Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
Autoboyography was a book I was beyond excited to read. I thought it would be a book I could see myself in, I thought it would be a sweet romance that I could gush over, I thought it would be a book I would remember forever. I really wanted to like this book.
But I didn’t.
It’s not a bad book, per se, but it wasn’t a book for me. After I finished reading it, I originally rated this book 4.5 stars — but the more I thought of the book, and some specific scenes, the angrier I got and the more disappointed I got, and that lowered my rating.
Fair warning: this is a mess of a review. Also spoilers everywhere.
So let’s get into it:
You guys know how much I hate instalove romance and this book was chock full of it. I know Tanner gets a crush on Sebastian pretty early in the book — hey, I can relate, I get crushes all the time — but the speed at which he falls for Sebastian is alarming. Especially considering Sebastian is super religious and, on some level, Tanner is aware that nothing can come of his attraction. Look, sometimes our hearts are assholes and even though your brain is going ‘Hey, I probably shouldn’t like this person’, your heart is like ‘Fuck you, let’s dream of a life together where we’re married and super happy all the time.’ And that’s great and fine … but Tanner takes it a step too far in that he’s literally writing a book about his and Sebastian’s budding romantic relationship, but THEY’RE NOT TOGETHER, NOR HAS SEBASTIAN EVEN INDICATED HIS ATTRACTION.
I’m sorry but that’s so freaking weird and stalker-ish to me. Imagine going to your job. Now imagine helping someone at your job, a complete stranger with whom you’ve had a couple of minute-long conversations with. Now imagine them writing a fucking romance about you — how you meet, how you fall in love, how you’re thinking about having sex. Is that not the creepiest thing imaginable?? I GOT SECOND-HAND EMBARRASSMENT FROM THESE BOOK SCENES. That’s not cute, people; that’s weird.
Autumn a.k.a the best friend
I can’t begin to explain the hatred I have in my heart for Autumn. How much she annoyed me, how much she grated on my nerves. She was whiny and insensitive, and doesn’t understand boundaries, but also, that’s not completely her fault. I can’t blame everything on her, because Tanner is kind of the one who drives her that way.
Let’s back up a bit and explain.
So when Tanner moves to this ultra religious town, his parents force him back into the closet (I’ll get into that more later). He befriends Autumn and they become best friends, but he doesn’t tell her he is bi, which, fair enough. He doesn’t have to, even if she is an LGBTQ+ ally, because it’s his decision who should know (you hear that, parents?). Anyway, one time at a party, Tanner and Autumn make out, but Tanner tells her it was a mistake that they are better off as friends and she agrees … even though she harbours a secret crush on him forevermore that is definitely not a secret, considering Tanner is fully aware of it. You still with me?
So Tanner is fully aware that Autumn has a crush on him, and yet, when he breaks up with Sebastian (for like the hundredth time in this short novel), he goes to her house, cries, kisses her … and then proceeds to have sex with her, taking her virginity. To make matters worse, he forgets that she’s a virgin until she reminds him DAYS LATER, after she has a hissy fit, that’s not really a hissy fit because she’s over him, but still stayed home from school and ignored his calls and text messages. Yeah.
Tanner even admits that he wasn’t thinking about her when they were having sex — he didn’t care about her feelings on the matter, didn’t take time to be gentle because she’d never had sex before. No, he was rough, and only thought about his own feelings because of Sebastian, which, gross, I hate you Tanner. OH and then she blames herself!!!! She said their sex was all her fault, not Tanner’s which aksfhgkjahdfjhajkfghakfd. Omg friends, I’m getting so angry right now.
This is the plot:
- Bi boy moves to Mormon town.
- Bi boy instantly falls in love with the son of the Mormon bishop
- Bi boy creepily writes his book about the son of the Mormon bishop
- Bi boy and Mormon boy spend time together
- Bi boy and Mormon boy start dating
- Bi boy and Mormon boy break up
- Bi boy and irritating best friend have sex
- Bi boy goes to college
- Bi boy and Mormon boy get back together
That’s it, the end. No need to read the book, because I just explained the whole plot for you.
