A review by mel_muses
If You Still Recognize Me by Cynthia So

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


”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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