Odd One Out — Nic Stone

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TITLE: Odd One Out
AUTHOR: Nic Stone
RELEASED: October 9th, 2018; Crown Books for Young Readers
GENRE: Contemporary
AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS:
Courtney “Coop” Cooper

Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .

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When I read Dear Martin from this author last year, I enjoyed it and found the plot important enough to give it a high rating, but something about it didn’t quite “click” with me, so I was super apprehensive about reading Odd One Out. On one hand, I was wary that it, like its predecessor, would leave me feeling as though something was missing—on the other hand, with such a diverse cast, my hopes couldn’t help but ride high.

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Unfortunately, this was simply not an enjoyable reading experience at all. Stone’s writing voice feels so unrealistic and awkward and strange to me. I constantly caught myself thinking that the way she phrased things just didn’t make sense, and sure, that might sound like a trivial complaint, but when it happens over and over throughout the entire story, it’s worth noting. Plus, there are all these really cringe-y moments, like Jupes referring to being aroused as “feeling strangeness down in my secret place” and various other weird, overly childish phrasing. And there are a few places where the writing literally uses action quotes to depict actions (yes, as in, “**eyes bulge out of head**”—direct quote).

This book takes place in three “parts”, with each part being in the perspective of a different character. There’s Courtney/“Cooper”, the cishet black athlete and male cheerleader, who is pretty fun—not too many issues here besides some general “teen boy” horniness. Then there’s Rae, the Irish/East Asian questioning new girl in town. I couldn’t stand a single chapter of Rae’s perspective. The level of self-obsession and childishness in her narrative made me want to DNF this book so badly.

Finally, there’s Jupiter/Jupes, Cooper’s lesbian black/Latinx childhood best friend. Jupes’ perspective starts off in second person and suddenly switches to first person, which is just a tremendous pet peeve of mine. More importantly, though, she’s so hung up on her label that she treats people like garbage when she gets confused. Don’t get me wrong, we need questioning rep in queer books, but when it causes this much harm to the people around the questioning character, it’s hard to enjoy.

On top of that, while Jupes has some great internal monologue surrounding labels and how nuanced sexuality is, there are some moments that made me, as a bi woman, extremely uncomfortable. I don’t want to go into it all here, because I think this is one of those things where some people will be hurt and some won’t, but the casual bi-erasure in the first half, and constant questioning of whether or not bi people are “allowed” to be attracted to trans people in the second half, was exhausting. Oh, and can we talk about the lesbian character who literally states, “I don’t mess with bisexual girls … Enough girls leave you for dudes, and you learn to keep your distance” AND ISN’T EVEN CALLED OUT FOR IT? NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND? This is hurtful and the least you could do is challenge it in the text.

Finally, the last thing I want to talk about is a little bit SPOILERY:

SPOILERS START HERE:

We are led to believe through the entire book that there’s going to be a polyamorous relationship by the end of it, but that falls flat in the end. Despite all three kids spending the whole freaking book whining about how they’re each in love with the other two, in the end, two of them pair off while the other one goes off to do their own thing, and it felt so freaking queerbaiting for polyam rep that I was stunned. I mean, all of the characters even have their own respective fantasies about them all being together in the end, but it’s not even considered as an option! I don’t know, it just felt poorly done and gross to me.

SPOILERS END

All in all, this was just such a disappointing read for me, and all of the fantastic diverse rep in the world couldn’t save it from hurtful moments, a forced and uncomfortable ending, and really unlikable writing from start to finish. This book will absolutely have its fans, but I can’t say I’m one of them, nor will I likely be recommending this book to any friends seeking out good queer rep in the future.

ETA:

I forgot to mention in my original review, but the last issue I want to point out is that this book has some pretty unhealthy age gaps in the relationships. Rae is 15, while Cooper is 18, which isn’t even legal here in Georgia, where the book takes place. Another character is 16, almost 17, when she decides she wants to sleep with a woman in her 20s. The older woman refuses her over and over and the 16-year-old BEGS her and wears her down through pleading, whining, etc., until the woman finally gives in and they have sex. Again, super not legal, super creepy.

Content warnings for homophobia, slurs, kissing without consent, biphobia (not always challenged)

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

30 thoughts on “Odd One Out — Nic Stone

  1. Wow, sorry this was so problematic. It just sounds awful, especially the parts that seem to treat sexuality so casually. Hopefully the next book you read is much better!

