Love & Other Curses
by Michael Thomas Ford
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by HarperTeen
The Weyward family has been haunted by a curse for generations—if a Weyward falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies. Sam doesn’t plan to fall for anyone in the nine weeks before his birthday. He’ll spend his time working at the Eezy-Freeze with his dad; cooking up some midsummer magic with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (the Grands); and experimenting with drag with the help of the queens at the Shangri-La, the local gay club. But when a new guy comes to town, Sam finds himself in trouble when they strike up a friendship that might be way more than that.
As Sam’s birthday approaches and he still hasn’t quite fallen in love, the curse seems to get more powerful and less specific about who it targets. A mysterious girl Sam talks to on the phone late at night and a woman he’s only seen in a dream might have the answers he’s been looking for—but time is running out to save the people he cares about.
I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warning: transphobia
“The thing is, people choose what road they’re going to take. You can try to tell them that this road is harder than that road, or that this one has prettier scenery and better rest areas than that one, which you know because maybe you’ve been down it yourself. You can even come along and help them out when they break down. But where they end up is ultimately up to them.”
It seems that my reading have consisted of pleasant surprises, and Love & Other Curses is one of them! This book is set during the summer, weeks before Sam’s birthday. This is a special birthday because it marks the fulfillment of the Weyward curse, so if he could not fall in love before this birthday, his loved ones would survive.
I love Sam’s family so much! He lives with the Grands, which consist of Clodine, Starletta (Clodine’s daughter), Hank (Starletta’s daughter), and his father (who is Hank’s son). All of them had fall victim to the Weyward curse, losing their loved ones and still alive to remember it. The Grands are as sassy and funny as the grandmas in Golden Girls, their banter and their eccentricities made me love them as if they are my own! Also, did I mention that they also practice magic? They are so endearing! Meanwhile, Sam’s dad is super close and present in the family. Yes, he’s awkward with Sam and doesn’t appear much, but he’s super close with Sam and the Grands. He actively tries to be involved in Sam’s life and very supportive.
“There are all kinds of drag. Sometimes it looks like wigs and makeup; sometimes it’s just a face someone shows you when they’re afraid to show you their real one.”
I also love Farrah, Lola, and Paloma. I don’t know much about drag other than what I see from the mainstream media, so this book felt like an insight to their world. It seems really fun and loving?? The way the three of them + Sam form a family and look after each other really touched me. They are just fabulous, with all the glitz of drag world, but they are also genuine, sympathetic, and love each others like sisters. They took Sam under their wing and taught him everything they know- from make up to gender pronouns when in drag- without any pressure or any expectations for him. They may have no blood relation, but they are one of the best fictional families I’ve read! I love how Shangri La not only represents a gay bar as a place, but also a safe space and a home for them.
I really liked Sam as a character. He’s very sensitive, warm, and genuine for me. He loves everyone around him, especially his families, and it shows. And it’s rare to read about someone who actually enjoys being where they are, in the small town with no prospect of the future, and being content about it. However, his relationship with Tom Swift aka the new guy in town conflicts me.
So basically, Sam is gay and he has a crush on Tom, who is a straight trans-boy (not a spoiler, it happens a few pages at the beginning of the book). Sam is very supportive and understanding with Tom, empathizing and helping out whenever he can. However, the way Tom is written makes it seem like Tom doesn’t care about anything other than himself– about his transition and his feelings. As we read we know the reason behind this, but their dynamics is really unhealthy and led to some unforgivable moments done by both of them. There are other things to talk about regarding their friendship and the topic surrounding it, so I really recommend you to check this #ownvoices review on goodreads.
While Love & Other Curses has so many fun things going on with the sassy grandmas and drag queens all around, this book doesn’t shy around from heavy topics such as death, gender and sexuality, as well as being trans and having a drag self. I can’t say how accurate this book is in terms of representation, but I feel like this book gives me some insight and more understanding on the issue. Through this discussion, we explore the issue as Sam learns it and eventually, it becomes more of a book about finding and accepting yourself, as well as others. This book also has their bit of magic here and there, from the Weyward curse, the Grands quirky magic, to other coincidences. It’s definitely a summer full of magic for Sam, both real and not real, and I definitely try to read more from the author!