Being With Him by Mickie B. Ashling: 0/10 Stars

 

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Zeb Araneda leaves his privileged but closely supervised life in the Philippines to study architecture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where his new roommate is openly gay Luca Dilorio.

Alex Boulet is a successful print model who appears to have it all, but on closer inspection, the ready smile never reaches his mesmerizing green eyes. Tired of living alone, Alex moves in with fellow model Chyna Davidson, Luca’s boyfriend.

Away from his father’s watchful eye, and with Luca’s help, Zeb learns to navigate his new environment, and experiences freedom of choice for the first time. This fresh perspective allows him to step out of his comfort zone and act on his attraction to Alex.

The holiday season has always been difficult for Alex. Sappy commercials tug at his heart, and storefront windows depict idealized scenes that remind him of what he’ll never have: a loving partner willing to accept his truth. Will this Christmas be another disappointment, or will Santa finally make his wish come true?

 

 

 

 

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Overall Rating: 0/10 stars

Leigh’s Review: 0/5 Stars

Being With Him is the story of Zeb, a supposed Filipino man who has come to the US to go to college at Cornell. Zeb has never dated men or been interested in men, but he goes from zero to gay as fuck when he meets Alex, a trans model living in NYC.

I say “supposed Filipino” because despite having grown up in the Philippines and come to the US for the first time mere weeks before the story starts, he acts SUSPICIOUSLY AMERICAN. There’s not a single moment of culture shock or language struggles. The only thing we have to make him seem Filipino is the fact that he says he’s Filipino.

Apart from his suspicious backstory, Zeb is an unlikeable MC. He’s pushy, rude, selfish, and insensitive. He asks endless personal “trans 101” questions, even after Alex has expressed discomfort. He makes a mess all over Alex’s house and gets offended when Alex gently points it out to him. On top of this, he’s a spoiled brat. He talks about his father’s “draconian rule”… and also says that his parents are paying for college, room and board, giving him an allowance so he doesn’t have to get a job, and will only take those things away if his grades slip. Draconian rule, my ass.

Now for the issues with the trans character…

Alex says that he isn’t the best person to help Zeb decide whether he’s gay or not because, and I quote, “You’ll be getting a hybrid” and “Trying to figure out your orientation with me is counterproductive.” WHAT? WHAT? NO. YOU DID NOT JUST.

Alex repeatedly muses on how difficult his life is because he’s trans, how hard it is to be trans, how he can’t believe Zeb will stick around for the long run because Alex is trans… He uses terminology like “his tribe” and “his kind” to think of other trans people, he thinks he must “conform” if he ever wants a “normal life,” he shares the “everyday challenges a trans man faced in the bedroom,” he refers to his identity as “baggage,” and at one point he thinks of queer and trans as if they are mutually exclusive for some reason… But at the same time, he’s had the most loving and supportive family he could possibly ever ask for, he’s been on the cover of GQ magazine, he’s traveled the world for modeling gigs… Basically, the way he thinks and acts implies he’s had a really tough life, but it’s never really shown anywhere, unless you count the random conversation about rape. Did I mention that? No?

Well. Near the end of the book, Zeb asks Alex if he’s ever bottomed, and out of nowhere Alex goes into a spiel about how HE WAS RAPED WHEN HE WAS FIFTEEN, GOT PREGNANT, WENT TO FRANCE, HAD A BABY, AND NOW HIS PARENTS ARE RAISING THE KID AS THEIR OWN WHILE HE PRETENDS TO BE HER BROTHER. WHAT?! That’s disgusting. Way to cram the “sexual assault of a trans person” into your book at the last minute, and for what purpose? It was handled so sloppily it didn’t even garner a second of sympathy from me. Nearly 80% of the way through the book and I still didn’t care about either character. Alex then tells Zeb to take the secret to his grave because he and his parents are the only ones who know. KEEP IN MIND ZEB AND ALEX HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR A WHOPPING TWO MONTHS AT THIS POINT. Alex has kept this child a secret for EIGHT YEARS and then shares her existence and identity with Zeb after knowing him for two fucking months.

Ugh. I just found this whole book frustrating and gross. Even setting aside the multitude of character and rep problems, the writing itself was not great. The dialogue was unnatural. The characters just felt like empty shells. They never felt like human beings with motivations of their own. I hate giving brutal reviews like this, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

Laura’s Review: 0/5 Stars

TW: rape
Also, beware of spoilers, since I can’t discuss the worst part of this book without them.
Up until the 75% point, I was simply going to give this book one star. Because it was a bad book – mediocre writing, unlikeable characters – but it wasn’t harmful. But then, then I ran across one of the worst things I’ve read in any book lately.
At 75%, we find out the trans character in this book had been raped when he was 15 years old. It’s the second time I see transphobic rape in a book being used as a plot device to make the character’s backstory more traumatic. What the hell are we thinking, cis authors?
I’m begging you, if you ever find yourself thinking “How can I make this trans character’s past more traumatic? Oh, I know! He’s been raped.” STOP. Walk away from that story right now. Don’t you dare write that trans character. Because here’s the thing: YOU’RE NOT AN ALLY. You may have written a trans character, but you won’t be thanked for having added to the trash and outright transphobic representation trans people have to wade through when they’re trying to find a story where they can see something of themselves. YOU DON’T GET A PASS.
So, there it is, the thing that made me want to burn this book. Other than that, it was a really bad book.
The characters were unlikable. Zeb was one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever read, asking all kind of intrusive questions – knowing they’re intrusive – and asking Alex not to get mad because he “means well”. He also kept telling Alex he’s not trying to push him, while pushing him! Did I mention I really didn’t like it? I think I did.
Alex for his part would have driven me crazy if I’d been any more invested in this book. He kept putting himself down and trying to push Zeb away. Why? Because he’s trans and maybe Zeb can’t deal with what comes with dating a trans person. Are you kidding me? I’m so tired of this trope. I always ends – just as it does here – with the cis guy being lauded for being so amazing for dating a trans guy. Seriously, can we not? This trope should die already.
The writing itself was mediocre, the dialogues stilted – no one talks like that – and the sex scenes were the least sexy thing I’ve ever read. And it was *preachy*. I really hate when books preach to me. And this book preached about everything. The first thing the main characters went to see in New York was the 9/11 memorial, for god’s sake! It went as far as telling us that hate crime is going to happen no matter what we do, so reporting it just isn’t worth it. Seriously? Is that the message you want to send to queer people reading your books?
I think that’s it. As you can see, I wasn’t liking this book before the rape was brought up. But when it came up, I was so angry I was shaking. I’m not going to even tell you it may just be me and you should give this book a chance. No. SKIP IT. DON’T READ THIS BOOK.

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