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Autoboyography by Christina Lauren - Review

Sunday, May 31, 2020


Where did I get it? It was a present from my partner a few weeks ago. I'd had it recommended by my friend Janet and asked my partner for it for an occasion. He bought me a couple of other books too! It's difficult to buy me books as I have so many but I had asked for these. 

What's it about? It's about a boy called Tanner who lives in Provo, Utah, which is like 90% Mormon. He is from California originally, but his parents moved the family to Utah a couple of years ago for his mom's job (she's a programmer). Tanner is bisexual and out to his family. However, their move to Utah meant that he had to stay closeted and not be out to anyone there, not even his best friend Autumn. He's about to start his last semester of high school, and Autumn dares him to take The Seminar, which is a class where each student writes a whole book in one semester. Last year, a boy called Sebastian took the class and sold his book, which is about to be published. 

And this year he's back to work as a mentor for the class. He's Mormon, the son of a bishop (which is like being a pastor or vicar). Tanner is not Mormon, or religious at all. His dad is Jewish, but pretty agnostic. His mum is ex-Mormon - she was raised in a Mormon family in California but left when her sister came out as a teenager and was cut off from the family. She's pretty antagonistic towards the LDS church (which I'm not criticising her for at all!). 

Tanner and Sebastian meet in Tanner's class and Tanner falls instantly in love. The two start to meet up to work on Tanner's book, and start a romantic relationship. Tanner's book, though, is all about Sebastian, so he can't turn it in without outing Sebastian. Tanner's parents are less than thrilled that the two are seeing each other, and stop them from being in Tanner's house. Clearly Sebastian's parents don't know. Autumn doesn't know. The two end up hiking the mountain in Provo a lot to make out there. 

I can't really talk about this book without giving my criticisms here. First of all, this book did not grip me for the first half at all. It took me three days to read the first half because I found it quite boring. There's no emotional connection between the two boys. Tanner falls in love instantly, but there's no compelling reason why. There's a LOT of chat between Tanner and his parents, but it's so saccharine my teeth hurt. They're supposedly so supportive, but then they're not allowing him to be his own self by being out? Why not support him to be out, even if only to a couple of close friends? And stand up for him? I dunno. 

What else? Well there's a few plot points that don't go anywhere. At one point, two girls possibly overhear Tanner talking about his relationship with Sebastian, and Tanner spends quite a bit of time fretting about it, but then literally nothing happens? Then there's a whole thing about prom, and whether Tanner and Autumn will go together, but then it's not mentioned ever again - not even whether they go or not. There are a lot of people mentioned, lots of friends and classmates of Tanner, but he speaks to literally none of them throughout the book. I swear one classmate started off as a boy and ended as a girl. Tanner is supposedly good friends with boys called Manny and Eric, but there's no on-page interaction between Tanner and Eric. There's just so much Sebastian! All the time! And thinking about Sebastian! All the time! 

Then there's the fact Autumn is in love with Tanner and he knows this, and he uses that as one reason to not tell her he's bi, which didn't overly make sense to me, but okay. There's a bit where she's trying on prom dresses - in a majority Mormon town, so you would think dresses would be all "modest" - and he kind of shames her for how much skin there's showing. Then there's a really ridiculous thing that happens between them, which -- I understood what happened, and why, and unlike some reviewers, I'm not criticising that. However, the reactions afterwards baffled me. Autumn apologises when she has no need to, and Tanner is kind of a dick about it to her. 

THEN there's stuff where, while Sebastian is struggling with his sexuality and what label to give it, which is totally fine and legit, but while he's doing that, he's rude to Tanner about being bisexual. He seems baffled that Tanner has been with girls, and I didn't like that at all. 

The whole book has quite a fanfic feel to it, which concentrates on the emo drama of falling in love with someone, and has a lot of ~deep~ conversations between characters, but little else. I didn't hate it - I like fanfiction and it can be done really well, of course. But I think if we're reading fanfic we forgive a lot more, and we already know the characters and probably already have an emotional connection to them. I didn't here, and I felt like the book suffered because of it. Tanner is pretty frustrating all the way through.

I did feel like the book gave a good depiction of Mormons and Mormon culture. It must be weird living as a non-religious person in such a religious culture, and I felt like that was well done. Everyone had a story there, and I liked how Sebastian struggled. He kept saying that he didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong, which I liked. 

I started off disliking the book, then liked the second half a lot, then read a few reviews the day after I finished and thought, oh yeah, that's a valid point. So I think it's a bit of a Marmite book. It has its good points, and it is cute and fanficcy, but it has a lot of bad points too. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Obviously. Like I say, I didn't think the stuff around bisexuality was done very well. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's a little graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No I don't think so

Are there swear words? Maybe a couple. 

What criticisms do I have? See the many paragraphs above! 

Would I recommend the book? Maybe as a quick read yeah. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just wanted to get to it. 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute, it shows you the autobiography part and it shows you the two boys hiking the mountain, too. 

What other books is it like? I thought it was similar to Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

How many stars? Three out of five

Where is the book going now? I'll pass it on to someone who might love it more, I think!

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