Baby & Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma

Posted April 26, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Baby & Solo

Baby & Solo

by Lisabeth Posthuma

Publisher: Candlewick Press on May 11, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBTQIAP+, Mental Health
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: Gay, LGBTQIAP+, Mental Health Conditions, Transgender
Content Warnings: Abortion, Cursing, Deadnaming, Death, Forced Institutionalization, Grief, Homophobia, Mental Health Conditions, Transphobia, Vomit

Rating: ★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

Seventeen-year-old Joel Teague has a new prescription from his therapist—a part-time job—the first step toward the elusive Normal life he’s been so desperate to live ever since The Bad Thing happened. Lucky for Joel, ROYO Video is hiring. It’s the perfect fresh start—Joel even gets a new name. Dubbed “Solo” after his favorite Star Wars character, Joel works his way up the not-so-corporate ladder without anyone suspecting What Was Wrong With Him. That is, until he befriends Nicole “Baby” Palmer, a smart-mouthed coworker with a chip on her shoulder about . . . well, everything, and the two quickly develop the kind of friendship movie montages are made of. However, when Joel’s past inevitably catches up with him, he’s forced to choose between preserving his new blank slate persona and coming clean—and either way, he risks losing the first real friend he’s ever had.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I had very mixed feelings about Baby & Solo for the duration of the book, up until the last ~50pgs.

I’ll start with the good stuff!

This book is overflowing with 90s nostalgiaparticularly of the cinematic variety.  I knew every film mentioned and delighted in it.  ROYO Video reminded me immediately of the small town privately owned video rental storesI went to as a kid (we didn’t do Blockbuster).  The daily grind of the work day in a retail store with a tight knit group of coworkers also rang very familiar.  As a whole, I felt comfortable in the world of Baby & Solo, and that was a nice feeling.  It easy to fall into this book, because in many ways, the world was like a walk through my own memories.

That said.

I had some Serious Problems with the way Certain Things were discussed.  Before I get into those things, I will say that everything was challenged by the end and some characters took accountability, and the reactions were explained (not justified – don’t misunderstand.  Explained).  If I hadn’t finished the book, however, I wouldn’t’ve known this, and it would have made the book as a whole Very Problematic.  There’s conversations about mental health and homosexuality and transgender people that is discussed… well… in a very 90s tenor.  Which means there was a bunch of homophobia, transphobia, and Questionable Terms.  It was very uncomfortable.

I didn’t love the way in which Posthuma addressed mental health in this book.  We’ve advanced past the use of certain terms.  I understand why the language was the way it way, because the story is told in first person and Joel’s self-image (and thus the language he uses) has been modeled by the influential people in his life. Part of Joel’s journey in Baby & Solo is overcoming the shade certain people have cast on his life and beginning to understand The Bad Thing That Happened and the truth behind it.

But there were scenes that made me cringe.  Until I understood – at the end – why they were there.  And until they were challenged. I want to warn you, readers, that there are scenes with people who are so closed-minded, homophobic, trying to dictate what a woman should do with her body… there’s a lot of hate in this book that the characters deal with (and sometimes dish out).  It’s messy and concerning.

At the end of the day, Baby & Solo ended much better than I expected.  I was proud of Joel, once all was said and done.  He still has a while to go, and I’m glad not everything was forgiven, but I was pleasantly surprised with the way everything wrapped up.  The world of this book was wonderful – it’s what drew me in.  And if you stick it to the end, Baby & Solo deals with a lot of issues in a period where the rampant homophobia and judgement against teen moms and everything you see in this book was very alive and well.

Oh, and I really liked the characters, too.  If I changed anything about Baby & Solo, I think I’d use less of the historically accurate hate language and probably be a bit more subtle about The Bad Thing That Happened, but from cover to cover, I enjoyed the book.  If you DNF’d after the first concerning scene, though, I would never have known that everything was challenged and addressed.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

three and a half star rating

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Baby & Solo Stays on the shelf

Baby & Solo was a very quick and easy read, and just at the moment, I found that super refreshing.  It was also so incredibly nostalgic of my childhood that the world was really appealing to me.  At at 3.5, this is on the borderline of keep/don’t keep so for now I think I’m going to give it a little leeway and hold on to it.

I also think that, knowing the end, I may feel differently rereading some of the earlier scenes.

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Do you enjoy books with a lot of nostalgia?  I admit, I’m often drawn in by nostalgia books – aside from Baby & Solo, both Ready Player One and Moxie drew me in.What about you?  Tell me your fave nostalgia reads in the comments!

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