A Toronto Connections Novel
While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though — he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.
Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.
Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.
As is hinted at in the blurb, trigger warnings for descriptions of emotional/transphobic abuse and the aftermath. Not being trans, nor having experienced emotional abuse, I cannot speak to how that is handled. From an outsider perspective, I thought it was fine, but I’ve seen reviews from abuse survivors that suggest otherwise, so perhaps read those and decide for yourself.
I was attracted to this book for several reasons. First, it’s a cornucopia of diversity…and not only that, but it has LGBT+ characters of the lesser explored variety, so I was intrigued. Especially with Evie, as I identify on the gray spectrum. I even chose to read it this month because one of my diversity challenge themes is intersectionality, and since Tyler is trans and biracial it totally fits. Second, and this cannot be understated enough, I LOVE dance books. I’m not a dancer myself, I’m just constantly in awe of the dance community, which I feel is the perfect marriage between athletics and art…both of which I do not excel in. 😛 And third, it’s set in Canada!! I love reading books set in my country, so that definitely played a factor. And honestly, on the whole I was fulfilled! I wasn’t blown away or anything, but it satisfied my desire for diversity, dance, and Canadianism!
Like I said, I cannot speak to the realistic representation of Tyler as a trans character, but I felt like the author explored some of the challenges of being a transgendered man, and the horrible experience of transphobic/emotional abuse. I will admit that while I appreciated some of the observations Tyler had in his journey, this was not a great example of someone healing from an abusive relationship. It was kind of glossed over and shallow, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place. This book was more about the relationship between Tyler and Evie, with Tyler’s fears used mostly as a roadblock to that relationship. So more heavy on the romance, less on depth of an emotional journey. That was fine for me, but may not work for everyone. In general I liked Tyler, but I felt like his character could be a bit inconsistent. And since we didn’t really get to see in depth healing, the constant roadblock from the aftermath of his ex became a bit overused without satisfying growth and change.
I really loved Evie’s character, and her representation for the gray spectrum. I realize not everyone will appreciate it if they’re looking for the quintessential asexual character, which she is not. But as someone elsewhere on the spectrum, I was super excited to see a character very much like me represented, as the gray spectrum really is vast. We got to see her fall in love with different things about Tyler that had nothing to do with sexual attraction. Ace stuff aside, I thought she was really funny, forthright, and a good mix of sweet and sass.
I loved that we got a good amount of dancing as well…it satisfied my wannabe dancer’s heart. And watching Tyler and Evie crush and flirt with each other while dancing was the highlight of this book for me.
On the not so good side of things, there were a lot of little threads left hanging and not dealt with…I don’t understand why an author would introduce something and leave it unresolved. The biggest was Evie’s relationship with her mother. It was constantly in the background through emails, and quite frankly it was kind of toxic. But we never see the resolution in that relationship. Perhaps if we were told she had a bad relationship, that she couldn’t come out to her family, but left it at that, I would have been OK having it glossed over at the end. But to see the quietly toxic relationship consistently in the background, complete with fat-shaming remarks, and to then see no resolution was unsatisfying.
I was also really unimpressed with Gigi in this story…he made fat-shaming remarks of his own that made me uncomfortable, and he was really allowed to be fairly mean throughout the story without consequences. And I wasn’t impressed with his side story, especially if he’s going to get a book of his own. I would have liked more Tyler/Evie time.
And quite frankly, none of the friendships were super awesome. They could have good qualities, but there was a level of care missing at times…just a lot of meddling without thinking of consequences.
There were a lot of terms used in this book that went unexplained…from the tumblr things Evie and Sarah connected with, to dance terms, to whatever fujoshi is (still need to Google that). And it took me a bit to figure out that Bailey is nonbinary, and that when the author used they/them they were just talking about Bailey, and not Bailey and Sarah or something. I liked having another lesser explored LGBT+ character represented, but it was too bad that it took me so long to understand that.
So yeah. Like I said, not blown away, but still enjoyed myself (rounding up for the dance aspect alone). It wasn’t a book I gobbled up, but it did have some great aspects that I personally really enjoyed! As an aside, am I the only Canadian that doesn’t actually consume a lot of maple syrup?