Contemporary Fiction, Family Relationships, Gender Identity, Homophobia, Self-Acceptance, Suicide, YA Fiction
Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A new state, a new city, a new high school. Mike’s father has already found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plain spoken little sister, Toby, don’t want to go. Dad wants Mike to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, but there’s something uneasy behind his demands.
Then Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and “hey” becomes games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colors of sunrise. But Mike’s father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand.
I have to admit my feelings are a little all over the place about this novel. From the very first chapter, which was two pages long, I was completely hooked. It made me smile, it made me angry, and it made me cry. Before I get to the good stuff though, I want to warn you that there are no quotation marks used for dialogue. Some readers may not mind this, but it did drive me a little crazy. There were times that I found it hard to differentiate between a Mike’s inner thoughts and actual conversations. In a way, I think because the rest of the book was so well-written, that this was even more jarring to me. So, speaking of the good stuff, lets begin with the amazing characters. Mike is your quintessential underdog. He has a few friends, but is the victim of frequent bullying. He’s an introvert, and a lot of the story focuses on his inner thoughts about school, family, friends, and his struggles over his sexuality. Making matters worse is that his family is extremely religious, particularly his father and grandmother. This leads to some of the more tragic moments of the book. I absolutely loved how Mike and Sean’s first meeting is sweetly awkward. This definitely isn’t a case of insta-love, which made it even more believable. Instead, their relationship slowly develops as they work on a school project together. Oh God. Just thinking about them again is making me teary, and I finished this 5 days ago! I also LOVED the relationship between Mike and his eleven-year-old sister Toby. She is absolutely adorable and funny, and wise beyond her years. She understands and supports her big brother more than anyone else in their family. What makes this story so compelling is that you know there are a multitude of versions of this playing out in the real world. While there are more than a few tear-jerking moments, this book is also filled with hope and inspiration. I have to be honest though and say there’s some tough topics in this including homophobia, conversion camps, and suicide. It’s not done in an “after school special” kind of way though. While there are many YA novels out there that focus on how acceptance of LGBTQs is becoming more prevalent, let’s face it. There’s still a lot of work to be done before we can say that this community is treated with respect and considered equal. There were moments that even shocked me as an adult, so while I highly recommend this, I’d say this is more for older teens and adults. It Looks Like This would lend itself beautifully to book discussion groups and family reads. I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for future books by Rafi Mittlefehldt.
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