Today I’m posting about two fun YA books: Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin and Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier.
Although both seem rather odd, being as one is a YA book about a closeted Oregon lesbian deciding to play football and the other is a graphic novel about two girls on a cheerleading team, both are about friendships with other girls, budding sapphic relationships and teamwork on a school sport.
Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin
Trigger Warning: misogyny, homophobia, forced kissing/touching, sexual harassment
When Mara gets kicked off the basketball team for punching her own teammate (she was concussed, still not an excuse), she is told she has one chance to get on the basketball team next year: join a team sport in the fall, and don’t get into any fights. It quickly becomes apparent that volleyball is not an option, so when Mara’s best friend Quinn mentions the football team, Mara agrees. She just likes being one of the guys anyway, she’s tall, she can take a hit, and she’s been playing ball with her brother and Quinn her entire life. But when four other girls—inspired by her badassery—join her, Mara is less than thrilled. Now she’s one of the girls and making a political statement, when she just wants to play ball and get on the team.
I really enjoyed this—to the point where I stayed up until an unheard-of (for me) on in the morning. At first, Mara was annoying as hell with her I’m NOT like other girls attitude, but thankfully that slowly changes as she gets her head out of her ass and starts seeing things for real.
The other girls on the team were pretty fantastic, however I’m still upset by the adults, who all literally did nothing to help make things better and refused to help or see what was going on, but gave the boys multiple passes for their awful behavior. Unfortunately, when in a small (smallish, as there are apartment buildings and a hospital), conservative town, that’s not unexpected.
I did, however, really love Jupiter, who was the Miss Honey to Mara’s sporty Matilda. Their relationship was fantastic, and I did feel relief when Jupiter addressed the parental approval and weirdness of a 35-year-old queer lady around a 16-year-old after midnight in a conservative town.
I also liked the slow burn romance, and the way the book examined friendships and family relations. Mara slowly—so slowly—begins to realize that just because a girl is a girly girl, that doesn’t mean she’s not tough or can’t hack it. It doesn’t mean that she’s not worthy of respect. And she also starts to see the true colors of her male friends, which had been before her the entire time and which she’d excused. Not to mention, she must navigate her relationship with her mom, who is a conservative, church-going woman who wants a daughter in her image and fears for her own reputation if people see Mara acting like a boy (her mom is not bad, per se, but it is heartbreaking how she refuses to understand or really accept Mara for who she is, and wants to change her into the “right” mold for being a girl).
Anywho, I think what really drew me to this book was the setting. It’s in rural Oregon, but I kept trying to place where in Oregon, since place names beside Portland weren’t really used? However, there are the Cascades mentioned, and conservatives in cowboy hats and cattle/sheep farming, and it’s close enough to kiiiiiina commute to Portland and she mentioned south of the Columbia (which is all of Oregon but people in the middle of state have other rivers they ping off of), so I dunno. But really, anywhere east enough of Portland fits the parameters.
I just read Elkhorn and was like, wait a minute, do I know this author? and then she kept with the little clues and I was like nope, too far north.
So that was a ramble. But, if you’re looking for something like Dairy Queen and Moxie but make it super gay, this is the book for you. It’s solid, not without its flaws, and has a character who really grows up in the pages to realize what is worth fighting for—and how to fight.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier
Despite being whip smart and prepared to tackle anything, Annie has one issue standing in the way of an all-around amazing college application: she’s very antisocial. Under pressure from the guidance counselor to prove to colleges that she can *ugh* people, she joins the cheerleading team, and reunites with her former friend, BeeBee, who is the ultimate people pleaser. But BeeBee has her own concerns: as the only openly trans girl in their school, and a woman of color, she’s under a lot of pressure—from her parents, from her friends, and from the rest of the school—to show the world that trans girls are just as normal as anyone, not matter how exhausting that reality is. Together the girls join forces, and realize their friendship might not be lost after all…and that there might be some sparks under all that smoke…
This was cute as hell, with a great story about friendship, belonging, and actually being supportive of your friends—and not tokenizing people who are different so you can showcase how ~accepting~ you are.
I loved Beatrice, and I really, really liked Annie. There is so much going on in this short graphic novel, but it never felt rushed or compressed until the very end—and that was mainly because I never wanted it to end!
Also, the adults were fantastic too. Annie’s mom is the best, and I liked how Beatrice’s parents grew over the course of the story.
Plus, the artwork is fantastic, and the vibe is very Check, Please! which is just what I wanted!
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.