Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 12th September 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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 honour roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgement 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 am feeling so blessed this year.
It seems for me that 2018 is going to be a good year for books; I keep reading hit after hit, and Autoboyography is no exception. I am actually trying really hard in recent months to only read LGBTQ+ novels that are written by LGBTQ+ individuals. I like to promote #ownvoices novels but for obvious reasons, this can be a bit tricky when it comes to finding LGBTQ+ work that’s actually written by people from said community.
First of all, just because someone is not ‘out’ or public about their sexuality, does not mean that they are not allowed to write about LGBTQ+ experiences. Therefore, every time I pick up any LGBTQ+ books, I tend to check whether it is #ownvoices. If it isn’t? Fine. I can live with that; I might end up being more critical about the portrayal of the characters (especially if they’re cis bi girls) but other than that, I’m just happy that I get to read it and it’s out there in the world. If it is #ownvoices? Then I’m jumping for joy and promoting it everywhere.
This has been the case for a long time, but since the rise in popularity of mlm (Man loving man, meaning cis men, trans men, gay men, bi men. Any male identifying person who is attracted to male identifying people) ships in media, it’s become normal to find a mlm book written by heterosexual women. And hey, like I said before, it’s fine. But of course, I would argue that I would rather read mlm books written by queer men. When I picked up Autoboyography, I was a little sceptical; it was another mlm story written by women (though after a little more reading, not straight women) about coming to terms with your sexuality and falling in love. It was kind of dripping with mlm experiences, as opposed to a story with mlm characters as the focus but not about being mlm. I just didn’t want to drown out mlm voices by reading and supporting novels about them that weren’t written by them. But, after hearing praise from mlm readers, however, I was intrigued by the story about a teenage Mormon and a bisexual boy falling in love in a writing class.
And boy, was it beautiful.
Tanner’s life, despite being completely different from my own, had so many relatable points in it that I’ve never seen them surface in other books about bisexuals. Firstly, even just seeing the words ‘bisexual’ and ‘bi’ made me feel all giddy, but then Tanner dealing with things that I barely see covered in books about bisexual characters? MIND. BLOWN.
The plot is ultimately, about Tanner and Sebastian’s relationship, however there are so many other secondary plots that are worth mentioning that resonated with me so much. The most impacting one being the relationship between Tanner and his parents. They are sweet, accepting, ex-religious liberals who move the family from California, where Tanner can be as open as he wants, to Provo, Utah near to his mother’s home town where his mother tells him to…basically go back in the closet for his safety. A lot of the interactions Tanner has with his parents are, most of the time, uncomfortable. While I’ve seen many bloggers drop stars from their reviews because of the parents, I see it completely differently.
Tanner’s parents, despite being open and accepting of Tanner, are actually problematic as heck. However, it is all a part of the process of learning to be a better parent for their LGBTQ+ son. There were so many times where I felt for Tanner, where he asked himself questions like while my parents are accepting in theory, will things change when I actually bring a guy home? (Not a direct quote). I’ve thought about that constantly, and while I’m out to my parents and they are accepting, they still refer to my future partner as always a ‘he’, and never have problems about me talking about boys in a romantic way. But, like Tanner, while they still support me (for Tanner, it’s rainbow coloured aprons and motivational bumper stickers) I do think to myself, what would happen if I dated a girl, married a girl, or even mentioned just fancying an actress on TV? It’s all personal, of course, but then again is my liking of boys personal? Or is it just the norm? Are they accepting of me, but like to think that in the end, I will ‘choose’ a boy? Tanner really struggles with his family throughout the book with these feelings of insecurity, and how sometimes he even goes as far to think that his parents are just as bad as Sebastian’s.
It’s the same with Tanner’s friend, Autumn, too. She makes comments about how she doesn’t understand, because he’s dated girls in the past. It’s a part of the whole misunderstanding and blatant ignorance surrounding bisexuality. It’s actually quite an easy concept, but people still confuse it with greediness, indecision, promiscuity, attention-seeking or just hiding the fact that you’re gay. And while I have read books with bi characters, Autoboyography has been the only book where they’ve actually said the stuff that a lot of us bi folk deal with.
Boy, this review is getting long now. I think it’s time to wrap it up. Overall, this story was a mixture of fluffy and super cute, to a real dissection of what it means to be bisexual in today’s supposedly progressive society. Of course I’m gonna be gravitated towards a book about an LGBTQ+ couple falling in love in a writing class, it is the perfect contemporary novel, and there were many times where my heart fluttered delightedly and watching this quiet and gentle relationship form. I’m sure people will say it’s insta-lovey, but they amount of books I’ve read with heterosexual insta-love and adored, I have no problem with making room for this trope but for LGBTQ+ people. Let us have our romantic fluff!
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