Book Reviews

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan – Book Review

“Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters.”

Ever since I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I’ve wanted more from the story and the characters. So, when I found out about this book, I was thrilled. Not only that, but I got to buy it earlier than its release date, and I even got David Levithan to sign my copy. When I told him how excited I was about it, he looked at me and said “I’m nervous now. I hope it lives up to your expectations.”

And guess what, Mr. Levithan? It did!

Hold Me Closer is Tiny Cooper’s complete musical, from his birth, to his teen years. Tiny Cooper is a big, gay boy. He loves the spotlight, singing, and–you guessed it–boys. I think I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to pick up a musical about Tiny, but it definitely went above and beyond what I expected from him. When I read about Tiny in Will Grayson, Will Grayson I only got to see him from the outside, from both of the Wills in his life. I didn’t really fully understand him. I saw a shell, and I always wanted to see through it, see who he really was inside.

This musical made that possible.

Tiny isn’t that self-centered boy who stupidly falls madly in love with the first guy who looks his way. He’s so much more than that. He’s intelligent, loyal, sweet, and he actually learns from his experiences. He gives great advice in his stage directions as well. I mean, by the end of this musical, I was full on rooting for Tiny.

“He counts as an ex because he made me feel dumped even without making me feel loved first.”

Through his musical, I was able to understand, and relate, to this wonderful person that is the highly talented Tiny Cooper. It could be narcissistic behavior to write a musical all about yourself, but like Tiny said, this musical is about love, not him. And it really felt that way. I was so proud of his growth throughout.

His ending message was meaningful. Despite all of his disappointments in love, he decides not to stop falling and landing in love. Because the experience is much more important than the heartache. Isn’t that the point in life? To pick up the good pieces and move past the bad ones?

I would recommend this to Levithan fans, as well as fans of musical theatre and rom-coms. This book is ridiculous, hilarious, and very gay. Most importantly, it is beautiful!


Representation in the Media

The other night I decided to watch this HBO show called Looking. It was recommended by Youtuber Tyler Oakley during one of his Psychobabble podcast episodes. The premise sounded great–three gay men living in San Francisco.

Before I get into my point, I should say that I am a woman, who although she does not prefer labels, could be considered pansexual. Honestly, sexuality is such a complicated subject because of all of the labels. I understand that to some people, these labels are helpful in defining who they are, but not to me. If I fall in love with someone, I’m going to fall in love with who they are on the inside, not necessarily what kind of genitalia they have. I do have a preference for boys, so to save me the struggle of explanations I identify as straight. But really, is anyone really, truly, straight?

So, anyway, I was watching this show, and I was pretty shocked. Not with the show itself, because it was a great first episode. The writing was wonderful, and so were the characters. But I was taken aback when I started feeling a bit uncomfortable. And I realized the reason why.

This great show showcased plenty of homosexual men and, like, one (straight?) woman. It wasn’t only the fact that I wanted to feel represented somehow in this show, like I want to be represented in most shows. It was that I felt like I was snooping into something that was not at all my business. Was I even the intended audience for this? Because I didn’t feel like I was.

And then the answer hit me like a punch in the gut.

I’m so used to seeing shows and films centered around straight people. If any, there are one or two homosexual characters. That’s it. And I usually focus on those few homosexual characters and I root for them to be written well and respectfully. But really, the straight people have the final say in these shows and films. It is their story, only theirs. On the other hand, the lack of women usually is overshadowed by handsome leads, which I’m ashamed to admit. I hardly notice when women are lacking in the media because of the attractive straight men.

So what happened to me while watching Looking? I realized how much we are lacking in representation, not only for women, but for all different sexual orientations.

In a show in which I struggled to find a single straight character, I learned that the LGBTQ community doesn’t have much representation in popular media, so who do they relate to? Do they feel like outsiders when watching shows and films featuring straight people? Do they feel like they’re not the intended audience, therefore should not be watching it? And when they do find that uncommon LGBTQ character, do they feel forced to like/relate to them because it is the only representation shown?

