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We Contain Multitudes

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another. Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With eac Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another. Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship...and each other. This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.


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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another. Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With eac Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another. Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship...and each other. This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

30 review for We Contain Multitudes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    2019 is the first year where I think that I won't be able to keep up with all the promising lgbt+ releases and that makes me want to cry

  2. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    This book, to borrow a phrase from one of the main characters, utterly undid me. We Contain Multitudes was exactly what I hoped it would be: a gorgeously moving, beautifully told, thought-provoking story of friendship, love, truth, and secrets. I read most of this on a plane ride and it was the first of two books I read that had me in tears, which is always a condition I try to avoid on airplanes!! Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky is a football player repeating his senior year of high school, a quiet gian This book, to borrow a phrase from one of the main characters, utterly undid me. We Contain Multitudes was exactly what I hoped it would be: a gorgeously moving, beautifully told, thought-provoking story of friendship, love, truth, and secrets. I read most of this on a plane ride and it was the first of two books I read that had me in tears, which is always a condition I try to avoid on airplanes!! Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky is a football player repeating his senior year of high school, a quiet giant with a bit of a penchant for fighting. As part of an assignment for English class, he is paired with Jonathan Hopkirk, a quirky, fiercely intelligent sophomore with a passion for Walt Whitman's poetry, who is bullied nearly every day at school because of his sexuality and his desire to dress as if he were living in Whitman's day. Kurl and Jonathan are expected to write each other letters once a week. The two couldn't have less in common at the outset—Jonathan knows nothing about football and has formulated lots of assumptions about Kurl based on gossip from his sister and her best friend, while Kurl isn't really interested in answering Jonathan's questions, and he really doesn't understand why Jonathan would be so willing to make himself a target for bullies, why he continues to dress the way he does. Little by little, the boys' relationship begins to deepen. Both learn that there is so much more to the other than meets the eye, but each realizes that there are secrets they are keeping, secrets that could prove just how vulnerable they are. Each experiences true epiphanies about themselves and each other, but they experience a tremendous amount of pain and anguish in the process. The entire book is narrated in letters from the two boys, although in some letters they recount events in full. Sarah Henstra does such a great job creating two distinctively different writing styles for the two, and I found myself becoming as eager to read each new letter as they were waiting for the letters to arrive. We Contain Multitudes is immensely poignant, even tremendously sad at times. Both Jonathan and Kurl have so many issues to confront, some within themselves, some within their families, and some at school. The book does get a little violent at times (although not gratuitously so), so it may be difficult for some to read. But there are so many moments of sheer beauty in this story as well, I couldn't put the book down even as the story became sadder. Some of the plot may not be surprising, but there definitely were surprises to be had. Henstra is so talented, and she has created two characters that I hope we'll see again, because I want to know where they wind up and how life treated them. We Contain Multitudes is one of those absolutely beautiful books I won't soon forget. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html. You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  3. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    My face when I finished this book truly looked like this: 1 and a half stars, baby!! What an honor it is to this book that it’s the first book I’ve rated under 3 stars this year!!! First of all, I want to say that this book is just written really beautifully. (This is pretty much the only pro.) I could pull so many quotes from it, and I think a lot of people could read them and think they were beautiful as well. There were some moments while I was reading where I just thought, Wow. Okay, at some s My face when I finished this book truly looked like this: 1 and a half stars, baby!! What an honor it is to this book that it’s the first book I’ve rated under 3 stars this year!!! First of all, I want to say that this book is just written really beautifully. (This is pretty much the only pro.) I could pull so many quotes from it, and I think a lot of people could read them and think they were beautiful as well. There were some moments while I was reading where I just thought, Wow. Okay, at some sentences, because the writing was just that pretty. The whole time the band played I kept sneaking looks at you, Jo, and thinking: How could I be unhappy? I mean how could anybody be unhappy? And also: How is anybody supposed to hide happiness like this? Of course, a 15-year-old boy would not be writing that sophisticatedly. I promise you, as a teenager and writer myself, I don’t even write like that. It’s really not realistic (and very pretentious) that a 15-year-old sophomore, no matter how quirky he is for being a huge fan of Walt Whitman, would write the way he did in the book. Overall, this book is boring. I made it halfway before wanting to DNF it because I just didn’t care what happened at that point, and I know many other people also DNFed it for the same reason. But I made myself continue so I could properly review it (because I read reviews about how it got worse and wow I really should have read the reviews before I picked up the book). The letter format doesn’t help either—it made it almost impossible for me to immerse myself and feel like I was there with the characters, because it just felt very, very passive. (Not to mention how many times the characters actually are interacting in real life and then just write letters to each other recounting the exact event that they both were there for. Yeah, it’s so the reader knows what’s going on. No, it’s not realistic.) But it gets worse! Because the romance/relationship is absolutely WILD. First of all, it’s between a 15-year-old boy and an 18 year-old boy (sophomore and senior repeating the year), and it just made me really uncomfortable. Like, homeboy out here not even able to properly drive yet and he’s having sex with someone who would have been a freshman in college!!! And the way the whole relationship starts is so messed up and weird? They don’t seem to have any feelings for each other until (view spoiler)[the 18-year-old, drunk, gives a handjob to the 15-year-old, and the consent behind it all was very murky and unclear. Also, the 18-year-old had no idea he was gay yet. And also, why would you write this as the way that they start to realize they have feelings for each other?? (hide spoiler)] A word kept flashing in my head. One word, over and over, like a flashing neon sign. Lucky. I don’t know how to describe it, Jo. Lucky lucky lucky. My whole body wanted to crawl inside your whole body, just to share all this luckiness with you. Honestly, I just feel very yikes about the fact that a white, most likely straight, most likely cis woman wrote this book. Homophobia was written about a lot, which wasn’t the biggest issue for me because it wasn’t just about queer pain, and the characters weren’t only tragic gay boys. (Though the homophobic violence is pretty, well, violent.) My biggest issue was that she wrote about a gay boy’s pain by (view spoiler)[having him cheat and have sex with his boyfriend’s sister and thinking things like, “Just like this. Easy. Everything will be so much easier this way.” (The 18yo was the one who cheated, by the way, and both were drunk. And also, the 18yo just let it happen, which isn’t true consent.) I mean, I don’t even want to talk about why writing that is so gross, and completely unnecessary. (hide spoiler)] And lastly, the most disappointing thing about this book: It was NOTHING like Ari and Dante, besides the fact that it was about two gay boys, and this just made me want to reread Ari and Dante even more. I think the sad thing is that this book had the potential to be really good? It explored trauma (I’d actually be really interested to see an abuse survivor’s thoughts on it), and also figuring out your identity, and slowly coming to believe yourself to be more deserving of things than you originally thought. I also feel like the romance could have really been well-written, if you basically just changed the ages and took out all the things I talked about above. But the book failed, and I’m really sad (and mad) about it. Anyways, 1.5 stars. I had no idea how to feel about it after I finished it (see the very accurate representational image of my face above), but the beautiful writing definitely made me feel like I enjoyed it a lot more than I actually did. It honestly could be 1 star, but the writing was just really gorgeous and I’m giving it a half star for that. I really don’t recommend this book, and I definitely don’t recommend it if you’re looking for something similar to Ari and Dante. :: rep :: gay MC, gay abuse survivor MC :: content warnings :: physical abuse (parent-child), bullying, homophobia (use of f-slur and q-slur), violence, drug use, cheating, questionable consent during sex

