Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Ahimsa Press
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Preachers’ daughters aren’t supposed to be atheists. They’re also not supposed to make pacts to lose their virginity by the end of the year, but high school senior Meredith Beaumont is sick of letting other people tell her who to be.
Spending the last four years as Mute Mare, the girl so shy just thinking about boys could trigger panic attacks, Meredith knows exactly what it’s like to be invisible. But when a vindictive mean girl gets her manicured claws on the anti-virginity pact and spreads it around the school—with Mare’s signature at the bottom—Mare’s not so invisible anymore. She just wishes she was.
Now the girls mutter “slut” as they pass her in the hall, and the boys are lined up to help complete her checklist. When she meets a guy who knows nothing of the pact, their budding romance quickly transforms from a way to get her first time over with to a genuine connection. But when the pact threatens to destroy her new relationship and the fragile foundation of her seemingly perfect family, Mare has to decide what’s more important: fixing her reputation and pleasing her parents, or standing up for the person she wants to be.
CW: Language, animal abuse, sexual assault, religion, bullying, substance abuse, anxiety, and trauma
If you don’t know Katie Wismer, you’re seriously missing out. She’s a YouTuber that talks about books, writing, and more on her channel(s). I’ve been subscribed to her channel for quite a while now. So, let’s talk about this book.
While The Anti-Virginity Pact isn’t Katie’s first book, it is her first novel. However, I didn’t find any of the typical first-novel weirdness or issues that seem to plague first novels. Katie’s writing style is easy to read, which makes this book fly by. I had started it at the end of March and put it down to finish my school semester. I realized I hadn’t picked it back up yet, so when I did, I went back and started from the beginning. It probably took me 8 hours maximum to read the book.
That being said, don’t think this is some light, fluff novel that won’t hit you right in the gut. Because it definitely isn’t light or fluffy and it will hit you right in the gut. The characters in this book are people you know.
We all know the shy girl, possibly expected to be perfect on the basis of who her parents are. We all know the loud, boisterous best friend of said shy girl. We know the boy who likes the shy girl but has some skeletons in his closet.
Meredith has the bad luck to not only be a pastor’s daughter but to be one of the shy kids who has horrible anxiety. She is written in a completely realistic and honest way that makes you feel for her. I really liked her character, especially the fact that she’s an atheist regardless of her parents’ faith.
Johanna is the epitome of everything Meredith isn’t and is blatant proof that opposites attract. I relate to her a lot, because in all honesty, I can see myself doing and saying some of the things she does. Not all of them, but a good portion of them. She’s a perfect foil for Meredith and the pair just works as a best-friends duo.
Sam… I love Sam. He’s such a great character. He isn’t the gigantic jerk that you seem to always find in contemporary novels, which is a relief. His responses to the things that happen over the course of the book are very realistic and justifiable, unlike how some characters are written. Not once did I find myself saying “Oh, please, if he’s going to act that way, you’re better off without him.”
Squirt isn’t a human and frankly, I want her. I would just like to throw that out there.
This book deals with hard topics. We see what can happen when members of the same family have differing religious views. We see, in a very realistic way, what bullying in a high school setting can be like. Other topics include sexual assault, trauma, and animal abuse. These topics are handled tastefully but realistically. They were very well done. They pulled at my heartstrings, made me angry, and honestly made me want to reach through the book and start smacking people.
I highly recommend this book.
Genre: YA, Poetry, LGBT, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: August 8, 2019
A fierce coming-of-age verse novel about identity and the power of drag, from acclaimed UK poet and performer Dean Atta. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Kacen Callender.
Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
CW: Profanity, LGBT content, racism.
I admit, I don’t read a lot of books where the main character is LGBT. Not because I don’t choose to read them, but because I don’t seem to find too many that I can get into enough to read the entire book. That clearly was not the case with The Black Flamingo.
I actually adored Michael. He knew he was mixed race and wondered why it seemed so many others who were mixed didn’t acknowledge it. He was looking for his identity, trying to figure out who he is and who he truly wants to be. This becomes especially evident when he goes to college, where he tries out several things before settling into his niche – DRAG.
This book is lyrical and written almost in a poetry style. You can tell that the majority of the book is prose, but the formatting makes it seem more like poetry. There is poetry scattered throughout the book and it was beautiful. I found myself wanting to know when the next poem would show up.
