by Sabitha F.
A + E by Ryszard Merey. This one gets a trigger warning from me, although it’s less the scenes of sexual violence (of which there are a few) and more that the author—who wrote this book well before he met me—somehow knows about my teenage life in startling ways.
Allow me to digress on one of the reasons why I tend to dislike YA—the characters are blank slates, meant for the reader to relate to. I know a lot of teenagers. Very few of them are blank slates. Very few of them fit neatly into “jock” “artsy” “popular,” etc. categories. They are, in fact, people. And the choice of nearly an entire marketing category to eschew specificity for broad appeal is, I believe, doing a disservice to young people.
Anyway this book isn’t YA, it’s just about teenagers. It’s a book I would have wanted when I was that age (I was deeply uninterested in books for my age range because they weren’t like this.) Two gender non-conforming kids—the effeminate, artsy Ash and the loud, brash goth Eu—meet and become friends with the kind of passionate intensity that happens when you’re smart and mentally ill and young. They fall in love, kind of, and they fuck up, and they hurt each other in devastating ways. I felt Seen. It’s also just gorgeously written.
A note for people attempting to read this (and you really should read it): There are two versions, a graphic novel and a novella. I’m talking about the novella, which you can find here. I haven’t read the graphic novel (yet).