I am aware that this world still is fighting for acceptance of all of these LGBTQ labels. People are wary of those who are different from them. But why are we broken apart? Why does it have to be all of the straight characters in one show and all of the gay characters in another one? How long will it take before we have a gay superhero who kicks butt and saves the city at night but during the day he gets really nervous asking out the guy from the coffee shop? Or a woman in an action film, where she isn’t sexualized in one of those tight leather outfits?

Representation is so important. Fictional character sometimes breathe life back into people. It’s necessary to try to be as equally diverse as possible. Maybe this won’t happen tomorrow, or in ten years. But gradual changes would make a huge difference.

As a writer, I hope I get to be a part of this change in the future.

Book Reviews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews – Book Review

Hot damn. This was a great book. It was somehow more than what I had been expecting, but I hadn’t really been expecting anything.

Why don’t I start by mentioning the writing style? This book is written by the main character, Greg Gaines. Not just narrated by him, but “written” by him. As in, his voice is vividly clear in the text. He rambles, he goes off track, he writes sometimes in bullet points, screenplay format, or however the hell he pleases. But it was done in a way that it made sense. It just really fit together with the essence of the character. Jesse Andrews got away with it, and I applaud him.

Then the characters were all a bucket of fun. I can’t believe I just wrote “a bucket of fun.” This book did strange things to me. Anyway, Greg is a fucking jerk. He’s rude and apathetic, not to mention he’s selfish, unloyal, and critical. He has an infinite amount of flaws. But I could never hate the guy. Why? I don’t really know, but I think deep down I felt just like him. I think he’s so human. He is just honest with himself about everything. He knows and accepts his mistakes and flaws, and although he doesn’t necessarily embrace them, he does try to be a good person. And everyone knows that is no easy task. Then we have Earl, Greg’s coworker, not his friend. Earl was possibly my favorite character. I say possibly because I was also fond of Rachel. But Earl was not only hilarious, he was also thoughtful and caring. He was such a genuine boy and I had so much love for him. But Rachel was so sweet and lovely. I think the non-friendship between Greg, Earl, and Rachel was really nice. Even though their entire relationship was unconventional, and sort of forced, they all cared for each other.

The story had a nice pace. Greg and Earl are amateur filmmakers, in the sense that they remake some of their favorite movies with a video camera and no actors apart from themselves. When Greg finds out Rachel–a girl he kind of dated back in the day and then ignored for no good reason–has Leukemia, he is forced to befriend her, cheer her up, and keep her company. That not only proves to be a complete trainwreck, but it also shows how a different side to the whole concept we’re usually taught in cancer books. I mean, literature seems to be fascinated with cancer. It has been romanticized endlessly. This book does none of that. It shows the reality of life, and that doesn’t always come with a life lesson.

What Me and Earl and the Dying Girl did teach me was that it is okay to be okay with death. And if that wasn’t the message in the book, then fuck the book, that’s still what I took from it. I spent hours laughing at every scene with Earl and rolling my eyes at Greg’s rambling and smiling at Rachel’s infatuation for Hugh Jackman. This felt different to me. It was refreshing and lighthearted despite the topics it dealt with.

I definitely think this is a must-read for anyone into funny stuff, movies, or just bored out of their minds.

Film Reviews

The Object of My Affection – Movie Review

Let it be known that I love romantic comedies. The ones in the nineties, preferably. And not until recently I decided to watch The Object of My Affection. I’ve only heard about this film once before, and it was when it was referenced in Michael Barakiva’s novel, One Man Guy. The premise sounded fun and quirky and I love anything with Jennifer Aniston, so I gave it a shot.

And it blew my mind.

Well, okay, maybe it didn’t exactly blow my mind. I tend to be melodramatic. But it did really touch my heart. I teared up a few times, which is a lot coming from me. Before I really get into my thoughts on this beautiful movie, I should explain what it’s about, for those of you out there who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this yet.

This film follows Nina, a social worker who is independent and lively and strong. Due to a breakup, George, a school teacher, is forced to move into Nina’s apartment, and a friendship blooms. Another small detail, George is gay. Now I guess since this film is set in the nineties, that was kind of big, so this plays a big role in the movie. Fortunately, the portrayal of a homosexual character was done eloquently. It was refreshing seeing Paul Rudd play a normal guy who did normal things. I mean I think we’re all used to the stereotypes on TV, which are overdone, not to mention rude.