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    2019 is rocking with all these new gay releases!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Malanie

    “““Poetry’s like that, Kurl: slippery and coy. It means different things to different people.””” You know how sometimes you’ll read a book. And it’s objectively beautiful. Like, if you were to scientifically analyze the book, and place all its pieces side by side on a table, you’d agree that yes, this is technically beautiful. It has all the right parts. It says all the right things. AND THIS ANALYSIS ONLY MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE A STONE COLD MONSTER WHO CANNOT LOVE. That was me. I felt no emotion a “““Poetry’s like that, Kurl: slippery and coy. It means different things to different people.””” You know how sometimes you’ll read a book. And it’s objectively beautiful. Like, if you were to scientifically analyze the book, and place all its pieces side by side on a table, you’d agree that yes, this is technically beautiful. It has all the right parts. It says all the right things. AND THIS ANALYSIS ONLY MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE A STONE COLD MONSTER WHO CANNOT LOVE. That was me. I felt no emotion at all for these characters. Except outrage at myself, because this was supposed to be like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and yet here I am, not feeling my golden holy Ari and Dante vibes. Please just return me to the store, I’m defective. ✨What is this book about?✨ This book was about two boys, Kurl and Jo, who are pen pals ((who attend the same school because they’re pen pals for a writing assignment, not for some normal reason like, they’re separated by some physical distance ***which would have been amazing***)). The entire book = Jo and Kurl taking turns sending one another letters back and forth. I forget what you call a book written in epistle format????? I’ve never read a book in this style before, where it’s literally nothing but letters. Turns out it’s not my thing. *bursts into tears* They basically progress directly from neutral pen pals to lovers. There was no segue at all. It was just WHAM suddenly they’re boyfriends. AND I WAS JUST QUIETLY THINKING:: “jesus that was fast.” Sometimes insta-love works; very rarely, but I’ve seen it done. Sadly, this book does not serve as an example of that. Especially because their earliest sexual encounters have no consent ////whatsoever.//// Which is challenged in the book. But still!!!!!!! This took away so much of my enjoyment of the relationship. It set a tone that I couldn’t get out of my head. The story follows them falling in love, then the events that SAVAGELY break them apart. These events have to do with parent-child abuse and cheating. So. That wasn’t fun in the least. ANYWAY. There are also so many Walt Whitman references. I love Walt. Jo, the protagonist, is Walt’s biggest fanboy. He even dresses like him!!! But all the Whitman allusions to became annoying after a certain point. I love the idea of a person “containing multitudes.” But holy shit we were given a 200 page analysis of “Leaves of Grass" and I wasn't prepared ✨Rep!!!✨ ➡️Jo is gay, Kurl is bisexual or gay? ((not specified for sure)) ✨Overall✨ I didn’t Ari and Dante aesthetic at all. Sure, there’s a soft angelic boy and a…………...idk a “not as soft” boy? Ari and Dante also has a part in the middle where they communicate entirely through letters because Dante moves to Chicago for a little while. But other than that, if you’re reading this because it will give you Ari and Dante feelings, you might be disappointed. TW: parent-child abuse, protagonist with anger issues, sexual encounter without explicit consent, homophobia, bullying, drug use, cheating (within main relationship) |✨BLOG✨| ✨TWITTER✨|✨BOOKSTAGRAM✨|

