So here we are, my first one star read of the year (and in some time). When I first came across Lab Partners I immediately added it to my most anticipated LGBTQ+ 2020 releases – it just sounded really cute. I was a bit dubious about the WattPad origin of the story but thought if it has made it this far then it must be good. But I was wrong…
Spoilers ahead…but you shouldn’t read this book anyway…
Lab Partners follows seventeen year old Elliot Goldman who is paired up with the new kid Jordan Hughes for his final year of Chemistry class. The two are as the title suggests lab partners but it’s not long before they become really good friends, which is alien territory for social outcast Elliot who is the most bullied kid in school.
Things get even more complicated when rumours spread that Elliot and Jordan are dating and then even more complicated when Jordan actually kisses Elliot. When the kiss gives Elliot butterflies he doesn’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing because he’s definitely not into guys. Or is he?
Sounds cute right? It was far from. There were only two things I liked about this book which was the cover, and the character Holiday for the first 80% of the book or so. She was moody, feisty and added some comic relief to a book that at times was super sad. Then near the end she helps Elliot and Jordan by getting revenge on those who bullied them by revealing their deepest and darkest insecurities in an open forum and it is deemed completely acceptable. Does the author really believe that the way to overcome bullying is to turn to bullying?
Also, on the theme of bullying it’s really annoying that every queer character in the book is subject to some form of being bullied. Yes, LGBTQ+ people are easy targets for bullies but it almost seems like M. Montgomery sees these people as victims and nothing but. She even tries to justify and give reasons as to why the characters are engaging in so much bullying and homophobia with the character taking pity on them (which again yes there are sometimes sad reasons for people being bullies but this was too much).
Next, I want to address how the book is just another example of gay males being fetishised by straight women. The book read like a really bad gay porno fanfic and did nothing but reinforce negative stereotypical “predatory” gay behaviour. Jordan is borderline abusive to Elliot often requesting “payment” for things that he wants in a really cringey and aggressive way. He also forces (emphasis on forces) Elliot to declare that he is gay after they kiss once. He doesn’t allow Elliot to explore his sexuality and essentially brainwashes him into thinking that he can identify as nothing but a gay male.
Further LGBTQ+ rep is forced into the story when a side character is suddenly revealed to identify as Aro/Ace and then goes off on a long speech where she sets out to define every LGBTQ+ identity as if she’s an expert on all things. She then even tries to suggest that Trans is a “third” gender…
I looked the author up to see if I could find out why this book was written in such a problematic way. What I found was that the author seems to be a straight white woman who doesn’t show her face, choosing to remain anonymous to the world. She put this on her WattPad bio :
"I'm not homosexual, but because of close friends and family members, I am a 100% supporter of the LGBTQ+ community."
This is either really badly worded or the author seems to only be an ally as they have found themselves surrounded by family and friends who identify as LGBTQ+. I do try and be positive in reviews but I really can’t recommend this book to anyone. I’m just glad I read a Netgalley ARC and didn’t waste my money on this.
Thank you to Macmillan Publishing and Netgalley for letting me read this early!