Book Reviews

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

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Death is as normal as digestion. People move through life the way food moves through our bodies. Their natural usefulness is extracted along the way to help enrich the world, and when they have nothing left to give, they’re eliminated. Much like our bodies would clog up with excrement if we didn’t defecate, the world would do the same if we didn’t die.

Well, that was really good.

Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite authors, but this book came as a surprise to me. I didn’t know about it until its release date. The premise had me hooked. I’m obsessed with all things death, including the living dead, or zombies as I like to call them. And sure, maybe this isn’t really a zombie book, but it was fun nonetheless.

Dino has just lost his ex-best friend before he had the chance to patch things up between them, and he’s in a relationship that feels a little one-sided. Then his ex-best friend, July, rises from the dead, and drama ensues. I had no trouble liking Dino. I loved his wit, compassion, and way of thinking. I liked his relationship with his sister who was about to be married. I also liked that his parents owned a funeral home. That’s awesome.

I was very sad to discover that July was so problematic. Of course, all of that was acknowledged and corrected, but it made me not like her…at all. This made it difficult for me to root for Dino and July to fix their friendship. The way I saw it, Dino was better off without her. I know July had some character growth, but I just didn’t feel much sympathy for her. Which is a lot to say about a dead person.

I absolutely adored Dino’s boyfriend, Rafi. A gorgeous trans boy with a cute accent, who gives back to his community, has a cool gaggle, and has so much love to give. I could never understand why Dino wasn’t completely head over heels for him. The root of the problem there was July, and that was yet another reason why I didn’t like her.

The story was great. I had a lot of fun reading it. But there were parts that had me annoyed, mostly at the constant bickering between Dino and July. They had the same arguments over and over, and it just got repetitive. I still enjoyed the adventures they had. The ending was satisfying. In the past, I’ve discovered that Shaun David Hutchinson’s books don’t have a concrete ending where things get solved and you’re left thinking over what happened. I’ve enjoyed those type of ending, but I’m glad this one was straight-forward. It fit the style of the book.

I really liked this book. It was perfectly gory. It’s not my favorite Shaun David Hutchinson book, but it was definitely worth the read. If you like books about death and friendship, give this one a try!

4 stars

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Book Reviews

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

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So, this book rocked my world. My first favorite of 2017.

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I have no words to explain the level of awesome in this book, but I will try.

First of all, I’m so thankful to Jellybooks for giving me an advanced electronic copy to read. Last year I read We Are the Ants and it became one of my favorite books of 2016. I was eager to read anything else by Shaun David Hutchinson. I’ll be buying a physical copy of this beautiful book as soon as it’s released.

I have so much love for this book. It follows Ozzie, a boy who exists in a universe where every trace of his boyfriend, Tommy, has been erased from the universe. Nobody remembers Tommy’s existence, not even his own mother. Throughout the story, Ozzie theorizes on the reasons why this happened, as well as trying to figure out why the universe keeps shrinking in size. On top of adoring Ozzie, I fell hard for all of his friends and family. Ozzie’s best friend, Lua especially stole my heart, my lovely gender-fluid rockstar. And Dustin, who I’m pretty sure was ace, also stole my heart. And Ozzie’s brother, Renny. I mean, even Calvin was a small cinnamon roll, and I loved them all.

So aside from the characters, there were strong friendships and relationships that constantly shifted, and it all made sense, even though it shouldn’t have. As the universe shrunk, Ozzie’s world kept changing. It was frustrating, but also so relatable. I felt the same when I read We Are the Ants. It’s one of those stories where you’re aware something is off with the metaphysical world, but it makes perfect sense with the way you’ve felt mentally. It’s hard to explain, but the author does beautiful things with his stories.

I don’t think there’s much of a plot to this book, which added so much more depth. It’s a story about relationships, romantic and platonic. It’s a story about love, loss, growth, courage, and moving on. It’s about opening your eyes to the people in front of you, and showing them compassion and love. It’s about life and death and the nothingness at the edge of the shrinking universe. As Ozzie lost traces of the life he’d always known, I mourned my own personal losses. When you lose a loved one, sometimes it feels as if the universe swallowed them whole.

I’m sad to have finished this book simply because I wanted to continue living in Ozzie’s universe, as scary as it sometimes was. I wanted the story to go on. I’m looking forward to revisiting this book many times in the future. I think that’s a trend with all of Hutchinson’s books, actually. I think he’s now one of my favorite authors.

I definitely recommend this to everyone. I would understand if other people didn’t feel as strongly about this book. It resonated with me, but I don’t expect it will with everyone. It’s a very unique type of book. I’m glad I found it.

(Also, just have to mention the amazing, totally unexpected cameo of a certain pair from We Are in the Ants. It was a nice touch. It had me smiling like an idiot.)

5 stars

Book Reviews

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

“If you knew the world was going to end but you could prevent it, would you?”

I’ve asked myself this question time and time again. When I’m really angry or upset, my answer is an obvious no. When I’m content and surrounded by genuinely good people, my answer is yes. And some days, I just don’t bother to care. In the end, it’s all hypothetical. This is a fiction book, and it is highly unlikely that me, or anyone else in the world, will ever face that dilemma.

I admire a book that makes me ponder so hard and so long on a single question, though. I was not only fascinated by the premise of a boy who gets constantly abducted by aliens and is given the choice to save the world, but by the writing style. Everything is woven so perfectly, painting a vivid image. The miserable world of Henry becomes so real and so relatable. It is impossible not to fall for the characters surrounding him, and to hate plenty of them. This book is filled with relationships, with family and friends and lovers. It is full of people who love and hate and abuse and hurt and heal. It is filled with philosophy and science and theories.

Henry is battling the grief of his dead boyfriend. He isn’t in a very good state of mind, but he’s trying. He has a secret relationship with his bully, and he is constantly being abducted by aliens, which he nicknamed “sluggers.” Then, he meets Diego, a new student in school who is an optimist, despite having a few secrets of his own. Their friendship  grows throughout the story, and ultimately becomes more, although with complications. Henry also has to reconnect with his old best friend, Audrey, and his complex family members. Meanwhile, Henry continues struggling with his dilemma of whether or not the world is worth saving.

I loved reading this book. The journey it took me on was fascinating. But it didn’t deliver me with the answers I’d hoped for. I didn’t know the reason behind the things that happened in the story, but then again, I don’t know why anything happens in real life. I guess it’s reasonable to feel just as clueless in fiction. Despite the vagueness near the end, I felt some closure. I got an ending that made me think even more, that will possibly linger in my mind.

“We may not get to choose how we die, but we can choose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.”

This was good food for thought. It was an enigma, like the beautiful Diego. It was a joy, like Audrey. It was a pain, like Charlie. And a nightmare, like Marcus. But It was worth the read. Although I wasn’t entirely fond of Henry, I understood him. Sometimes grief fogs our minds, and that’s not our fault.

This is worth reading simply if you wonder about life in general. Life on earth, as part of a galaxy, as part of the universe, in which you are as small and relevant as an ant who simply carries on.