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Lanzilotta

    We’ve all come across a book so wonderful, you’re utterly transfixed and absorbed in every possible way. Those few moments you look up from the pages are done so with dreary eyes; reality seems secondary to what you’ve just experienced. We Contain Multitudes is beautiful in its simplicity. We are shown a love story between two boys, their journey of heart and healing through letters. When Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam Kurlansky are paired up for a class writing assignment, they didn’t know what to ex We’ve all come across a book so wonderful, you’re utterly transfixed and absorbed in every possible way. Those few moments you look up from the pages are done so with dreary eyes; reality seems secondary to what you’ve just experienced. We Contain Multitudes is beautiful in its simplicity. We are shown a love story between two boys, their journey of heart and healing through letters. When Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam Kurlansky are paired up for a class writing assignment, they didn’t know what to expect. Jonathan enjoys poetry, and doesn’t have any friends in school. Adam is a football star, though he prefers to avoid socializing with other students. Through weekly letters to each other, the boys begin finding friendship amidst their differences. Eventually, things blossom into love, and the two are determined to find peace in a life that wants nothing but chaos for them. Told through solely Adam and Jonathan’s letters to each other, We Contain Multitudes was a truly intriguing book. I was immediately drawn to both main characters, as they each had such a distinct, unique voice. The story flowed perfectly, nothing felt too fast paced or slowed down. It got to the point where I’d forgotten I was reading words on a page, and was instead completely lost in the story. This book left me with a distinct sense of peace. A good sort of quietness has settled inside me after closing the last page. The simple beauty was astounding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hollis

    DNF at 90 pages The problem with a 100% epistolary novel is when your protagonists exist in the same space, in this case a high school, and you want them to have dialogue and face-to-face interactions. So you decide to have the penpals literally recounting situations the other was present for. "When you brought in the groceries, you said this, she said that, this happened next.." it makes no actual fucking sense to write a letter to someone this way. The person was there. I don't want someone giv DNF at 90 pages The problem with a 100% epistolary novel is when your protagonists exist in the same space, in this case a high school, and you want them to have dialogue and face-to-face interactions. So you decide to have the penpals literally recounting situations the other was present for. "When you brought in the groceries, you said this, she said that, this happened next.." it makes no actual fucking sense to write a letter to someone this way. The person was there. I don't want someone giving me a play by play on my life. That's obnoxious. And the author clearly knew this because she covered her ass by saying "I know this is weird but I like breaking the conversation and events down to explore it", uh, no. These are sixteen/seventeen year old boys tasked with an English assignment and, to begin with, they are writing more than they should. You've already stretched the boundaries of my disbelief. I can't buy into this other 'instant replay' nonsense. So instead I spoiled myself on the events of the book by reading some reviews, got mad some more, and thus here I am giving up. If it wasn't against my personal policy to not rate books I've read less than half of.. this would have a one star up there. Nope nope. ** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    3.5 Stars I had been anticipating this novel since it is Sarah Henstra’s first YA book and I must say that I was deeply happy with some things and not so happy with others. Let’s start with what I enjoyed. I liked the fact that it was all an epistolary novel, it’s a very original concept for a YA book and I think it was set up very well. I enjoyed seeing the two main characters giving both their points of view on the same matter and also trying to catch up with the letters they sent each other. The 3.5 Stars I had been anticipating this novel since it is Sarah Henstra’s first YA book and I must say that I was deeply happy with some things and not so happy with others. Let’s start with what I enjoyed. I liked the fact that it was all an epistolary novel, it’s a very original concept for a YA book and I think it was set up very well. I enjoyed seeing the two main characters giving both their points of view on the same matter and also trying to catch up with the letters they sent each other. The prose was definitely beautiful. I must admit that I asked myself a question: was it a bit too much for two teenagers still in high school? Maybe, but in the end I was fine with it because I think that deep down I, as a reader, always want my main characters to be special in some way and not think about the fact that they are just normal teenagers picked out at random from a high school crowd. So yes, maybe it was a bit too much, but these characters are special and so it also felt fitting to have them write so majestically and quote Walt Whitman’s poems to each other. I don’t even know if I succeeded in explaining myself or if I just started rambling here. If so, I’m sorry. Jo and Kurl were definitely something. Both of them had their finest and lowest moments in this book. I appreciated the fact that the author did not shy away from heavy topics such as bullying, homophobia (internalized and general), domestic violence, abuse, grief and PTSD. But if any of these themes make you uncomfortable or are triggering then maybe this isn’t the read for you. Now to what I didn’t enjoy. I had two main issues with this novel. The first one is the part about consent. The lines were really blurry in that scene where Kurl was drunk. I was happy to see Jo seeking guidance and asking for help to his sister and Bron. It was a good choice that then unfortunately didn’t lead to him confronting Kurl. We just get told that he was drunk but he remembers what he did and from what we get he seems to be okay with it. For me this isn’t enough, I think the two of them should have had a more in depth conversation about that night. The second thing I wasn’t okay with is the cheating and how the whole aspect was dealt with. Shayna and Kurl in the end don’t really give any explanation to Jo and he seems to be okay with this decision and he also forgives them. To me it felt like he was accepting something without even trying to solve or fight it. I didn’t like this. The ending makes us think that Kurl and Jo will not only remain friends, but also maybe get back together, or at least try to. Without any explanation and felt apologies for the night when the cheating happened I do not think this is an adequate ending.

