Title: THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY
Author: Laura Creedle
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
ARCS?: Yes, provided by HMH in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Depression, medication abuse, mentions of suicide (MC is put on suicide watch), self-harm (LI hits his head on the table)
Rep: ADHD, Aspergers, broken families, single parent families, depression.
When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.
When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?
This was another really hard book to rate.
First of all, I loved the characters. I think this is probably the most honest portrayal of how two sixteen year olds falling in love for the first time behave. Yes, it’s fast. Yes, it’s ridiculous. Yes, those are some extreme feelings… because that’s exactly how most teenagers react to their first love. And I enjoyed every second of it.
Creedle did a great job in fleshing out all of her characters. Not just Lily and Abelard but all of the side characters. I loved Lily’s little sister and her mom, and it was great to see Lily’s mom support her and still be frustrated with how Lily behaves. In a lot of stories, we see the parent be unconditionally patient but it was great to see Lily’s mom behave like a real human and respond to things that we’re hard for her to handle.
I’ve talked with a few people who have said the ADHD and autism rep were very good. The author herself has ADHD and apparently has done her research very well when it came to writing Abelard who has Aspergers.
The book lost two stars for me for two different reasons.
The first was when Lily said the phrase “-my personal spirit animal.” Y’all. This is 2017. No one, and I do mean NO ONE, should be including the phrase “spirit animal” in their book unless they are an Indigenous person whose tribe has spirit animals, and only if they are using the term in the proper context. Laura Creedle does not fit any of that criteria… nor does her book. That’s an automatic star loss, every single time.
The next thing that caused ABELARD AND LILY to lose a star was Creedle’s demonization of medication. Lily constantly goes on and off her meds and claims they don’t work. Fun fact: If you don’t take them regularly and get used to them, they do make you feel like a zombie! It was also very, very hard to read other characters encourage Lily to stay off her meds, too. But on the flip side of that, Lily was willing to have an electrode put in her brain. So, electroshock therapy and invasive surgery is good but medicine that you can change and adjust is… bad? It was also really concerning that leading up to the surgery, Lily kept referring to herself as a monster who needed to be fixed. I think this could have been handled very well if Lily had said this to someone and they corrected her. Anything on paper to show people in the same position as Lily that they are not broken monsters.
Again, this was a great book with some really problematic elements that I think probably would have been caught by some attentive sensitivity readers.