Steven Salvatore's "And They Lived..." is queer, fairytale-like perfection
There's a fairytale within the pages of Steven Salvatore's recent YA release And They Lived..., and I'm not talking about the queer romance between the main character, Chase, and his love interest. There's an actual, literal fairytale that Steven wrote into the pages of their novel and which I found to be utterly charming and a delightful addition — more ephemera like this in books, please!
But there's so much more to love about And They Lived... than the ode to Disney. I loved Chase, the gender-questioning (who uses he/him pronouns throughout the book) main character who also has struggled with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. When I tell you that I sobbed reading this book because of the portrayal of a character who has always thought (and often been told) that he isn't enough because of the way his body looks...hoo boy. This book was an emotional ride for this fat blogger who has almost always hated her body.
Like, shit... I resonated so deeply with Chase's body dysmorphia throughout the book, which was not something I knew I could do? TIL, I guess!
I also loved, like straight-up adored, the cast of supporting characters in this book. Sofia and Chloe are the older, wiser, maybe a little unhinged mentor figures I would like in my own life, please. The way they cared for Chase, which meant standing up for him and sometimes calling him out, was a true and beautiful depiction of platonic love, including tough love done well. It's so rare for me to see tough love in a book and think it's actually not just manipulative behavior, and the moments where Sofia and Chloe had to call Chase out were shining examples of that, to me.
Another thing I loved? THERAPY. On the page!!
Chase's passion is for animation, which I cannot relate to because I can't draw a stick figure at all, much less draw and BRING TO LIFE something aesthetically pleasing, but I loved how clearly his passion for his craft shone through on the page. I love books about passionate people pursuing their passions.
The dark night of the soul in this book was honestly one that I wasn't sure we could come back from, and I'm going to give negative details on it for spoiler purposes, but let's just say — it was executed so well I wanted to write a whole craft essay on the way Steven employed apologies and forgiveness in this novel.
I don't know what else to say. I loved this book. You should read it. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but if you want to read it, you can follow this affiliate link (I get commission) to order And They Lived... from Bookshop.org.