Chase Arthur is a budding animator and hopeless romantic obsessed with Disney films and finding his true love, but he’s plagued with the belief that he’s not enough for anyone: he’s recovering from an eating disorder and suffers from body dysmorphia fueled by his father, and can’t quite figure out his gender identity. When Chase starts his freshman year of college, he has to navigate being away from home and missing his sister, finding his squad, and contending with his ex-best friend Leila who is gunning for the same exclusive mentorship. If only he can pull together a short for the freshman animation showcase at the end of the semester.
Then Chase meets Jack Reid, a pragmatic poet who worships words and longs to experience life outside of his sheltered world. But Chase throws everything into question for Jack, who is still discovering his sexual identity, having grown up in close-knit conservative family. Jack internalized a lot of homophobia from his parents and childhood best friend, who unexpectedly visit campus, which threatens to destroy their relationship. Chase will have to learn to love–and be enough for–himself, while discovering what it means to truly live.
🤷🏻♀️ confusing main characters
🏳️🌈 coming out, non-binary
🎓 post secondary setting
⚠️ read the warnings
And They Lived is Steven Salvatore’s second novel. I read their first book, “Can’t Take That Away” and quite enjoyed its quirky characters and focus on musicals! This book didn’t resonate quite as well for me.
Chase is on his way to his freshman year of college. He wants to be an animator, believes in love (and wants it Disney-movie style), and is struggling with some personal issues. Chase hasn’t really figured his gender identity, nor has he shorted out his historically challenging relationship with his father.
When Chase goes out with some newfound friends, he meets Jack. Jack is a jock, but not the kind Chase is expecting. He’s sweet, kind, creative and seems to be taken with Chase. Their relationship is sometimes lovely, and sometimes dysfunctional and a million other things in between those two extremes.
I was a bit confused by some things. I wasn’t sure what kind of post-secondary institute would drop someone like Chase into a major film project so early in their education. Some of the school stuff felt a little off to me. Now, this is just based on my own experience, but my first years of university weren’t spent doing my specialization. I don’t know much about animation, but it sure seemed like Chase was being expected to do a lot of work in his very first year.
I was also a bit bewildered by some of the interactions of the characters. I feel like the main characters and his love interest were both hard on one another at different points. For a character that seemed to be quite self-aware and forward thinking, Chase threw all that aside to get involved with someone who was clearly dealing with some remarkably difficult things. Chase and Jack are sometimes obsessed with one another, other times they ghost each other. I just felt a bit like I couldn’t keep up with what was going on between them.
This book covers some difficult subject matter. Please be aware of that going in. There are some scenes that some people will find to be quite triggering. I will do my best with the warnings, but please remember I’m not expect.
This book wasn’t what I was hoping for from Stephen Salvatore, it’s written well but I had a lot of trouble with the main characters. I would still pick up a future book written by Salvatore as there’s a real queer joy in some of their writing that I find very enjoyable.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) homophobia, internalized homophobia, fat shaming, gas lighting, ghosting, bullying, disordered eating, parent shames child, Suicidal ideation, Emesis & purging
I received an ARC of And They Lived by Steven Salvatore via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.