Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
I need to get every single one of the books this person has read, so I can bask in the sarcasm and snark of the dialogue. I really enjoyed all the ‘feels’ I had reading this book, and can practically guarantee that you will, too.
Synopsis: Milo lives with his two mothers, Frankie and Suzanne. Milo’s had it kind of rough. He’s skinny with wild, curly hair, and he’s never quite fit into the world of junior high. In part, it’s because Milo has catastrophic allergies — peanuts, melons, tomatoes, coconut, gluten, wheat, dairy — sooo many things. He’s so tired of the EpiPen and the drama attached to every meal eaten away from home. He’d just like a piece of pizza, just once, hold the drama. He wishes desperately that he knew his sperm donor – not just as someone to figure out where the allergies are coming from, but sometimes… sometimes he’d just like someone else to talk to. About his life. And so, he contacts a girl he met when he was six — who shared the same sperm donor, Hollis.
Hollis lives with her single mother – though once she had two. Pam died of cancer when she was in the second grade, and her remaining mother has been weird ever since. She cried for years, and drank wine. And now she’s in the phase of talking to Pam’s picture. She carries one with her. Hollis’ mother seems not to notice that her wild-haired, Goth-influenced, tongue-pierced daughter isn’t exactly thrilled about how her mother interacts with Pam’s memory. Unfortunately, Hollis’ mother doesn’t seem to notice how conflicted Hollis is about everything. She’s decided that… Pam would want Hollis to talk to Milo. That Pam would want Hollis to go and meet Milo in person. Hollis would like to call BS on the whole thing. This isn’t about Pam! This is about Hollis, and she’s …snarky and angry and really, really, really wishes that she’d gotten to say goodbye to Pam when she died. But, a nurse’s prejudice against a lesbian family and Hollis being only seven had worked against them. And there’s more — but Hollis isn’t telling.
When Hollis and Milo meet – and soon find more children of this same sperm donor, through a website aimed at connecting donor progeny with their donors, it’s amazing. FaceTiming and texting each other is great. Finding a group of people roughly the same age who have so much in common — from looks to quirks to skills is like finding more ready-made family. There is an ease and joyousness to their interactions. And then, through Milo’s research, and his weird friend JJ’s persistent assistance, they find their sperm donor, #9677. Suddenly, Milo, Hollis, and their siblings are confronted with a real person — and the other f-word… the father word. Are they ready for him? Is he ready for them?
Observations: This is an ensemble novel, which is narrated by turns, so it may take some readers time to find their feet. Hollis is an acquired taste – she holds grudges, is mean to her mother, and is basically you on a bad day, which may cause the more judgmental among us to hold back from her. Keep reading. This novel delves into the topic of in-vitro fertilization, bullying, friendship, and family. There is mild drinking and drug from some characters. The novel delves into sexual diversity in that two sets of parents are lesbian. Though JJ’s adoptive parents are Jewish, there isn’t much ethnic diversity in the novel, except for a stock character Latina maid.
This is a novel written by someone who knows the craft well. There is snark and sideways humor and geeky, cheesy parents and anxious, stressed, helicoptering parents. There is grieving and finding joy again, making out and deciding to stop. There is numbing of emotion, and letting oneself feel — even feel fear and pain that goes with that feeling. There is an ending which is so perfect that I want to hug it and pet it a bit. It is spontaneous and joyful, and full of possibilities — for both utter disappointment and terrifying happiness.
Conclusion: This is a great book – original, heartfelt, funny, sweet, and real. I wish I’d written it. Barring that wish coming true, I can at least press it firmly into the hands of every reader I know. ENJOY IT.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publishing company You can find THE OTHER F-WORD by Natasha Friend at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!