Happy pride! I hope y’all are having a nice pride month so far! Today is also the last day of my semester, so shit’s been crazy. That said, I’ve read a lot of queer books recently. Recently, as in over the past couple of months, or as in over the past year, either works. I made a post summarizing my recs for this month on tumblr, and you can view it here. In whatever posts I manage to write this month, I want to spotlight a couple of LGBTQA+ books that I love and simply aren’t getting the love they deserve. This one is a bizarre book, a contemporary-ish fantasy horror about three dysfunctional people whose main obstacle isn’t the world around them, it isn’t even the horror elements, but their own dysfunction.
I heard about Never Contented Things because its author, Sarah Porter, wrote one of my favorite books of last year. While not beyond criticism, I’ve seldom had as much fun reading a book as I did with Vassa in the Night. It was truly creative and unique, with a tone that was both heavy and easy at the same time. So when I heard of Never Contented Things, a bizarre, dark story about three queer, dysfunctional people, with one of them is even being explicitly nonbinary (although not loudly so), and I thought to myself: yes. Yes, this is what I want.
Sarah Porter was born to write this story. Her style is exactly suited for this kind of storytelling, with its outlandish setting and really extremely interpersonal story. The setting is necessary to the story she wanted to tell, but none of the dark fae we meet are truly characters; they’re more agents of chaos, and in a sense, more classical than the romanticized figures we see elsewhere in YA fiction (which isn’t a bad thing, just different). The drama in NCT isn’t about the way the outside world treats the main characters – not the real world, nor the fantasy creatures – although that does come into play, as a way to set up the drama between the three main characters, whose marginalized identities are simply true, a matter of fact, because some people are dysfunctional, and some are queer, and these identities aren’t mutually exclusive.
This isn’t a fairytale, but it is a fairy story, about people who go off the path and need to get back to reality. The story uses its fantasy-horror setting to examine semi-abusive toxic relationships, and with that, the process of healing and leaving these relationships behind. Nobody in this book is pure; the fae are chaotic evil, true, but the main characters have to get their hands dirty to get what they want, too. They don’t get to stand pure in contrast to them evil folk. This isn’t always a good thing, isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you love the unhealthy situation you’re in. Sometimes you don’t know how to let go unless you’re forced to.