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What I’m Reading: Autoboyography

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What I’m Reading: Autoboyography

Books about writing books are like finding fresh Mary Sue tracks in the sand. There’s a fine line between “write what you know” and “write what everyone who likes books knows”. Christina Lauren’s Autoboyography bounds twenty kilometres over that line, and there was no way on this Earth I was going to pick it up and read it.

If you do not read this book, you are making a grave and unforgivable mistake.

Yes, it’s a book called Autoboyography, which is about writing a book called Autoboyography. But. It also manages to bring to a conclusion one of the most emotionally complicated dilemmas I have ever encountered. I remember being two thirds of the way through, seeing how few pages I had left and thinking: how on Earth are we going to get ourselves out of this mess in time?

Set in a high school in Utah, Autoboyography follows non-Mormon Tanner as he falls for the bishop’s son, Sebastian. Sebastian is religious, takes solace in prayer, loves his family, loves his Church, is excited about his mission… and Tanner’s crush could destroy all of it in an instant.

Unfortunately for them both, Tanner has been tasked with writing a novel in a semester, and Sebastian is the only thing that brings him inspiration. Turning in the novel for a grade would mean exposing them both.

Autoboyography explores the ways that romantic, familial and platonic love can both harm and heal, and how they can often do both at once. The tale Lauren weaves is utterly heart-wrenching, and as a reader I felt every impossible choice that Tanner was forced to make deep in my chest. Love can look a lot like madness, and often Tanner finds himself on the brink of wreaking untold chaos in the life of someone he supposedly cares about.

The one problem, however, with writing a book called Autoboyography about the writing of a book called Autoboyography, is that you wish the second book was the one you had in your hands. You wish this book was written by a gay man rather than two straight women. Unlike Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which treads respectfully, Christina Lauren left me feeling cheated. Which is a shame, because I personally enjoyed Autoboyography a lot more.

I firmly believe that LGBT characters and stories should not be off-limits to straight cis authors. However, I do think that more room needs to be made for LGBT storytellers. (On an unrelated aside, I will be launching The Heart-Seed in November.)

Let then this novel be a call to arms. Read Autoboyography. Use Tanner’s story to fuel your novel. Write, write, write.

Buy it here.

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What I’m Reading: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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What I’m Reading: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

When I was a child, I was told if I wanted to watch the film, I had to read the book first. And while I now see this as my mother’s literary pretentiousness, it’s something I now enjoy- and so, upon the release of Love, Simon, I bought myself a copy of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. 

It’s a comfortable read, told from 17-year-old Simon’s slightly unreliable perspective. Albertalli has succeeded in making a realistically flawed main character who also succeeds in being likeable- Simon is both naïve and nosy, but neither of these things actually caused me to dislike the character. 

It features a diverse range of supporting characters, which betrays just how much time and effort Albertalli put into researching the book. As a straight woman, she took some criticism for writing a book centred on the coming-out of a gay teenager. However, if the LGBT community declares these topics off-limits to straight authors, we can hardly complain about a lack of diversity. While it is true that we need more LGBT authors, there is no reason why a dedicated author like Albertalli cannot produce authentic stories. 

Becky Albertalli spoke to a wide range of young LGBT people, and wove some of their experiences into Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. As a result, the book was littered with moments and feelings that I recalled from my own late teens. Readers with varying orientations will find parts of themselves in the fine details of this story, which encapsulates the tumult of negotiating teenage friendships and crushes. 

People who have seen the film should be aware that the book differs greatly, often in key ways. Most remarkable (without being a spoiler) is the difference in Martin’s character, as the book takes a lot longer to look at his motives, and as a result he ends up, while still not likeable, far more fleshed-out. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who wanted to read more about Leah, especially as she is the protagonist of Albertalli’s sequel, Leah on the Offbeat. 

Although the book was richly emotional, and I found myself crying at points, the overall tone was light, and an ideal read for anyone looking for an escape from the stress of the everyday. 

Click below to buy your copy.