When I read this book, it took me three days, but only a total of 2 hours and 14 minutes according to my Kindle app to go from the start to the finish of the book, which it said the average read time is around 9 hours and 30 minutes. So it is a very quick read and a very good read.
If you are looking for LGBT books for pride month, as well as black authors, and books with black/mixed main characters, you should pick this book up as it meets all of the above requirements. I’m definitely going to have to pick up more of Dean Atta’s work as he is an excellent writer.
I haven’t posted any reviews for a few days and I’ve taken a break from social media. (I don’t consider blogging to be social media if it’s your blog is your entire website.) Part of the reason for this is the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Social media sites are beginning to suppress the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag – I know that in the past day or two before I took a break, I saw a significant drop in the number of posts with the tag.
That being said, while I don’t have a huge platform here, I want to do my part to push this movement forward.
Books You Can/Should Read
- They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Aburraqib
- Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
- I am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin
- Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
- White Fragility by Robin Deangelo
- Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
- Fill Disclosure by Cameron Garrett
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
- The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Layman
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To by Loni Love
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
- Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
- The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- Native Son by Richard Wright
The above list was found on Instagram and now I can’t find the account it was originally posted to. If you know who originally posted the list, please let me know so I can credit them with compiling the list.
The books are *not* linked because I do not wish to profit from this list through affiliate links. Please, look for black-owned bookstores in your area to make your purchases from – don’t give more money to Amazon or Barnes & Noble unless you absolutely have to.
Where to Find Petitions/Charities to Donate To
If you would like to find petitions to sign and organizations to donate to, please visit https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co
NOTE: The above website says that if you have multiple email addresses, you can sign petitions more than once. I do not suggest doing so – it is possible that IP addresses are collected to ensure duplicate signatures aren’t obtained. Duplicate signatures have the potential to negate the petition, so sign more than once at your own risk. I can’t tell you not to do it, I can only advise you of the possibility.
Series: Winston Brothers
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.
His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…
But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.
Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?
CW: Sexual content, profanity, mild violence
If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest fan of romance. I will read it, but I don’t love it, and I definitely don’t continue with a series of it. This one is an exception.
I’ve fallen in love with Green Valley, Tennessee and most of the people who live there. While I’m not in love with the Iron Wraiths biker gang, I am intrigued by the one they call Repo. He seems different than the rest of the gang, especially when it comes to Jessica James.
I love Jessica’s character. She’s funny, sweet, and sassy. She knows who she is and what she wants. Or at least she thinks she does.
Jessica’s brother Jackson is a royal pain in the butt to both Jessica and the Winston brothers. I often found myself groaning at some of the things he did in this book.
The Winston brothers are a collective group of characters – we don’t see them all for very long in this book. The ones we see the most of are Beau, Duane, Cletus, and Jethro. Billy and Roscoe are seen and get a bit of dialogue time, but not a whole lot. It’s mostly Beau and Duane (twins), Cletus and Jethro.
Jethro isn’t seen for a whole lot of the book, I’d say the last 1/4 – 1/3 of the book has Jethro in it. I got the sense that there is much more to Jethro than meets the eye. This is a character I want to see more of – fortunately it appears he is the featured brother in the second book of the series, Grin and Beard It.
Beau Winston is the identical twin brother of our main man in Truth or Beard, Duane. He’s a sweet, easy-going guy. You don’t get to see too much of his personality other than to tell that when the twins are on the loose, Beau is “good cop” and Duane is “bad cop”. He is the focus of the fourth book in the series, Beard in Mind.
Cletus is, to me, adorable. He’s a nerd in the highest sense. He’s good with machines and is just a sweetheart. He’s also a smart aleck at times, which is pretty fun. It seems he got the third book, Beard Science.
Finally, we have the male star of this book, Duane Winston. He’s gruff and no-nonsense. He loves Jessica with every fiber of his being. He’s the bad cop to Beau’s good cop. He’s a great guy even if Jessica can’t see it at first.
It took me a bit to figure out the actual plot behind this book other than Duane loves Jessica and Jessica hates Duane because she thinks he’s a jerk. It’s a classic enemies to lovers trope, but it is done in a way that doesn’t make it as cheesy or obnoxious as a lot of authors do it.
The plot twists aren’t something you see coming. However, there is one plot twist I was expecting that didn’t happen. I won’t say what it is, because it might come up in one of the later books. All I can say is that there are hints to it in this book, so I’m hoping it comes up later.
I gave this a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s not perfect but most books aren’t. I can’t wait to dig into the second book to find out what happens with Jethro.