Love Is Love, by Mette Bach
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Novels, particularly short novels like this one, are not logical arguments, but this particular book, whatever one may feel about its “moral,” demonstrates the sort of emotional reasoning that is common among the young people to whom this book is aimed. The two romantic leads in this book are immensely appealing and relatable, and many of the other characters are not. This may rightly be the account of stacking the deck. Certainly it does not appear as if this is a fair and balanced characterization, but this novel seems to suggest a great deal of what is going on within the discourse of queer culture among the youth . When heteronormativity is represented by the disgusting Ty, who Emmy (the heroine of the novel) gives a blowjob to at the beginning of the novel, the superficial cousin Paige, and Emmy’s mother and her live-in boyfriend, the deck is clearly stacked in favor of normalizing and legitimizing the unconventional but also conventional romance at the center of the novel, which is framed in ways that make it easy for readers to relate to.
This short novel, under 200 pages, is not one that wastes any time in terms of moving from point A to point B. The novel begins with the insecure Emmy thinking that giving a blowjob to popular guy Ty will help her to find the love and affection she desires, but it backfires as others assume she is merely desperate and think rightly that she can do better. A fight with her mother soon thereafter leads her to move from Winnipeg to Vancouver (Canada), where she and her cool but superficial cousin Paige introduces her somewhat unwillingly to her friends and she strikes up an immediate bond with the handsome FTM trans Jude. Complications ensue, somewhat predictably, as they engage in a shy but passionate friendship and then the novel ends with the two of them making out. As the reader spends the entire novel in the head of the insecure Emmy, it comes as quite a surprise that the seemingly calm Jude is full of insecurities as well, at least to her. Once the novel has the two romantic leads enjoying a passionate kiss, the author apparently loses any interest in having them work out the struggles of what their relationship would involve–or perhaps that is the subject of a future novel.
Whatever one thinks about the fairness and balance of the characterization of the novel, and I have some serious objections to how this novel stacks the deck in favor of its protagonists, there are some ways where this is a genuinely useful novel even for those readers who are more critical than its intended audience. For one, this novel is written with an insecure young woman who is overweight and engages in comfort eating, comes from a broken home, and has mood disorders that are dealt with through medication. Her dysfunctionality and burdens are fairly easy to understand for many readers. The fact that she fails to appreciate the sprezzatura shown by her cousin Paige as well as the handsome Jude/Judy suggests that she is not very observant or understanding of the burdens that other people are under. Nonetheless, the portrayal is a good one, and Jude too is shown as being a decent and complicated sort of person struggling with his own image and identity. It’s only a shame that the author doesn’t focus on making the other people in this novel as rounded and sympathetic as its two leads. One need not demonize average and ordinary people to make the couple at the center of this novel an appealing one, and it seems a shabby trick to do so.
 See, for example: