Thursday, 4 January 2018

REVIEW: Vanilla by Billy Merrell

Pages: 320
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Release Date: November 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository
A bold, groundbreaking novel about coming out, coming into your own, and coming apart.

Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they're even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises -- mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn't guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities -- with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum -- and how romance and love aren't always the same thing.

My Thoughts:
As someone who is constantly shouting into the void for more books with asexual characters, you can imagine just how excited I was to hear about Vanilla. Focusing on the relationship between Vanilla and his boyfriend, Hunter, this story shows how Vanilla comes to the realisation that he is asexual. Together since middle school, Vanilla and Hunter have had a strong relationship for years, one that people can't help but envy. But when Hunter decides he wants to start moving further with their relationship, Vanilla struggles to explain to his boyfriend how he feels about sex.

Not only is this book about a sexuality that really needs more discussion, but it's also told entirely in verse, so it's just beautiful to read. I can't even begin to describe how happy I was with this story. Asexuality is so often overlooked, and so often excluded from LGBTQ+ groups. Thanks to books like this one, more people have the chance to learn what it means to be asexual, and begin to understand it. 
The characters within this story are so rich. Vanilla himself is wonderful. As readers, we get to go on this confusing and difficult journey to discovery along with him. My heart broke for him so many times when he struggled to make Hunter understand what he was feeling. Hunter was a character that had me frustrated, but he was such an important part of showing that people can learn to understand eventually, despite how they initially react to a situation. One of my favourite characters had to be Angel, though. I wasn't expecting their story to have such an impact, considering I only expected it to focus on Vanilla and Hunter, and asexuality. Angel was such an unexpected but welcome part of the story that brought up valid discussions about gender and identity.

It makes me so happy to know that there will be people out there who can relate to this story and the emotions that Vanilla has, not to mention the challenges he has to face. But throughout this book, readers must keep in mind that this is only one story about a person discovering asexuality. No two people go through the exact same experiences, especially not when it comes to something as complex as sexuality. So for any asexual readers, it's fine if you don't relate to Vanilla's story. Everyone has their own path. 
I'm so glad I had the chance to discover this wonderful story, and I only hope that more books like this one come my way very soon. Not only did it open my eyes to a lot of things, but it also upped my interest in reading more verse. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever Merrell is working on next.  

Royal Rating:


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