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Books Reviews

A Love Letter to Queer & Questioning Teens & A Deep Look at Finding Your Own Identity: Review of Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using my link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you**

Happy (belated) book birthday to Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie!

I was lucky enough to get an e-ARC of this amazing book and I have to say, it was probably my favorite book of 2021. I really hope that you’ll read my review and if you haven’t already been interested in picking this book up, that you’ll consider it now!

Ophelia After All
Image: Cover of Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

Sidenote: I think this cover is so pretty! The colors are perfect and I love the subtle details, like Ophelia’s freckles. I will absolutely be getting a physical copy of this as soon as I’m able because I want this book on my shelves.

Summary

Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.

So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love–and sexuality–never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.

Review

If I could go back in time and give my teenage self one book, it would be this one. Ophelia After All is a stunning debut from Racquel Marie that I would recommend to queer and questioning kids everywhere. This is a book about growing up and learning how to accept yourself with grace and heart.

Following Ophelia in the lead up to prom and the end of her senior school year, she begins to wrestle with the feelings that she’s having for another girl. She has a fantastic group of friends and a close family but as she feels more and more inner turmoil she begins to find the relationships around her on the rocks. She struggles but she grows and in doing so this book reveals a really beautiful message of hope in confusing times. I truly loved every second of this book.

I found myself relating so much to Ophelia as she finds herself stuck feeling like she has to stay in this role she has always been in. She’s “boy crazy” Ophelia and along with the other attributes that her friends and family have assigned to her over the years, when she realizes that things might be changing she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to let anyone down which is something that I think many people will be able to relate to. All of a sudden, Ophelia feels like she isn’t enough in every aspect. From her typical crush behavior, to even how she interacts with cultural aspects of her family. She feels like she’s floating at the edge of it all and for a high schooler who is about to hit adulthood and college, it quickly overwhelmed her. This is such a realistic story that weaves together friendship, family, and teenage emotions and it will hit close to home for many. Identity is confusing enough as it is, throw in feeling like you aren’t going to live up to the expectations that other people might have for you and it’s all too easy to feel like everything is going to fall apart around you.

The plot of Ophelia After All was unexpected and yet the messages that were laced throughout give a lasting impression. It’s hopeful and inspiring and I think that it will be a starting point for any number of young adults who find themselves lost. This is organic and full of the most satisfying friendships I’ve read in a long while. The connections between every character were so strong and I felt like I knew them all to their depths. As every aspect shifted and Ophelia slowly started to find her footing again, I was overwhelmed with how much I loved every single one of the characters in this book. They felt so real and I loved seeing how they all interacted with each other and how friendships and relationships fell apart and developed throughout the course of the story. I really appreciated that this plot took a different turn than I was expecting it to and I think that Racquel made all the right decisions with Ophelia. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop gushing about this book!

Now, I remember being in high school and maybe even younger and realizing that things felt different sometimes. Thinking back on that time of my life, I often wish that I would have been kinder to myself, but that’s something that I’m still working on as an adult. I’ve always said I was thankful for Tumblr because even though it is a hellsite for so many reasons, it helped me learn a lot about myself. It’s where I found out about asexuality and got to see many people post openly about their own identities. That being said, I would have appreciated to have a book like this in my life back then. Ophelia After All is raw and honest and it depicts a realistic story about wrestling with self-doubt and self-acceptance. I hope that young adults and adults alike will be able to pick this book up and find a message that supports and encourages them. I really can’t recommend it enough.

This was an easy five stars from me!

For every queer or questioning kid, this is a love letter to you and I hope that you find some solace in these pages in the same way that I did.

To add the book to your Goodreads, I’ve linked it here.

And if you’d like to pick up a copy of your own, you can find it at the following links:

Bookshop // Barnes & Noble // Libro.fm // Book Depository // Kobo

Other Places You Can Find Me

My Goodreads is linked here.

Twitter: @nihilisticactus

Readerly: @sideofadventure

For review requests/inquiries: adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

If you’d like to buy me a coffee, my Ko-fi is linked here.

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Books Reviews

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Do you ever read a book and then just spend forever rolling it over in your mind because you have literally no idea what you think of it? That was this book for me.

Wilder Girls by Rory power was an incredibly highly anticipated read of this year and while it didn’t sound quite up my alley (books about quarantine and disease are not usually a hit for me) I was looking forward to giving it a try.

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It follows a dual perspective of two girls at Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school that has been placed under a quarantine for the last 18 months after a mysterious disease called the Tox took over the island. They’re completely cut off from the world while the disease changes everything in strange and violent ways. Girls have grown gills, second spines, scales, and more. It’s essentially supposed to be the female version of Lord of the Flies (which I get but also it’s vastly different so…) So with that really brief description, let’s get into the review.

I think I’m just going to start right off with my star rating. It took me over an hour to decide on this but I went with three stars.

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I thought this started off incredibly slowly and up until about 150 pages in I was tempted to DNF this. There were definitely small pieces of the story that kept me wanting to continue so in the end I kept going.

The story itself was really compelling, it brought up so many questions about what could possibly be happening to this island and these girls. The plot is what kept me connected to the book and essentially nothing else. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, I definitely empathized with them and their situation but I felt like I barely knew anything about any of them. When they switched perspectives from Hetty to Byatt, it was really jarring. I mean it was over 100 pages into the book by the time that happened so it felt weird to all of a sudden read from another perspective.

