Review: Lakelore - Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Magical Realism
Published: Feiwel Friends, March 2022
My Rating: 4/5 stars
"The world under the lake isn't just holding the parts of myself and my history that I don't want to think about. It's holding the ways I've adapted and lived. Sometimes you can't separate the hard things from the good things."
To start this review off, I have to say it’s a little different from my normal long-form reviews. That’s because you’ve heard me talk about Anna-Marie McLemore’s books often enough now, and I can only repeat that I love them so many times before I become an echo-chamber of myself. That being said, I still wanted to share my thoughts on Lakelore, as well as some trends I’ve seen in YA fiction featuring representation of minorities lately. For better and for worse.
Lakelore is McLemore’s seventh novel and offers everything I’ve come to love from the author: prose that is rich, lush and light as whipped cream, magical realism elements inspired by Latin-American mythology, LGBTQ (specifically trans- and non-binary) representation from the heart and characters you won’t forget long after you close the book.
In this story we follow two non-binary, neurodivergent teens navigating family, acceptance, love and the feeling of displacement that comes with their identities. Bastian and Lore first meet by the edge of the lake. It’s a fleeting encounter that changes the course of both of their lives in ways neither could have predicted. The lake, filled with its mystical lore of a sunken world of half-air and half-water beneath the surface, becomes a safe-place for both of them individually. A place where they let go of the worst parts of their days into the water.
Years later, the two meet again on the lakeshores. Only now, the lakes surface is rippling, and all of the world hidden below the surface threatens to spill over into ours.
As much as I loved Lakelore, I think it may be my least favourite of AM’s works so far. Don't get me wrong: it's still a 4-star, which is an even furhter testimony to my love for the author. It has some of my favourite magical-realism elements (Bastián’s “drowning of the albreijes” as a metaphor is possibly tied for 1st place with some of the imagery The Mirror Season), but as a whole it was the story that I connected least with. In all fairness: I don’t identify as trans, non-binary, dyslexic nor do I have ADHD. However, not sharing an identity with them has never stopped me from connecting and identifying with AM’s characters before. It was more so the way that Bastián and Lore were written that felt different for me this time round. AM’s representation has always felt so authentic and natural, but this was the first time where I felt it teeter on the edge preachy and “explaining”. Perhaps it was AM finding their footing writing explicitly about neuro-diversity for the first time, but I feel like it may have been editorial/publishing-influence as well. It’s so painfully common in larger (YA) markets, and I’ve always championed authors like AM who don’t fall in this trap and seem to write from the heart. So editors/publishers, if you’re reading this, here’s an important message from me to you;
PLEASE TRUST (authors like) Anna-Marie and let them do what they do best; let them write their experiences and stories without agenda’s. Our identities/disabilities/differences are not a teaching-tool or moral standpoint, and don’t have to be presented as such. We are here, and we are enough for existing on page, as well as off page.