Review for Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

4.5 of 5 stars

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley.

I’m going to give my spoiler-free review, then include the content warnings (which are spoilery), then discuss some of my thoughts with spoilers. I normally give my CWs at the beginning, but I want readers to have the chance to avoid spoilers if they so wish. If that’s you, be careful how far down you read.

This book is incredibly written. Moss is the main character, and he’s trying to navigate a new year in high school with an administration that doesn’t trust its students and brings in the local police to help with safety/discipline. Moss is gay, and that’s clear in the first chapter when he starts flirting with a cute guy on the train. (By the way, all the queer flirting was cute and wonderful.) One of my favorite elements of this book was the anxiety rep. I’ve mentioned before that I would love to read more books in which the MC has anxiety/depression/etc., but that’s not part of the developing storyline; they just deal with the story while having a mental illness. That’s personally important to me because that’s how I live, and it’s how many people with mental illnesses live. Though Moss’s anxiety regarding cops and guns is closely related to the main plot points, he doesn’t magically stop having anxiety as the story progresses. It’s a part of him, just like his sexuality and his skin tone.

That being said, the anxiety rep is also intense. Though Moss and I don’t share the same triggers, there were times I would feel his anxiety affect me. If you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, be careful with yourself. Maybe read with a mug of tea and a soft blanket… there are more reasons for this, and I’ll get into them further in the content warnings.

I could not get enough of the casual diversity in this book. Moss’s friend group included gay and lesbian rep, bi/pan rep, trans rep, enby rep, asexual rep, hijabi rep, and disability rep. The cast was primary composed of black characters (including Moss), Latinx characters, and other people of color. The enby rep was especially exciting to me. To have a character using they pronouns the whole book and no one ever mentioning or making a big deal out of it was an amazing experience.

The final point I want to make about this book before we get into spoiler territory is that a huge theme in this story was learning how to mobilize your anger, which I think is critical for everyone (especially teens) in this day and age. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad things happening when they keep happening and it seems like nothing ever changes. It’s important for teens to have books like these that empower them, give them hope, and provide them with ideas (no matter how small) to combat injustice in their world.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and Moxie as well as folks who are interested in a heavier contemporary YA.

Alright, that’s the end of my spoiler-free review. If you continue to read the content warnings, please be aware that you will learn about one of the book’s plot points.

CW: anxiety, panic attacks, racism and ablism, death of an important queer character

So… yeah. This is why I can’t give this book five stars. The summary says that Moss and his friends are spurred to react by a tragedy, which I thought we’d reached when we got to an important event about 30% of the way through the book. However, at about 60%, one of the important queer characters is murdered. I wasn’t expecting this so it took me completely off guard, which made it all the worse. We’d spent the first half of the book becoming attached to this character (I won’t say who to try avoiding total spoilers), and then they are killed on the page. For me that was too much. I don’t think this falls into the Bury Your Gays trope because this character was not killed to further a straight character’s storyline, but I just couldn’t handle it. I almost DNFed the book at that point. I’m glad I didn’t, but I don’t think I’ll be rereading it solely for that reason. I still think it’s an amazing book and encourage people to read it, but please do so when you’re in a state of mind that will be okay with this particular development.

Author: SeeOwlRead

They/She. I’m a queer reviewer and librarian.

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