Because she feels unliked, Emmy sleeps with a boy who could possibly up her status at school. He was just using her, though, and because of it, Emmy is sent away from her home, to live with her extended family in Vancouver. While there, she meets her cousin’s friend Jude, who she says is transgender.
Why this book?: It was a Read Now on NetGalley. Trans rep, and an easy and quick read? Sure, why not?
I would like to thank James Lorimer & Company for allowing me to have a copy of this book via NetGalley.
I have a bit to say about this book, so please be patient while I figure this out.
In truth, I was expecting this book to be much more harmful than what it was, based off the publisher provided summary on NetGalley and Goodreads. I knew this was going to be stuffed full of problems the moment I saw the cover and read the summary, and here’s why: Jude, the trans love interest, is deadnamed in the summary, a common ploy that publishers do to try and draw people in with ~diversity~. Jude is also described as a “bad person” but it is never explained why he’s a bad person. Besides him being trans and being “bad”, that’s all we learn about him from the summary. I was also concerned with the body type rep in this book, as the way Emmy being overweight was described was really iffy.
And while this book wasn’t as volatile as I was preparing myself for, there was still plenty of problems within. The best way to describe Love is Love is basically saying that it was well-intended, but ignorantly executed.
Throughout the book, I was waiting for poisonous comments to come for Jude, by Jude, or any number of other things. I just knew it was going to hurt. Specifically, they came from one character, Emmy’s cousin, where she misgenders Jude constantly and calls him by his deadname. The cousin even introduced him to Emmy by his deadname, and she would always do it behind his back. Paige, the cousin, was one of the worst people ever, and she is constantly spouting transmisic remarks all throughout the novel, even going as far as saying being trans was a “phase” and that Jude wasn’t right in the head. She’s extremely disrespectful, full of herself, and–well, basically think of the mean, popular girl stereotype. That’s basically her in a nutshell.
While most of the transmisia came from her, it was still spouted left and right, but thankfully not from Emmy. She actually defended Jude once, when Paige called him “she” behind his back, and I really appreciated that–until Emmy started becoming obsessed with Jude because he was so different and interesting. There was one scene in which Emmy was speaking with her mom, and her mom was going off on how being transgender wasn’t normal, and that Emmy needed to be in a normal relationship. This conversation cued the second fucking time Emmy called her mother a wh*re. Jude called her out on using that as an insult, but the way he did it was so infuriating that I didn’t even care that he did it–it came out as ridiculous and like he was oblivious!
Here’s the catch–while the transmisia wasn’t running as rampant as I was expecting, harmful stereotypes and beliefs were being subtly woven into the storyline. Jude’s deadname was “Judy”, which is a type of naming convention for trans people that has frankly gotten annoying. It’s like Robert/Roberta or some shit. Then there was Emmy’s basic stalking of Jude, and insisting that he was different and special because “he wasn’t like other guys” because he was trans. It was almost like she was saying that she was in love with him only because he was transgender. Bach’s handling of a transgender character was commendable for her first try, but Jude’s character was so stereotyped that I was nearly screaming.
And this isn’t even getting on how fatmisic this book is!!
I knew from the start that Emmy would have low positivity. Okay, I’m fine with that, maybe I’ll relate to her on that level. But Emmy was so poisonous towards herself and other people, it was horrible. And, while most of it was her being self-deprecating, she was often mentally attacking other heavy people, and skinny people. She was just so negative I took a long break from this book, if only to prepare myself for the last half. There were even scenes in which Emmy was basically working out to impress Jude.
Emmy was described as a dog quite a few times, as well as a troll another. And this book isn’t even written in first person–It’s third person limited!! It was so toxic and I can only imagine young teens reading this and seeing themselves described as a troll.
Not as main, but Emmy was also mentioned to have anxiety, and take anti-anxiety medication . . . and I just have to say that nowhere in this book did it obviously come into play. Bach was trying to subtly include Emmy’s anxiety with never directly stating it was her anxiety doing this to her. Bach kept skirting around subjects, as if they were too big to tackle and this behavior just belittled them.
Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
When this book wasn’t being insulting, it was just plain infuriating. Emmy was such an uncomfortable character to read about, because not only did she body shame to the extreme, but she was obsessed with Jude. Literally obsessed. And Jude just felt like any standard caricature of a random guy. There was nothing special about the characters, nothing interesting–just confusing or hurtful.
Would I Recommend?
I wouldn’t waste my time on it. Especially trans readers, I found it hurtful with the stereotypes at the least, and the misgendering at the most. Bach didn’t end up writing transmisic lines as I was expecting, but Love is Love could still very well be seen as harmful with how subtle the other problems are.
Trigger warning for transmisia, misgendering, fatmisia (self-shaming and body-shaming others), obsessive relationships, controlling relationships, deadnaming, anxiety, trans stereotyping, fetishization of trans character, parental abuse, and slut shaming.
Published: May 1st, 2017
Publisher: James Lorimer & Company
Page Count: 176
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Overweight and unhappy at home, Emmy gets sexually involved with a popular classmate so that people will think that she is worth liking. When she realizes that he is just using her, she decides to leave her home in Winnipeg to stay with her uncle’s family in Vancouver. Emmy has always been intimidated by her perfect cousin Paige and Paige’s cool friends, so she is surprised to find that the coolest of them is transgender. Emmy is instantly attracted to Jude (who used to be Judy), and starts hanging out at the coffee shop where he works. She even performs at the poetry slam Jude hosts there.
Emmy is never sure where she stands with Jude, and can’t believe that such a confident, charismatic guy might actually be interested in her. Both her mother back in Winnipeg and Paige warn her away from Jude, saying that he will just use her and she will get hurt. But it’s not until she almost falls again into the trap of casual sex to boost her self-esteem that Emmy realizes it’s worth it to put your true self out there for real love.