POWERLESS: AEOS BOOK 1 - a book review
[CW: homophobia, sexuality, sex, violence, religion, spoi]
For the past month or so, I’ve been promising indie authors I would review their work. Last month was “Indie April,” and I have to say with complete honesty and transparency that I enjoyed the poetry and fiction I consumed during that month. Because I was slogging thru/ finishing up a manuscript of my own, it has unfortunately taken me four-hundred years to actually finish reading the works of literature that I purchased. I’m pleased to say that I am finished with the book I wrote, and will be seeking publication rather soon for it (after my betas read it, and give me feedback of course).
Anyway, onto the review!
Last month I purchased POWERLESS: AEOS BOOK ONE by Sarah Anne Fields. At first glance, the cover is visibly striking, using mostly grays and black (with a hint of blue) to appeal to your senses, and the feeling it conjures is despair - and well, being powerless. You also know that you’re getting yourself into some conspiracy or dystopia-type shit just by looking at the large black bird with its wings outstretched - think the Divergent trilogy or The Hunger Games trilogy.
So now that we know much I liked the cover (BEAUTIFUL, MS. FIELDS!), I just want to get this off my tight-bound chest before I go any further…
I discovered POWERLESS because of a Facebook Ad when I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon. Per her Amazon page, Sarah Anne Fields is a self-published author, and I believe this is her debut novel. Well, after interacting with Fields on her FB author page, I discovered that this book is set in a dark, murky time/place, and that the two main characters, Conner Wicklow (oh Connie!) and Detrick Lismore both fall in love.
Which brings me to my next point (if I’m even using points, Idk)…y’all gotta know something else before we go any further…I love books featuring same-gender characters who are in a relationship…when they are done right. I’m not a PURIST reader/writer that thinks certain types of characters or relationships are off-limits to people simply because they don’t share these traits, but I do think these “things” should be approached with caution and care if you don’t.
But fear not reader, because Ms. Fields does a good job of making this about love, and not sensuality or sexuality. Even when the two boys finally hook up (WHY DID IT HAVE TO TAKE SOOOOOOOO LONG, SARAH), the reader has to use their imagination when working through the intimate details of their pairing. There’s no fetishization of these two teenaged boys who are discovering themselves or their partner’s body, no mentioning of body parts or actual sexual acts, and that’s how it should be if the person telling the story is cishet.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you my feels on this near-perfectly crafted tale.
When we first meet Conner and Detrick, they are at some human sacrificing type of thing known as Catharsis, and Conner is not having it, even as a small boy. Detrick is less reluctant to object to the sacrifice, but that’s not surprising for a small kid who wants to please his parents and the adults around him. You soon find out that Conner is more interested in Detrick than the bullshit religion they are trying to force down everyone’s throats, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The Goddess they are appeasing with human death is known as Lilith. Now I’m not an atheist or even remotely a non-believer (a heathen Pagan witch here - ugh, aren’t we millennials the worst??), but I have studied a lot of religions, and find it interesting that Fields chose Lilith, the woman who was Adam’s first partner, the woman who was asked to leave because she demanded sex on top (ain’t lying, Google “Judaism, Lilith, and Adam” for more clarification), the woman who was turned into a witch more or less as time went on. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with choosing the name of the Goddess - probably not as this is a young adult book in every sense of the term - but this did jump out at me when reading it.
As time goes on Detrick and Conner become best friends, inseparable even, forming a bond that is super relatable when you think back on your own childhood memories. But as we adults know, all good things must end, and Detrick is separated from his best friend, and sent to the Citadel where he becomes quite the scholar after a few years of attending a prestigious school. Conner stays behind and lives his life to the best of his ability, even though he hates Lilith and the paladins that strive to keep everyone oppressed (see also: fucking dicks). The two friends continue to live like this until...you guessed it! They are reunited.
There’s a whole bunch of political/social/religious intrigue that I’m not going to get into here, because there's a fuck-ton to unpack, but I will highlight a few things just so you know why Conner hates his life so much at times…
Conner is what I like to think of as the perfect free thinker - someone who realizes that some people need religion, someone that respects certain aspects of religion because of what it means to people on an individual basis, someone that realizes the absolute need for MULTIPLE religions because we are all different, beautiful people, someone who questions the legitimacy of the Church because they do sketchy shit like adding/removing texts that may benefit the people and not the Church (SOUNDS FAMILIAR, DON’T IT - HERE’S LOOKING AT U CATHOLICISM).
