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Category: Graphic Novel

Mini Book Review: Adrian and the Tree of Secrets

Mini Book Review: Adrian and the Tree of Secrets

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Adrian and the Tree of Secrets by Hubert

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets by [Hubert]

Cover  blurb (from Amazon): “Adrian isn’t very happy these days. He lives in a small town and goes to a Catholic high school. He wears glasses, secretly reads philosophy books, and wishes he had more muscles. He’s dogged by a strict mother, bullied by fellow players on the soccer field, and chastised by the school principal, who considers gay rumors about Adrian as a sign that he is “ill.” But Jeremy, the coolest kid at school, thinks otherwise; he takes Adrian on scooter trips, where they end up in Jeremy’s secret treehouse stealing kisses. Adrian finds himself falling in love, until Jeremy’s girlfriend rats them out, sending Jeremy into a tailspin of embarrassment for being different than the rest. What will become of him?”

***

I have to be honest with you- I don’t want to review this book.

Generally speaking, I try to provide balanced reviews. I always try to find both positive and negative things to say about any book I read. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, right? However, there are a few things I’d like to point out about this graphic novel.

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** I don’t want to review this book because I’m incredibly angry about the ending. ‘Adrian and the Tree of Secrets’ deals with homophobia, rejection and suicide. Adrian’s fate is left open to interpretation, but it certainly looked like suicide to me. Sadly, this outcome is all too common- here are some statistics and resources if you’re interested. I understand that this narrative might be realistic, but I don’t think it sends a good message. The ending is not only insulting, it’s demoralizing and dangerous.**

**Francisco Tirado, a reviewer on Lambda Literary, says “this book is perhaps five to eight years too late. It seems to exist pre-”It Gets Better Project”… It offers no real consolation and chooses to make an exposé of oppression, rather than offering a solution to a problem.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m not one to shy away from depressing realism. Unhappy endings have literary value. This book, however, is simply bleak. It seems to present suicide as an acceptable option, which is extremely troubling.**

The only high point for me is the art. Marie Caillou’s illustrations are beautiful.

‘Adrian and the Tree of Secrets’ is worth analyzing from a literary standpoint. As general fiction, though, skip it.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help.

U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or visit their website.

The Trevor Project (focuses on LGBTQ+): 1-866-488-7386, or you can chat online through their website.

For anyone outside of the U.S., please visit this site for resources in your country/language.

 

 

 

a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey

a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey

“Now he’s dancing alone, deep in the crowd, eyes closed, letting the music slowly rip him up and put him back together. The DJ is good- the music streams together effortlessly, like a river that has no beginning and no end– song after song after song until he has no idea how long he’s been dancing for– hours? days? Dancing so long, he can’t feel anything anymore– not the pain of being along, not the joy of being alone.” -Merey

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey

 

Publisher’s blurb: “Asher Machnik is a teenage boy cursed with a beautiful androgynous face. Guys punch him, girls slag him and by high school he’s developed an intense fear of being touched. Art remains his only escape from an otherwise emotionally empty life. Eulalie Mason is the lonely, tough-talking dyke from school who befriends Ash. The only one to see and accept all of his sides as a loner, a fellow artist and a best friend, she’s starting to wonder if ash [sic] is ever going to see all of her…. a + e 4EVER is a graphic novel set in that ambiguous crossroads where love and friendship, boy and girl, straight and gay meet. It goes where few books have ventured, into genderqueer life, where affections aren’t black and white. An honoree for the 2012 Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.” (Lethe Press Inc., ©2011)

I feel conflicted about this book.

This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, in the best possible way. The characters are dynamic and not easy to pin down, from a gender or sexual orientation standpoint. I loved the depiction of punk/goth high-schoolers, having been one myself, and I think both Ash and Eu are realistic and interesting characters.

Their relationship also struck me as very realistic. They’re friends, but there’s also an unrequited crush and then things get complicated. I think that experience is fairly common for teenagers: you’re working on building your identity, but sometimes who you are and what you want isn’t clear (come to think of it, I think that applies to everyone, not just teenagers). The characters each go through their own heartbreaks and struggles, they leave and come back to each other for their own reasons and with their own motivations.

I’m certainly not an expert, but I think I’d compare the art style to anime. Sometimes the drawings are detailed and elegant, other times they’re more like stylized manga-type sketches.

There were a few things I wasn’t crazy about, but I think that has more to do with me as a reader. I don’t know why, but I think I was expecting this to be a romantic story, and I’m not sure I’d classify it that way. It’s about love and lust but I’m not sure I’d call it romantic. The whole feel is much edgier, darker and grittier than I was anticipating, which again, is not the books fault, but my own. I just wanted to put it out there for other people who are thinking about reading it.

I also thought Ash was kind of a jerk. He doesn’t always treat Eu very well and it made me mad, but again- I think their portrayals are realistic, and I think we’ve all had the experience of watching a friend fall for the wrong person, but there’s just no talking them out of it.

** Possible spoilers and sensitive content warning**

This book is rough- there’s a drugged rape scene, language I personally don’t care for, and some references to sibling incest. I’m not upset that they’re included, but I wanted to give other readers an idea of what they’re getting into. Like I said before, I think I was expecting a romantic story of two outsiders finding solace in each other, and while I got that (kind of), I’m not sure I was in the right frame of mind for everything else.

***

So would I recommend this book? It’s a tentative yes, and would depend entirely on the individual person. ‘a + e 4ever’ is so unique and I think it’s important to see that labels aren’t the be-all, end-all of gender or sexuality. Ash and Eu don’t fall into neat or easy categories, which I think is much more like real life. However, I would caution readers that there are some very heavy, possibly triggering topics, and to be aware of that before picking it up.

Based on this list, I was thinking that ‘a + e 4ever’ would be about a trans character, but Merey made it clear in an interview that labels aren’t always as straightforward as we’d like to think. So I’m going to honor that idea and say that this is a story about two people, whose sexuality and gender identities aren’t clear-cut.

In a previous post I also referred to Merey as a #ownvoices author, but again, the interview reveals that labels are not always the most accurate way to describe somebody. Without any additional information, I will leave my other post as-is, but if it needs to be changed I will certainly do that.