on August 8, 2017
Genres: LGBTQIA, Contemporary, Young Adult
When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.
My top thoughts:
I absolutely LOVED this book. Little and Lion hit all the big issues of my childhood – racial diversity, LGTBQA, religion, and mental illness. I swear, had I picked up a book like this when I was 17 years old it would have meant so much to me because it would have spoken to EVERYTHING I was going through.
What I liked/didn’t like:
Racial Diversity – Suzanne (aka Little) is an African American teenager growing up in a biracial home. Her step-father (although not technically because her mom never married him) is white, as is his son – her stepbrother Lionel (aka Lion). The majority of her friends are white, it seems. Race isn’t this dominant issue – she’s not around a bunch of racist people. But I loved how it made White Privilege so apparent – a situation comes up where something inappropriate is said and while it makes everyone uncomfortable, it’s not handled like it should be. I loved this, because it’s happened so many times in my life where someone white and not racist says something inappropriate and it’s like because “they’re not racist” they don’t have to deal with what they did. So real life!
LGTBQA – Suzanne is trying to figure out her sexual identity… she went away to boarding school this past year and roomed with a lesbian and things happened. And those moments meant a lot to her, but now she’s back home and she’s really feeling things for a guy… and a girl, who her brother also happens to be feeling things for. Complicated! Especially because of how challenging it is to be Bi – no one quite understands on either side of the gay/straight divide. When I was 17 I remember going through this exact dilemma, finally realizing and accepting that I was Bi took some time and I’m still not that “out” about it. I loved the complexity of her inner turmoil.
Religion – Suzanne is a black, converted Jew. She loves this part of her identity, but it’s complicated because she always has to explain it and while at boarding school she hides that part of her identity. This was a small part of the book, but I loved seeing this struggle as well – that religion is part of the “growing up” and “knowing yourself” struggle.
Mental Illness – despite how much the other themes of this book spoke to me, the mental illness was by far the best and most real. Suzanne’s brother is struggling with bipolar disorder and hating his medication because of how it makes him feel. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll just say the volatility of the emotions, the worry and stress, not to mention uncertainty, that come from loving someone with bipolar disorder is beautifully written.
Anyway, I clearly loved this book and was really impressed by it. I read it in two days – but 80% was in 1 sitting. I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Brandy Colbert.