*big sigh* I get that Tanner’s parents are supposed to be Cool Parents and Super Supportive because they love their queer son and they have a gay bumper sticker showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community, but wow they sucked. They sucked hard. They move their family to an ultra-religious Mormon town for the mother’s job (another reviewer pointed out that there’s a town twenty minutes away from the one Tanner’s family move to that isn’t religious that Tanner’s parents could have moved to, so) and then they force him to go back into the closet.
I’m going to say this quite bluntly: no one, no matter their relation to you, has the right to tell you when you should come out of the closet. I don’t care that Tanner’s parents think they are protecting him, what they did was wrong on so many levels. STORYTIME: I’m going to get a little personal here, but my mother did the same to me. She told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone I was bi because they might judge me and not want to be friends with me anymore. Now, despite the fact that she is worried about me and wants to protect me from a world that would hate me, it is not her right to tell me that. Due to her words, I spent a good time in the closet absolutely despising myself. I would go out into the world and see all my straight friends just being themselves and wonder why I felt like only half of me was worthy, why my whole self wasn’t good enough. I was in pain. Before you hate on my mum, she has since apologised and has accepted me, but it still hurts to think about that time, which is why I really didn’t like Tanner’s parents. I can’t remember if Tanner’s parents ever apologise to him (I’m thinking they don’t) but they are so so so so wrong.
If you get anything out of this crappy mess of a review, let it be this: if you want to come out, don’t let anybody’s opinion stop you. This is your decision, not anyone else’s. And I love you.
The bi rep
I love how many fellow bisexual readers out there felt seen because of this book, and I know that one half of the Christina Lauren duo is bi themselves, but … I did not like the bisexual representation in this book.
Now, this is completely my opinion and feelings as a bi reader. If you yourself are a bi reader and loved the representation, I’m happy for you! But please remember that not any one person is a monolith for a specific representation (including myself!) and that we all have different experiences. Also I am not trying to policing anyone’s sexuality or identity here. With that out of the way, let me get into why I didn’t like the bi rep.
Tanner is a bisexual, but to me he didn’t feel bisexual. Whenever he explained his sexuality, it felt more like he was pansexual. I know that a lot of people get confused between bisexual and pansexual, but there are differences. I don’t know how to eloquently explain my feelings because I don’t want to insult anyone, but I’m going to try. This is a quote from the book, and the bold part is what I have a problem with:
“Auddy’s words twanged that dissonant chord inside of me, the inner conflict about what it means to be bisexual. There’s the devil on one shoulder, the ignorant perception that I get from all sides, both inside and outside of the queer community, who say bisexuality is really about indecision, that it’s impossible for bisexuals to be satisfied with one person and the label is a way to not commit. And then there’s the angel on the other shoulder – who the queer-positive books and pamphlets encourage me to believe – saying that no, what it means is I’m open to falling in love with anyone. I’m happy to commit, but the specific parts don’t matter as much as the person.”
Those last two sentences right there feel more like pansexual representation than bi. I can be completely wrong about this as I am not pan, but, I’m not open to falling in love with anyone. That’s not how I define my bisexuality, although another bi person certainly might and they are 100% valid if they do.
Essentially, Tanner’s bisexuality didn’t resonate with how I specifically define my own bisexuality. I just couldn’t relate to him, although there were certainly moments where I could. In that quote above, I understand Tanner perfectly when he explains the negative stereotypes surrounding bi people. But aside from a few occasions, for a majority of the novel I just couldn’t connect to him, which is why I had such a big problem with the book.
Despite my ravings that may or may not make sense, Autoboyography is not a bad book, it’s just one that I personally couldn’t relate to, despite the fact that I was really hoping to. I think I had really high expectations for this book, because so many mutuals — some of whom are bi themselves — really loved this book and I thought I would too. But, unfortunately, there’s just too much that upset me. And when you don’t like the plot, the characters, or the representation, then I guess it’s not too much of a leap that you don’t like the actual book.