Call Me By Your Name

I‘m going to preface this by stating that I did the worst thing any avid, professional reader–like myself–could do: I saw the movie first. Honestly, what’s probably worse is that I didn’t even know it was a book. I just thought it was a super romantic and transgressive movie. While I’m not wrong in thinking that, the book truly adds to the feelings I experienced when watching the film adaptation.

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Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Published by Picador; Media Tie In edition on October 3rd, 2017
Genres: Coming of Age, Romance, LGBTQ, Identity, Heartbreak
Pages: 256
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


I almost don’t even know where to begin writing this review; it was simply soul crushing (just like the movie was, but even more so). I needed a palate cleanser after reading a few YA books one right after another–don’t get me wrong, it’s still my favorite genre to read, but I needed something deeper. After seeing the movie, and discovering that it is, in fact, a book, I knew I was going to read it. So why not choose the present? And this book seriously took my breath away.

But I think I’ll begin by stating the obvious: this book is hot. It’s definitely hot in the way a trashy erotic novel has a clutching, slow build that sets the reader up with pure arousal before finally allowing the release when the two main characters meet together, but also in the way that Aciman creates the most romantic relationship I have ever read. Ever. And I’ve read plenty of books that contain relationships forming, breaking apart, re-creating, dying, flourishing, etc. And nothing has compared–to this day–to the beauty and rawness that Elio shows to us as the narrator.

What never crossed my mind was that someone else…in my immediate world might like what I liked, want what I wanted, be who I was (25).

The book is told by Elio years after his life with Oliver in the small Italian town, which is not how the movie portrays their meetings–it showcases it as it’s happening, not told years later. But this doesn’t lessen the romanticism of it all as fifty or so year old Elio reminisces, albeit painfully, on his seventeenth year at his home when Oliver, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student, came to work with Elio’s professor father and their relationship blossoms. That’s, of course, the horribly watered down version of this tale, so I apologize for my poor summarizing skills. But what’s important is that Elio is seventeen, living in a wistful little beach town where the heat is tremendous and he doesn’t know who or what he is yet. He’s seventeen and we’ve all been there–unsure of ourselves, unsure of others, unsure of almost everything, but more importantly his sexuality. And what he finds in Oliver is what he didn’t even know he was looking for.

“Do you like being alone?” he asked.

“No. No one likes being alone. But I’ve learned how to live with it.” (76).

Like my previous reviews, I always want to include some critical analysis and literary tools to my thoughts on the book. In order to successfully show his readers the conflicting relationship between Elio and Oliver, Aciman’s writing style is extremely important–he couldn’t just throw together their dialogue and scenes, and he triumphs in showing us so much with so little. If you’ve ever read some of Hemingway’s short stories (particularly Hills Like White Elephants), then you might be familiar with his diction and dialogue choices. Specifically, the lack of flashy word choices and obvious sentences–Hemingway does away with those and makes his readers think about what he’s really trying to say. This is, whether consciously or not, what Aciman implores with his writing. Obviously, we know that this story is about a steamy romance, full of sex and heartbreak, between two men, but this is never explicitly stated (of course, regardless of the sexual scenes). The 21st-century terminology for LGBTQ love is endless, but Aciman doesn’t implore any of these. There is a special subtly to Aciman’s writing that allows for anybody to fill Elio and Oliver’s relationship. Since this story is about Elio finding his own path, coming to accept himself and what he desires in life, and needing to acknowledge and move on from the changes he cannot control, but this story could really be applied to anyone’s romantic life, which is definitely why the story is so deeply moving to anyone who reads or watches.

Another stylistic choice Aciman implores is that, in the movie, we don’t see Elio’s slight stream of consciousness that showcases his seventeen-year-old rambling brain, full of emotions and thoughts and desires and hatred towards himself, his family, Oliver. Being seventeen and unsure of your own identity isn’t a clean process; by having Elio go back and forth in the same sentence (that could be eight or more lines long) Aciman forces the reader into the messy brain of a young, confused man.

This book is a must for anyone who a) saw the movie (and if you did, then seriously, you need to read this because you are missing out on so much more background and future between the two) or b) anyone who wants to feel the heartbreaking whirlwind of a romance between Oliver and Elio because Aciman doesn’t just tell you about their flourishing love, but makes you feel it in your own soul, you feel the crushingness of Oliver leaving to return to the states that summer and then you feel their aging as the years pass for Elio without seeing Oliver, but never forgetting. We all have our own Oliver–that person who will haunt and materialize throughout our lives, both in good and bad shapes. He or she is the person we can never forget, nor want to because they made us who we are. We couldn’t be in our current or future relationships without having their love at the beginning of our life; without learning who we are through them. And Aciman gives us this story to reminisce through so thank you, Mr. Aciman.

