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YA Review: Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Title: Ziggy, Stardust and Me
Author: James Brandon
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 368
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map): USA (MO)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely "normal" and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal--at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn't want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be "fixed" once and for all. But he's drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he's perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

Review: What a wonderfully written book and a satisfying read.

In 1973, I was 8 so I remember the time, the fashion, the objects and the music. This book triggered good memories for me on that front. I do not remember Watergate because we didn't have a TV yet. I also don't remember what it was like for someone who was gay, lesbian, or questioning; for someone who was convinced they were "sick." Heck, my mom worked in the sociology department at our local southern California university so I was used to having gay people in our circle of friends. But this book really serves as a reminder of what it was (is) like for people who are surrounded by hate and by those who want to deny their existence.

Jonathan is so beaten down. His mother is dead (of course she is) and his father is broken. He drinks, does drugs, and hires a doctor to do electroshock therapy to "fix" Jonathan. What must it have felt like to meet Web and fall in love. To know that just being oneself is enough. Coming into one's own in this novel is done so well.

I also love that Web is indigenous American and proud of his heritage. I liked the weaving in of the two-spirits, the 1970s protest of the history of Wounded Knee, the support Web had from his family. Oh, and Jonathan's best friend? She is a budding feminist and protester. Fantastic.

This book runs the gamut from hate speech/acts to first love, from drunken brawls to family love. This is a wonderful debut.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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