And They Lived . . .
Published March 8, 2022
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About And They Lived . . .
Chase Arthur is a budding animator and hopeless romantic obsessed with Disney films and finding his true love, but he’s plagued with the belief that he’s not enough for anyone: he’s recovering from an eating disorder and suffers from body dysmorphia fueled by his father, and can’t quite figure out his gender identity. When Chase starts his freshman year of college, he has to navigate being away from home and missing his sister, finding his squad, and contending with his ex-best friend Leila who is gunning for the same exclusive mentorship. If only he can pull together a short for the freshman animation showcase at the end of the semester.
Then Chase meets Jack Reid, a pragmatic poet who worships words and longs to experience life outside of his sheltered world. But Chase throws everything into question for Jack, who is still discovering his sexual identity, having grown up in close-knit conservative family. Jack internalized a lot of homophobia from his parents and childhood best friend, who unexpectedly visit campus, which threatens to destroy their relationship. Chase will have to learn to love–and be enough for–himself, while discovering what it means to truly live.
Y’all, I’m so humbled by this book. I started writing my review yesterday, but I really needed more time to let this story soak in and think about how and why it impacts me like it does.
So, at its core, AND THEY LIVED is a romance. But I think what’s really incredible about it is that it’s really about the journey of learning to love yourself. It’s about finding the courage to face shame that we carry, and to dare to be vulnerable, not just through finding a wonderful relationship or great friends, but to be vulnerable with ourselves. To own how painful it can be to look at certain parts of ourselves and process that pain and learn to love anyway.
If any of that sounds cheesy or weird, just know that’s my poor communication. It doesn’t come across that way in the book. The book is packed with these incredible, rich characters and this whole spectrum of emotions. Hilarious antics between friends. Heartbreaking disappointment and hurt. Breathtaking love.
I feel like it’s a rare thing to see someone dare to put so much of their heart on the page in a novel like this, and it come through in such an achingly powerful way. Steven Salvatore is not only wildly, amazingly talented, but brave and wise. It’s not unusual to hear someone (I’m sure I’ve even said it before) describe a book as “necessary”, and I know this book won’t be for everyone (why do I know so many people who only read fantasy?). But what this author does so well, and what we desperately need more of in books, is storytelling that is this honest, this courageous, and this hopeful.
I didn’t even realize it was possible to be blown away by a book the way this one has blown me away.
This is Steven Salvatore’s second novel. Their first, CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY came out last year, and I really enjoyed that one as well. To be honest, I might have skipped over this book because it’s set in college, and I tend to focus on books set in high school, but I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to read AND THEY LIVED. It’s definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time, but also challenges me as a person and a writer.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Chase is genderqueer. Multiple other characters are gay. Some minor characters are Black or Latinx.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between Chase and another guy. Kissing between two boys. A few scenes show explicit sex and nudity.
Jack’s family regularly attends a Christian church.
Violent Content – Trigger Warning for homophobia and bullying.
One use of a homophobic slur. Some descriptions of other homophobic behavior and bullying.
Some scenes show college freshman (and others) drinking alcohol and smoking pot.
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