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Book Review: It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of School Library Journal.

 

looks likeMittlefehldt, Rafi. It Looks Like This. 336p. ebook available. Candlewick Publishers. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763687199.

Gr 9 Up—High school freshman Mike deals with homophobia and heartbreak in this throwback coming-out story. Recently transplanted from Wisconsin to Virginia, shy Mike is mostly a loner at school and feels uncomfortable in his “old-fashioned” family. His conservative, religious father wishes Mike were into sports instead of art and always seems mildly disappointed in his son. When Mike meets Sean, unspoken attraction eventually blooms into something more. A school bully films the two kissing and alerts the boys’ parents to their relationship, setting into motion horrific yet inevitable events. Mike is shipped off to a conversion therapy program, while Sean meets the same fate as so many gay teens from young adult novels of the past. Unlike in those older offerings, however, a few characters provide acceptance, including Mike’s fantastically loving and outspoken younger sister, Toby. Mittlefehldt manages to make the tragedies that befall Mike and Sean not seem like punishments for being gay. Instead, they are shown for what they are: things that happened because of people failing to support and love the boys. The work is told through factual, detached narration and is devoid of quotation marks, and it can be difficult to feel a connection to Mike, who has his guard up for good reasons. It’s only after tragedy strikes that characters begin to drop their defenses and show real emotion and the capacity for change. VERDICT A moving but dated-feeling examination of the costs of homophobia; an additional purchase for LGBTQ collections.—Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN

 

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