  9. 4 out of 5

    c,

    a moment of silence for all the great characters who got screwed over by shitty plots for them as wants to know exactly: (view spoiler)[there's a whole load of homophobia in this even before the mess happens (jo regularly gets bullied for being gay). kurl's uncle (who also beats him when he gets drunk) ends up kicking him out bc he's gay, so he goes to his mate's and ends up getting drunk (partly bc he hates himself too!) and having sex with his boyfriend's sister, who is also drunk and angry wit a moment of silence for all the great characters who got screwed over by shitty plots for them as wants to know exactly: (view spoiler)[there's a whole load of homophobia in this even before the mess happens (jo regularly gets bullied for being gay). kurl's uncle (who also beats him when he gets drunk) ends up kicking him out bc he's gay, so he goes to his mate's and ends up getting drunk (partly bc he hates himself too!) and having sex with his boyfriend's sister, who is also drunk and angry with her father. jo (boyfriend) walks in on them and then ends up going on a bender, getting high, and finding himself in a situation where his bullies beat him up really bad. like proper gay bashing kind of shit. so. a mess. i would mind less if this kind of thing was handled by a mlm but. it's not so. it's frustrating too bc i loved the characters and where the book was going before that. if, say, the kicking out had been the angst bit which they dealt with together, it would have been so much better. instead this all happened. (hide spoiler)] Rep: gay mcs

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Gallager

    Rarely has a book affected me as this one has. I wanted to race through it and while at the same time, slowly savor each sentence. It is a shimmering love story with a brittle core. I cried more than once and may have been reading this at my desk during the day... Unforgettable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I 1000% loved this book for the 1st 3/4ths. It's this really beautiful romantic epistolary novel about 2 teenage boys who fall in love and discuss Walt Whitman and salamanders and their own sordid lives. It's lovely. But then some hardcore drama happens 3/4ths in and it was really overwhelming in its intensity. I almost whipped the book across the room, tbh. I needed Imogen Heap to come in with some oooooh what you says to cut those dark feelings. Haha. But also for real. So yeah, the motivations I 1000% loved this book for the 1st 3/4ths. It's this really beautiful romantic epistolary novel about 2 teenage boys who fall in love and discuss Walt Whitman and salamanders and their own sordid lives. It's lovely. But then some hardcore drama happens 3/4ths in and it was really overwhelming in its intensity. I almost whipped the book across the room, tbh. I needed Imogen Heap to come in with some oooooh what you says to cut those dark feelings. Haha. But also for real. So yeah, the motivations behind all the dramarama make sense and some of it wasn't surprising and like everyone is broken, but sometimes it's just too much to be reminded of our capacity to hurt each other, ya know? It grinds the soul. The tone shift tho, it just kind of ruined the book for me. And the neat ending didn't work either. Ugh, I have no idea how to rate this. It's somewhere between a 2 and a 3 because of the drama, but everything before was a 5. I'd recommend if you love character driven realistic romances with a lot of hardcore intensity. But there are some hella problematic aspects too, just fyi. P.s. I just read another of the reviews on here and someone compared it to Jeff Zentner's The Serpent King, which is indeed apt in my estimation as I think I literally whipped that book across my bedroom. I don't like books to betray me when I'm not ready.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joshee Kun (조수아)

    Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Anger is a relatively small thing, Kurl. We are large, remember? We contain multitudes. — Jo Have you ever found it hard to forgive fictional characters for the terrible things that they do to each other? Even though the actions of your beloved protagonists don't necessarily affect you, you hate it when they get hurt because of their stupid decisions. This mental struggle nearly dominated m Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Anger is a relatively small thing, Kurl. We are large, remember? We contain multitudes. — Jo Have you ever found it hard to forgive fictional characters for the terrible things that they do to each other? Even though the actions of your beloved protagonists don't necessarily affect you, you hate it when they get hurt because of their stupid decisions. This mental struggle nearly dominated my reading experience. Kurl did something so terrible to Little Jo, and I wanted him to suffer. Sadly, my wish wasn't granted. For me, this is one of those rare cases of unlikable happy endings. I'm a little bitter, but you can rest assured that I can see the bigger picture. Since We Contain Multitudes is an epistolary novel, you might think that it's a quick read. However, it took me almost a month to finish this book. Although the chapters/letters are brief, their contents are very emotional or substantial. In their correspondence, Kurl and Jo talk about harrowing things like bullying, anger issues, and PTSD. Sometimes, they discuss pretty sensual stuff. Personal letters are best enjoyed slowly, and that applies to this piece of fiction. Nonetheless, if you want the pain or melancholy to be over as soon as possible, go ahead and speed-read. From the very beginning, Kurl and Jo had tough lives. For instance, the former had significant issues with his stepdad (who also happened to be his uncle), while the latter was a victim of homophobia in school. Thankfully, their situations gradually improved with every letter that they sent to each other. Soon, a mere class requirement became a means of catharsis, their lifeline in a sea of despicable people. Since I used to enjoy sending letters to my parents, I strongly resonated with the characters' dependence on traditional, written communication. Compared to text messages or online chats, snail mail is definitely thoughtful and worthwhile. You have to spend money on postal services, so you have to choose your words wisely. Kurl and Jo did just that. It came to the point that they developed their literary skills or voices. It was so funny when Jo "berated" Kurl for not using quotation marks when including dialogues in his letters. Little did he know that Kurl was also a talented poet. xD For the most part, Kurl and Jo's face-to-face interactions were sweet and delightful, especially when their benevolent family members were present. The tension only became bad whenever Jo wanted to know Kurl's secrets. Kurl had a temper, and he almost hit Jo because of it. I somehow got over my irritation, but all of it returned when that horrible party happened. It was the only time I hated Kurl. He did have to pay for what he did. However, I realized that Jo was merciful to a fault. Maybe this is why other readers gave this book two stars. In totality, We Contain Multitudes was beautifully yet poignantly written. Its collection of letters played with my emotions; I smiled, swooned, and almost cried (in sadness and anger). The ending did not please me, but at least it reiterated the value of forgiveness. Resenting someone does feel good, but that doesn't mean that it's right.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    'Designating a specific area of a supposedly common space for a minority group, even unofficially, implies that the rest of the space is off-limits for that group.' Sometimes there comes a book that you want to read but not before knowing exactly what you're getting into because many people have spoiler tags and less than impressive ratings up. So there is supposed to be cheating in this and while I *get* as to why, it was still cringe-worthy to read about and then it kinda got brushed over so ye 'Designating a specific area of a supposedly common space for a minority group, even unofficially, implies that the rest of the space is off-limits for that group.' Sometimes there comes a book that you want to read but not before knowing exactly what you're getting into because many people have spoiler tags and less than impressive ratings up. So there is supposed to be cheating in this and while I *get* as to why, it was still cringe-worthy to read about and then it kinda got brushed over so yeah. There's also a lot of homophobia, bullying and passages about the War on Terror so it gets to be too much at times. But it's not a bad book per se, just a very heavy one and not in a good way 😬 Jo and Kurl are quite well-developed characters right from the start but both of them do have their hang-ups and lots of learning and growing to do. But writing letters to each other and getting to know each other makes them become better versions of themselves and that was quite welcome to read about. This is honestly a great book about the two gay poets falling in love, if only the plot wasn't so harsh on them. Being an epistolary novel, it was quite interesting to read a book written as letters only and the writing is beautiful at times. Granted, the letters got a bit ? when both of them started recounting their meetings word for word. Walt Whitman's poetry plays a big role here (who I didn't even know was gay before this) and I loved that. But the most important takeaway here is there definitely should be more teenager boys wearing and appreciating the hell out of vintage clothes in books. ---------------------- This sounds positively devastating so of course, I want to read it bad

  14. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

    dnf @ 30% I don't know if this extend from me not liking prose free multi-media books, but oh my god I am bored.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    How is anybody supposed to hide happiness like this? This book is so pure and beautifully written that after I finished it, I died. As soon as I started breathing again I ordered the hard copy so that, in 11-15 business days, I'll be able to hold this baby in my hands and reread it until it falls apart with me. A book comprised only of letters had me hesitant, but Henstra wrote this perfectly. She used the letters not as a constant conversation but a reminiscent account of things that happen wit How is anybody supposed to hide happiness like this? This book is so pure and beautifully written that after I finished it, I died. As soon as I started breathing again I ordered the hard copy so that, in 11-15 business days, I'll be able to hold this baby in my hands and reread it until it falls apart with me. A book comprised only of letters had me hesitant, but Henstra wrote this perfectly. She used the letters not as a constant conversation but a reminiscent account of things that happen with the characters revealing themselves to us and each other. I want to walk down the hallways of Lincoln High with one part of me in the eternal, the timeless, and the other part of me slipping so fast through the here and now that nobody can pin me down, not even the butcherboys. Jonathan Hopkirk is a revelation. He is so wholly himself and open to everything that I often found myself with tears in my eyes as I read his letters laying his heart out there. A word kept flashing in my head. One word, over and over, like a flashing neon sign. Lucky. Adam Kurlansky is given the opportunity, through his letters with Jo, to become the person no one else in his life has allowed him to be. He grows so much through the story. I loved the poetry references. I loved the story. I loved how these two found each other and made their own story. This is definitely a book that will stay with me. My beautiful, laughable fable of a life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Giulia

