characters' voices will likely stick with me for a long time. 

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thereadersofrohan's review against another edition

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emotional informative inspiring tense 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? Yes

5.0


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imstephtacular's review

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dark emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix

5.0


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ninegladiolus's review

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

3.0

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. A genderqueer diva using the power of song for self exploration and affirmation? Yeah, that’s my brand. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for books with genderqueer and genderfluid representation since it’s still one of those identities rare to see discussed and explored within the LGBTQIA2S+ umbrella. However, I ended up with really complicated feelings about this novel that I will do my best to outline below.

First, let’s start with the good, since there were absolutely awesome things about Can’t Take That Away. The genderqueer representation was one of my favourite things about this novel. Each chapter opens up with the set of pronouns the MC Carey uses for the period of time discussed in the chapter, and there are tons of introspective and thoughtful interrogations by Carey of their gender. The fact that their friends are, by and large, accepting and affirming of their gender is really sweet and cool to see. Carey definitely exists outside the binary authentically, and that was wonderful for me to see, as I’m sure it will be for others.

Queer characters being allowed to be messy and flawed is another favourite of mine, and we got to see so much of that in Can’t Take That Away. The romance, while I’d maybe dispute the ‘swoonworthy’ adjective on the cover copy, definitely felt raw and vulnerable. Neither Carey nor Cris had to perform or hide parts of themselves, for better or for worse, and when so many stories involving queer romance rely on those sorts of interactions, it was good to see the realism. Therapy is incredibly normalized in this book to help support Carey through their struggles, and we do love to see that. Frankly, I’d love to see it in so many more contemporary YA novels, particularly ones where marginalized voices of all sorts can be supported and affirmed in a professional sense. There’s also lots of found family and strength of community in this novel.

However, there can be such a thing as an overwhelming amount of trauma. I want to make it clear that I fully support queer and marginalized voices writing about their lived experiences of trauma. For so long, BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ creators (and especially those who are both) haven’t been given the space to tell those stories, whether they are painful or joyful or everything in between, and I try to cultivate mindfulness of that reality.

That being said, the ratio of queer joy to queer pain in Can’t Take That Away is… a lot. I’m a trans, non-binary adult with years of therapy under their belt at this point, and this novel was a tough read for me—let alone a young adult in the intended audience looking for an empowering queer story. There are definitely moments of validation, joy, empowerment, and triumph, but the amount of trauma the reader is asked to endure to get them feels wildly unbalanced. The novel starts with an instance of bullying and misgendering on page two, and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the story. Homophobia, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, hate crimes, and gender dysphoria predominate, along with a side plot revolving around familial illness and grief. Is this “realistic” for the world we live in? Unfortunately, yes. Do I think those are important subjects to explore and do authors have the right to do so? Absolutely. But when I think of a young, questioning genderqueer teen picking this up looking for affirmation and empowerment, my heart breaks at how much they would have to go through to get to what is, in my opinion, not nearly a big enough payoff.

Another thing that really made me uncomfortable is how much onus was put on two women of colour for the #LetCareySing movement. Without the driving action of the side characters Phoebe, a talented Black pansexual actress, and Blanca, a Latinx lesbian journalist, the movement centering Carey wouldn’t have happened. Though Carey did take some action on their part as well, the bulk of the labour felt like it was done by Phoebe for most of the novel, and later Blanca. It mirrors the real life issue of white members of the queer community receiving and/or taking and/or stealing credit for labour done by BIPOC of the queer community, often without compensation of any kind. I loved Phoebe and Blanca, especially Phoebe since she got more screen time, but I really wished they hadn’t felt like accessories to “Carey’s” movement despite doing so, so much work for it.

The last topic I want to discuss may be more of personal issue, but it bothered me while I was reading so I’m going to include it. I’ll preface this by saying labels are by and large a tool for individuals; I support using whatever labels make you feel safe, affirmed, and comfortable. But I thought it was incredibly strange and a little uncomfortable that Carey, a genderqueer protagonist who introspects at length about gender identity concerns, uses he/she/they pronouns, and exists loudly outside the binary, never identifies as trans on page at any point during the novel. (Again, I realize not all non-binary/genderqueer/genderfluid individuals identify as trans and their reasons are their own). Not only that, but all of their friends are cisgender (to my knowledge). In a novel so full of gender-related discussion and violence, and especially in a novel where queer activism is a key feature, I found it jarring to see such a stark distance from the trans community—or even any other non-binary or genderfluid or genderqueer character—in its pages. In my own journey, it is through seeing the lived experiences of trans folks that I have gained a sense of community and helped affirm my path, and I would have loved to see that for Carey since I think they could have used that kind of support.

These are my personal reflections and not an absolute judgment of whether or not this book is Good or Bad (if such a thing exists at all). Overall, I feel this book will be impactful and mean so much a lot to many people. Carey’s identity is explored beautifully on its pages, there are lots of meaningful and affirming interactions between the community that builds around Carey, and it is great to see activism among queer teens being shown to have a real world, positive effect. There is value to be found and I hope for those who decide to give this one a shot, they find the affirmation and catharsis they need. I’ll be keeping my eye on what Steven Salvatore writes next for sure.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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oceansofnovels's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

There is so much to love about this book! I am overjoyed to see a genderqueer person as the main character. Carey has such a great support system, from their loving mother and their chosen family - the incredible twins Monroe and Joey - to their other fierce friends and their inspirational teacher, Mr Kelly. Having all of this support unfortunately doesn't stop Carey from being bullied, not only by their peers but also by a teacher who should be protecting them instead of causing harm. However, Carey's friends step up and fight back against the oppressive system that allows bigoted teachers to be so openly hateful towards marginalised students. I love Carey and their friends, and I was intrigued by the "will they, won't they" situation between Carey and Cris as they tried to figure out their relationship between misunderstandings and lack of communication. Seeing Carey step on to the stage and own who they are was a magical feeling and this story is like no other as we watched them grow into themself and find their voice while being silenced as a genderqueer person. This is such a beautiful story and I hope to read more from this author. 

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