Review | Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?

Louis and Louise are separated by a single moment in time, a strike of chance that decided their future. The day they were born is when their story began.

In one, Louis David Alder is born a male.

In the other, Louise Dawn Alder is born a female.

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dream of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different. Certain things will happen in their lives to shape them, hurt them, build them back up again. But what will bring them back home?

Title: Louis & Louise

Author: Julie Cohen

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

[DISCLAIMER] I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and have not been influenced by this.

So this was the contemporary adult book I’ve been waiting to read!

I don’t often like too many sex scenes in my books, or a lot of gritty plots that I feel get crammed into any contemporary book marketed to anyone older than YA. I like reading about real life dramas and loves and conversations, and this book is exactly that.

It doesn’t shy away from some heavy topics, but it does them in a way that I thought was quite sensitive and still managed to give all characters such a sense of personality that you care for all of them.

The main thing I loved, and what really made me give this book my five star rating, was how it handled the issue of gender and how this affects your life. From the huge ways to the tiniest of things, it’s managed really really well. Julie Cohen, you have impressed me.

The writing style in a book meant to show the same life in male and female perspectives was something I wasn’t sure about before I started. How was it going to be handled? Would I get bored of reading effectively the same scene again with only the smallest of changes?

It turns out, no. The flips between Louis and Louise are really gentle, with some overlap in scenes but only when the differences really need to be highlighted. The joint chapters with both Louis and Louise where the same scene or period of time is shown through both lenses at once was especially good.

It’s so cool to see even tiny things be different in the worlds due only to the fact that this one person was a boy or a girl. Also how people treat them differently right from the beginning: from how the grandparents get different toys and they’re dressed in pink and blue to which parent they’re closer to when they’re older, and even their careers.

Even the small bits like how Louise’s mother encourages her to change from glasses to contacts because ‘her eyes are so pretty’ when Louis is not and happily wears glasses till college. It shows how even the smallest of comments can add up to change someone’s self confidence or change their view on the world and how they should be in it.

They both do well in school, but Louise’s report card mentions that she ‘chatters’ all the time and Louis is just ‘doing well in spite of distractions’. Girls are always seen as more talkative than they actually are, where some studies have shown that if the girls talk around 30% of the time in a mixed class, the boys in the class will perceive them as talking for over 50% of the time. When or where this stems from I’m not sure, but it’s interesting to see it mentioned in this book. Even throwaway comments matter in the big scheme of things.

For example, how often do you remember a relatively small comment that impacted you a lot growing up?

I personally remember quite a few that I’m sure the speakers wouldn’t even consider worth remembering minutes after they said them. But to me, they changed me in enough of a way that it stuck around.

I didn’t expect this book to have LGBT+ rep in it and I am very much not disappointed. It’s handled gently and made to be almost background information that just is. I appreciate that, since coming out stories are lovely, but eventually having media just have LGBT+ people exist and have it not be a big controversy or be questioned is the end goal. That’s what real life is striving for too: tolerance was the first step, now it’s acceptance. I also really appreciate how they show this affecting Louis differently to Louise, as public perception of sexuality still varies a bit depending on gender (though it shouldn’t).

Julie covers so much in her writing, every little thing that is the tiniest bit different if you’re a boy or a girl is brought to light, but in subtle ways. This isn’t a book that yells at you, it’s a book that slowly gets under your skin and makes you realise what privileges and disadvantages you have by being the gender that you are, but you hardly realise it’s happening. I’d love to see more of her writing, and maybe something covering the topic of non-binary gender: because male and female aren’t the only two options, and I think I’d trust Julie to take that on in a meaningful and delicate way.

Her writing is so natural and unique, reading this book was one of the easiest things ever.

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Mini Reviews | Books I read in 2018

Last year was pretty intense for me; I got a new job, I got my first ever house! So I’ve missed a few reviews along the way. Well, these poor neglected books are now getting the attention they deserve!

Here are mini reviews of a bunch of books I read in 2018 that were skipped over for review. (pictures are hyperlinked to the goodreads book page)

An Ember in the ashes

Rating: 5 stars

This book was very dramatic, with really well-written action scenes and a cliffhanger ending that made me buy the second book a matter of hours after I’d finished. Sabaa is a very good writer, and the variety and depth of her characters really show that. I recommend it highly!

