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Guy Burt - The Hole

Woohoo! Book #13 finished! After reading half of The Hole this morning on the bus, I found I just had to finish the rest of it up this evening. It was a really quick read, only 150 pages (one of the reasons I picked it; long books are being saved for next year!) and really kept my interest.

I originally heard about it from [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's Young Adult Agony Awards (though I don't know that this is YA? It's about teenagers, but I don't know that that automatically makes it YA, and Amazon offers no insight), but lucky for me, by the time I read it, I had completely forgotten any spoilers I'd read.

Anyway, the plot is that five teens have another friend lock them in this basement room at their school while everyone else is away on a field trip. The friend is supposed to let them out after three days, but doesn't come back. I highly recommend it, but it's best read without spoilers.

Spoilers under here! )

Apparently there's a film, which I've put on the Netflix queue, but from the book reviews I read, the film was reeeeeally different. In fact, almost all the negative reviews were people criticising the book for not being like the film. One criticism was that the characters were more fleshed-out in the film and given backstories, but honestly, that didn't bother me at all. I didn't find it relevant. There was the right amount of information needed to tell the story. (In fact, I was quite impressed that the author was eighteen when he wrote this. This book certainly deserves a lot more praise than dreck like Eragon, to name another book written by a teenager.)

This also seemed to have a high number of reviews by people with no reading comprehension whatsoever. One person commented on how you don't know who the narrator is til the very end, but it's clearly said on page ten that it's Liz. D:

Rokuhana Chiyo - IS~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~ 1-4

I ordered the first four volumes of this off Amazon Japan and really wish I had the money to order the rest! (There are currently fourteen volumes and it's still ongoing.) I read all four of these in one go because it was hard to put them down.

IS is short for intersex (or intersexual, as it's said in Japanese), and I want to start off by saying how impressed I am with the author. It's not a guarantee that any author anywhere, even a professional, is going to do research or treat a topic with respect, and manga often feels more like fanfic than other professional fiction, in that it can be very, very self-indulgent and cracktastic, and many authors who are serialised just write whatever comes into their head rather than plotting ahead.

So when I read the author's notes for this, I was really surprised. She originally read a fantasy story about a boy who turned into a girl (or vice versa) and thought it would make a neat manga, so she talked to her editor about doing something with an intersex character. Her editor told her that was a sensitive topic and she would need to research and treat it with respect, and she agreed, not thinking it would be anything. Then she got online and started reading and realised how much work she had ahead of her. And instead of writing something fantasy or sci-fi, instead of writing something made-up that could possibly be offensive, she actually did a ton of research, joined a messageboard for intersex folks, talked to many people both online and in person, and then wrote her story. Furthermore, each chapter she writes not only has to get approved by her editor, but is vetted by one or more intersex people to make sure she has her facts straight and hasn't done anything accidentally offensive.

It's sad that this is something I'm so surprised and impressed by, but that's how it is. I wish fandom would take that to heart for any number of topics...

Anyway, the manga starts off with a couple of one-offs about different intersex people, and then starting with volume two, it focuses on a third character for the remainder of the series. I enjoyed the first two, but I'm glad it settled into something more than just a bunch of one-offs, because there was a lot of repetitive information between the three, plus the first two felt a little too much like issue manga (which tbh, they were).

The main story is about Haru, and the story starts when sie's born (one nice thing about this series being in Japanese is that you never have the pronoun problem!). Haru's parents are upset when they first find out their baby is intersex, but they soon decide to raise Haru as-is, and let hir decide to get surgery or hormones or whatever when sie's old enough. However, they do put down female on Haru's birth certificate, which will become a problem later. More rambly, with vague spoilers )

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