Friday, April 21, 2017

"Meg & Linus" by Hanna Nowinski

Meg & Linus
by Hanna Nowinski

Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?
Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.
But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny - and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was ...
From crowdsourced young adult imprint Swoon Reads comes Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski, a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take risks - even if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.

“Meg?” he asks and stops walking, and when I turn to him he looks worried. “Is everything okay?”
I give up, shoulders slumping, and hang my head to stare at the dark ground of the parking lot beneath my feet. Sometimes it just really sucks having a best friend who actually knows you. “Not really?”
“What happened?”
I brush my hair from my face and can't quite make myself look up at him. I haven't actually told anyone other than my mom, telling people will just make it real, but Linus is my best friend and it's not like he isn't going to find out either way sooner or later.
“Sophia dumped me.”
He stares at me as if I've been speaking Elvish. Except, he'd probably have understood that. “Um. Excuse me?”
“Look, it's not really hard to understand at all: Sophia broke up with me. It's really a very simple concept. We were together. Now we're not. Do you need me to write it down for you?” I wince a little, shocked at myself for talking to him this way. I have no idea what's wrong with me today. But because Linus is the sweetest person alive, he doesn't turn on his heel and walk away from me like I would have deserved. Instead, he looks really worried, takes a careful step closer to me.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Every queer kid in high school needs to read this novel. ... It’s exactly the sort of relevant and positive portrayal that is needed." ~ Teen Vogue
"Told in short chapters with alternating points of view, Meg & Linus is a story of friendship, stable families, and sweet romance. The fact that the protagonist and supporting characters are gay is a nonissue, which makes this a refreshing read." ~ VOYA
"Meg and Linus’s romantic lives take center stage, but first-time author Nowinski also addresses the difficulty of being queer in a small town, where pursuing a relationship requires confidence, and can involve a fear of outing or offending—all of which comes into play as Meg reflects on her past and Linus considers the possibility of a future with Danny." ~ Publishers Weekly
"Readers experience [Meg's] pain and Linus’ uncertainties as the story moves back and forth between their respective perspectives. ... this is one of the rare LGBTQ books to feature both a gay boy and a lesbian who are friends." ~ Booklist
"I also love that friendship takes center stage in this story. ... I didn't want the story to end! Such a beautiful story." ~ Rita, Swoon Reader

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Meg and Linus are best friends who initially bonded over their mutual appreciation of Star Trek. They both also happen to be gay. Meg starts her senior year of high school just as her girlfriend Sophia breaks up with her and leaves for college. Meanwhile, Linus fancies Danny, the cute barista at his favorite coffee shop, who later shows up in his history class on the first day of school. When Meg realizes that Linus has a crush on Danny, she decides to set them up. Tutoring and joining the drama club are just part of her plan. Meanwhile, Sophia starts messaging Linus, and he doesn't tell Meg. As the secrets and lies between them mount, so does the tension. As one relationship ends, another is beginning, and these two friends need to learn to cope with the changes it will bring to their friendship.
Alternating chapters tell the story from the points of view of Meg and Linus. The chapters are really short and the constant change in viewpoint is disorienting. Both characters have the same voice, and I often found myself forgetting whose story I was reading. The narration is awkward and repetitive, with too much introspection and self-doubt, and full of unnecessary comments - almost as if they are telling us everything as, and when, it comes into their heads. It's phrased like they are speaking directly to us, which feels a bit odd, especially in the present tense. Both the narration and the dialogue are lacking in contractions, making the writing stilted and unnatural. The author should try reading her work aloud to hear how it sounds. The dialogue also suffers from an extreme overuse of exclamation marks! Nevertheless, there is some really insightful writing throughout, as you can see from the "Some of My Favorite Lines" section below.
It's nice to see a bit of ethnic diversity among the characters (Danny is Indian and Sophia is African American), and the gay best friends angle is a nice touch. However, Meg herself is too unlikable for a protagonist. She's extremely naive, talking first about her prospective marriage to Sophia, and then about Linus's marriage to Danny - when they haven't really met and we don't even know if Danny is gay! Meg's behavior and treatment of Linus doesn't correspond to that of a best friend. I found her very annoying and was amused when Meg herself later said, "I’m seriously starting to annoy even myself." She's also always feeling sorry for herself; even she admits it: "And now I’m feeling sorry for myself again." The constant shoulder bumping between all characters also gets a bit tiresome.
What I did love was Meg's relationship with her mother. I also enjoyed the interactions between Linus and Danny. Their first conversation is adorably awkward. And the reactions of Linus's parents are priceless. Meg and Linus learn to take risks and try new things as a prelude to their life after school, and it's nice to see them grow throughout the course of the book. I just wish these so-called best friends would learn to talk to each other a bit more.
A light and fun, if slightly disappointing, read.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"... no matter how much tonight feels like a good-bye, I know it isn’t one ..."
"He almost seems a little shy. Like me. At least we have that in common. I like having something in common with him, even if it’s just the inability to chat with strangers."
"I just miss her so much I can’t breathe sometimes, and it hurts."
"... this last first day of school is the worst first day of school ever."
"... maybe details like this will help explain why I don’t want to dwell on any of this - life is different enough without her, without me constantly reminding myself of just how different it really is."
"People sometimes seem to assume that just because you like learning about things, you don’t like being around people. But you can like books and people at the same time!"
"I guess I just always thought that if you found someone who’s willing to put up with all your crazy just to make you happy, it must be the real thing."
"He looks up as I enter and smiles at me; I don’t even have to make a conscious decision to smile back. It just sort of happens to my face."
"He keeps looking at me for a moment, then quickly leans over to give me a hug. Just a brief one, and I don’t really know what it’s for, but hey, free hugs. Not gonna turn them down."
"I’m seriously not built for this level of excitement and sneakiness. Good thing I’m not considering a career in politics."
"Maybe he’s never going to be my boyfriend, but he can still be my friend, and that’s a really nice thought."
"I just want my friend back. Nothing’s the same without him."
"I guess there is a really fine line between helping someone and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong."

About the Author
Hanna Nowinski is a language enthusiast and trained translator for German and English who lives in the middle of nowhere, Germany. She has wanted to be a writer since she learned that books were made by real people. As a kid, she made up her own bedtime stories, mostly sending her stuffed animals on adventures around the world. She loves books, music, coffee, and getting way too emotionally invested in TV shows. Meg & Linus is her debut novel.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (US/Canada only).