The Hazel Wood

Rating: 4 stars

Reading this was like living inside an old folk tale or a Grimm fairytale. Very creepy and information drip fed when you needed it. I think it could be a very polarising book, if you don’t like the style then you won’t get on with it, but I loved it a lot. I’d absolutely read a book full of the stories of the Hazel Wood!

The Wicked Deep

Rating: 4 stars

This was a very thoughtful book, and one that really threw me at the end. A very good twist, and really emotive writing. It was poetic without feeling overdone, which is a very hard thing to balance. A unique story and one I will recommend to a lot of people.

P.S. I still love you

Rating: 4 stars

If you haven’t read any of Jenny Han’s books – what are you waiting for? The first of this series was recently made into a film on Netflix and the support it’s received really tells you a lot about how good these books are. They’re sweet and light and funny, the perfect read if you need to feel happy and warm for a little while. The sequel is just as good as the first and a very quick read. Go fall in love with Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky like I did!

Review | The Adults by Caroline Hulse

Meet The Adults

Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what’s best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a ‘normal’ family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did – and it’s too late to pull the plug.

Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends – where this story starts – with a tearful, frightened, call to the police…

But what happened? They said they’d all be adults about this…

Title: The Adults

Author: Caroline Hulse

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5)/5

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

I went into this book kind of excited to see what a “hilarious” book that started with someone being shot by an arrow would be like. I ended it a little disappointed, but satisfied all the same.

It was an interesting book, from five main points of view:

Claire: a solicitor, mum of Scarlett, and dating Patrick.

Patrick: a sporty man, dating Claire. Extremely competitive and very hard on himself. Insecure especially around Claire’s ex.

Matt: Claire’s Ed husband and Scarlett’s dad. A bit lazy and childish, dating Alex.

Alex: a scientist, fairly new to adulthood, and an alcoholic. Struggles to deal well when everyone is put together on holiday.

Scarlett: Matt And Claire’s Daughter. She’s a bit judgmental of the new members of her family and has an imaginary friend Posey: a purple rabbit.

When all of these people are stuck together on a holiday in the Happy Forest, (a place that felt extremely similar to Centerparcs) obviously drama ensues!

For a book that describes itself as “the most hilarious debut you’ll read this year”, I didn’t find it particularly funny exactly. I only really smiled by page 200 at a sarcastic comment by a friend of Alex, and not much after then.

I wonder if the book hadn’t tried to sell itself as funny, but rather thoughtful, then it wouldn’t have set itself up for disappointment. I would describe it as a really in depth look at the lives within a blended family, and how Christmas time can bring out the best or the worst in us. This book is absolutely that!

Although, I don’t think it helps that I happened to read this around the same time I was already starting to feel a little overwhelmed by so much concentrated family time at Christmas. It kind of exaggerated that feeling with the book’s main obstacle being the forced time spent together with so many disjointed people. So that might mean I judged it a little unfairly in that regard.

One person I really could have done with reading more of was Alex’s friend, the one who called her a couple of times during this book. She was the funniest person! Would have really upped the comedic quality of this book, and the sarcastic quality too.

Also it was nice seeing an imaginary friend from a little girl’s perspective. I don’t know if the author ever had an imaginary friend herself, but I could see it being like this. Posey was quite a serious rabbit, very adult in comparison to Scarlett. He was almost like her subconscious thoughts brought to life.

I liked his perspectives on things, and his reactions to the things happening around him. It was a really unique perspective to read about and I’ve never read anything like this before in anything else, so very refreshing!

I also found the flash forwards to the police reports about someone getting shot by an arrow that you read about in the beginning quite interesting. I was a bit annoyed if they gave me spoilers about what was going to happen, but I liked the interesting format.

I’d say, if you want a nice easy-to-read book with some drama and a really well represented blended family, pick this book up! Don’t expect too much from the hilarity side of things and you’ll be able to just enjoy the well written dialogue, and the very human characters (flaws and all).

I don’t often read contemporary adult books, but this was a very nice one to pick up outside of my usual genres. I’ll happily check out this author again!