I’m going to leave you with the most beautiful part of the whole book:

“You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die, because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense. And if I should hear that you died, my life as I know it, the me who is speaking with you now, will cease to exist. Sometimes I have this awful picture of waking up in our house in B. and, looking out othe sea, hearing the news from the waves themselves, He died last night. We missed out on so much. It was a coma. Tomorrow I go back to my coma, and you to yours.” (240-41).

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The Sun is Also a Star

If you’ve read Everything, Everything, then you know just how realistic in both love and heartbreak Nicola Yoon can be. The Sun is Also a Star does not shy away from the desire for romance and understanding, and the devastation of losing that.

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Published by Delacorte Press on November 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family, Coming-of-Age, Heartbreak
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


Nicola Yoon’s stories are unlike many young adult novels out there. They are not heartwarming. I do not set the book down after the last page feeling content. Instead, I am empty, devoid of all emotion because the previous pages have taken all of my feelings out of me already. I am somber when finishing one of her books; a book-hangover sure to set in at any moment. They are simply that captivating.

Like in Everything, Everything, Yoon starts off right away with introducing characters most readers are unfamiliar with reading about. For example, The Sun is Also a Star revolves around Natasha, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, and Daniel, an Asian-American. Normally, being a white female myself, when reading I input my own thoughts and images for the characters unless they are greatly detailed and in Yoon’s stories, they are. By doing this, Yoon brings race into the story without even directly acknowledging it yet. Of course in this book race is a factor that Natasha and Daniel must deal with, but Yoon simply is creating a space for minority people to have their moment as the protagonist. Both Daniel and Natasha struggle with their identity. Who are they besides their race? Is Natasha really not American simply because she wasn’t born there? Is Daniel not American enough because he still likes Korean food and culture? Furthermore, how can the two of them have a relationship with the other when their parents are racist too?

Not only racial identity, but personal identity too. Neither understand what they want to do in the future. Daniel feels obligated to please his parents into getting into a highly ranked medical school, but he doesn’t feel passionate about that–not like he does with poetry. Natasha, on the other hand, simply found a path that has the best outcome for getting a job at the end.

All of the feelings Yoon weaves into the fabric of Natasha and Daniel are so real that anyone reading will connect in some way or another. Whether it because of race or the fear of deportation because of the US government today, or perhaps more simple, the desire to please our parents versus pleasing ourselves. And finally, to connect with someone so closely, so spiritually, that you love them literally within first sight. Just like how Daniel did with Natasha. That feeling is so strong and overwhelming; it’s desperate and urgent, forcing Daniel to blindly follow Natasha and demand to know more about her. Of course there are the skeptics, Natasha is one of them:

Natasha: The sheer number of actions and reactions it’s taken to form our solar system, our galaxy, our universe, is astonishing. The number of things that had to go exactly right is overwhelming. Compared to that, what is falling in love? A series of small coincidences that we say means everything because we want to believe that our tiny lives matter on a galactic scale. But falling in love doesn’t even begin to compare to the formation of the universe (page 203).

And when the day begins to wind down, a fight has ensued, and the light at the end looks grim and dull, Daniel too has his moments of doubt:

Daniel: Maybe it’s better to end things this way. Better to have a tragic and sudden end than to have a long, drown-out on where we realize that we’re just too different, and that love alone is not enough to bind us (page 195).

And yet, neither can let go. Yoon expertly creates a love story that doesn’t feel cheap or overdone. It feels raw, the energy ripping off the pages, almost taking the ink with it. It surrounds the reader, allowing them to become either Natasha, or Daniel, or both and experience their love first hand.

Daniel: I put my hand on he waist and bury my fingers in her hair. Anything can happen in the breath of space between us. I wait for her, for her eyes to say yes, and then I kiss her. Her lips are like soft pillows and I sink into them. We start out chaste, just lips toughing, tasting, but soon we can’t get enough. She parts her lips and our tongues tangle and retreat and tangle again. I’m hard everywhere but it feels so good, too right to be embarrassed about. She’s making little moaning sounds that make me want to kiss her even more (page 169).

The description of Natasha and Daniel’s passion for each other leaves me breathless. All I can think when reading these scenes is “Damn, I want to be able to write like that.” I would have given this book five out of five stars if it didn’t make me hurt so much inside. Please read this as well as Everything, Everything if you are interested in a real love story. Nothing about damsels or high princes; something that is instead raw and emotional, something that any reader anywhere can feel and connect to. Nicola Yoon, you have once again won my heart within the first chapters, stolen it like a cunning thief and then proceeded to crumple it like a piece of scratch paper and then smash it on the ground. You are wonderful.

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