Back to the story. Our lovely Nina learns she is pregnant by her jerk of a boyfriend, who she really isn’t sure about anymore. After a few mishaps, Nina convinces George to raise her baby alongside her. As in, together emotionally, but not physically. I think I saw the trouble in that from miles away, but I loved my sweet Nina and George, so I had to play along with their plan.

This film moved me. It made me think about family, and love, and friendship. The friendship portrayed in this film was so honest and it felt genuine. I think I came to love the two main characters the way they loved each other. I understood them so well. Their decisions were not easy, but they were two very smart people with good hearts. I think this film helped to open up a discussion on what consists in a real family. Does a kid forcefully need their two biological parents to be raised correctly, even though their parents aren’t good together? The fact that Nina chose the path that she did in the end answered my question, and it only made me appreciate her more.

I think this was an incredible movie, filled with talented actors who really knew their characters. The overall message was a valuable one. I think the highlight of this movie was near the end, when Nina’s daughter is in a school play, and the shot focuses on the large audience of people who are all there for her. That was absolutely beautiful. And it really comes to show that an independent woman can take care of her daughter without the need for a husband. It shows that the little girl was not going to go without love and affection.

I would rate this film 9/10. It’s a definite new favorite for me.

Book Reviews

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon – Book Review

“It’s beautiful. The writing. It makes your heart hurt.”

(I mean how can I not use a Misha Collins gif. Not only is it quite relatable, but also Misha Collins).

I picked this book up in the evening, and I did not set it down all night. I’m not kidding. This book accompanied me into the bathroom like seven times. All the tea I had been drinking probably wasn’t helping. I took the book with me to make more tea as well. I mean, this thing was so damn good that I just could not physically stop reading it.

*Heavy sigh*

Stranger on the Shore is a beautifully written book inspired byThe Great Gatsby, which is a book I am shameful to admit I have not yet read, though I’ve seen the movie, therefore I feel qualified to say that this book does have slight similarities toGatsby. It is not a retelling, though, let me make that clear. But the setting is similar, and the mood feels the same. Throughout it you are guessing who is going to get screwed over, because you know someone will.

Let’s start with the story. Griffin is a young journalist who has been given a chance to write a book about the kidnapping of a little boy named Brian Arlington, which occurred twenty years prior. He makes a deal with Brian’s grandfather, Jarrett, and stays are the estate for one week to interview and dig up as much as he can for his book. Jarrett allows for this painful part of his life to be resurfaced in hopes of finding his long lost grandson, who he still hopes is alive.

That, in itself, really intrigued me. I needed to know what had happened to Brian, which is a big part of what kept me on the edge of my seat. There were so many clues that I was picking up on, and it made me feel like a detective. (I don’t read a lot of mystery, sue me). So, Griff pretty much struggles with the entire Arlington family, especially their family lawyer, Pierce Mather.

Griff struggled throughout to prove that despite his young age and appearance, and lack of experience, he was worthy of writing a good book. Everyone tried to dissuade him, and I could relate to that. I understood Griff and I felt for him. I wanted to slap everyone who got in his way to allow him to write this book and finish what he started. Fortunately, he had Pierce. Who would have thought? The stick-up-his-ass lawyer who butted heads with him turned out to be his closest ally. And I mean come on they made the greatest team. And a little more than that…

I mean, this book pushed all of my buttons. The incredible writing made me picture every scene like an old movie I had seen a hundred times. It made me familiarize with the setting and the characters and the emotions. Not only that, but every subplot that opened was brought to a satisfying closure. All the ones that mattered, anyway. I wasn’t sorry to lose a night’s sleep over this book. I wanted to keep reading. I wanted more pages to magically appear. I wanted to stay in this world that I had come to love and hate. I wanted more Griff, more Pierce, more Chloe, more Jarrett, more Diana, more of that demented Arlington family.

I read a few reviews of this book before starting it. I got the sense a lot of people thought it was boring. I think my subconscious wanted it to be boring so I could put it down and go to sleep, but I thought it was magnificent. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe a book. But hell, Stranger on the Shore was nothing short of magnificent.

I want everyone to read this novel. There’s a little bit of everything for all tastes. Go, read this book, you beautiful person. I need you to feel what I’m feeling.