Every Word You Never Said by Jordon Greene

I had such high hopes for this book. I really did. Unfortunately it fell incredibly short. The whole time I was reading, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like about it, but after reading lower rated reviews on StoryGraph, I figured it out thanks to people putting into words what I couldn’t.

The plot follows Skylar, a newly adopted nonverbal boy, who likes skirts and wears one to school. This sends the conservative Christians into a spiral because “boys in skirts are against God!” *eyeroll* This prompts a super sexist dress code proposal spearheaded by none other than Jacob’s toxically Christian father. All with the sub plot of romance between Skylar and Jacob. It’s also a dual POV in 1st person which I didn’t love, but that’s not the book’s fault. I’m just not entirely a fan of 1st person.

Don’t get me wrong, this book was cute—in an extremely superficial way. The nonverbal rep is good, though you’re trying to tell me that people can lip read literally everything this boy says? When only about 30% of the English language is lip readable? Sounds fake, but okay. The only thing really diverse about this book is Imani, the Black pansexual witch. Though she’s written as the stereotypical Black sidekick which wasn’t great. I did like how Wicca was explained though. It was a nice contrast to the extreme of Christianity. The only other “diverse” characters were Jacob (a white, gay, rocker boy) and Skylar (a white, nonverbal, gay boy who likes wearing skirts). Otherwise there was zero diversity because cis-het white boys is the opposite of diverse. The characters were underdeveloped and all we got was surface level personality. Even the romance wasn’t developed well. It starts out as a love-at-first-sight slow-burn, which I absolutely love. However, everything gets thrown away after Skylar throws a tantrum and then guilt trips Jacob because he can’t read sign language well. So much of the development was off-screen and that was incredibly frustrating. And don’t even get me started on the amount of homophobia.

The toxic Christianity runs strong in this small North Carolina town and gods forbid you’re gay. The first time the f-slur was thrown around I almost rage quit the book. Then it was used again and again and again. Jacob even said something along the lines of “they can’t call me that slur, but I can use it on myself and that’s okay.” And like, I get reclaiming things that were once seen as slurs (i.e. queer), but I draw the line at the f-slur. Their classmates slinging it at them was bad enough. There was also one use of the r-slur by Skylar towards himself and that wasn’t okay either. I get that he’s extremely traumatized from years in bad foster/group homes, but never once did a character on-page ever call him that. So I felt it was extremely uncalled for. 

Overall there was a lot more telling than showing and it made for a clunky reading experience. There was supposedly a conversation about sex between love interests that we only find out about because Skylar mentioned it, and there were a lot of random time skips (which is fine, but not when important stuff happens and we find out after the fact). Would I recommend this book? No. It had so much potential and it fell incredibly flat. For me, the only redeeming quality is the cover. Not even the conflict was satisfying because they failed. Then the decision was overturned after the fact by the NC Supreme Court. So what was the point?


  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It’s complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It’s complicated

Content Warnings:

Graphic: Bullying, Child abuse, Emotional abuse, Homophobia, Religious bigotry, Ableism, and Sexism

Moderate: Abandonment, Child death, Death, Hate crime, Sexual content, Suicide, and Violence

Minor: Injury/injury detail

Frequent use of the f-slur and one instance of the r-slur.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Warning: If you’re at all sensitive to reading on-page depictions of major depressive episodes and/or severe anxiety/panic attacks, please use caution when reading this book.

Oh boy. Where to start with this review… I started The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun at the beginning of March thinking it would be a semi-lighthearted read with a bit of mental health and good asexual rep. Little did I know this book would make me feel a whole lot of things I didn’t expect to feel.

Yes, this book is cute as hell, but it also covers a lot of deep topics like Dev’s deep depression, Charlie’s anxiety disorder and OCD, discovering yourself, and learning to accept the love you deserve. This book gave me a lot of anxiety because it hits on a lot of insecurities I have and a lot of issues I’ve had in the past with relationships (both platonic and romantic). I am elated this book exists, but damn. It makes me feel shit. If you are at all bothered by descriptions of depressive episodes, OCD spirals, and/or anxiety attacks I would strongly use caution if you plan to read this one. My anxiety was triggered a few times while reading. I also want to mention that, while there is sexual content, it’s not super descriptive like a lot of other romances I’ve read.

