Hey everybody, I am back today with a review of a young adult book that had gotten a lot of popularity whenever it first came out at the beginning of summer. One reason for that was the beautiful cover and the excellent story concept.
Like usual, here is a link to the Goodreads synopsis. Then here is my own.
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is about 16 year old when Suzette (a.k.a. Little to her stepbrother) returns home to LA from her sophomore year of high school at a boarding school in Massachusetts. Lionel (a.k.a. Lion to Suzette) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the summer after Suzette’s freshman year, and her parents decided to send her to boarding school so that she could focus on her own life and not constantly worry about her brothers. During her sophomore year (when she was away at boarding school), Suzette developed feelings for her roommate and has begun to question her sexuality. The story follows the summer in-between her sophomore and junior years of high school where she is beginning to define her sexuality, help her brother as he struggles with his disorder, and racial issues. But, beneath all of this, she has feelings for a female coworker that her brother has fallen in love with. Suzette also is dating a friend who she has known since childhood. Love triangles all over the place, along with other underlying issues that are talked about.
This book deals with a lot of problems and debates that are a hot topic today. Sexuality, mental disorders, underage alcohol abuse, feminist representation, and racial conflicts and interracial families and representation.
I want to pause here for a moment and give a trigger warning. This book touches or manic and depressive episodes, talk about suicide, coming out, and cheating.
Before I start, I would just like to say that I do not believe that this book should have been directed towards young adults and teenagers. I also want to say that I did not grow up in the same community of LA, so I do not know if this is normalized behaviors for teenagers, but I do not condone of it. The fact that this is a teen and young adult book that regularly talks about a 16 year old girl and her friends getting drunk and then driving home is troubling, and should be troubling to anyone.
The issue with Suzette wavering between her sexuality (whether she is straight, gay, or bisexual) is not the same experience that I had. I hold the belief that a person’s sexuality does not define them, but throughout this book, I feel as if it is trying to say that a person’s sexuality is all that they are, and that is all that matters about a person.
Another issue that I had with Little & Lion was the representation of a character with a mental disorder. Brandy Colbert continually stated that it is an illness or sickness, which hits very close to home. I have family members who are bipolar, I myself suffer from depression, high anxiety, along with ADD, and friends who have various mental disorders. I would never consider that any of these people have an illness or are sick. When those terms were used continuously throughout the book, I was taken aback and felt that the Colbert was being very insensitive.
A main issue that is touched in this book is stopping mental health medicine suddenly and not alerting doctors or a therapist. I completely sympathize with Lionel when he decides to stop taking his medicine because I understand! They make your head swim and feel fuzzy and make you want to sleep all the time, but the way that he went about it and forcing Suzette to keep it a secret, I did not enjoy. I have been there with my medicines, but they do help and they prevent disastrous situations. Please do not take this book as an okay sign to suddenly stop taking medicine without taking to a professional.
What I did really enjoy about Little & Lion was the relationships between the characters. Suzette has a step-brother, a step-father, her mother, her best friend, a crush that she is interested in, the boy that she is talking to, and her roommate. Those are the main relationships that you can see throughout this book. The connections that I really enjoyed seeing were between her close family (step-brother, step-father and her mother). I actually have a step-family and I can closely relate to the relationship between Lion and her step-dad. It truly shows that even though a family is not connected by blood, the love that develops does not rely on blood alone. I am very close to my step-dad, and seeing that Suzette also is was comforting. When Suzette talks about the close relationship between herself and Lion, I can reflect on my own relationship with my step-siblings.
The relationship between her childhood friend who she begins talking to, Emil, felt rushed, and as if the reader was to immediately like him, rather than watch their relationship develop throughout the book. It heavily relied on Suzette and Emil’s backstory, which the reader does not fully get. This same pattern continues between Suzette and Lionel when the reader is forced to believe that this relationship is special and built upon multiple years. The reader only gets small snippets of their sibling relationship background. (I wonder how many times I can say relationship before I annoy everyone!)
The last relationship that I really want to talk about is the one between Suzette and her mother. I saw quite a bit of parallel between the relationship with my own mother. Like Suzette and her mom, my mom raised me on her own (my other siblings were grown by the point where I was born). Unlike Suzette and her mother, they were only on their own for a couple of years. In my life, we were on our own until only a couple of years ago. The writer mentions and cites the close relationship and friendship that you develop between these years.
I know that I said I was done talking about the relationships between characters, but we can’t not talk about Suzette and Rafaela’s relation/flirtation ship! Rafaela is this strong, kickass feminist character who does not talk bullshit. She stands up for herself in a realistic way, has realistic and relatable feelings during specific encounters (men being creeps, her backstory, being pansexual). It was easy to like Rafaela as a character. The flirtation-ship between the two had so much chemistry and as a reader, I felt on the edge that something was going to happen between the two for the duration of the entire book.
The idea of the book was well thought out, and for the most part, I did enjoy the setting and where the characters were, I just didn’t enjoy the actual actions that the characters preformed. The synopsis makes the climax sound as if it is going to be very dramatic, when in reality, it didn’t have that “WOW” factor for me. The ending just seemed to hang off with no wrap-up that usually goes along with a stand-alone book.
I’m going to give Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert 2.5/5 stars. Part of me finds it slightly offensive, another part of me finds it to be slightly inappropriate for the audience that it is targeted towards, and another part of me thinks that the story could have been better constructed. I also have come to the conclusion that this book was trying to tackle far too many issues and, in doing that, represented them all poorly.
I feel like I was so harsh on that book, and I understand that I might get some backlash for this review, but this is my completely honest opinion.
If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought about it!
Well, that’s all I have for today! Keep reading and I’ll see you all soon!