I also didn’t feel like this perspective change was all that well done. Byatt had a very distinctive voice but her pieces didn’t really fill in many holes of the story, they just added more. By the end of the book I had so many questions that I was shocked that I had reached the final page. This book was marketed as a standalone and I have absolutely no idea how it could possibly have just ended the way it did. I mean talk about a cliffhanger.

I enjoyed the crazy crescendo that was the ending of this book. But again, all the unanswered questions just left me wondering why the heck I just spent two days reading this. I wanted to get to the end and find a resolution and the fact that there wasn’t one left me mulling over why I had read this book in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why some people would absolutely love this book but I also understand why there are people who wouldn’t like it. If I had known there weren’t going to be answers waiting for me at the end of this book, I don’t think I would have pushed through that beginning portion, so now I’m really stuck wondering if we’ll ever get a sequel, or maybe just some sort of epilogue.

This was marketed as a feminist Lord of the Flies and honestly, I really and truly don’t understand that. It’s a survival story at heart, I’ll give them that, but that’s as far as I’d take the comparison… Also I don’t care but I’m going to say it and say that changing the entire cast of characters to female doesn’t inherently make it feminist (because that’s essentially the only thing I could take from that comparison, idk). I’m interested to see what Rory Power writes next, her writing is quite nice and I really hope that in her next books her characters stand out as much as her story does. I think she creates a spectacular story but I just wish that everything else didn’t fall so flat.

If you’re looking for a borderline scary and a little bit gory YA survival story, I would recommend trying this. But if you’re hoping for something that hands you the plot all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top, this isn’t for you.

 

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Books

Review: Red, White, & Royal Blue

Happy Monday everyone! I’m back today with a review about Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston!

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Holy wow. This might just be a post about me gushing about how much I loved this book and honestly I don’t even care. I finished this book on Saturday and had to hold off on posting this post until now because I didn’t want to jump the gun!

Warning you now that this post will contain spoilers and an affiliate link!

So I’m not sure if you have seen this book going around the internet as much as I have but it seems like every single person that I follow that has read it absolutely can’t stop gushing about the book. I also began following the author on Twitter because she seems so sweet and I just wanted to participate in the excitement surrounding this book!

My spoiler free review of this book is as follows:

Red, White, & Royal Blue is a stunning debut novel by Casey McQuiston. The story is emotional, endearing, eye-opening, and euphoric. (Once I had those first two “e” words I couldn’t stop lol). Every character is unique and so real that I found myself wanting to read entire novels about each and every person mentioned within these pages. I laughed, and cried (and cried), and found myself squealing on more than one occasion. This is a story about love conquering in the midst of so many obstacles and I highly recommend this book to anyone. 5/5 stars!

If you don’t already own this book, you can purchase the book at the links underneath this paragraph¬†if you’re interested, I truly recommend reading this book however you can get your hands on it! I really wish I didn’t have to return my copy to the library already but I’m going to try and order my own copy soon! I’m already thinking about rereading it.

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Anyways… Now on to the spoilers.

Discussing spoilers from here on out. Enter at your own risk. 

I have to be honest in saying that I really wasn’t sure going into this if I was going to like it or not. I’m very picky with the type of romance that I like and am starting to crack down on reading into books so much that I tend to tear apart anything that I read.

I’ve seen so much hype for this book on Twitter and a little on YouTube that I was really skeptical but I was so excited to support Casey that when this book became available for request at my library I got it right away. By the end of the first page I was hooked and it was really hard to convince myself to put this book down! But I forced myself to read it when I wasn’t at work so that I could really concentrate on it and not be half distracted while reading and I’m really glad I did that.

This book was so real to me I was immersed in the story and the characters that for a while I couldn’t imagine this not being real and that is one of my biggest signs of it being a top book for me. Every single character had such a personality that I would genuinely read any story written about any of them. Cash, however, has a special place in my heart and I have absolutely no idea why (maybe it’s because of that one scene where he had a feather boa on?).

Family was so strong in this and I appreciated how both Alex and Henry had their families to back them up. One of my favorite lines in this was from Alex’s mom when she called him a dumbass and told him she loved him. That’s exactly the type of family that I love seeing, supportive and real, like his mom is the president and yet still wants what is best for Alex and June. I find it really hard to read stuff where a parent has a high ranking position and loses their ability to care for their family anymore. And I know that both sides of this narrative could happen but I just appreciate it when there is a strong, positive family dynamic within a story.

I loved that this book was political without being extreme on the politics. Politics stress me out to no end and I was pleased to find that this book did not cause my anxiety to spike. I actually think that this story was incredibly well balanced in all aspects. It wasn’t overly romancey or overly political or overly anything. Casey did an amazing job in writing this story and I genuinely cannot wait to read her second book whenever it comes out!

Now I don’t even know what to say about the romance. It was so obvious from the beginning that Alex was totally in love with Henry and I truly enjoyed seeing how it all unfolded. It was disgustingly cute at times and I just really found myself cheering for this couple the entire time. There were definitely some points where I wish there would’ve been more dialogue between the two but I think in the end it all evened out and I was happy with what I’d read.

And it’s probably the ace in me that really loved all the side characters and plot over the romance but hey that romance was pretty dang good too.

All in all though I loved this book and will continue to gush over it and recommend it to everyone. If you’ve endured this spoilery section and gotten to this point, what did you think of this book? Who was your favorite character? Are you looking forward to reading Casey’s second book? Do you have any recommendations for other books that are like this one? I’d love to chat with you!

Anyways, I hope that you all have a wonderful week!

P.S. Enjoy this picture of me as I was reading the first kiss scene:

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