Monday, March 30, 2020

"Satellite" - Lauren Emily Whalen

The messiness of love is at the core of Lauren Emily Whalen's first novel, "Satellite," a YA story about coming of age, coming into love, and both letting go of and discovering one's own identity.

The first thing you'll likely notice within "Satellite" is Whalen's gift for natural dialogue, a gift that will deepen your immersion into the story and into the lives of longtime best friends Levon and Harmony whose dads have been in love for years and whose uncommonly rich relationship weaves together elements of sibling closeness, flirtatious intimacy, and awesome best friends.

For those familiar with the Chicago area, you'll appreciate the ways in which Whalen brings Chicago to life through a relaxed familiarity with everything that makes Chicago actually Chicago. As someone who has never been particularly fond of the city thanks to a painful relationship that went awry, "Satellite" made me remember everything I loved about the area.

"Satellite" enters a world that I'm guessing is going to feel familiar for young adults - one filled with the messiness of family relationships, the uncertainty around dating and sexuality, and the struggle with not allowing our past to determine our future.

Sometimes, when I'm reading I find myself practically reading through a book. Other times, I find myself taking a more gentle pace and really enjoying the characters. With "Satellite," I really enjoyed spending time with these characters and all their glorious flaws, insecurities, and little victories.

"Satellite" is probably best suited to a more progressive young adult reader. While it's far from graphic, Whalen has a wonderful way of depicting sexuality and intimacy and openly features LGBTQ characters within "Satellite." The LGBTQ community is tremendously underserved in the YA literary world and Whalen's book is a wonderful reading choice for those young people exploring who they are and what it all means.

"Satellite" is written from the perspectives of both of its main characters, while the occasional flashback is used to flesh out the entire story. It's an approach that doesn't always work, but the gifted Whalen makes it work beautifully.

With strong characterizations and an engaging, meaningful story, "Satellite" is a novel I'd wholeheartedly recommend.

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