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Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert - Review

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle, it was £4.99 which is more than I generally like to spend on Kindle books, but I'd heard it was really good so I thought I'd give it a chance. 

What's it about? Suzette is coming back to LA at the beginning of the book. She has been at a boarding school in Massachussetts, sent away by her parents while they dealt with her brother Lionel's bipolar disorder the previous summer. Her brother's nickname is Lion, and he calls her Little, hence the title of the book. They are a blended family; Suzette and her mother are black, and while Saul and Lionel are white, they are Jewish. Suzette (and I think her mum too?) converted to Judaism and it's an important part of her identity too. 

While at school, Suzette had a relationship with her roommate Iris. The two were outed part way through the second semester, and broke up. Suzette likes girls and is coming to terms with that part of herself. Back in LA, Suzette starts to have a crush on her friend Emil, who she's known all their lives, but she also has a crush on Rafaela, a friend of a friend. Meanwhile, Lionel is getting iller and Suzette doesn't know how to cope. There's a lot going on in this book but it's an easy read. Suzette is very easy to like and I liked her family, I liked how each of them wasn't perfect but tried very hard to think of others. 

I felt like there were a lot of strands in the book that didn't get resolved, and they stopped it from being a perfect book for me. For instance, why was Catie so rude? How did Suzette and Iris get outed at school? How did they leave it between them? There were also tons of characters and at some points, like at parties, I had to concentrate really hard to remember who was who. I feel like some storylines and characters could have been cut without affecting the story. I know that life is messy and imperfect, so it could be that all these storylines were a conscious decision, but I would have liked the whole thing to be a bit tighter than it was. 

What age range is it for? 14+, for a discerning reader 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Suzette herself, and she has a couple of queer friends too. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes again, Suzette herself and her mum. Emil is mixed race, black and Korean. Rafaela is Hispanic too I think. There's a great bit when Suzette and Emil are swimming and get a racist comment from someone also there, and immediately call her out (although I wish she had apologised to their faces). 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Lionel. The depiction of his bipolar disorder isn't too graphic, but may be too much for some readers. I felt like some bits were skated over, but I appreciate that this is a book for teens. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it is a great example of sex in YA literature. It's not graphic, it's very lovely, and they use protection. Wonderful! There's also descriptions of sexual assault, so be careful if that is a trigger for you. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, there's a couple of mentions of using weed, and there's obviously stuff about Lionel's prescription drugs too.  

Is there any talk of death? Yes, a little. 

Are there swear words? Yes, I thought the dialogue was really natural and lovely in a lot of places. 

What criticisms do I have? As I said, I think there were too many strands which never had a good resolution which I would have liked to see. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, a hundred percent. It's really sweet and has a lot going on but it's done in a really good way. I would definitely read something else by this author. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was scrolling through my Kindle and it was quite close to the top. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me in parts of As I Descended by Robin Talley, not just for the boarding school parts but for the best parts of being a teenager

How many stars? Four out of five. Not perfect, but really good!

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