It Looks Like This Review: An Emotional Story about Identity

January 6, 2017 by Jenna | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

It Looks Like This Review: An Emotional Story about IdentityIt Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt
Published by Candlewick Press on September 6th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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It looks like this: Pink, mostly. Puffs of orange just below. The fiercest yellow way ahead—far, far ahead. Red slashed all across. All of it fading to blue, getting deeper and deeper as you go out.

A new state, a new city, a new high school. And Mike’s father has already found a church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plainspoken little sister, Toby, don’t want to go. Mike’s dad also wants him to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, and there’s something uneasy behind his demands. Everything changes when Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and a simple “hey” turns into games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colors of sunrise. But Mike’s father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand.

It Looks Like This is a heartbreaking story about identity and the painful experience of being a disappointment to your parents because of who you are. It’s a fantastic but emotional LGTBQ+ story and it definitely hit me hard.

This novel is about Mike, who is 14 or 15 years old, and just discovering his sexuality and that he may be attracted to his classmate, Sean. The two enter into a secret relationship but both come from deeply religious families. Neither of their parents would approve of them being gay and they have to go to great lengths to hiding who they really are, not only at home but also at school where the bullies are ready to expose them at every turn. That’s probably all you need to know going into the book because it’ll be a much more emotional ride if you just go with the story. I found it to be extremely hard-hitting and I was ugly crying and actually sobbing without warning. I deeply connected with the themes of the book and the feeling of being a disappointment to your parents. While I’ve never really been in a situation where my parents were disappointed with me because of my identity or my lifestyle, it’s always been one of my biggest fears to be a disappointment to others or to myself. This novel captured that feeling exceedingly well and the story felt very real to me.

I loved Mike as the main character of the book. However, it didn’t click for me that Mike was only 14 or 15 and for a good portion of the book, I felt like he seemed a bit juvenile. When I finally figured out he was much younger than I thought he was, it all made sense and I appreciated him and his story even more. I really liked how Mike handled himself in the book, in the face of his oppressive parents and his bullies at school. Mike was really easy to connect with and I loved reading from his perspective. I also thought the side characters were really realistic too. There wasn’t a point in the book where I couldn’t relate with the story.

My only criticism of the books is that I didn’t really like the writing style. I found it to be a bit too simplistic and I would’ve liked a bit more description here and there and for the writing to be more sophisticated. However, I got used to the writing pretty quickly and appreciated it a little bit more once I’d realised that Mike was younger than I thought he actually was.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into It Looks Like This but it blew me away with its emotional plot and realistic characters. If you’re looking for a really great LGBTQ+ story, I would recommend checking this one out because it will tug at your heartstrings.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thanks to Walker Books Australia for providing a review copy of the book.

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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24 responses to “It Looks Like This Review: An Emotional Story about Identity

  1. sydneyeditor1

    Mike is interesting to me — his age versus how he acts and how the author makes it all work — which for such a complicated topic, I'm so pleased it all does work well resulting in a brilliant book.

    • I'm especially impressed with this book because it's a debut and I'm intrigued by what this author is going to put out next! This was such a powerful read and it was executed amazingly!

  2. Kelly

    I love the sound of this book! I've always found myself drawn to books that make me feel like a billion different emotions, and I think this will definitely be one to add to my list. I'm really glad to hear that you enjoyed this one!

    • I definitely wasn't expecting this book to take me on the emotional ride that it did and I'm super impressed with it, especially considering that it's a debut. I'd highly recommend it!

  3. Great review! I received this book for review, but I hadn't heard much about it prior to your review. I'm really happy to see you loved it. Now I'm really looking forward to it. I love when a book can take me on an emotional roller coaster, as this one seems to have done for you and some of the people in the comments. I'm really interested to see how the religion vs. lgbtqia+ storyline goes in this book, as that is something in real life that frustrates me a lot. And I feel like that's such an important thing to include, because it's something that a lot of writers would be too afraid to approach, even though it is very real and very heartbreaking. Can't wait to read this one now!

