Books

Bisexuality In Books – Review

Bisexuality In Books Review

Happy Pride month! Coincidentally, I recently realised I’d read multiple books with bisexual/fluid characters in the past year. That makes me Proud with a capital P, because it means representation is growing and (hopefully) stereotypes are being fought. It is also nice to read something relatable every once in a while. So, for this gay post, I thought I’d do a review on bisexuality in books.

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Hank Green

24233708

Age group/genre: young adult, science fiction

Publication date: September 25, 2018

Publisher: Dutton Books

Pages: 343

My Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

April May is a twenty-something graphic design graduate working a full-time job in New York. One night walking home, she discovers a massive statue on one of the city’s pavements. She and her best friend Andy decide to do a quick video report on it and instantly gain wild internet fame. This is the start of a challenging new lifestyle for April, while she and her friends try to uncover the mysteries of statue Carl.

A bisexual’s thoughts and critiques

April May happens to be gay! Although actually, she’s probably bisexual or fluid – I just liked the way that sentence rhymed.

As you can tell from the synopsis, April’s sexuality is not explicitly a part of the story. And that’s what I like about it: personally, my life also doesn’t revolve all around (bi)sexuality. April just happens to like all sorts of people and it is absolutely not a big deal. Perhaps you could even say it’s Absolutely Not A Remarkable Thing.

Bisexuality brownie points

  • Sexuality is not the main focus of the book. It is merely a characteristic.
  • I don’t recall any strict “sexuality labels” for any of the non-straight characters.
  • Extensive backstories on the characters’ sexualities are not included, just like in real life!
  • No signs of LGBT+ stereotypes. Bisexuality, for example, is hugely misunderstood and often in the media represented as people with extremely high libido and a lust for wild threesomes. No thank you!
  • Written by a non-straight author.
  • Personally, I found April May’s (/the author’s) stance on sexuality highly relatable. If you’re looking to read more books with fluid/bisexual characters, I would say this is it.

Critiques

  • April May is written by a male author, which in one part clearly showed…
an absolutely remarkable thing comment

Goodreads status update while I was reading the book

You may also enjoy…

  • Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Conversations With Friends

Sally Rooney

35285193

Age group/genre: adult fiction

Publication date: May 25, 2017

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Pages: 321

My Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

The story revolves around the Irish Frances, a twenty-one year old student in Dublin. She and her ex Bobbi are still the closest of friends and are known for performing Frances’ poetry together. One night this brings them into the lives of journalist/photographer Melissa and her actor husband Nick. From this moment onward, the relationships in Frances’ life quickly begin to change shape.

A bisexual’s thoughts and critiques

Reading the book blurb alone is enough to know that main character Frances, as well as ex-lover/best friend Bobbi, is not straight. It isn’t until later on in the story, however, that their preferences become clearer, when Bobbi casually notes in conversation (with friends) that Frances likes men too.

Though this book largely focuses on relationships, love and sex, sexuality is actually not so much part of the storyline. These people just happened to be (gay, straight, bi or unlabelled) and that’s that. Again, just like in real life.

Frances does go into the history of her love life a little bit, but overall she doesn’t seem too bothered. Bobbi was her first and only girlfriend. Over the course of the book, Frances finds her first male love. In terms of sexuality, it is not at all a big deal.

Bisexuality brownie points

  • A number of non-straight characters with different perspectives on sexuality.
  • Main character isn’t strictly “labelled” as anything.
  • Sexuality is not part of the story plot.

Critiques

  • In terms of sexuality, I found this less relatable. I would not so much recommend this book for that kind of representation.
  • The story does carry a large focus on sex, which hopefully won’t be misinterpreted as a “bisexuals have a high libido” thing.
  • Some extremely non-conformist relationships take place. There’s cheating, age differences, “open relationships”, and more. Perhaps for some people this is life, but it is not anything close to mine.

You may also enjoy…

  • Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Leah on the Offbeat

Becky Albertalli

36531619

Age group/genre: young adult, LGBT romance

Publication date: April 24, 2018

Publisher: HarperCollins/Penguin Books

Pages: 343

My Goodreads rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis

This book follows the story of Leah, also known as Simon’s best friend in Albertalli’s earlier work Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Leah and her friends are in their final year of high school, which has its effects on their relationships. This is cause for Leah to have a number of doubts about the future, while she is also struggling with other aspects of life such as money and sexuality. On top of that, she is trying to carefully cover up feelings towards a close friends of hers…

A bisexual’s thoughts and critiques

My very low rating had to do with some personal annoyances, but was also partially due to the way sexuality was covered in this book.

In short: Leah is bi, and it is a huge part of the story. The book focuses on her struggles with sexuality and her love life. Leah is definitely written to show representation and set some sort of an example, but oh boy… is she a terrible, terrible example! I am actually enraged by how some things went down in this book.

First of all, I did not like Leah’s attitude one bit. She puts other people down, a lot. Especially straight characters. She adores Simon for being gay, and pushes away any straight characters. Leah seems to view the world from some sort of LGBT+ high pedestal.

The absolute darkest moment in this book for me, was when another character tried to open up to Leah about sexuality. This character announces they feel “lowkey bi”, at which Leah absolutely flips the fuck out: according to her, “lowkey bi” doesn’t exist and her friend had better come to terms with the fact that they’re just plain straight. Leah is extremely rude, causes a whole scene, and then… never gets back to it. Her unacceptable behaviour is not apologised for or corrected.

For a book that is mostly about coming out, I found this extremely disappointing. The other character tried to have a conversation about sexuality and find someone to relate to, and then gets beaten down by Leah. It was upsetting, especially considering the fact that, while at the time still figuring things out myself, I very much related to this other person’s view on things.

Becky Albertalli is praised for offering LGBT+ representation as a cis straight woman. And yes, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was a cute story. But other than that, I would like to see Albertalli’s obsession with writing LGBT+ books come to an end. Leah On The Off-Beat and also What If It’s Us showed me that she is not fit to represent the community, and in my opinion Simon was merely a one-hit wonder. There are many issues with Albertalli’s young LGBT+ characters. For one, that she tries to make them too relatable, which is surely proving very hard for a cis straight adult woman.

Bisexuality brownie points

  • Includes multiple non-straight characters.
  • A story of figuring out and coming out.

Critiques

  • Main character has a negative attitude towards straight people.
  • Main character (and writer?) puts non-straight people high up on a pedestal: she thinks their sexualities make them the coolest.
  • Main character seems to believe she should be the only bisexual.
  • Main character decides other people’s labels.
  • Main characters fights someone over their questioning their sexuality. Extremely rude!
  • Main character can’t have it if she’s not the only one struggling with sexuality!

You may enjoy…

  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
  • A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

More LGBT+ reading

Honestly, my reading taste is a bit of a mystery to me, but I would like to expand to more LGBT+ reading.

Topics that I am currently missing in my reading list are: lesbian, trans, asexual, gender neutrality/fluidity. Do you have any good tips? What are your favourite LGBT+ books? I’d love to hear them!

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