Things I absolutely loved:

1. Charlie Winshaw. From the moment he stepped on the page I knew I was going to love him. He’s an absolute wreck and I love him so much. Seeing his journey of self-discovery as a queer man and opening up to someone for the first time that isn’t Parisa, his publicist/best friend.
2. Dev Deshpande. Even though a lot of his struggles hit way too close, I’m glad to have a character I can relate to via those struggles. To know that I can work through them and end up okay. I just have to put in the work.
3. Literally all of the side characters. This book has such a queer cast and I love it! I’ve never read a book with so many ace characters in so many forms. It was really affirming. All of the characters are funny, smart, and have absolutely great chemistry with each other. And the banter! I’m a sucker for fantastic banter and boy does this book have it.

Things I didn’t love:

1. All of the mentions of Charlie’s “giant hands.” I don’t know why it bothered me so much. It’s such a small thing, but every time it was mentioned I’d get quite irritated. Aside from fan art, I couldn’t get a good mental picture of what Charlie (or Dev, for that matter) really looked like. I knew Dev was taller than Charlie and Charlie was muscular, but other than that I couldn’t quite picture anything. *shrug*

2. Maureen Scott. I absolutely hate her. It wasn’t confirmed until around the middle to last fourth of the book, but gods I hate her stinking guts!

I’ve never been a fan of the Bachelor or the Bachelorette, but I quite enjoyed getting to see behind the curtain of Ever After, the show modeled after both these reality shows. It shows just how toxic the environment can be and how heteronormative the whole process is. (Which, let’s be real, is a huge reason why I’ve never been a fan. Even at a young age before I knew I was queer and a sex-repulsed ace.) It was interesting to see how Charlie was in front of the camera with the women he was supposed to be courting and how he was with Dev when the cameras were off. I loved getting to see him grow with Dev’s coaching. While I don’t want to get into too many details about my own issues that this book brought to the forefront of my mind while reading, I can absolutely guarantee The Charm Offensive will live rent free in my head for a really long time. I don’t think I’ve tabbed or annotated a book quite as heavily as I did with this one. And that’s saying something because I am a liberal tabber. Seeing the way that Charlie was celebrated for differences he was told his whole life were “quirks” and made him inadequate was so beyond anything I could have asked for.

I haven’t really been adding ratings to my reviews this year outside of StoryGraph because I don’t think they’re necessary, but give this book all the dang stars. It deserves them. It made me emotional on more that one occasion:  for having characters I could see myself in, for the aspec/queer rep, for showing that letting people be with us in our darkest and messiest moments is okay and that we deserve love even when we’re in those moments, and for showing that no matter what, it’s never too late to find out who you are and to find the kind of love you want. Whether it’s romantic or platonic, everyone deserves love regardless of their romantic/sexual orientation.

I hope to maybe see a second book set in this world featuring Daphne, the next chosen princess.

Content Warnings:
Graphic: anxiety, OCD, depression, homophobia, misogyny, grief
Moderate: sexual content (not super descriptive), language, germophobia, toxic work environment, acephobia/arophobia, biphobia, blood, injury, bullying
Minor: vomit, violence

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (Spoilers)

Naked cover of A Lesson in Vengeance featuring a Ouija planchette inscribed with EX SCIENTIA ULTIO

I recently finished A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee. This was a sapphic dark academia thriller that I thought was going to live up to the hype, but unfortunately it fell a little flat for me.

The boarding school setting is one that tends to draw me in like catnip, and this book was no exception. Mush like Ellingham Academy in Truly Devious, Dalloway School has a long, dark history that is solidified by its slightly creepy historic buildings, expectations of academic excellence, and a history of death and murder. The girls at Dalloway are given a lot of freedom and that plays a big role in the book.