    "Poetry’s like that, Kurl: slippery and coy. It means different things to different people." TW: bullying, homophobia Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕ DNF @13% Maybe I should add in the TW “pretentious writing” as well... This is a love story between a 18 years old kid and a 15 years old guy and how their relationship grew and developed in the face of homophobia and bullying. But I’m not sure that was the case. Don't get me wrong, the reason why this is a DNF is, in fact, not the homophobia or the bullying "Poetry’s like that, Kurl: slippery and coy. It means different things to different people." TW: bullying, homophobia Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕️ DNF @13% Maybe I should add in the TW “pretentious writing” as well... This is a love story between a 18 years old kid and a 15 years old guy and how their relationship grew and developed in the face of homophobia and bullying. But I’m not sure that was the case. Don't get me wrong, the reason why this is a DNF is, in fact, not the homophobia or the bullying or even the age gap between the two main characters. Nah, fam, the real issues for me here was the writing style. And to be more precise, the 15 yo kid's writing style. It was painfully pretentious. I understand that you are an aspiring poet but, kid, take a goddam breath and write like a normal human being. These two dudes have to send each other letters for an English assignment and from there on their relationship bloomed but damn, the younger kid and his letters were just unbearable. It was just a bit challenging to think that a kid would write and say stuff like that. And, indeed, I did not fully believe in his character and his personality. It felt a bit too plastic and not enough real. Who, with all the due respect, writes that way? Man, it was not enjoyable, and that’s why I decided to not finish We Contain Multitudes. I know there are talented young kids that are definitely able to write in this poetic and lush writing style. And, honestly, kudos to you because I'm clearly not able, but I'm also very clearly not a fan of this pretentious, overly-literate character. I like my protagonists to be a bit more relatable. And Jonathan was simply too smart for my stupid and illiterate self. I'm sure there is somebody out there who can actually enjoy how wordy and cultured he was. But, unfortunately, that somebody was not me. I truly believe I was just too stupid. It was not the book's fault, I assure you. It was all on me and how dumb I am. Nonetheless, the pretentiousness was strong in this one and I was aggressively not a fan. Hence, I decided to stop reading. We Contain Multitudes. It was simply not my cup of tea, but hopefully it's yours!

  17. 5 out of 5

    noah

    a bunch of bullshit and a waste of time. i kinda wonder what goes through a woman's mind when she decides she's going to write a novel about two gay boys and the abuse and violent homophobia they face. they say write what you know for a reason sometimes... honestly the first 3/4 of the book were fine. if i had stopped reading at the 3/4 mark i probably would have given the book a solid three stars. the book is all written in letters by jo and kurl to each other, which sometimes felt awkward when t a bunch of bullshit and a waste of time. i kinda wonder what goes through a woman's mind when she decides she's going to write a novel about two gay boys and the abuse and violent homophobia they face. they say write what you know for a reason sometimes... honestly the first 3/4 of the book were fine. if i had stopped reading at the 3/4 mark i probably would have given the book a solid three stars. the book is all written in letters by jo and kurl to each other, which sometimes felt awkward when they were narrating scenes they were both present in. there were boring bits, uncomfortable bits and some sweet romantic bits, but nothing too amazing. then we get to the last quarter of the book and it's chaos. kurl goes all self-destructive. everybody is making bad decisions. theres crazy violent homophobia. its a disaster. (view spoiler)[im still not over kurl and jo's sister having sex. that was so messed up and unnecessary. there was already enough drama without adding that. (hide spoiler)] it felt like three seasons of gossip girl crammed together to make up the last 25% of the book. by the end i didnt even want jo and kurl to end up together. i just wanted them to forge new healthy relationships (romantic, platonic, familial, etc.) with other people. and live better,happier lives. anyway i wish i hadnt read this book. it so wasnt worth my time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    this story is definitely a slow creeper - meaning that, whilst reading this, it didnt really feel as impactful. the emotional hit came randomly after i read the book, set it aside, and walked away. and then, out of nowhere, i thought, ‘holy crap. this book.’ this story is large, and it contains multitudes. ↠ 4.5 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rita Mariani

    can't believe how excited i was for this book... the disappointment is real with this one

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin Warwick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I planned to give this book 4 stars solely for the fact that while I understood the explanation given for the boys writing down scenes that they experienced together in person, I was never quite able to believe it narratively and it felt forced. Otherwise I quite enjoyed the book. Until the same cliche of a self-proclaimed gay character getting upset and having straight sex with the person that would hurt their partner the most was completed. Especially considering it was rape except his “I knew I planned to give this book 4 stars solely for the fact that while I understood the explanation given for the boys writing down scenes that they experienced together in person, I was never quite able to believe it narratively and it felt forced. Otherwise I quite enjoyed the book. Until the same cliche of a self-proclaimed gay character getting upset and having straight sex with the person that would hurt their partner the most was completed. Especially considering it was rape except his “I knew what was happening and I didn’t stop it Why didn’t I stop it?” Mentality was apparently supposed to excuse that and make it not rape? That whole plot twist was very demeaning, disgusting, and I’m not surprised it was a straight woman who wrote it. LGBT plots deserve better than compulsory heterosexuality.

