Tale Takes You On a Transformative Journey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you need a good old-fashioned heartbreaking read, this is the book for you. Jess’s story will tear your heart out and stomp it on the ground, you know, in that good way that book lovers love. Because we’re extra special like that.

About the Book

Jessica Ann Stark, known as Jess, has lost the love of their life. A non-binary twenty-something with a soft spot for girly girls, Jess has finally found her, the one – Emma Lee. The only problem is that she is dating their best bud, Rick. Watching Rick take Emma Lee from nineteen-year-old innocent high school drop-out, to a girl who needs to work “the program”, takes its toll on Jess, who, when all is said and done, is left grieving and questioning everything. Experience sex, drugs, rehab, therapy, coming out, questioning it all and losing everything, with the Bay Area of California as the backdrop. Inchoate is just that, inchoate.

My Thoughts

I know all of you are geniuses with a super extensive vocabulary, but just in case you don’t know what inchoate means – I didn’t – it means “just begun and so not fully formed or developed.” Knowing that really does help interpret this book better. This is a coming-of-age book about a person who is really trying to understand themselves while also trying to figure out their first love.

I couldn’t help but love Jess, and with a few bigoted exceptions, it seemed like the characters within the story couldn’t either. Jess seamlessly fit into the world that they found themselves in, which was scary, illegal, and over their heads. They really only stayed because they had found a girl they fell in love with, and that seems like something that could happen to a young version of all of us. Hanging around the edges of a friend group just to catch a glimpse of that special someone.

Some of my favorite tropes were included in this story, but in new and unusual ways. There was unrequited love, but in the end, we find that it was much more nuanced than we thought. There was a love triangle that was blurry and more confusing than most. There was a young, first love, a dependable best friend who would do anything for the girl they loved. So many good and sweet things, mixed in with so many negative, bad, and sad things. It was such a good representation of how being a young, confused person feels.

As a queer person, who has never and probably will never come out to family, I appreciate the complicated family situations in this story as well. It’s not easy for everyone. It’s also not horrible for everyone. It usually falls somewhere in the middle. And people change throughout their lives. My husband accepts me and loves me for who I am, but my birth family and the ones who raised me – I don’t trust telling. And each queer person has their own story. But each story like this one that is shared, helps people like me and especially struggling queer kids who might read it one day. Normalizing the queer experience, showing us that we’re not alone, is a heroic act in my opinion.

I am so grateful to the author for writing this book, and, along with Love Books Tours, for including me on this tour. I look forward to reading more about them.

Who’s It For?

This is a real tear-jerker and covers some very serious subjects, so it’s not for young or sensitive readers. It’s just listed as contemporary fiction, so it’s not anything like romance or any genre fiction, but it does have some romance, that’s just not the main focus, exactly. It features friendship, self-exploration, and so much more. If you’re up for a very deep and sad read, this is a great book for you.

Content Warnings: This book deals with a lot of serious subjects that sensitive readers may find triggering including, but not limited to, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse/assault, domestic abuse, homophobia, transphobia, adult situations, adult language, violence, animal abuse, death, shooting, gang activity, and possibly more.

About the Author

Lois Vander Wende-Williams resides in the Bay Area of California, where she works as a chaplain and Episcopal priest. With a doctorate in pastoral counseling, Lois has spent many hours listening to various stories of grief and loss. Part of Lois’ creative process is to reuse various tales of grief and struggle and turn them into “pulp fiction” that becomes an interesting read, but also teaches one to ask life questions.

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