Fin & Rye & Fireflies

Contains sensitive issues such as homophobia, transphobia and conversion therapy
Fin & Rye & Fireflies
Written by Harry Cook
Contemporary, Mental Health, Queer, Australian
Published August 2020
352 Pages
Thank you to New South Books
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★★★★☆
A gloriously upbeat LGBTQI novel of love, hope and friendship, showing that although it's not always rainbows and fireflies, life's too short to be anyone but yourself...

It started with a kiss... As love stories often do. Jesse Andrews had the arms of a Greek god and he was on the track team. The night of our kiss fell on a Friday.

Then, only a few days later, Fin's world is turned upside down and not in a good head over heels in love way, when Jesse cruelly outs him. An event which ultimately leads to his family leaving town.

But a fresh start isn't going to change the truth of who Fin is. And it's not going to stop his sexuality causing everyone all sorts of problems. Everyone, that is, apart from his new best friend Poppy, her girlfriend in waiting June, and his latest crush Rye... So, while Fin and Rye are enjoying some seriously intimate moonlit moments together, Fin's parents decide to pack him off to the local therapy camp.

It's a nightmare and there's no easy way out. Can Fin's squad hatch a plan outrageous enough to spring him before the conversion acolytes force him onto the straight and narrow?
As far as the town of Lochport are concerned, Fin Whittle is a heterosexual son, his parents are conservative members of the community and there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary here. His father certainly didn't evacuate his entire family because his son is gay and this fresh start, terribly disguised as a work promotion, is most certainly not a bigoted overreaction of the sexuality of your child. Most certainly not. They certainly aren't concerned about the welfare of their son after his sexuality became the hottest gossip in the small conservative and religious community, labelled as perverted with unnatural tenancies. Surely their new home in Lochport will set him straight. Insert fist shaking and extreme eye rolling here.

Fin is lovely and tenderhearted, he identifies as gay and although he's confided in a few close friends, isn't ready to tell the world just yet so when he was cruelly outed by his former crush, his confidence took quite the beating. His parents more concerned with how they're perceived rather than the mental and emotional wellness of their son, as though sexuality is a choice and his father can threaten the gay out of him. Fin's distress is palpable and confronting, especially for queer readers so please tread lightly friends. Fin's father isn't old school, as Fin's brother Elliot would describe him, he's a conservative asshole and a foreboding presence in Fin's life.

Lochport is a seaside town with a small and inclusive community of queer students representing gender, sexuality and straight allies. Poppy identifies as pansexual, she's totally in love with June, her former girlfriend, transgender and chairperson of the Queer Straight Alliance. June is a gentle soul, I loved her sense of justice and wanting to educate others to create an inclusive environment. Poppy is a firecracker, fiercely loyal to her friends, brutally honest and won't hesitate to knock anyone down a few pegs for being a dickhead. Everyone needs a Poppy in their life.

Rye, along with his trusty sidekick British Bulldog Thelma, is the perfect example of why we need more kind and compassionate male characters in young adult. He's wonderfully sensitive and wears his heart on his sleeve. Rye has anxiety and when it all becomes too much, escapes to his secret hideaway at Kettle Lake, chilling and watching the fireflies dance upon the water. At the lake under moonlit skies, Rye and Fin begin falling for one another, the coy smiles and gentle touches are beautiful and I treasured seeing them finding solace with one another.

I was absolutely horrified by Fin's father, his beliefs and straight up homophobia. His mother is slightly more understanding but allows Fin to be treated like shit to appease her husband. I wanted to slap them both into next week. Here you have a wonderful young man, smart, sensitive and compassionate, who just happens to be gay and he's stuck with these horrible shithead parents who send him to conversion therapy to brainwash the gay away. Thank goodness for Elliot, Fin's older brother who has returned home from travelling abroad. He recognised from an early age that Fin may have been gay and wants nothing more than to love, cherish and support his brother, standing up to their father so Fin isn't in this fight alone. I don't know what kind of Christian malarkey this is but I was fuming. Conversion therapy isn't something I know much about but how fucking dare anyone tell someone that falling in love, regardless of gender, is unnatural, that they're unnatural and these charlatan assholes should be imprisoned.

The heaviness surrounding queerphobia, conversion therapy and the issues the queer community face is balanced wonderfully with a hopeful and tender story of friendship, falling in love and the strength and resilience of queer teens. It's beautifully written and an incredible young adult debut from Harry Cook, who will no doubt become a force to be reckoned with. Just outstanding!

16 comments

  1. Oh gosh, this sounds devastating. And intense. But also, really lovely and eye-opening (for a lot of people, I'm sure). I think conversion therapy is insane and should be illegal everywhere. I hadn't heard of this one before, but I definitely need to check this one out. I'm pretty sure it'll break my heart, but some books are worth it.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It should be and I'm appalled that it's still happening and from what I gather, deeply embedded in Christian communities. It's worth it, absolutely. The hopeful messages throughout and the lighter moments are so incredibly lovely, you'll adore this one Lauren.

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  2. Oh Kelly, I just have so much love for this book and these beautiful characters ❤️ and your review is gorgeous ☺️

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    1. Thanks Brooklyn, isn't it just divine! I loved them all but especially Poppy. Everyone needs a friend like Poppy in their lives, not afraid to call you out on bullshit, tell it how it is and come in to bat for you. I'd love a book just based on her story.

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  3. Wonderful review, as always. This one sounds horrible, that Fin has to suffer through such awful parents who rather than accept who he was would rather send him to conversion camp. I think I would be ready to fight everyone in this to help protect poor Fin but I’m glad he has some true friends and family around him.

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    1. I felt incredibly protective of him and how horrible his parents were. His parents didn't seem religious themselves but sent him along to a Christian camp to pray out the gay. What's even more horrifying is how many people like his parents exist in the world and that these horrific camps aren't illegal. Burn them all to the ground and those who support them!

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  4. Just reading the synopsis and your review makes my heart break for Fin.

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    1. It's such a beautiful read Tanya, I'd love to see what you think of it!

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  5. There is conversion therapy? The queerphobes really are outrageous huh. I might pick this book once I'm ready to face Fin's father. Thank you for the heads up, Kelly. Wonderful review.

    Yani at Litfae

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    1. Thanks Yani. It's such a wonderful read and terrifying that conversion therapy still exists, deeply rooted in religion and queerphobic attitudes. It's horrifying and deplorable. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

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  6. I actually heard a lot about this book by another one of my book blogger friends, so I'm starting to think that I might need to read it. It looks good, even though some of the subjects will definitely be a little difficult to deal with.

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    1. It's certainly confronting but such an important read. The ending is wonderful and so incredibly hopeful. I loved the lighter moments and it's so beautifully written, I think you'll really enjoy this one!

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  7. I was really taken by the cover and after reading your review, I can see that the content itself will be the same. More so for how important its message as well as how impactful it sounds like it will be.

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    1. It's such a lovely read Tracey. It deals with some pretty big issues but weaves lighthearted and feel great moments throughout so it's incredibly well balanced. I'd love to see what you think of it!

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  8. It sounds so heavy but the summary started out saying it was "gloriously upbeat" lol

    I'm glad it did end up being hopeful and uplifting and wonderful.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  9. I already want to give Fin a hug. It always shocks me that some parents have such extreme reactions, but I know these people exist. My heart felt better knowing the author balanced the heavy with the light (and that Fin had a great sidekick)

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