Moving to another country to live with my partner forced me to read a lot more than I had anticipated to in a short time; I actually had planned on streaming games and getting through more of my list, but I ended up trying to read as much as possible because I wanted to pack fewer books into my bags. Don’t get me wrong; I wish I could’ve brought more with me, but I figured I could reorder the ones I really liked and get brand new copies of them. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of those in this set.
Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz
The book is about two friends from the perspective of a young straight boy, Stephen, whose best friend, Marco, is gay. As they’ve grown up together, they played many games of detective; it was a game that started off as fun, but it had grave consequences: they had accidentally found out that Stephen’s father had been having an affair, resulting in a divorce from his mother. This story details their final game of playing detective, which also has relationship-altering consequences.
Marco’s family is in the middle of changing; he’s an only child whose parents are adopting a new baby. (Not so) understandably, he’s being a bit of a jerk about the whole thing; he’s complaining about the new baby without having any real reason to be complaining. In a sense, Moskowitz wrote him to be this stereotypically annoying only child which I, as an only child, find incredibly offensive. He embodies pretty much every only-child myth, all of which seem to be unfounded stereotypes. For me, it makes him a difficult character to care about in many ways; I can’t relate to him, despite the fact that I have been an only child for my entire life.
In the story, Marco is mostly harassed by this group of three students because he’s gay; two of the students are completely forgettable, since they barely even exist for a large chunk of the novel, but the third, named Luke, is their leader. He’s taken advantage of Marco and bullied him over his sexuality, forcing him to change schools.
Somewhere in the midst of that, Marco has this brilliant plan to tell the boy of his dreams that he loves him! Which is an irritating plot because there are far too many things happening all at once. At some points, it felt like there were things just sort of fighting for space and trying to be the main theme; it didn’t feel at all like some of them were addressed well enough, particularly the bullying in regards to the LGBTQ+ community.
It was a cute story, but it wasn’t fantastic. As with a lot of other writings by this author, it often just feels like a story written more out of “Look, I’m progressive!” than anything else; I doubt that’s the intention, but that’s the feeling I often get.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
This is a story that’s split between two protagonists: Craig and Lio. This is something that I quite enjoy because I find it fun to switch between perspectives. The story is them trying to make sense of their lives, including their relationship with each other.
Craig has this obsession with owning many pets, all of which have run away at the beginning of the novel as a result of a break-in. He and his family spend a lot of time searching for them, finding that some of them are dead while one is never found; it’s supposed to be a metaphor for Craig’s life, but it’s largely a miss in many places. It’s not complicated, but it’s not exactly appropriate, either; it doesn’t quite feel like it fits anywhere.
Lio is the new kid in town and from New York City. I’m struggling to really remember any other details about him, which is kind of a problem. All I remember is that he has a large family and a mother who he doesn’t quite respect for whatever reason; that reason may actually have been discussed, but it was definitely overshadowed by everything else.
The background to the novel is the part that I find uncomfortable: It’s set a year after 9/11 during the Beltway sniper attacks on the east coast. There’s a lot of fear from the sniper’s attacks, but the background just feels inappropriate in so many ways. One of the characters is impacted by the least observed aspect of 9/11: the Pentagon hit. Craig had been with a boy named Cody, who had lost his father in the Pentagon; this impacted Cody’s mental health, and he was placed in a facility that would enable him to better cope with everything.
Honestly, I don’t see a point in using 9/11 as the background to the novel; it plays such a small part other than to cause a momentary bit of drama between two characters. It felt, like many other aspects of Moskowitz’s other novels, just shoved in there to make some point; the problem is that I’m not even aware what point was being made.
As I’m not particularly fond of Craig’s chapters and can’t really even remember much of Lio’s, I’m kind of certain this is a book I wouldn’t recommend. It wasn’t bad, but it was forgettable.
The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne
I quite enjoy things set in Victorian England in some ways. Perhaps it’s because I like period dramas, even though they don’t always show all of the aspects of the time; they make it a bright and cheery version of everything, forgetting pretty much everything bad that took place at the time. It’s sort of frustrating in that way.
The novel is set during the Great Exhibition of 1851, which is something that entices the protagonist: Norris. He’s the youngest son of a “wealthy” family that is actually suffering from financial issues; his eldest brother and two older sisters were provided with the best that money could buy in terms of education, and he is forced to deal with the leftovers. He’s given his brother’s former textbooks, he has an ineffective tutor who spends time ranting instead of teaching, and he’s generally overlooked by the family until they realise how he’s “too young” to be a financial burden in the way his siblings are.
He’s also different from his siblings and peers: He has no desire to get married and does not find girls at all interesting. This is the lead-in to how Thorne explains that his protagonist is actually gay. There are many other metaphors used, such as being unseen until his family wants to see him; they won’t acknowledge who he really is until they’re ready, but they may never be ready to do that. I rather liked that metaphor, as that was something I grew up knowing.
I think I really adored this novel because it had a lot of parallels I could relate to, even as a bisexual woman. I knew that if I ever wanted my family to acknowledge me, I had to remain quiet about who I was and be who they wanted me to be. I knew that I had to leave in order to find myself because being around them was stifling and painful; I had to be away from them to feel like I could make my own decisions about the people I would pursue relationships with, especially because it was harder for me to be open with them.
The one detail I found confusing was actually the books back description, which stated that it was a “retelling of a Native American folktale,” which was confusing because there are folktales that have shared and different themes between the different nations; it only gives a title of the folktale – “The Girl Who Married a Ghost” – without telling what nation it was from. When I tried to search for it, I could only find the story in books about Nigeria and a vague reference to the Northwestern region of the US. This is a moment to be specific about which cultures this tale was taken from, especially as it is the inspiration for the whole novel.