A review by emily_mh
If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

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


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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