*I won an ebook copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This has not influenced my review.*
This was such a nuanced portrayal of gender and gender exploration and, to some extent, attraction. Of how complicated and fluid and dynamic they can be. Of how there’s no one-size-fits-all, not even for cishet people, but especially when you step out of the cishet box. I loved that. The main character, Sol, was a trans man. The love interest, Elsie, identified at different times as a lesbian, as bi, as a woman, and then eventually as genderfluid. Sol was generally attracted to women, but even when it turned out Elsie wasn’t one, he still wanted to be with them. There were other characters on various points of the gender and sexuality spectrums, as well lots of thought and discussion about it, especially transness.
This was also an interesting human take on vampires. Not glamorized or beautiful or monstrous. Just people who needed blood and couldn’t go in the sun because it would kill them. They aged differently, but as far as I understood they didn’t truly stop aging, and most vampires didn’t last more than a few years anyway, I assume before accidentally getting caught in the sun. It was also a very real and unglamorized portrayal in terms of how it affected Sol’s ability to work, to date, to interact with people. How he almost got trapped in the dawn because of a traffic jam and had to rush to figure out a nearby place to hide for the day. There was, surprisingly, some sexy blood drinking, but even that got treated differently too, in a more serious way.
There was also an element of the book that I personally felt related to disability, not because of Sol’s vampirism itself, but in the way that he had this difference he didn’t ask for that affected his life, in a world not made for people like him, and he wasn’t given any accommodations or the help that he needed. He was left to just figure it all out and deal with it himself. So of course he was struggling. I felt for him.
There was a romance, but I wouldn’t call this a romance book. The romance was important, a catalyst, and at the risk of mild spoilers, they do stay together, as far as I can tell. But the description feels a bit misleading by calling this a “whirlwind romance” because it doesn’t feel like that’s what the book was about.
This was a very quiet, sedate, subtle kind of book. It seemed more about concepts and feelings and character growth than plot or relationships. It was more… gender, coping, isolation, being haunted (both figuratively and literally, kinda), stagnating, moving forward. I don’t know? I don’t entirely know what it was about. I’m sure there are things others will take from this book that I didn’t, and perhaps there are things I took from it that others won’t.
I don’t think the book was quite for me. I don’t think I fully “got” it, or got everything I was meant to. I didn’t really understand the characters or why they did all the things they did and felt all the things they felt. I found some of them unlikeable too (I believe one was meant to be, though Sol was always oddly kind and understanding toward her). And yet, I didn’t dislike the book. I find myself with more likes than dislikes. If this book were longer, it might’ve started to drag, but it was quite short and just the right length. I think this is one of those books that’s going to be really divisive. It’s not going to be right for everyone, but some people are going to really love it (and already have). And some people, like me, will appreciate certain things about it, even if not everything.
Overall, this didn’t blow me away, but I think people who the book is right for will take more from it. Even so, I enjoyed some of the thought-provoking elements, especially the gender nuance, and the unique, somber take on vampirism that made it feel very grounded and human.
Anyone who likes gender complexity and exploration, trans characters, unglamorous takes on vampirism, and sedate, slow-paced stories that are more about character growth than plot.