Books I "Enjoyed" But Can't Recommend
There's nothing quite as disappointing as a book you could have seen yourself enjoying that was just a little too problematic for its own good. I know some books that could have been ones I recommended a lot but ended up collecting dust on my shelves because I have zero desire to promote some of the things in them. I know we're all aware of those obvious books that everyone in the bookish community knows are problematic, whether in themselves or via the author *cough* Harry Potter *cough*. Saying that, here are some books I can't ever recommend anyone read.
Trigger warnings ahead: discussions of rape, biphobia, panphobia, and homophobia in certain books.
Disclaimer: This blog post will contain affiliate and referral links. I may earn a small commission to feed my book hoarding tendencies if you use these links to make a purchase. This in no way impacts my opinions of the books listed - they are all my own.
No Tomorrow by Carian Cole
Trigger Warnings: biphobia, homophobia
No Tomorrow by Carian Cole easily could have been a favorite romance novel for me. It was beautifully written, intricately plotted, and irrevocably heartbreaking. I am an overly emotional reader but I can say with certainty that this book got to me. I cried my eyes out in exactly the right moments and laughed hysterically in others. The story is the best of every angst-filled romance I've ever read with such great depth to it.
The issue was the biphobia.
The book was so blatantly biphobic that it simply couldn't be ignored. A semi-prominent side character identifies as bisexual and starts the book in a relationship with a man. Eventually, he ends up dating a woman, as a bisexual person does, which is when the entire thing collapses. I couldn't handle the main character constantly invalidating this character's sexuality. It is repeatedly stated that there is something wrong with him because he "can't make up his mind between being gay and straight". This way of thinking is never described as incorrect either and is instead further validated by other characters.
I'm bisexual. I can say beyond a doubt that I won't be recommending this one to anyone for this reason.
Inescapable by CJ Fallowfield
Trigger Warnings: Rape, Mentions of Rape
I will freely admit that at the time I gave Inescapable by CJ Fallowfield a positive rating when I was a newbie book reviewer. The book ended up sitting at four stars on my Goodreads shelves. It was maybe my first ARC when I was still a green member of the bookish community so I was a little overeager. I do think I enjoyed it but there were definitely a few unfortunate problems with it. However, I look back on it now and I can't really bother recommending it to anyone.
The predominant issue I had with this book was that it used mentions of rape as a weapon or as part of a joke. There aren't any graphic scenes but the topic is mentioned a few times and none of it is written well. They become flippant comments here and targeted ones there. It isn't to say that these jokes or insults are frequent but they were enough to unsettle me.
The main instance I still think about to this day is when, as a romantic type suspense novel, the bad guy is inevitably beaten at his own game. The heroine is so relieved to see him being put away that she laughs at him and makes pointed jabs about prison rape. It just felt very gross to me and insensitive. It was something that smacks you right in the face and ruins any sense of accomplishment you may feel for the characters.
Our Way by T.L. Swan
Trigger Warnings: Panphobia, Homophobia
Our Way by TL Swan was a genuinely funny, at least in some areas, rom-com. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked it up because the description was a bit vague. It took me a while but eventually, I realized it was a, "presumed gay best friend falls for a member of the opposite sex". I'm all for a book that talks about a pansexual main character, which is eventually how the man in question identifies, but this one was mishandled. There was too much stereotyping and offensive assumptions.
The man who is at the center of working through his identity is constantly being undermined or told that certain experiences aren't genuine to him. His love interest of the opposite sex is constantly thinking he obviously can't be faithful to her since he is pansexual - a pretty ridiculous assumption in my opinion. There was also a mention that only a man who is a top can be pansexual and anyone else can't possibly fit that category.
It was just a hot mess for me and won't be receiving a rating on my blog because of that fact.
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