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Courtney loves his best friend Jupiter, Jupiter loves girls. New girl Rae isn’t sure who she loves or how she feels about it. Odd One Out explores their individual perspectives & the questions they have about their emerging sexualities & relationships.⠀
I love how casually diverse this book is. Race, culture and sexuality all intersect peacefully, naturally & normally. Most of the characters are multi-cultural and/or multi-racial. Jupiter has 2 dads, while Rae & Courtney have single parents, who all link up into a (very inattentive) co-parenting Voltron. (Also, Rae’s dad is perhaps the 1st Chinese Jamaican I’ve seen in print.) It’s the kind of community I love best in real life & want to see more of in print. The book also displays a distinctly modern emotional openness, up to a certain point. I feel like younger people are better equipped for emotional discussion, if not situations, and that really showed in some of the choices made here. There’s a lot of introspection & I was surprised at some of the ideas presented.⠀
However, books like this are why I don’t read a lot of YA fiction. This contains everything I hated about being a teenager. Emotional volatility, fickle relationships, weird body changes, insecurities, intensely stupid crushes–all of that sucked, & still does. It doesn’t help that these teens all sound weirdly old. Rae is obsessed with crosswords and rattles off 4 and 5 syllable words to the points of being nonsensical. Jupiter is a one-woman social justice machine, or at least a boomer’s stereotype of one, with the rants to prove it. Courtney sounds especially geriatric when he describes his physical attraction to Jupiter–he refers to her “having more up top than most girls our age”. He also has a constant erection in her presence, which is laughed off because she’s lesbian. Really? For that matter, most of the sexual situations presented in this book are problematic, most notably a pretty clear statutory case that gets hand-waved away due to the genders of the people involved. This happens side by side with discussions of consent & changing identities yet remains unaddressed, which is a little jarring. The way that sex, independent of sexuality, was handled through most of this book left a pretty sour taste in my mouth, and while I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to discuss it in detail, this review does a great job of deconstructing all of those issues.
Long story short, the main characters are all ultimately really self-absorbed & often mistreat others in their search for themselves. Life is messy & it’s normal for people to be a little crappy, but this book goes beyond that and I just can’t get down with it. ⠀
Despite how I feel about it personally, I am glad this is on shelves. There are definitely readers who need to see these characters and questions represented, and I bumped up my rating a star because I recognize that. But I think this needed to be done more conscientiously. Given the great community of supporting characters the author created to hold this story, it easily could have been. ⠀
Okay, one more petty little thing before I give my final rating–who designed this cover? Why is it so ugly? It gets props for not whitewashing the main characters but what in the 5 minute Photoshop shenanigans is this design? I tried my best to take a nice picture but gave up when I realized it doesn’t look any better in color. It’s petty, but this cover really put me off. ANYWAY…
3 grudging stars and a bucket of ice water over the head to Odd One Out.
If you want to see a list of Pride month reads, click HERE.
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