  21. 5 out of 5

    yvee

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ok. Maybe like a 1.5 I am so angry at this book. Legit so angry. I would have given this book a 4 Star, even a 5 Star rating if the last like 100 something pages hadn’t happened. This book had so much potential to live up to I’ll give you the sun, or hell, even Ari and Dante. But let me tell you.... how dare they compare this story to Ari and Dante because it doesn’t even come CLOSE after THAT [spoiler ahead] SPOILERS BC I NEED TO VENT: - ok so apparently shayna the beloved sister or whatever has n Ok. Maybe like a 1.5 I am so angry at this book. Legit so angry. I would have given this book a 4 Star, even a 5 Star rating if the last like 100 something pages hadn’t happened. This book had so much potential to live up to I’ll give you the sun, or hell, even Ari and Dante. But let me tell you.... how dare they compare this story to Ari and Dante because it doesn’t even come CLOSE after THAT [spoiler ahead] SPOILERS BC I NEED TO VENT: - ok so apparently shayna the beloved sister or whatever has nothing to say to HER BROTHER for sleeping with his boyfriend... - AND KURL??? I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU HOW DARE YOU!!!! - and it just made jo seem almost like the bad guy for wanting some time to himself and to grieve for the loss of his relationship and that made me so ANGRY - AND IT WAS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER AFTER WEEKS/MONTHS OF NOT TALKING???? - god and then shayna just became a selfish insufferable mess and I felt so fucking bad for Jo Anyways, I loved this book until the end. I am utterly disappointed and disgusted. I wish that authors would not go for unnecessary plots for shock value ESPECIALLY the cheating trope. Ugh.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    The cover weirdly reminds me of Pynch...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I was soooo invested in this story!! I loved all these characters, even the side ones, with all of their flaws. I felt my heart thrive and break for them all and I just :((((. I loved Adam the most, I loved reading his letters, I loved to read his writing style a little more than Jonathan's. The way that Adam comes to terms with himself is also very realistic and I really enjoyed the relationship that blossomed from this couple, from writing letters to each other and really getting to know each o I was soooo invested in this story!! I loved all these characters, even the side ones, with all of their flaws. I felt my heart thrive and break for them all and I just :((((. I loved Adam the most, I loved reading his letters, I loved to read his writing style a little more than Jonathan's. The way that Adam comes to terms with himself is also very realistic and I really enjoyed the relationship that blossomed from this couple, from writing letters to each other and really getting to know each other through these letters. For most of this book, it was just so sOFT and I was uwu-ing all the time, but then my heart also ached for them and I felt my heart breaking and iuwlhfla, emotions are EVERYWHERE. 4.5/5, I really enjoyed this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Silvia

    I was provided with a digital ARC of this book by NetGalley and the publishing house, Little,Brown Books for Young Readers, in exchange for an honest review Full review can be found here You guys, I'm still in shock by how much I loved this book. I knew it was going to be something right up my alley, but I didn't think I would love it THAT much. This is an episotolary LGBTQ+ YA novel following Jonathan and Adam, two boys who are parnered in English class in order to write letters to each other. Th I was provided with a digital ARC of this book by NetGalley and the publishing house, Little,Brown Books for Young Readers, in exchange for an honest review Full review can be found here You guys, I'm still in shock by how much I loved this book. I knew it was going to be something right up my alley, but I didn't think I would love it THAT much. This is an episotolary LGBTQ+ YA novel following Jonathan and Adam, two boys who are parnered in English class in order to write letters to each other. They could not be more different from one another even if they tried, though: Jonathan is confident in himself, loves poetry, dresses like a Walt Whitman cosplay and more importantly he's out and proud. Adam is in the football team, has a lot of family issues, and he doesn't even know who he is or what he wants to be. He's only 18 after all. This book is a declaration of love for poetry, and a declaration of love in general. Love in all of its forms. The purest, kindest and most youthful love, but also the darkest, most obscure and personal kind of love. This book celebrates even those parts of love and I think it's honestly amazing. I think that this is a novel that will divide the public opinion a lot. If you're not into dark feelings and dark stuff and you want a lovey-dovey fluffy romance, I'm sorry to say, but this book is definitely not for you. It deals with heavy topics, and the relationship in it is very far from perfect, and that's what I loved the most. Sometimes the lines about what is right and wrong is honestly very blurred and I have to admit that I, at times, really cringed in front of certain scenes. I think, though, that the author did a really good job in making the reader empathize with her characters, in order to make you understand why they were thinking and acting in certain ways. The only character I honestly could not stand was Shayna, Jonathan's sister. I'm not gonna spoil anything, but she's selfish, at times mean, and she comes across as the worst person ever. She can't apologize even if she tries, and even though I can see where she comes from, I really think that your inner anger can't justify your behaviour, most of the times (I'm not talking about PTSD or mental health cause that is serious stuff). Jonathan and Adam were honestly the most wonderful characters I've read in a while. They were so true to themselves and with who they are and they are really mature for their age (we're talking about 16 and 18 year old teens, they're REALLY mature kids, I wish I had that kind of intelligence and strenght at their age, and even an ounce of their ability to forgive and forget and accept even the darkest parts of who they are). Like I said, I'm in awe of this book, please give it a chance, I promise it is so very worth it. You guys won't regret it. I'll surely buy my own physical copy when it comes out in order to snuggle it and adore it in the way it deserves. All the stars to this book, really. All of them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    As part of a project for English class, Jonathan “Jo” Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are required to write a weekly letter to each other. Through these letters between a sophomore and a second-year senior, we learn about these two characters. Jonathan is a young, gay kid who has a love of Walt Whitman and dressing up from the period. He spends most of his time by himself, trying to escape the bullies that surround him at high school. He lives with his musician dad and his older sister. Kurl i As part of a project for English class, Jonathan “Jo” Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are required to write a weekly letter to each other. Through these letters between a sophomore and a second-year senior, we learn about these two characters. Jonathan is a young, gay kid who has a love of Walt Whitman and dressing up from the period. He spends most of his time by himself, trying to escape the bullies that surround him at high school. He lives with his musician dad and his older sister. Kurl is repeating his senior year after an incident that prevented him from graduating. He’s known as one of the stars of the football team but he seems to keep everyone at a distance. He lives with his mom and uncle and has two much older brothers. This epistolary novel (told in letters) we get to know these characters as they get to know each other. We learn about their difficult pasts, current challenges, and who they are as individuals. Over the course of the year we see their friendship develop and change, and we see the characters grow. I didn’t know what to expect from this novel, but I’m so glad I got it. An epistolary novel is challenging, but in this young adult novel, the format really works. I did see a number of flourishes and explanations to remove some plot holes and make the format work, specifically why they were narrating events where both were present. It was noticeable but not heavy-handed. For the most part, the format worked really well. It was like a good novel told in the first-person from two characters’ points of view. The voice for each character was very compelling, I really felt like I was in the minds of Kurl and Jo. The novel took some surprising turns. The end was darker than I expected, with some really difficult but important themes for young people. It wasn’t melodramatic and it wasn’t inappropriate, but it was unexpected. There are some instances of sex, drugs, drinking, abuse, and other trauma that might be difficult for younger kids, but I think it was all handled sensitively for high school aged young adults. I really liked this book and I hope a number of students read this books. It’s heartwarming and loving, but it also is a novel about not being alone, a message about overcoming loneliness and stopping pushing others away. I really love it and I highly recommend it to others. ★★★★★ • Hardcover • Fiction - Young Adult, LGBT • Purchased online. ◾︎

