Love & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Health, LGBTQ, Mental Health, Young Adult
Length: 352 pages Source: Amazon
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Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny's life. She's failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is. With a starkly memorable voice that's at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants brilliantly captures the painful turning point between an adolescence that's slipping away and the overwhelming uncertainty of the future.
I really, really, really wanted to love this book. I think the name is brilliant. I adore the cover art. I loved that it was a book with a bi (possibly lesbian? Jury’s out because Danny herself isn’t sure yet) character and eating disorders. All sorts of really heavy, important topics and I wanted it to be really good.
It just… wasn’t good. It wasn’t the fit I was looking for, though I can’t really decide if it’s because the book wasn’t well-written, or if it just wasn’t what I wanted from it. I guess I’ll go with the latter… because it’s quite possible that Love and Other Carnivorous Plants is exactly what someone else needs.
So first of all, there’s trigger warnings for alcoholism, eating disorders, body shaming, and drugs. Attempted suicide, too, but only conversationally (nothing live).
The big thing I didn’t like about Love and Other Carnivorous Plants was Dandelion. We spend the story in Danny’s head, and hell yes all sorts of terrible things are happening to her all at once. I don’t like Danny because I don’t believe her. In the afterward, Florence Gonsalves talks about how she wanted Danny to be a relatable but “not necessarily exemplary” character… and she is the latter. But her emotions come in dialogue only, and it makes her fall really flat. We know – because it is written – that Danny is afraid, angry, broken, and lost. But you don’t feel that. I found it incredibly difficult to relate to her because the only reason I knew what she was feeling (in this first person narrative) was when she said an asshole thing to another character.
On the other hand….
Gonsalves makes some really good philosophical points, and lays down some serious truths. While I didn’t enjoy the book, there are many places where I definitely agreed with it. Danny’s a hot mess in the worst way possible and she has these really detached parents who drop her off home alone and tell her to “have a quiet afternoon” after she just got her stomach pumped twice and was found unconscious in a cemetery. But every once in a while Danny or Bugg says something about themselves and the world that feels so true. Moments like that made the book interesting.
I’m still looking for some EO rep that feels a little more real and less angry to me, but I think that everyone’s experiences are different and this would really work for some people.
Love and Other Carnivorous Plants Will Be Donated
Since I was really able to relate to Danny and there were a lot of little places that really frustrated me… like the end for example. I hated the end. I just don’t feel like this one will be a re-reader for me, so it’s going to be donated to the library. I hope someone else will pick it up and enjoy it!