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all of the aboveWhat: All of the Above by James Dawson

Who: Hot Key Books

When: September 3rd 2015

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Hot Key Books for review.

When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly … love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

3cats2I wanted to love All of the Above. I really wanted to. I mean, a bisexual female main character in YA is pretty rare, and I was so ready to fall head over heels for this book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t fall in love with All of the Above. Which is super sad.

I think the main reason I couldn’t absolutely adore this book was the main character, Toria. Sometimes she was just really … un-accepting and rude? I guess I thought I’d be reading about a more likeable character (I know we need unlikeable characters, but not when they’re being really rude and throwing out sentences like “does that make me sound autistic?” Maybe stop with the ableism there, please).

Her two love interests were pretty much equally as unlikeable as Toria herself. Polly was apparently a massive cusser, but every swear word she said was in stars. So, for example: “You are such a mushy ******.” I just do not understand why the actual swear was not in the book. It just felt really juvenile to me. And the fact that Polly was pretty much Toria’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl given the task of sexually awakening her didn’t win Polly any points either.

Nico was bland as white bread. He sang in a band, and was super pretty, and that’s just about the extent to which we got to know his character.

There were some aspects that I did like about All of the Above, for example:

  • The intersectional diversity – Toria is half-Indian and bisexual, so plus points there
  • Toria is sexually active, has been sexually active before we get to know her as a character, and completely owns it. Hells yes
  • Toria and her friends actually value their schooling. There’s quite a bit of studying in this book, and I was so glad for that. My high school experience was 90% studying, because school was the avenue by which to get into the degree and university that I wanted to get into. So the fact that grades were important in this novel was really relatable to me, and I appreciated it (so many YA books don’t even mention grades)
  • The lack of labels. Yes, Polly and Toria can both be described as bisexual, but neither really felt the need to take on that label. This is realistic, as a lot of people don’t feel the need to expressly define their sexual orientation
  • BUT the word ‘bisexual’ is used in terms of both of them, so there was no erasure, which was also awesome
  • More than one queer person in the book! I mean, almost all of Toria’s friends were queer, and this was so great. Books so often have a queer protagonist and that’s it. To see a whole cast of queer characters was fabulous
  • Toria (even though she could sometimes be a little bit horrible) was also really funny. I loved that she had a Tumblr, and considered her online friends actual friends because a lot of teenagers do these days (and not-teenagers, like me)

So there you have it. There were quite a lot of things I did enjoy about All of the Above, but I just didn’t fall in love with it as I had so hoped.

© 2015, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning: eating disorder resulting in death in this novel

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Posted on: October 3, 2015 • By: Chiara

8 Responses to Review: All of the Above by James Dawson

  1. Oh man, I”m reading a book with a SUPER unlikeable MC at the moment, and I 100% feel your pain there. (I mean, on one hand, as a writer I feel like I should embrace this, but on the other, as a reader I’m struggling to connect with this girl at all. To put it bluntly, she’s kind of a bitch.)

    But yay for bi representation!!! That is such a wonderful thing to see in YA, and it looks like this book portrayed a truly realistic high school experience, which I simply adore. Especially when it means seeing high school characters who ACTUALLY STUDY. That is the most realistic thing out of all of this, I think. ;)

    • Chiara says:

      I know that a lot of people are all: there should be unlikeable MCs because they can be realistic! But to be honest, it just makes it hard for me to connect to them, and enjoy their story overall. So nahhhh, no thanks.

      YAY indeed. I love bi books, and I want there to be more of them. But yes, the accurate portrayal of high school was wholeheartedly appreciated. Especially the studying! No one studies in YA books any more, but still manage to get good grades T.T

  2. Romi says:

    Hmm. Well I’m there with you when it comes to YA bisexual characters, but this does not sound like something I would have had a great experience with, either. It definitely does have good points- studying, diverse characters, more than one LGBTIQ+ character- but Toria’s comments sound really offensive, and that is never okay, and the representation of manic pixie dream girls… is something I’m not sure how I feel about. The cussing is an interesting point, especially when it’s a character who swears all the time? I never used to be able to write, like, the big swear words *meaningful look*, so I’d mark one letter with a star in my drafts or whatever. Clearly I don’t do this now. It’s interesting that it still appears now and again in YA, though. I wonder why? Also, I have no idea what that bleeped word actually is. Reminds me of Hana in FB, though, with her sudden *bleeeeeeep* barcode thing the first issue she’s in. So peculiar and lovable, that one.

    Hmm. Overall, I don’t think this would be something I’d get a lot of enjoyment out of, unfortunately. More bisexual representation though, please! I’ll be there for that!

    • Chiara says:

      There were definitely good and bad things about this book, so it was kind of hard to decide whether or not I really liked it. I think just “like” fits it well because there were things I was not so on board with, and things that I did enjoy.

      Manic pixie dream girls annoy me. NUFF SAID.

      Ugh, it’s so weird, though? Like, just PUT THE DARN SWEAR IN THERE. I have no idea why it was this way, to be honest. Awww, everything in FB is adorable, though.

      YESSS, more bi rep! Always.

  3. romi says:

    ARE MY COMMENTS NOT WORKING? I’m sorry. I’ve gotta test these things out. *elevator music plays*

  4. I’d been waiting on your review see what you’d thought, so it’s disappointing you didn’t love it. At least it wasn’t a fail and the diversity aspects were handled well! Have you read Far From You? It has a bisexual character in it and is a great book. Plus, everyone raves about it!

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