Overweight and unhappy at home, Emmy gets sexually involved with a popular classmate so that people will think that she is worth liking. When she realizes that he is just using her, she decides to leave her home in Winnipeg to stay with her uncle’s family in Vancouver. Emmy has always been intimidated by her perfect cousin Paige and Paige’s cool friends, so she is surprised to find that the coolest of them is transgender. Emmy is instantly attracted to Jude (who used to be Judy), and starts hanging out at the coffee shop where he works. She even performs at the poetry slam Jude hosts there.
Emmy is never sure where she stands with Jude, and can’t believe that such a confident, charismatic guy might actually be interested in her. Both her mother back in Winnipeg and Paige warn her away from Jude, saying that he will just use her and she will get hurt. But it’s not until she almost falls again into the trap of casual sex to boost her self-esteem that Emmy realizes it’s worth it to put your true self out there for real love.
Unnamed eating disorder, unnamed mood disorder, deadnaming, misgendering, alcohol/drug glorification, attempted rape, emotional abuse
The summary of Love Is Love sets it up to be such a good story, but it would be an understatement to say it fell flat for me. I wanted a story about a fat girl with anxiety loving a trans boy unconditionally, but instead, I got a typical YA romance with two characters that have marginalized identities on the side.
Emmy’s mental health and abusive home life could have been explored so much more deeply, but it was only mentioned once in a while. The same thing happened with Jude’s transness. I understand this part could have been because the author may not have wanted to overstep her bounds, but if that were the case she could have either hired sensitivity readers or picked a different subject to write about.
So, the story starts out with Emmy being pressured into sexual acts with the most popular boy in school. When she gets home, her mother is furious because somehow she knows exactly what happened. This is where the reader is introduced to Emmy’s unstable home life, from which she abruptly moves away after agreeing to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Paige in Vancouver.
“Emmy was a pervert with an obsession that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard she tried”
So the main plot of this story is Emmy’s growing relationship with Jude. Unfortunately, this is typical Instalove™. The quote above is in reference to Emmy looking through Jude’s public Instagram account and feeling like she’s stalking this boy she’s known for like a week. There are similar quotes throughout the book that show Emmy feels so strongly about this person she’s barely talked to and doesn’t actually know very well. Somehow vice versa happens as well, because, while Jude is a flirty person, he’s totally into Emmy back. I also have to add that Emmy first swoons over Jude because he’s wearing a RuPaul pin and wonders if it’s fate because he’s got to be the only other person in the world that idolizes RuPaul. Because RuPaul is not a popular LGBT+ icon or anything.
As I said, this felt like a really cliche YA romance where both lovers are from marginalized groups. Yet we only touch on their marginalizations. Emmy is a high school poet who wants to be noticed for her talent and to experience more of the world. It’s just shown in a small scene that she has an eating disorder and her abusive background is merely hinted at. I’d like to talk about this quote as well:
“This dress would look so much better, she thought, if I could just get down to the size I was when I sucked in in front of the mirror.“
I’m not the most educated on fat rep, but if she can suck in her stomach and look skinny, then she’s no different than I am, and I’m not at a weight that’s unaccepted by society. Of course, the best part of this rep
sarcasm is when Emmy goes to buy some makeup before her first date with Jude and is given a total makeover. I wish this harmful trope would stop.
Speaking of Jude, he’s truly the typical YA love interest. Jude hosts a super popular poetry slam show at the coffee shop where he works and is liked by everyone he comes across. Also, he has hidden talents like juggling that captivates everyone at the park and is so respected that a group of drunk men quit harassing him and leave as soon as Jude tells him to. He just happens to be a boy with a vagina. Normally, that casual transness would be a good thing, but it doesn’t affect his life at all until the end when he tells Emmy that he was denied a loan for top surgery. The reader’s not given any other details about his transition either. Is he on testosterone? Is he treated like a cis man because he passes? These aren’t details to focus on, of course, but they would have been nice to mention, especially since this is a book where his being trans is part of the major plot.
Later in the story, Emmy acts out and steals a small bottle of wine from a liquor store, and this scene could have been so much more intense! The whole thing happens in a paragraph and I’m disappointed. On top of that, she gets drunk in the park that night and these guys come up to her and act real creepy, as guys do. I think this is supposed to read as an attempted rape, but Emmy just up and walks away and they don’t pursue her so I don’t know how to feel about that scene either. Up until her walking away, I was really scared something was going to happen to her. Then it just ended so… underwhelmingly, like the burglary.
Final thought: Love Is Love had so much potential! If only Emmy and Jude’s stories had gone into more depth, maybe they would have felt more human than book characters. It also would have been nice to hear the motivations of other characters like Paige and Emmy’s family back in Winnipeg. There are so many social statements that could have been with this book, but it just didn’t meet my expectations.