Book Review: We Were Promised Spotlights


Lindsay Sproul
rating:
published: 24th March 2020
spoilers? yeah I got annoyed so it’s likely

Goodreads

The Miseducation of Cameron Post meets Everything Leads to You in this queer young adult novel.

Taylor Garland’s good looks have earned her the admiration of everyone in her small town. She’s homecoming queen, the life of every party, and she’s on every boy’s most-wanted list.

People think Taylor is living the dream, and assume she’ll stay in town and have kids with the homecoming king–maybe even be a dental hygienist if she’s super ambitious. But Taylor is actually desperate to leave home, and she hates the smell of dentists’ offices. Also? She’s completely in love with her best friend, Susan.

Senior year is almost over, and everything seems perfect. Now Taylor just has to figure out how to throw it all away.

Lindsay Sproul’s debut is full of compelling introspection and painfully honest commentary on what it’s like to be harnessed to a destiny you never wanted.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: homophobia, lesbophobic slurs, child abuse, outing, fatphobia (uncontested)

Sometimes writing reviews of books you hated is easy. Other times, it’s like pulling teeth because you absolutely do not want to relive the book in any way, shape, or form. This book falls squarely into the latter camp.

I’m not quite sure where to start with this book. It’s about a closeted lesbian teen in a small town in America in the 90s. It doesn’t immediately feel like the 90s though – it took me a moment to get that, and I’m still not entirely certain what exactly about the setting was supposed to clue me in (until a date inevitably got mentioned). Anyway, this girl, Taylor, is one of the most popular girls in school. She is also a complete and utter bitch. Think Mean Girls when Regina George is writing in the burn book and parodying herself/Cady. It’s like that, but not a parody, and for the whole. damn. book.

But it’s okay! She’s closeted! She has to protect herself from being considered a lesbian!

Okay, so that’s kind of kidding. But simultaneously not kidding enough. I cannot stress just how little time I have for characters who are horrible, don’t apologise for being horrible, and then have some bullshit excuse for it. Being closeted is not an excuse for being awful. And this book completely fails to make such a judgement on that. She just continues being awful and people continue shrugging it off. And she doesn’t improve at all in the book.

One clear example of this is when she outs another lesbian. What she does is trick her into trying to kiss her, have a photo taken, and then spread that photo around the school. Around her incredibly homophobic school. Like it’s nothing. And then she never apologises for it. But somehow this character becomes something like a friend to her, and also is so incredibly chill about it all. So incredibly accepting that this has happened to her. Another thing that’s just shrugged off. Taylor describes it as choosing to destroy this character’s life, but it’s okay! It’s character building!

(Also, side note, but I didn’t realise I’d stored up that much more rage since finishing this book, oops.)

On top of all this, there are so many slurs in this book. It’s like no character can mention a lesbian character without slotting in a slur to do it. Including the main character. And, I don’t know about you, but I find that so tiring. Like, if I’m supposed to at all like any of these people, don’t have them saying this shit. It’s that simple. As it was, I just ended up hating everyone. (Another side note, they’re all also cheating on each other, so any like I had for any of them definitely plummeted after that little revelation. Definitely lost track of who cheated on who at one point too.)

So they’re all horrible, there’s a whole vibe of the main character is somehow “oppressed” because she’s pretty and popular, and then there are quotes like this:

“She’s not gay,” said Corvis. “She’s fat.” “So?” “So she thinks she can’t have a boyfriend because of it.”

I don’t regret reading a whole lot of books, but this would be one of them.

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