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    1. Thank you, Ari, and I’m so sorry that it affected you the same way. 😦 Like you said, it was just really hurtful. I try really hard not to call books super problematic (besides very obvious circumstances of course) because I know sometimes the rep just doesn’t work for ME, but honestly, I’ve only ever felt this personally wounded by queer rep one other time. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for that honest review! Urgh I hate it when there are comments like that in a book and it’s not even challenged. I could only shake my head at the quote of the lesbian character. It hurts to read something like that, it really does. There’s enough of that happening in our real life, we don’t need it in a book as well. Especially not if it’s not challenged. *cringes*
    Anyway, great review! I’m sorry this book was such a letdown and I really hope your next one will be better! ❤

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  3. Omg I’m so disappointed 😭I always feel writing-style interpretations can be super subjective so that usually doesn’t worry me about going into a book, but the really disturbing sex-age-gaps and all the homophobia and problematic attitudes that aren’t called out?! Yeah….nope. I think there’s definitely room to explore characters BEING problematic, but there needs to be a very obvious call-out moment for them. Like I recently read a book by a queer author/about queer characters so I felt like I couldn’t be annoyed…but it had so much internalised homophobia and horrible off-handed snipes that were just “forgotten” about by the end? It made me so mad.

    Anyway I DID like Dear Martin, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing for this one after all…😭

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    1. I knoooow, it broke my heart. I felt like Tyra Banks. “WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” That was basically me while reading it. Honestly, the problematic queer rep and comments were so bad that it wasn’t until I was talking to someone about the book afterwards that it suddenly hit me, how bad the age gaps were (especially the one-night stand between the 17-year-old and the 20-something!) and I was like, “WHOA, WHAT.” Like… did that just happen?! I don’t know, MAYBE that part will be changed in the finished copy? Hopefully? But either way, the fact that it struck her as a good idea to write in the first place makes me feel a little “yikes” about the whole thing. 😦

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  4. Yiiiikes. I thought for a while that I was the only person in the world that felt Dear Martin was subpar writing (though I agree that the subject matter pushed me to a higher rating, though I think I only gave it 3 Stars in the end). Hearing that this novel is equally rushed and messy isn’t shocking. Hearing that it’s offensive and full of poor queer rep DOES surprise me though. Thanks for the review – I will definitely skip this one.

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  5. Okay this is very YIKES. The whole “bi girls leave you for men” thing is not okay because bi women aren’t lesbians, they’re BI, that’s the whole point!!! And the age gap thing bugs me. I feel like there’s been a lot of discourse lately on age, and it’s really annoying because like, adults just shouldn’t be involved with minors and that shouldn’t be radical??
    Great review!!

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  6. AHHHHH YIKES!!! Finally a thorough and honest review on this book. OKAY. I say this as a writer myself… I want to write a book about a black girl (like me) who struggles with depression (like me) in her teens, but I know I can’t do the bare minimum. Otherwise, I could hurt teens even if I’m writing about myself to a degree.

    Thank you for taking the time to point all these issues out. I really appreciate it. My gut instincts told me that this one wouldn’t be for me but I REALLY wanted to support an POC/LGBT+ rep book. I’m almost shocked that there were THIS much problems. I was more worried about the writing/multiple POVs. But this is…a bit much.

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    1. Thank you, Vanessa! Okay, first of all, I love your book idea, and the fact that you care and worry so much about it tells me your book will be amazing, because I think if you’re aware already of how it COULD go wrong, you’re going to be way better at avoiding those pitfalls! ♥

      And thank you so much for reading. I know what you mean about wanting so badly to support a book by a queer author of color, that’s how I felt, too! I’ve pretty much reached the point where I almost don’t read contemporary at all unless it has queer and/or POC rep, but to see both in the same book, I was like “hell yeah!” and then it was such a messy disappointment. 😦

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  7. That ETA-part is something I didn’t even.. realize? On the other hand, I was 15 when I had a relationship with an 18 yo and I’ve always had a thing for guys older than me so maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to just gloss past it.. [Also, FUNNY how Gust is two years younger than I am. Life’s weird.]

    I’ve just written and edited and re-edited my own review on this because I didn’t want to read yours up front and have it influence me in any way. :’) I am going to add a link to yours though, since you mention some things I don’t.

    I’m still torn about this novel. I really liked the.. idea and the concept because people figuring out their label? YES. Queer character coming to terms with having to change their label? HELL YES. But.. like.. ugh. I’ve been trying too hard expressing myself over this book that I just can’t do it in a decent way anymore without pretty much repeating my entire review, hahah.

    The total lack of respect for bisexuals was definitely something I got mad about through. I truly felt attacked by the whole “bisexual girls leaving you for dudes”-thing. That’s one thing I just couldn’t get over at all. :’)

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