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    3.5/5 A cute story about an out gay guy, Jonathan Hopkirk, and his writing partner, Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky. In English class, they're assigned as penpal partners and must write one letter a week to each other. What starts out as a begrudging acquaintance-ship blossoms into an intense friendship and even more as the two grow closer. In the beginning, they understand nothing about each other, but through their letters and various encounters in and out of school, they become so much more. Jonathan o 3.5/5 A cute story about an out gay guy, Jonathan Hopkirk, and his writing partner, Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky. In English class, they're assigned as penpal partners and must write one letter a week to each other. What starts out as a begrudging acquaintance-ship blossoms into an intense friendship and even more as the two grow closer. In the beginning, they understand nothing about each other, but through their letters and various encounters in and out of school, they become so much more. Jonathan or little Joe as Adam calls him, is a bit of a quirky character. Jonathan is a complete fan for all things Walt Whitman. He quotes passages and dresses in homage to Whitman everyday. Jonathan has trouble at school because of how he dresses and is constantly bullied by three kids he calls the "Butcher Boys". Adam is a football star, until he surprisingly quits the team. While he's a very quiet person, Adam is observant and takes personal offense to seeing Jonathan being bullied in front of him. These two seemingly complete opposites find themselves confiding in one another. As they exchange letters, they begin to open up to each other. Watching their relationship bloom was so heartwarming. They definitely did not have an easy time of it. Both are dealing with complicated home situations and various school troubles. I really enjoyed reading each of their letters to each other. This book does turn quite dark between Adam's home life situation and the bullying Jonathan is victim to. There are several parts where the book is very graphic (Trigger Warning: physical, verbal and emotional abuse). I really loved seeing Adam open up to Jonathan. There was something about their relationship that immediately captivated me and I wish the book was longer than it had been. Definitely a book that will stay with me for a while.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Very tender and heartfelt. The sophisticated writing style of Jo takes some time to get used to but I wouldn't wanted to have missed this book. There is a palpable character development and the epistolary form provides a means of communicating things that normally remain unsaid in average every day life. Truly soul-bearing!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Real rating 1.5 out of 5 so am rounding up to 2 stars. Dear SWW* Author, I am trying to understand why you felt the need to write a novel about two 'gay' male teens and the horrific level of violent abuse, bullying and degrading homophobia which is inflicted upon them? They are passive players in this story and as a result it comes off as deeply fetishistic, almost 'torture-porn-esque'. The use of homophobia and homophobic violence is a overused plot device used by 'straight**' authors when depict Real rating 1.5 out of 5 so am rounding up to 2 stars. Dear SWW* Author, I am trying to understand why you felt the need to write a novel about two 'gay' male teens and the horrific level of violent abuse, bullying and degrading homophobia which is inflicted upon them? They are passive players in this story and as a result it comes off as deeply fetishistic, almost 'torture-porn-esque'. The use of homophobia and homophobic violence is a overused plot device used by 'straight**' authors when depicting 'queer' youth in YA. While, in real life, it does still, sadly, happen; it is time to move away from these problematic narratives to give a more rounded overview of the lives and experiences which will then result in active, rather than passive, character depictions. You know I could have forgiven you for all of this, had it not been for the f**king letter format of this book! Why are they (Jo and Kurl) still writing letters to each other after about the first 1/3 of the book? What sort of teen has the time to be able to do that? I'm surprised you didn't have them using carrier pigeons or semaphore to increase the level of complexity to this horrific Kafkaesque nightmare. Also, Kurl and Jo's sister? really? with no explanation as to why? And don't get me started on the use of Prince, Walt Whitman or the 'Jock + Nerd' trope... The blurb on this book states that it's 'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun' its not. It's more 'Jerkbait meets Twilight via À la recherche du temps perdu' So it's a no from me, but then again what would I know about being a gay male teen... Yours A Gay Male PS – This is still better than ‘Jerkbait’ * Straight** White Woman ** Maybe you identify as 'queer' because of that one time, at that party, whilst drunk, you kissed someone of the same-sex.

  29. 4 out of 5

    madeline ♡

    guess who's got an arc 😎

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    My heart is broken. 💔 I absolutely loved the idea and the writing and the poetry of this. But the last part broke my heart so much I have this huge book hangover and think I will never be ok again. Just leave me here to die.

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