Detrick is what I like to think of as the perfect believer - someone who realizes that maybe, just maybe his religion isn’t the only religion out there that deserves respect, someone who questions not necessarily his belief, but the motives, actions, doctrines, etc., of his faith, someone who realizes that a difference of opinion (where it concerns religion, at least) is not a good reason to sever ties with someone that you love. The Union is evil and so is the Grand Magistrate who refuses to relinquish her power even though she is literally dying, but whatever. You find out stuff about Conner and Detrick’s families that add to the pandemonium that is their lives at times. I don’t want to spoil everything on here (because YOU NEED TO BUY THIS BOOK), but the overarching plot of one’s awakening (on many different levels) is solid enough to keep you hooked, and wanting more.
Now for the romance, bc I am who I am..
Oh Conner and Detrick, y’all are precious, confused little bebes. You don’t know what’s going on with your bodies half the time when you’re together, and you don’t know how to put into words just how you feel about one another.
But Conner, you kissed Detrick’s cheek when y’all were kids, & Detrick, you fall to pieces everytime Conner gets upset with you, AND THIS HAPPENS UNTIL THE VERY END OF THE BOOK. Y’all be throwing potatoes at each other and touching each other’s faces, and I’m just over here like WHEEN IS IT GONNA HAPPEN??? Even Gavin, Conner’s brother, is like YEAH OK CONNIE, WAKE UP. But I get it. When you’re queer, you don’t really know what the fuck is going on with your mind or your body. The first time I kissed a girl was when I was 12, and afterwards, we both cried and prayed about it, because we both thought we were going to hell - and not just any hell, but Southern Baptist hell. It’s a difficult time in your life (ages 10-25), so I get it.
A n d while Conner’s family is totes on board with all of it (yayay for his mama & his sibbie), Det’s dad is always sweeping in with some bullshit comments about Conner, hanging out with him too much, doing what’s best for him (typical cishet male dad bullshit). Now I have no idea if homophobia is even a thing in this world (because it’s not set in America, or at least I don’t think it is), but his dad being all up in his shit about Conner feels super relatable & too real at times, especially to me, someone who is not cisgender or straight.
The overall takeaway from this book is that you should do what your heart tells you even if it means sacrificing the ones you love - that you should follow a destiny that you forge, not one that is forged for you - that sometimes the only way out of a shitty situation is to challenge authority, regardless of what it will cost you. And it costs these boys. A LOT. I think Conner suffers the most, and that’s why I’m able to relate to his struggles on a fundamental level (working class, maybe gay we don't know, brought up by single mom), but maybe you will relate to Detrick on a fundamental level. Regardless of whoever does it for you, I suggest you check out this book ASAP. After rereading this trainwreck of a review, I feel the need to emphasize just how well-written this book is, how well-edited it is, and how you should not turn your nose up at someone who publishes books by themselves. Ultimately, this book features two boys who fall in love, and while there are no labels attached, it is ultimately about two boys who share the same gender and explore each other’s feelings and bodies. It is 2019, and while lit written by/for queer folks is not unheard of, it’s still not the default. You have to market it as queer fiction, or lit that is palatable for allies and queer people alike, but this is just a book about two friends whose friendship blossoms into a romance (no queer-baiting, THANK THE GODDESS - Minerva, not Lilith) This book is a young adult novel that should be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, public libraries, and school libraries, but it’s not...yet. As of right now, you can order it from Amazon. It will be the best ten bucks you’ve spent in a good long while. I read the excerpt before purchasing it (bc I am who I am), and within five pages, I mentally committed to reading the rest of it. GO BUY THE BOOK & tell me what you think! Or buy the book, and don’t. Whatever. Just go by this book. You won’t be disappointed! If you’re looking for a book that is marketed towards teens and young adults (this is SUPER important to keep in mind), you need to add this to your shelf. I’m terrible at good-byes and endings, so I’ll leave you with this song by a band called The Buzzcocks bc I think it sums up perfectly Connie & Det’s relationship.
Follow me on Twitter @ jcwritesfiction for updates on the words I write, or to DM me with suggestions on what I should read. I am ALWAYS looking for the perfect summer read this time of year! Cheers!