I received this book for free from From Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on August 8th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Source: From Publisher
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A stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption, from Publishers Weekly Flying Start author Brandy Colbert
When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.
Little & Lion is a remarkable story about mental illness, family, racism, sexuality, and finding yourself. I am so glad this book found its way into my hands because the story was beautifully written and very touching.
Suzette returns home for the summer from boarding school feeling very unsure about not only her sexuality but also her relationship with her brother Lionel who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Though the book covers many important issues, these were the main focus throughout the novel.
Before Suzette returned home, she was involved in a secret relationship with her roommate that left her feeling somewhat exposed, without much closure, and questioning where she fits on the human sexuality spectrum. She is trying to make sense of all her feelings, especially when she runs into an old family friend, Emil, and sparks fly. But it’s not only Emil who catches her eye when she meets Raphaela. She is really struggling with her feelings and the connection she feels towards both which only gets harder when her brother Lionel falls head over heels for Raphaela. I wouldn’t classify this novel as a romance though, because as Suzette does indeed date Emil, she is truly working through her feelings and coming to terms with them. And though she has a crush on Raphaela, she never crosses a line that would hurt both Emil and her brother. I respected how the author handled this. These potentially romantic relationships weren’t about Suzette discovering love, but about discovering herself and embracing it.
Suzette and her brother Lionel and their relationship was another huge part of the story. Suzette and Lionel (nicknamed by each other as Little and Lion, respectively) became siblings as children when her mother and his father entered into a relationship and moved in together. I adored their blended family and how tight knit they were. I love when a strong family presence is included in a book and that’s exactly what I found here. The parents are very supportive and set a strong foundation for the family as a unit. Lionel and Suzette were also very close before his diagnosis and before she went away to boarding school but now she is a little unsure how to navigate his bipolar, which becomes very clear when he takes a turn for the worse and Suzette keeps it to herself, too afraid to break his trust. Some tension builds between them and the burden eats away at her. I found myself yelling at her to speak up but I somewhat understood her desire to appease her brother and rebuild their closeness, despite how she went about it.
Overall I found Suzette to be a flawed but likable character. Her life went through some significant changes and she needed to work through them and make mistakes so she could learn and grow. I was very proud of her direction in the end and her determination to right her wrongs.
What is absolutely amazing about Little & Lion is the amount of diversity within its pages with not only with race and religion (Suzette is black and Jewish), but also sexuality, and mental and physical illnesses. The representation was on point and very well done.
Little & Lion has so much of what I enjoy in my reads and a lot to offer the YA reading world!