Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

If you’re wondering if this is Princess Merida from the Disney movie, you’d be correct. I requested this book from NetGalley because Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors – I’d never seen the movie Brave. Knowing I needed the gist of the story before starting the novel, I spent an entertaining couple of hours laughing and snorting my way through the movie. I adored these characters and couldn’t wait to dive into this new story.

I’ve never been one for many fairy tales, but Merida is my kind of princess – mainly because she’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from someone with that title. She can best nearly any opponent in archery, she informed her parents being married off and producing heirs isn’t something she’ll be forced into, and she’s constantly reminded of royal etiquette by her mother, the queen. How can you not love this girl? This story is set several years later when not much has changed – Merida is still adventurous and stubborn, the King Fergus boisterous, the Queen Elinor very royal, and the triplets still mischievous at ten years old.

Merida’s Christmas Eve doesn’t go as expected when she finds herself in the company of two gods – one of creation, Cailleach, and one of destruction, Feradach. The Kingdom of DunBroch has become sluggish and stagnant and is high on Feradach’s list of places to demolish. Naturally, Merida is distraught but, because she’s Merida and very clever, refuses to accept this. Instead, she makes a bargain with Cailleach – if she can get her family to change over the next year, DunBroch will be spared. If she fails, she’ll lose her home and family. Talk about high stakes and pressure.

Don’t expect this to be a cookie cutter Disney story. Bravely is darker and focuses on growth, survival, and reflection, along with epic journeys and and some grisly scenes. Merida learns life is about balance and realizes what’s most important – it’s a kind of coming of age story for her. Not everything is serious – I also laughed out loud several times over the antics of the triplets, Merida’s unfiltered comments, and the lively family dynamics.

After watching Brave, Merida immediately became my favorite Disney princess, and I fell in love with her family. Catching up with them in this novel set several years later was a real treat.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet.

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

A light enemies to lovers story – but with scrumptious food. The description of competing restaurants – and boys – lured me in. And look at that cover!

The chapters alternate POVs between Theo and Gabi, both with very different and distinct personalities. Theo is openly gay, self confident, and a natural athlete. Gabi is closeted, lacks self esteeem, and is far more talented on the dance floor than a soccer field. Theo can’t stand to be near Gabi, and while Gabi admires Theo, he’s also a little intimidated by him. Their parents’ restaurants are long time competitors, which causes further conflict. When a new fusion café moves into town and steals customers, joining forces happens kind of accidentally and everything changes.

In the first several chapters, Theo isn’t very likeable. He carries anger around like a boulder weighing him down and lashes out at his family, Gabi, and anyone else who gets in his way. It soon becomes clear why, and his self realizations and the changes that result from them are admirable. Gabi has spent his life trying to make his parents proud of him and fulfill their expectations, all while hiding his love of dancing and his sexuality. His parents (especially his father) make several derogatory comments about being gay, and he’s terrified of what might happen if he comes out. His character arc is just as uplifting as Theo’s.

Every character in this novel is flawed, some more than others, and it’s an honest portrayal of just how messy humans and their relationships can be. There are also very poignant, honest conversations about difficult topics between some characters that are done so well, and I hope they inspire readers who might be dealing with similar issues in their lives.

Besides the serious moments, this story also contains plenty of humor, delicious descriptions of food, strong friendships, and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. The ending comes about a little quickly and wraps up loose ends in a tidy bow, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

16 thoughts on “Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Leave a Reply to Jan Sikes Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.