Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Book Review: "Can't Take That Away" by Steven Salvatore

Can't Take That Away, Steven Salvatore's debut novel, is an absolutely fantastic book about the courage to be yourself and be proud of yourself that left me in a complete emotional puddle.

Carey is a genderqueer teenager who is finally starting to feel comfortable in their own skin. Coming out to friends and family was difficult (because they were essentially blackmailed into doing so) but apart from some homophobic bullying from a fellow student and a teacher, they’re trying to find the joy in life. They have a fiercely loyal best friend, a tremendously supportive mother, and an understanding English teacher, all of whom have Carey's back.

What Carey wants more than anything is to be a diva, like their idol (and namesake), Mariah Carey. They dream of bringing the house down with their voice. They have the talent to do it but they don’t like to call attention to themselves. But after they meet Cris, their burgeoning relationship gives Carey the confidence they need to audition for the school musical and play the part of Elphaba in Wicked.

But some in the school don’t think Carey should play that part and they’ll stop at nothing to create trouble. Carey, with the support of their best friends and family, must decide if they’re willing to let their dream be killed or if they are ready to stand up and make change happen. At the same time they have to struggle with doubts about their relationship with Cris and deal with the rapid decline of their grandmother, who was Carey's biggest fan and musical inspiration.

Can't Take That Away works on so many levels. It's funny, thought-provoking, moving, and so emotional. Salvatore brings such life and complexity to the characters, and Carey's grandmother reminded me so much of my own paternal grandmother, who was my biggest supporter. (I still miss her even though she's been gone almost 16 years.) Another touch that was so incredible is that each chapter of the book is headed by the pronouns Carey identifies with on that particular day.

God, I loved this so much!! Storygram Tours and Bloomsbury YA provided me a complimentary advance copy of Can't Take That Away in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

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