**ARC courtesy of NetGalley.
I have mixed feeling about this book. I seriously couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, so perhaps I went into it with my hopes too high. First things first: I’ve only read Cam Girl so far, and if I had known that this was a continuation of several characters from Wake’s previous novels (published under the name Leah Raeder), then I probably would have elected to read the books in order. It doesn’t really affect your understanding of the novel, but I think that now that I’ve seen the characters “down the road”, it may affect the way I read his other novels, Black Iris and Unteachable.
That aside, I flew through Bad Boy in about two days. The writing was more of the flowery, poetic style I had grown accustomed to in Cam Girl, although in my opinion it was a bit more subtle in this book compared to CG (which makes sense because the narrator in CG, Vada, is an artist). There definitely wasn’t as much ~sexy time~ as in CG either, but what there is is as swoon-worthy as I’ve come to expect. Basic synopsis: Ren, the main character, is transgender and makes a living off of vlogging about his transition on YouTube. When he’s not on camera, he’s a vigilante with Black Iris, scaring some sense into abusive, misogynistic trolls who threaten women online.
My biggest issue with this book is that it’s so heavy handed and laden down with explanations; about feminism, about misogyny, about transitioning — everything. The explanations of concepts sometimes detracted from the story in such a way that I would skip them. As someone already familiar with a lot of these ideas, I found it to be overkill. A large majority of the book felt more like it was the author teaching the reader what feminism is instead of showing it in action. In fact, at least two of the characters aren’t very feministic at all. Ingrid is by far the worst; she was just a mean person and I didn’t enjoy any of the scenes with her. Cam Girl has this “co-dependency” friendship angle as well, but where I could understand why Ellis and Vada didn’t want to be apart, I seriously couldn’t understand why Ren didn’t drop Ingrid like a hot coal. She was nasty, oppressive, invalidating his identity at every turn—it often came as a shock to me as a reader, because she was supposed to be his “best friend”. Honestly, it seemed the only reason she was in Ren’s life was [[MILD SPOILER]] as a plot device.
Biggest takeaway: Bad Boy included a lot of sections labeled “vlog #__” where Ren would talk directly to the audience as if through a vlog. Especially in the parts where he’s describing how certain things work (for instance, the vlog on detransitioning), it felt much more like I was reading a how-to article rather than a book. Because of this style, the plot felt shaky and strung-together by these vlog sections, which made it seem almost as if the book was written solely to explain trans* people rather than to have a cohesive book featuring a transgender person. I understand that some readers might need some extra education on the subject, but that’s what Google is for.
And I know I shouldn’t keep comparing this to his other books, but I likedCam Girl a lot more (of course, that’s not my reason for rating this 3/5, but it bears mentioning). With Bad Boy, I guessed a lot of the plot twists about halfway through the book, and I had a hunch who the “bad guy” was as well. This made the eventual reveal a lot less powerful, for me at least.
Don’t get me wrong; I still really liked the book (although I wish Ellis was more prominent, tbh; she’s my favorite character and the one I identify with the most, and I also want to kiss her right on the face). Wake’s books feature a great cast of lgbtqa+ characters, with lots of lessons to be learned by the reader and truths for them to think about. Seriously. This is stuff that will make you question your own identity and sexuality. And I love books like that; books that make me think, that make me wonder and question and realize truths about myself and other that I may not have known before. I’m just a fan of subtlety. The lesson learning was heavy inCam Girl as well, but Bad Boy seemed much more heavy-handed with it.
Bad Boy comes out December 6, 2016. Go give it a pre-order if you’re interested!