    – Lefty @ The Left-Handed Book Lover

    • Yesssss, I'm glad my review managed to convince you to pick it up! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Religion and LGBTQIA+ is something that I'd like to see in more books because I feel like that's such a big part of what people go through in real life and we hear about it all the time. I haven't read The Serpent King yet but I heard that it has similar themes to this one? Hopefully more authors will start to explore this issue a little bit more in the future.

  4. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    Okay LGBT books are my thing and I have no idea why this one wasn't on my radar. But it is now and I will read it for sure. Because it sounds amazing! 😀

    • That's great to hear, Bee! I'm glad I managed to convince you 😀 Before I read it, I'd heard some mixed things about it and was dreading the reading experience but I absolutely loved it and found it to be so powerful.

  5. karaterzis

    Novels like these are SO important, I think. And this sounds wonderful. I hadn't actually heard of it until now (I'm so behind on everything bookish it's embarrassing) and wow, this sounds worth the read.

    • I totally agree, Kara! It's so important to read about different experiences and to learn from them and I thought this was such a nicely told story! Haha and don't worry, I hadn't heard of it until Jeann asked me to review it. It seems to be extremely underhyped!

  6. Olivia-Savannah

    I am so glad that you were able to enjoy this book a lot more than you expected to. It sounds like a really moving read as well, which is thought provoking and dives in deep. A shame about the writing style, but that is something personal so I am curious to see what I'll think of it. Thanks for introducing this one to me!

    My recent post:

    • Yeah I wasn't a fan of the writing style but I also got used to it pretty quickly and the story and the emotion of it definitely took over and made me forget about the writing. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

  7. lab1990

    I have wanted to read this one. It's been on my to-read list since before it came out. Sorry you didn't love the writing style, but I am glad you enjoyed the book overall. I'm very curious.


    • Oooh I highly recommend it then! I actually hadn't heard of the book before getting it for review but I'm so glad that I gave it a chance because it was stunning!

  8. This does sound really emotional, and it reminds me of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit (just a bit though). Mainly the fact that everyone is hiding behind religion. I actually haven't heard of this until now (assuming it is OzYA?) so I'll have to be on the look out for it. But I'm glad you loved it Jenna! If I didn't know before hand, I probably would also assume that Mike is 15+.

    Awesome review Jenna!

    • Haha it's actually not an OzYA release! The author is from New York I believe. I think it's incredibly underhyped because I hadn't heard of it before Jeann sent it my way either. There are some mixed reviews on Goodreads but I thought the story and the themes were really beautifully executed! I haven't read Georgia Peaches but every time I see the cover, it makes me want to pick it up! I might have to look further into it now.

  9. This sounds fantastic, Jenna! I haven't found all that many LGBTQIA+ stories lately, so this is definitely going on my TBR shelf. It makes me both sad and angry when parents can't manage to love their children no matter what, so I'm sure it will be an emotional read for me, too.
    Great review!

    • So glad to hear that Lexxie! I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would going into it because I just connected with it so much emotionally. I hope you enjoy it if you do get a chance to pick it up!

  10. I loved this one too Jenna, so so much. I thought Mike was much older than he was at first as well, but his story almost broke me. Seeing how his parents (especially his father) hid behind the church, I was so incredibly angry and sadly, it's sentiments echoed by a few Christians as well. Anyone that uses religion as an excuse for ignorance and hate, it's disturbing to say the least. I know there's been an argument about promoting only affirming LGBT stories for teens, but I think it's important to explore all points of view so others can also see themselves within fiction.

    Wonderful review Jenna, really enjoyed it <3

    • I totally agree, Kelly! I had the exact same experience. I mostly just ugly-cried from frustration and anger. I've seen that argument around for affirming LGBTQ+ stories as well but I think there's a lot to be learned from seeing a variety of different stories and experiences, for both straight and LGBTQ+ teens. Plus I think that ultimately this book has enough of a positive ending for it to be a book that I'm super comfortable recommending!

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