Greetings, Seekers! I (Jonathan) have been traveling a lot for work per usual. A positive side effect of all those flights is more time to read. Here’s my spoiler-free review of the last book I finished: Endpapers, by Jennifer Savran Kelly. Please keep in mind that this is just my opinion and you may vehemently disagree with it at your leisure.
Genre: LGBTQIA+ Urban Fiction
Overview: A genderqueer book conservator finds a hidden love letter from one woman to another and embarks on a search for the author, forcing a personal reckoning with their identity issues.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Endpapers Book Review
I discovered Endpapers through the magic of book Twitter (#booktwt). Gender identity and the collision of modern and historical LGBTQIA+ perspectives fascinate me, so off to the library I went. I devoured this book in one sitting on a 3-hour flight. As a debut novel, it’s hugely impressive. It deals with some weighty themes including graphic depictions of hate crimes. Please keep that in mind before you crack this one open.
Perhaps my favorite part of the story is the description of New York City. It’s rich, textured, and engages all the senses. I could practically taste the takeout food the main character brought home. In a similar vein, the characters’ emotions are beautifully rendered. Dawn’s struggle with gender norms is presented in a thoughtful, accessible way. The ups and downs of their romantic relationship are so relatable. I keenly felt their internal conflict and, once she enters the story, Gertrude’s longing. There’s a scene near the end that’s conveyed in the form of a letter that had me misty-eyed. Even the minor characters felt fully realized with unique points of view that added depth to the story. Savran Kelly has a knack for writing compelling characters and settings.
I also enjoyed the glimpse into the world of book conservation. Savran Kelly’s personal experience in this field seeps through most brilliantly. Depictions of Dawn’s conservation efforts are nuanced and vivid. It’s also a poignant reminder that a physical book in good condition may soon be a luxury item. In the same way that classic cars require monetary investment to remain valuable, classic books must also undergo the same treatment. I went down the rabbit hole of current conservation efforts and discovered the American Library Association’s directory of educational programs. Check it out here.
My sole quibble with the story is the amount of time spent reaching its conclusion. I could have done with fewer introspective walks around Brooklyn or similar environs. The amount of time Dawn spends thinking while walking is probably realistic for New Yorkers, but I suffered from angst fatigue. The moments when Dawn interacts with other characters shine brightest in the story. I found myself skimming their internal monologues in favor of reaching the next scene with someone else. That is a rather significant chunk of Endpapers which is reflected in my rating.
In summary, if you’re looking for sapphic urban fiction with believable characters and relationships, Endpapers delivers. It at times requires patience, but the payoff is worth it. I could easily see this novel being developed into a film. It has the verve and wit of Sex and the City blended with a history-driven gut punch. Savran Kelly is a talented writer and I look forward to their future work. You can check out Endpapers and their other writing on their website.
If you’ve read this book, what do you think? Tell us in the comments. (For more book reviews by J&K, go here.)