Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

Author: Heidi Cullinan
Genre: NA, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Source: Netgalley
Summary From Goodreads: 
A single stroke can change your world.
Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour. 
Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.
Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

My Thoughts 

Okay, to preface this review, I just wanted to say that I’ve seen a couple of great reviews from readers in the lgbtq+ community discussing the ace rep in the novel. And it’s come to my attention that the representation is extremely inaccurate and even harmful. As a result, I’ve decided to remove my rating but this review will still contain my original thoughts; however, I will also link a few reviews that describe the problematic rep in my review.

I won’t lie, I recently got into manga and anime so I was automatically drawn in by the cover. However, I was very wary of possible cultural appropriation, so I looked up more information about the author/book and found out that one: she’s white, two: this book was apparently patreon funded, three: her dedication was to Yamamoto and Kubo (the creators of the anime Yuri on Ice). The last one was a huge red flag because that just screeches “Weeaboo” to me. But honestly, I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt because I’m an anime fan myself so I get it, you know? But there are so many ways to show appreciation for other cultures without crossing over to the point of appropriation.

Aside from Xander’s love for manga, I was initially interested in this book because of an ace mc. I’m a huge champion of diverse novels, so I was so excited about this since I haven’t read very many books featuring a character on the gray spectrum. That being said, I feel like I can’t speak accurately about its representation so here are two reviews in particular that thoroughly discuss the problematic content: 

Since I’m talking about rep, I’ll go ahead and add in my thoughts about the inclusion of Japanese culture here. I think it would’ve been alright if the main character was just fascinated in manga and wanted to pursue art as a result, but the fact that the college was “Japanese culture-soaked” yet no character was Japanese had me questioning so many things. And the random shrines and background history of the town were completely unnecessary. In fact, it was a bit weird and really didn’t add anything to the plot except to remind the readers that “hey! It’s full of Japanese culture, remember? Cool stuff!!”
Also, *sighs* the use of Japanese language. Again, I totally understand when you discover a new culture and become fascinated and want to learn its language. That’s fantastic, learning new languages is a great thing, and I’m a huge proponent of learning about different cultures. But it’s one thing to appreciate the language, and another to straight up fetishize it. There’s literally zero reason for Xander and Skylar to speak Japanese, especially just randomly in a conversation (that’s lowkey Weeaboo 101). Anyway, before I start ranting, I’m going to switch over to things I liked.

Problematic content aside, I actually liked Skylar and Xander originally and enjoyed their interactions and relationship. I thought they were really cute together. I liked the minor characters as well, especially Unc and Zelda. The overall story arc was a bit cliché but cute. I think it did contain solid themes like acceptance and self-identity. In terms of plot, I felt like the “plot twist” at the end was unnecessary. It was really added drama that didn’t need to be included in the first place. The book is already 400+ pages long which is more than usual for a romance novel. The plot didn’t really drag, but it did feel noticeably long (as in I felt like I had been reading it for a long time). I think a lot of parts could have been cut without dramatically affecting the plot.

Overall, I think that Antisocial has some bad representation which overshadows what could’ve/would’ve been a really cute contemporary romance. I think people can still read and enjoy this novel, as long as they also note the problematic content.


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