Mini-Reviews: Lakelore + My Mechanical Romance

Please excuse these very late reviews. I am currently trying to draft all my reviews, so I’m not in a frenzy trying to put them together. Though I enjoy writing my reviews on various apps and sometimes on paper, when it comes time to draft them, I easily forget where I wrote them.

Title: Lakelore Author: Anna-Marie McLemore Series: N/A Pages: 304 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Release Date: March 8th 2022

TW: transphobia, misgendering, bullying, sexual harassment, ableism

"In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake - but can they keep their worlds above water intact? Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate. Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide."

In Lakelore, Anna-Maria McLemore takes readers on an unforgettable journey of acceptance and love. Bastián is a transmasculine nonbinary teen with ADHD who has found many ways to deal with their often demanding brain. One such way is making alebrijes and sending them into the world beneath a local lake where they come alive. It is their way of dealing with days when the thoughts in their head become unbearable. Lore is a genderfluid and nonbinary new kid in town. They want very much to leave behind the events that led their family to make the move, but there are some things that will follow you no matter how far you go. As Bastián and Lore grow closer, they discover that something is causing the world under the lake to spill over into the real world. They must reckon with truths about themselves they would rather stay hidden in order to stop it. Both Bastián and Lore have dealt with transphobia and ableism in their lives. But having similar experiences doesn’t mean either are quite ready to share their wounds with the other. Bastián immediately finds a connection with Lore not just because they are both trans, but because they both have disabilities that make them navigate the world differently. For Bastián, it’s their ADHD, for Lore, it’s their dyslexia. McLemore always treats their characters with tenderness and care. One of my favorite things about their writing is how vulnerable they allow their character to be while also allowing them to explore parts of themselves that might hurt to do so. McLemore takes a lot of care walking readers through each of these disabilities and taking the time to explain how both characters struggle with them in a world that doesn’t often make room for them. Anna-Marie McLemore’s Lakelore is a tender novel that highlights both the beauty and fear of being known, of finding someone willing to wait while you peel back your layers, and gives its characters space to make mistakes and stumble.

★ ★ ★ ★

Title: My Mechanical Heart Author: Alexene Farol Follmuth Series: N/A Pages: 272 Publisher: Holiday House Release Date: May 31st 2022 TW: misogyny

"Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn't seem to like her either. Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they've made more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made each other and the team better. Because girls do belong in STEM. In her YA debut, Alexene Farol Follmuth, author of The Atlas Six (under the penname Olivie Blake), explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty. With an adorable, opposites-attract romance at its center and lines that beg to be read aloud, My Mechanical Romance is swoonworthy perfection."

My Mechanical Romance, Alexene Farol Follmuth’s YA debut contemporary, is a charming contemporary with flawed but lovable characters. Bel Maier doesn’t like thinking about the future. She’s isn’t ready to figure out where to go to college or what to do with the rest of her life. She’d rather live in the now, but when new opportunities arise at her new school, Bel discovers a love for robotics. Teo Luna is the golden boy at Essex Academy for Art, Science, and Technology. He is captain of the soccer and robotics teams with the road to MIT pretty much set in stone. When the unpredictable Bel joins the robotics team, it throws both of their lives into a whirlwind and has them both questioning their futures. My Mechanical Romance features two great lead characters whose flaws make them feel more real. They are both bright and tenacious which also makes you want to root for them. I loved how different Bel and Teo are from one another. Their differences cause a bit of tension in the beginning, but having somebody challenge them is actually a good thing. Both Bel and Teo have a lot to learn and they each bring something to the table that the other needs. Bel lacks direction and Teo pushes her to imagine more for herself. Teo has put an unbelievable amount of pressure on himself and his relationship with Bel gives him a chance to be himself without outside pressure telling him he has to be the best. The novel also explores how difficult it is for girls to navigate male-dominated spaces. Bel and the other female members of the robotics team are often looked down upon, not given enough credit, and have to work twice as hard to get any kind of recognition. I also really loved how much the novel focused on both characters’ familial relationships. These relationships are not always easy and contribute to the way both characters see themselves and their place in the world. Alexene Farol Follmuth’s My Mechanical Romance is a smart romance with off-the-charts chemistry and playful banter between its leads.

★ ★ ★ ★


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