Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Published September 12, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I have a love-hate relationship with Christina Lauren's books. It's a bit like a bag of Lays potato chips. You know you really shouldn't eat more than one, but you can't just eat one, and in a few moments, the entire bag has been devoured and you feel full of fat and sodium. Meaning, I find myself compelled to keep reading, even as part of my mind loudly shouts, "noooo!" This is partly because in many of their (Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) novels, insta-lust is often described as love. I don't believe in insta-love, so I can't get behind fundamental premises of their books.

That said, Autoboyography is their first YA novel and it is well done. It's their best work so far. There's the signature insta-lust, but there's also stuttering steps towards intimacy as both Tanner and Sebastian risk vulnerability to get to know each other better. When Tanner says he's fallen in love with Sebastian, it's believable because it's been earned. The all-consuming swooning and distraction over a crush is captured so well, as is the discussion of faith and religion. There's complexity and nuance to how Mormonism is described, and side characters - Tanner's best friend Autumn, and his parents, are also complex, nuanced, and just plain awesome. There were genuine moments where my heart ached, and moments where I wasn't sure where the plot was heading. Ultimately, though, I find the book hopeful and charming, such that at the end, I was on a bubbly high. This is a delightful read.

Rating: 5 stars

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