Book Review: Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie – Questioning, Identity, and Friendship Coalesce in this Tender Queer Coming-of-Age Contemporary

Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie. Reviewed by CW, The QUiet Pond.
Blurb:

Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.

So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love–and sexuality–never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If young adult contemporary isn’t your stomping ground, I am begging for you to make an exception and make Ophelia After All one of your to-read books of 2022. A joy from start to finish, this exceptional coming-of-age story follows biracial Cuban-Irish teen Ophelia who must navigate identity, change and friendship at the sunset of high school.

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Book Review: The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl – An Eerie yet Fascinating Mystery that Reimagines Queer Girls as Princesses Intertwined with Gruesome Fairytale Destinies

Synopsis:

Four troubled friends, One murdered girl… and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.

This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Note: The below review discusses suicide.

The Grimrose Girls is the kind of story that sinks its teeth into you and wraps you with its thorned vines around you, and just does not let you go. That’s how it felt reading this book – when I started reading it, I was merely intrigued, but the deeper and deeper I fell into this fairytales-inspired murder mystery, the deeper I fell in with the girls of Grimrose Académie and their own secrets, I was hopelessly attached to the book. For all its dark and macabre moments in this book, The Grimrose Girls is an unexpected delight that I loved.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Aaron H. Aceves, Author of This is Why They Hate Us; On Navigating Relationships, Messy Characters, and Exploring Yearning in Stories

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.

I crave any book where characters are faced with confronting truths about themselves. So when Aaron H. Aceves announced his YA book, This is Why They Hate Us, about a Latino teen who is determined to get over his crush on his best friend, I was immediately sold. On top of that, if you know me, you will know that I love ‘messy’ characters – characters that explore vulnerability, mistakes, and the quiet yet big things we are afraid to admit to ourselves – so when Aaron said that This is Why They Hate Us was going to be a ‘messy’ story? I was sold once more.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Laura Pohl, Author of The Grimrose Girls; On Her Fairytales Retelling, Centering Friendships, and Brazilian Media Recommendations!

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.

With the explosion of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels in the early 2010s, I struggled to connect with these stories in which people who looked like me and my friends never seemed to survive the apocalypse. I was ready to put my fascination and love for dystopia and post-apocalyptic stories to bed – until last year, I read one of my favourite YA post-apocalyptic novels of all time: The Last 8 by Laura Pohl. Finally! I thought, a post-apocalyptic novel that’s brilliantly told, exciting, with a cast of queer teens of colour who actually look like me and my friends! From there on, I vowed that I’d read whatever Laura Pohl wrote.

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Book Review: It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland – A Charming and Heartfelt YA about an All-Queer Teen Pop Group, How Friendships Change, and A Love Letter to Fandoms

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland
Synopsis:

Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph used to think their friendship was unbreakable. After all, they’ve been though a lot together, including the astronomical rise of Moonlight Overthrow, the world-famous queer pop band they formed in middle school, never expecting to headline anything bigger than the county fair.

But after a sudden falling out leads to the dissolution of the teens’ band, their friendship, and Eva and Celeste’s starry-eyed romance, nothing is the same. Gina and Celeste step further into the spotlight, Steph disappears completely, and Eva, heartbroken, takes refuge as a songwriter and secret online fangirl…of her own band. That is, until a storm devastates their hometown, bringing the four ex-best-friends back together. As they prepare for one last show, they’ll discover whether growing up always means growing apart.

Stories about friendship have a special place in my heart. As a younger person growing up, going through changes in life and seeing the people who I thought would be in my life forever slowly drift away and no longer exist in the landscape of my life was such a tough thing. Likewise though, I also had friends who changed with me, grew up with me (even if we became different people), and there were even some people where I grew apart from them, only to eventually come together. So when It Goes Like This was pitched to me, about an all-queer teen pop group who fall out following their breakup, but come together one last time and have to traverse the uncertain territory of reuniting? I was immediately intrigued – and, unsurprisingly, I fell in love with this gorgeous, heartfelt book.

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