And They Lived... by Steven Salvatore is The Perfect Book for Pride Month 🏳️🌈
Updated: Jun 14
GENRE: YA Contemporary LENGTH: 363 pages
PLOT Chase is a freshman at college studying animation. He dreams of happily ever after with his prince charming and hopes to find him on campus. When he meets fellow freshman Jack he believes he's found his prince, but Jack may not be prepared to be what Chase needs him to be.
CHARACTERS Our protagonist, Chase, is an animation major who loves fairy tales and wants to create ones which represent people like him (those from the LGBT+ community). His love interest, Jack, is a writer/English major and is a closeted gay. Their relationship isn't perfect (after all, Jack wants to keep it a secret), but they have this immediate chemistry with each other. Cheesy as it sounds, they read like two people who were destined to find each other. Even though they work with different mediums both are artists and that commonality is very bonding. As a writer myself I think those who understand your soul the best are other artists/creators.
Other characters include Chase's roommate Benny, his best friend Rae, his ex-best friend Leila, and Sofía and Chloe who are juniors that work with Chase on his animation project. Chase's support system is so solid and as anyone who struggles with their mental health (or is a minority like Chase) knows that is so essential. I love to see positive friendships in books and this most definitely has those. The focus may be the romance, but the friends are quite prevalent. Chase and Leila's relationship, meanwhile, speaks to the pain and lingering feelings involved In a friendship breakup. I imagine many will relate all too well to them. The way things end up going between them is bittersweet.
The novel is told from the first person perspective of Chase. Interspersed throughout the novel are chapters of Chase's original fairy tale which he creates as his project for an animation seminar. I liked that we actually got to read Chase's story, but I wish things had been done a little differently. We get scenes in the book of Chase sketching characters and such from his animation. So, instead of chapters of the fairy tale I would have preferred illustrations/sketches as to better match Chase's canonical medium.
This book fills a hole I've noticed in the market which is for (traditionally published) books which take place in college. I think the reason this stage in life is so overlooked is because it's at the top end of YA, which usually takes place in high school, yet it's too young for most adult readers. College are such formative years in so many people's lives, though, that books like this definitely have an audience. College is a time of self discovery and that is very much a theme of this book. Chase is exploring what his gender means to him while Jack is coming to terms with his sexuality. They are also growing as artists in their respective mediums.
This novel has very positive representation for both the LGBT+ community and mental health. It is an own voices novel featuring a genderqueer protagonist which isn't something I've seen too often before. Conversations around gender are constantly evolving and it's nice to see those more modern views reflected in the media young people are consuming. There's also conversations around safe sex in this novel which is wonderful (especially since, at least when I was in school, sex education was lacking. This is even more true with same sex couples).
Chase (and his significant other) seek counseling. Chase had a counselor before college but he also attends sessions with one on campus. As someone who suffers from mental health conditions I love to see this kind of positive representation. Therapy is an important part of one's mental health treatments and needs to be normalized.
The romance in the novel (which is a pretty central point) is overall well paced with the exception of the ending. I think the main couple needed more time apart from each other to learn self-love before their reunion. Other important relationships in the novel had significant issues that were also hastily resolved as well. I suppose the conclusion was fitting for the fairy tale loving Chase, but it's unrealistic. I couldn't be as happy as I wanted to be for the characters because I was so frustrated.
Body dysmorphia, binge eating, purging, homophobia (slurs), underage drinking and drug use
As the title of this blog says I think this book would be a perfect read for this month (Pride Month). There are so many LGBT+ and ally characters with themes of gender identity and coming out. This novel isn't perfect, but it's headed in the right direction. I would love to see more diverse books like this in the future. Whether you're straight, gay, or bisexual, be you a boy, girl, or nonbinary, everyone deserves their happily ever after.
FINAL RATING: 4.5⭐️