It Looks Like This - Rafi Mittlefehldt

24755394A new state, a new city, a new high school. Mike's father has already found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plainspoken little sister, Toby, don't want to go. Dad wants Mike to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, but there’s something uneasy behind his demands.

Then Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and "hey" becomes games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colors of sunrise. But Mike's father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand.


(Spoilers!)

After I finished this book, my initial reaction was, #eyeroll #killyourgays

BUT… there are differences between this book and other earlier problem novels which, in my mind, keep Mittlefehldt’s text from becoming problematic. Though there is a vibe of others learning from the death of a gay character, the narrative style and fully developed secondary characters ensure a well-rounded story. There are examinations of coming out, secrecy, bullying, and the unfortunately negative consequences that often come from religious influence.

As Mike and Sean’s relationship slowly develops through understated moments—a lingering look; a breath held too long; standing closer than maybe necessary—readers will hopefully find themselves becoming emotionally invested, making the climax that much more intense and complex. I found myself becoming angry as Mike was dragged off to a degayification camp by his father. While there are a number of queer YA texts about sexual conversion camps, this one stands out in its lack of focus on scriptural references and didactic conversation.

In the end, It Looks Like This is a beautifully written novel about love, deception, personal growth, and learning from tragedy. Mittlefehldt uses spare language and delightfully vibrant imagery to explore the relationships between Mike and Sean, Mike and his parents, and Mike and his classmates.

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