________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 32. . . April 28, 2017


Love is Love. (Real Love).

Mette Bach.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2017.
172 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-1208-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-1210-1 (epub).

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

** /4



Emmy tore into a frenzy, grabbing her backpack and throwing the top layer of her laundry hamper into it. She couldn’t squeeze the hodgepodge of colours, all knotted together, into the bag fast enough.

“Stop being dramatic,” her mom said. “You’re not going anywhere tonight.”

Emmy wanted to slam the door, but her mom was still in the room. No one respected her space, her privacy. She needed to cry. She knew she would any second now. But there was no way the tears were going to flow in front of her mom. The one good thing that had come out of three years of hell was that she could hold back her tears.

“Get out!” Emmy yelled. “Leave me alone!”


Emmy isn’t happy with her life at home, and so she tries to have sex with a classmate in order to prove to herself that she’s worth loving. She realizes, inevitably, that the guy isn’t actually interested in her but is actually taking advantage of her. After the fallout of her sexual encounter, she decides to move to Vancouver to live with her uncle and his family, even though she’s always been somewhat intimidated by her cousin. Paige. When Paige introduces her friends, Emmy finds herself attracted to Jude. The two develop a complicated relationship, and eventually Emmy learns that Jude is transgender. After a number of dates and awkward conversations with Paige (who thinks Jude will be a bad influence and will use her), Emmy decides to pursue the relationship with Jude anyway.

     I must say I was expecting more from this book; however, like much hi-lo fiction that attempts to address complex subjects, this one falls short of the subtlety and nuance that is necessary in order for the topic to be fully addressed. Bach’s text also unfortunately harkens back to the early days of trans YA novels where the trans character is examined through the lens of a cisgender individual. It is also odd, to me that the protagonist is Emmy, the cisgender girl who is insecure about her body, yet the cover features an androgynous individual who I can only assume is Jude.

     The writing, itself, is fast-paced, but the didacticism makes the whole narrative seem more like a slightly informal textbook rather than a novel. It appears that the author is attempting to teach a lesson about acceptance rather than telling a story that will first and foremost interest teen readers. Having researched trans representation in novels for young readers for my doctorate, I am hesitant to recommend Love is Love due to its adherence to tropes of earlier and outdated narratives like Luna (Julie Anne Peters).

     While Emmy is pretty well-rounded, Jude is still a bit of stock character. The relationship between the two vacillates between melodrama and textbook didacticism, with a few moments of realistic dialogue in between. The first few chapters in which Emmy clashes with her mom are a bit over-the-top, though I must admit that, as far as teenagers go, the melodrama isn’t entirely unrealistic. In the end, Love is Love is uneven, and I find the representation of Jude troubling as he is treated as a secondary character even though the narrative seems to want him to be the focus of the story.

Recommended with Reservations.

Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (SFU), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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