Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in review are my own.
I absolutely requested a copy of Cass Lennox’s Finding Your Feet because I took one look at the cover copy and felt like my desire to get to know Lennox’s characters hit me like a punch to the gut.
I’m always making noises about my desire for representation in the media I consume and when I saw that the book centered the relationship between an a-spec character and a Black transdude character, I was basically on the edge of my seat and bouncing with excitement hoping that I’d get a chance to read and review the book. Because at first glance, this book was exactly what I wanted to read and I was not disappointed at all.
What I loved about Finding Your Feet is that that Lennox’s characters feel so realistic. They feel like my band of queer compatriots at the English Department at my school – only more artistically inclined. Often, when I pick up a new queer book, one of the things that jars me out of my enjoyment is that I can’t see myself and my social group in them because of how popular queer romances tend to center the white cis dude experience above all others.
Finding Your Feet literally feels like a look at the artsy version of my friend group and I loved every second of reading it – even the kinda stressful parts.
Both of the book’s main characters – Evie Whitmore and Tyler Davis – are incredibly well-written. I clicked with them immediately and I felt that Lennox’s way of clearly delineated POV switching worked to get me into the characters as quickly as I did. I love both characters’ voices because they’re just so dang strong and all I wanted was to devour Finding Your Feet as fast as I could so that I could already have the narrative imprinted on my brain.
Like me, Evie places herself on the asexual spectrum when it comes to identity. She’s also dealing with the fact that she’s a jobless 20-something in a sort of holding pattern as she waits for her grad school opportunity (in Toronto) to start.
I clicked with her from the start because there’s so much of her experiences and her internal process that felt like my own. Evie is also snarky (there’s a bit of dialogue during the break of her and Tyler’s first practice that made me laugh so hard that I snorted) and I ove her personality so much! She’s so full of this fiery energy! I’m not even sure how that’s possible but well – here we are.
Tyler, our co-lead (in movie parlance) is basically my favorite. I love him. I know that’s a strong reaction to have to a single fictional character, but Lennox’s writing is so great about fleshing Tyler out that I just… I have all the feels. I think I really adored the way that Lennox had his thoughts play out across the page. There are a bunch of really great moments where I desperately wanted to squish someone’s face, but I think that the biggest scenes that stood out for me were:
- A moment in their first practice where Tyler realizes that Evie can probably lift him and he goes through basically the cutest and thirstiest thoughts. The language of lifting in this scene was exquisite on top of the tension and really, I just felt spoiled by it.
- There’s a conversation that Tyler has with Gigi where a drunken Gigi basically goes all “Oppression Olympics” on Tyler basically dismissing Tyler’s experiences growing and seeing himself as something he wasn’t by saying that he (Gigi) was fat growing up. Tyler has this like really great internal “are you freaking kidding me” moment that I totally felt in my soul because as a queer Black person dear lord have I had to just sit down and stare at friends who were so deep in their feelings about their identity that they forgot that I had any.
- All of chapter ten. Look… just… All of that freaking chapter.
Tyler is just such a great dude and as the narrative progressive, we get so much insight to his character and why he’s so anxious about working with Evie – or having a female partner again. His ex-girlfriend Lucette (who thankfully isn’t present outside of Tyler’s thoughts and conversations about her) is a cissexist and abusive asshole who I hope falls in a lake and loses all of her electronic devices. I could legitimately fight her because you can see how much Tyler is still hurting from her horrible mistreatment and I’m not about that.
What I am about is how Finding Your Feet is about moving forward. I clicked with this book, with Tyler and Evie and their emotional arcs, because I’ve had similar experiences and I’ve gone through some stuff. So I’m rooting for them on every page, not just about the relationship I wanted them to have from the freaking page that they met or the dance competition that makes up the main reason for their initial connection, but for their personal lives and paths.
They’re fictional characters, but they feel like real people. They feel like me and my friends and that’s just swell.
The majority of the background and secondary characters in Finding Your Feet are interesting and I definitely look forward to reading more about them. While Gigi takes a bit to grow on you (or at least he did with me), by the end of this book I was actually eager for his (which’ll come out in March!!). I’m also invested in Evie’s friends Bailey and Sarah and would lowkey kill for a chance to read more of them because they’re just so interesting!!
Now if you’re like me, a die-hard fan of the Step Up franchise that wished the films could’ve centered on queer characters and deeper narratives while not pushing a pretty uniform “look” for dancers as far as ethnicity and body types went, you’re going to love Finding Your Feet.
End Note (for content warnings): While Riptide is awesome and has a warning tag and details out the wazoo about what you can expect to find in the book, I wanted to be clear about them in my own review. (These things are all either resolved or addressed critically in the narrative.)
Finding Your Feet has some significant moments that deal with the aftermath of and healing after cissexist emotional abuse towards Tyler from his ex-girlfriend that may be anxiety-inducing for some.
Then, Evie’s mother is kind of… a problem. There’s some stuff with Evie’s mom that made me incredibly anxious and uncomfortable (I’m not 100% sure if it falls under abuse but I wanted to cover it) and then her whole family kind of just doesn’t get queerness and so we get Evie talk about that at a couple of points.
Additionally, the character of Gigi Rosenberg makes bodyshaming comments about Evie a couple times behind her back before he gets to know her and Tyler shuts that down quick.