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Little & Lion Hardcover – August 8, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Suzette has been devoted to Lionel from an early age, and vice versa. At first glance, they don't look like siblings—a black girl and white boy barely a year apart in age—but their blended family is closely knit. At her parents' insistence, Suzette has been away at boarding school since Lionel's mental health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Now she's back in L.A. for the summer, and she finds more complications waiting. Suzette is dealing with the aftermath of a secret relationship with her roommate at school, new feelings for her childhood friend Emil, and an attraction to the same girl her brother likes, and the secrets Lionel wants her to keep are the last thing she needs. Intersectional and honest, this book covers topics of mental health, sexuality, and family without sugarcoating or melodrama. The supporting characters are just as vivid as the leads, with full personalities and backgrounds of their own (for instance, Emil is black and Korean and wears hearing aids) that are never a cheap plot point. Suzette is a sympathetic and flawed character, struggling to overcome her own fears to do right by the people she cares about. VERDICT A moving, diverse exploration of the challenges of growing up and the complicated nature of loyalty. Recommended for all YA collections.—Amy Diegelman, formerly at Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA
"On the surface, this is a great book that beautifully navigates the elaborate landscapes of sexual orientation and mental health issues. But as I read on, I found myself deeply connected with Suzette, who is gorgeously depicted in all her complexities. This is a book and a protagonist I will long remember."―Bill Konigsberg, award-winning author of Openly Straight and Honestly Ben
"Brandy Colbert takes us on an emotional and gorgeous journey with a protagonist who is trying to figure out where she fits in with her family as well as in the world. A book full of overwhelming love and courage."―Sara Farizan, author of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
* "This superbly written novel teems with meaningful depth, which is perfectly balanced by romance and the languorous freedom of summer."―Booklist, starred review
* "A moving, diverse exploration of the challenges of growing up and the complicated nature of loyalty."―School Library Journal, starred review
* "Colbert sensitively confronts misconceptions about mental illness, bisexuality, and intersectional identity....A vibrantly depicted Los Angeles."―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "From the threads of love and romance, to redefining family life, readers of all walks of life will find an entry point to this title."―Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
"A moving and well-realized examination of secrecy, trust, and intimacy."―Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
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Suzette returns from boarding school hoping to resume the closeness she and her stepbrother Lionel once shared. He seems stable on his bipolar meds, until he stops taking them and makes her promise not to tell.
Brandy Colbert's sophomore effort is just as good as POINTE. Suzette is such a complex character, certainly not brave, worried too much what others will think. She hid both being Jewish and bisexual at boarding school and hides her sexual orientation at home, partially because she's struggling to see where she fits in. When Lionel threatens to cut her off if she tells about his meds, she complies.
LITTLE&LION was so filled with racial, religious and sexuality diversity I couldn't keep anyone straight (no pun intended). Other diversities included economic, mental health and family composition. So many of the minor characters had rich backstories and personas. I loved that the parents were smart, supportive and open. They were also unmarried, but living together for ten years and functioned as equal parents to both teens.
LITTLE&LION is more character than plot driven. Through Suzette's narration, we see her struggles with sexual orientation and her brother's mental illness. She liked both a boy and a girl, the same girl Lionel is dating. While I felt Suzette's attraction to the female she and the male, whom she dated, seemed to lack chemistry. While I didn't like how close she came to crossing the line, and some readers will think she did, I appreciated the sex-positive message for girls (by sex I mean sexuality from holding hands to intercourse).
Colbert writes realistic voice. The dialogue and narration felt authentic. She offers no easy answers to sexual orientation or mental illness. I wouldn't mind a sequel following Suzette's and Lionel's journeys,
1. Diversity. As far as representation goes, I hope Little & Lion becomes the rule. Its characters are authentic and intersectional and exceptional, written with nuance and care. This book's a must-read for contemporary YA fans.
2. Suzette! She has moments of relatable doubt about who she is and who she wants to be, but mostly she's strong and steadfast and awesome.
3. Focus on family. Suzette and Lionel have the best parents. They're supportive and loving and appreciative of their kids' unique qualities, but somehow, they never feel too perfect to be believable. Also, I adored Suzette and Lionel's relationship. They're not biologically related (they're not even legally step-siblings) but there's so much love and loyalty between them. I was constantly moved by the scenes they shared.
Before anyone jumps in to yell at me, yes, there is plenty of good to be said about this book. That's why I gave it two stars, instead of just one. But ultimately when I think about it, I can’t avoid a sour tang of disappointment that once again, this was the only thing to be said about the mentally ill character. And I know. It’s a true story, and an all too common one. But. Does that really mean it’s the only story to tell? I mean, if you want to talk about going off meds, show how hard it is to stand up and do it openly. Talk about how dehumanizing the label "noncompliant" is. Show the ways a person with a mental illness and their family can try to manage without medication. Something, anything.
I get it, I do. Lion’s mental illness wasn’t the point of the book. But it was _A_ point. And loading it on Little was a coercive, abusive thing to do. And I’m tired of seeing that, too.
I don’t know. I wanted to love this book so much. But instead I just feel let down.
Compelling, engrossing, and wonderful - just read it!
Most recent customer reviews
I loved this book so much.Read more
I was instantly intrigued by Suzette and her beautiful relationship with her stepbrother Lionel.Read more