We’re initially met with Felicity, our narrator, who immediately turns out to be unreliable. She’s come back to Dalloway after the death of her best friend/girlfriend and a stay in a psychiatric facility. This leads the reader to never really know what information can be trusted. Shortly after Felicity arrives back at school she meets Ellis, a famous writer working on her second book based on the murders that took place at the school. Quickly, Ellis sets her sights on Felicity and their relationship unfolds over the course of the book. The plot revolves around the mind games they play with each other, themselves, and the other students of Godwin House. It doesn’t help that Felicity is trying desperately to forget what happened last fall and Ellis wants so desperately for her to remember.

After talking to a few other readers about the book I found that my feelings regarding Ellis Haley weren’t unwarranted. The unlikability of her character was a bit of a turn off and made me not want to pick the book up as often. We talked about how she’s super toxic yet everyone idolizes her because she’s famous. I mentioned how I thought the aim for Ellis’ character was for her to be super toxic yet everyone loved her, causing Felicity to second guess what she thought she figured out. This reminded me of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. The main character is also awful and unlikeable, but that was the whole point. People put others on these pedestals because they’re famous and don’t realize what kind of person they really are until maybe it’s too late. They’re just people who happen to have done something to make them famous. The consistent gaslighting of Felicity by Ellis took me out of the romance element. Talk about not seeing the toxicity until it’s too late because you’re star-struck that someone famous is giving you the time of day and seems genuinely interested in you. Not to mention being mentally ill and getting taken advantage of.

Overall, I enjoyed the spooky vibes of this one—it had me genuinely freaked out a time or two—but I can’t get past the toxicity.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐//5

CW: Death, panic/anxiety, mental illness, murder, animal deaths, underage drinking and smoking, body horror, gaslighting, alcoholism, toxic relationships

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg (Spoilers)

It’s been a major struggle for me to read in the last three and a half months as I’m sure it’s been for some of y’all too. Thanks to Carolyn (howlsmovingbookstagram on instagram) and her most recent readathon, it pushed me to read one book all the way through and not give up.

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsburg is an LGBTQ+ YA novel that tackles some big topics like rape, panic attacks, microaggressions, and gambling addiction. I wasn’t expecting this to be such a heavy book, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well everything was handled. This is a book about what it means to be a man, what it means to be gay, and what it means to live in a world that tries to tell you how you should be.

Max is a chill guy that plays baseball and loves hanging with his two best buddies. He’s always been told that he “needs to warrior up” when bad things happen and don’t let them bother him. When he has an uncomfortable run in with a college guy, he’s left reeling dealing with the aftermath.

Jordan is the opposite of chill. He has his “wives” (Pam and Kayla) who love doing makeovers on him and his dog, Dorcas, and he’s never been kissed. When his mom has a semi-public outburst on the family food truck, things start to spiral.

This book alternates chapters between Max’s and Jordan’s point of view. You see Max dealing with his friends microaggressions against him being half-Mexican and gay, his dad not knowing how to be a dad, and him dealing with toxic thoughts of what a man should be. You also see Jordan dealing with being the caretaker in his house because his mom gave up after his dad died and how that has damaged his self-esteem and self-worth. His mom gambled away their mortgage money and it was up to Jordan to earn it back on the food truck. This brings us to the fateful meet-cute.

I don’t exactly have experience with any of the things either boy went through except maybe microaggressions for being queer and a woman, but my family has had it’s share of loss due to gambling addiction. My dad grew up with horses and doing rodeos. I had always wondered why he didn’t inherit the horses and land he grew up on. Come to find out it’s because my grandpa had a gambling problem and lost all their money and nearly lost them their house too.

In the end Max and Jordan helped each other be better people. Max is this macho guy who didn’t allow himself to be vulnerable and Jordan was more vulnerable but didn’t think he was capable of being tougher. The best thing about having the two perspectives is you get the inner dialogue of each boy. Knowing that Max thinks Jordan is beautiful from the time they meet at the food truck and knowing that Jordan thinks Max is perfect helps really round the characters out. You really see the growth each one of them makes by the end of the book and even though Jordan’s mom gambled away all their money and the food truck gets repo’d, things are more or less okay in the end because they helped each other grow.

I’m glad I read this one even though I was caught off guard by just how heavy it could be at times. I highly recommend picking this one up!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫//5