★★☆☆☆ ⎼ contains slight spoilers.
Looking back at my last time reading this (which was June of 2021), I think I gave it a flawless 5 out of 5 stars just because I felt the serious lack of lesbian representation in romance novels start to seep into my brain. After one year of having this novel in my possession, I decided to re-read it, and jeez, did I find it grating to get through.
To start off, since last year I’ve been reading more works by more authors of color (Honey Girl and Last Telegraph, plus a plethora of Japanese novellas), and I just have to say I find author types like these (white and #queer) impossibly corny. It’s bad enough that the word “queer” makes me want to kill myself, but this whole era of “qweer” white writers is ruining the LGBT romance scene. Liberal millennial Buzzfeed employee-esque writing, stacked with pop culture references and self-deprecating humor can only go so far. However, here are some of the few things I liked about this book:
- Jane ❤
- Found family trope
- Plus-sized main character
I so badly wished I could’ve liked August. She’s plus sized! And sapphic! That’s all we have in common! Unfortunately, she’s got a horrible case of Tori Vega syndrome, in which a main character is so boring and unlikable that the rest of the way more interesting cast shines light years ahead of her. It’s cool that she’s the only white person in the book, but to make her the main character where the only thing she does is complain? Unforgivable!
Speaking of main characters, Jane is horribly flat. Hot and cool butch type stuck in the 70’s on a subway. And.. that’s all we know for about 200-ish pages. Jane is the textbook example of what I like to call the “manic pixie lesbian of color dreamgirl” that a lot of sapphic books fall victim to. The non-lesbian main character is stuck in their ways, insufferable and immature, and only when they meet their lesbian love interest is when they realized they must change into a less aggravating person. It’s weird, and as a lesbian of color, it just leaves me feeling uncomfortable, and borderline fetishized.
Which sucks? Because the romance between her and August is, like, non-existent? It’s flat. So much of this book is flat. Flat pacing, flat chemistry, flat characters, flat flat flat. So many things just happen to them without a lot of reaction- just a lot of “that might as well happen”. At what point does the quirky none-and-then-all-at-once magical realism get too much?
And, no, I’m not done complaining about how crappy Jane and August’s romance is. The sex scenes are just meh⎼ I’ve read better sex scenes in 50 Shades. Their flirting is just so… off. A couple of snarky exchanges and boom⎼ they’re obsessed with each other. They’re bound to have a toxic relationship, ending with a nasty breakup. Don’t believe me? Then let’s take a look at this little exchange on page 292: Jane was just hate-crimed (“that old racist-homophobic combo”) and is rightfully pissed off. August asks her if she called the police, to which Jane is like, obviously I did not. August then has the audacity to tell her that “Most people aren’t like that anymore. If you could go out, you’d see.”
Which is such an insane thing to tell a victim of a hate crime who is also physically/liminally stuck in a subway car. Go outside! People aren’t racist or homophobic anymore! What the hell! And it’s even more insane that more readers didn’t catch onto this when the book came out. Hell, someone with an ARC should have said something. I don’t know how McQuiston expected people, especially readers of color, to react to this bizarre display of white liberalism. However, I kind of expected it considering the majority of the general sapphic romance reader base is overwhelmingly white.
Overall, the book sucks. I only gave it two stars because I thought Jane was hot, and I liked the side characters, even though I don’t remember their names. Jane and August are bound to break up, and as a little bonus, I’ll give them their own mini “where are they now section”: Jane is now happily exploring the world on her own, and is in a band. And August is a true crime podcaster, aka the worst kind of person.