special feature: Drizzle review summer book club micro reviews
In summer of 2021, Drizzle is launching our first ever live virtual event series! To see what’s ahead, check out these two micro reviews, written by our editors Sarena Brown and Rebecca Valley. Stay tuned for two more collaborative reviews on these titles, written by our book club participants.
Cemetery boys by aiden thomas
Genre: ya/adventure | swoon reads 2020 | Reviewed by sarena brown
Note: You can read a found poem inspired by this title here!
The ancestral magic of the brujx community pulls you in right from the start in Aiden Thomas’ debut YA novel, Cemetery Boys. In this community, the women heal the living and the men guide the dead to the other side. So where does that leave trans and non-binary folks? That’s the problem which Yadriel faces as a trans Cuban/Mexican teen, who is desperate for his people to understand that he is a boy and not some “weird girl” (something a lot of trans people can relate to). Yadriel’s family isn’t blatantly transphobic, they just don’t understand. Determined to prove himself, Yadriel goes to Lady Death herself to summon the spirit of his recently departed cousin who died in mysterious circumstances. But something goes horribly wrong, and he accidentally brings back the wrong ghost: a bad boy spirit named Julian. The boys team up to figure out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and Julian. Are the deaths connected somehow? Meanwhile, what starts as annoyed toleration between Julian and Yadriel becomes gay panic in this slow burn supernatural romance.
What is so exciting about this novel is the way Thomas weaves magic with familial love and transness. Yadriel has a lot of difficult experiences that are common for trans people of color, like being misgendered, being called his deadname, and navigating how to communicate in Spanish, a heavily gendered language. He also has some exhilarating ones, like being seen as a boy by his family and friends and finding his soulmate. Despite and because of these experiences, Yadriel finds love in his family, both blood and found, living and dead. It is refreshing that this is a story with a trans protagonist that doesn’t rely on a rigid binary trans narrative. Yadriel doesn’t talk about transitioning at all. It’s a story about a boy who just happens to be trans, which tells me that this story is geared to trans and nonbinary readers.
Why We Love It: This book checks so many boxes: a Latinx trans protagonist, brujx representation, magic, ghosts, adventure, mystery, and a sweet and heartfelt teenage romance.
the sound of a wild snail eating by elisabeth tova bailey
Genre: literary non-fiction/memoir | algonquin books 2016 | Reviewed by rebecca valley
“Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties.”
In Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s memoir The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, the author finds an unlikely companion during a period of prolonged illness: Neohelix albolabris, the common woodland snail. Bailey, whose life is transformed after a bad flu leads to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, spends nearly the entire book in bed, studying the snail that has made its home on her nightstand. This natural history dives deep into mollusk anatomy, mating behaviors, and the wonders of snail mucus. But it’s much more than just a book about snails. As Bailey watches her mucus-y companion, she reflects on productivity, purpose, disability, and how a person can find meaning from the confines of their bedroom.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a slender book, and one that is full of unexpected joys. By showing us how to live like a snail, it subtly resists capitalist narratives that teach us that achievement is the only measure of a life well-lived. Bailey writes beautifully about nature, observation, and the emotional and physical toll of chronic illness. But more than anything, she shows us the majesty, the wonder of mollusks—and the many ways that living with a snail changed her idea of what her life can and should be.
“I listened carefully. I could hear it eating. The sound was of someone very small munching celery continuously.”
Why We Love It: A beautifully written natural history/memoir that taught me everything I know about snails-and provides a much-needed look into life with chronic fatigue syndrome.
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