This week’s sneak peeks are two books focusing on minority characters. Although they may not be meant for me, they’ll undoubtedly resonate with readers they’re representing!
At the Edge of the Universe
I sat beside the window pretending to read Plato’s Republic as the rest of the passengers boarding Flight 1184 zombie-walked to their seats. The woman next to me refused to lower her armrest, and the chemical sweetness of her perfume coated my tongue and the back of my throat. I considered both acts of war.
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: February 7, 2017
For Those Who Enjoyed: We are the Ants, History is All You Left Me, Dante and Aristotle, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Final Destination
If I were an agent/acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:
I know I only have the first twenty pages to go off of, but this one isn’t doing anything for me. The blurb promises a unique plot in the form of a male protagonist searching for his missing boyfriend. It’s doing similar things as History is All You Left Me, which makes me think this novel shouldn’t be ignored in terms of LGBT content, which although growing, is still pretty sparse.
In terms of its opening sequence, it’s slow building. This setup is likely intentional to lull the reader into a false sense of security. It takes ten pages to get going. I don’t know if I’d read that far before making a decision in terms of pitch selection. There’s no indication that the inciting incident is a plane crash by the blurb, so I wouldn’t necessarily have much to go on if this were pitched to me. As a mere reader, though, the cliffhanger at the end of the first chapter is a solid hook that leaves you curious.
Hutchinson is engaging with the world in ways I don’t ordinarily see male writers doing. Very early on in the text, he shames frat boys for boasting about date rape. More male writers should be engaging with this kind of discourse, even if it’s for a quick, throwaway line. I do find, however, that this protagonist is a little man-splainy, which is what I hate about male writers in general. But as far as male writers go, this one’s hardly offensive.
From a publisher’s perspective, this is an interesting case, because while books with gay protagonists are in the minority, such manuscripts shouldn’t receive a free pass. Which is why many publishers don’t necessarily see the potential in so many of these books. I, for instance, wouldn’t be the agent or publisher to publish this one, but that doesn’t by any means mean it shouldn’t be on the shelves.
The Education of Margot Sanchez
A cashierista with flaming orange-red hair invades my space the minute I step inside the supermarket. I search for Papi but he’s walked ahead into his office already.
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: February 21, 2017
For Those Who Enjoyed: Allegedly, Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin
Would I Publish This?
I am so clearly not the right audience for this novel. This is clearly meant for Latinx readers, which is hardly a bad thing whatsoever. The fact that I can count the amount of Latinx narratives I’ve engaged with lately on one hand is distressing and should be challenged in the contemporary literary canon.
I have no idea if this plot is going anywhere particularly bold or revolutionary in terms of messages, but the opener suggests Rivera isn’t trying to say anything too important with her narrative. The protagonist comes off as vapid and uninteresting. I personally find characters who natter on about their clothes and their “big booty” to be a giant turn off. I don’t know if this is some kind of reflection of Latinx culture or not, but it’s not an aspect I’m keen to engage with.