Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 320 Pages
At a Glance: The hope that endures through the pages is the absolute best reason to pick this story up and delve into the world Mickie B. Ashling has created.
Reviewed By: Janet
Blurb: Lil Lampert’s forty-fifth birthday turns the effervescent architect into a brooding mess, and his partner, Grier Dilorio, takes him to Italy to help him regain his zest for life. The timing is bad—almost-fifteen-year-old Luca has just started high school, and his mother and stepfather are also traveling. Luca is left in the care of Chicago Bear, Clark Stevens, and his partner, Dr. Jody Williams.
Growing up with two dads and two gay uncles has given Luca a unique perspective on gender roles, but not all the answers. He’s had a secret crush on his straight best friend, Chip, for years. Suddenly, Luca finds himself attracted to Chyna, Chip’s twin sister. Now he’s wondering if this means he’s bisexual.
Born with a sexual development disorder, Chyna should have been raised as a male, but due to an epic parenting fail, is being raised as female. Hiding the truth becomes more difficult when Chyna hits puberty, and crushing over Luca adds another element to Chyna’s struggle to fit in.
Is Luca’s moral compass strong enough to guide him successfully through this period of discovery or will he succumb to peer pressure and shatter Chyna’s dreams for happiness?
Review: Wow! This was an intense book to read. I had read all of the previous books in the series, and had concerns about a book with a teenaged MC, what with the backdrop this series is based on. I really shouldn’t have worried, though. There was no squick about Luca at all. The teenage angst was appropriate to his age, and more importantly, was felt to be realistic and protective at the same time.
Jody and Clark, and Greer and Lil, were both further explored. Their relationships grew, and the effects of time on those relationships were exposed and defined to allow Luca to grow up to be the teenager he is in the story. If it wasn’t for the solid carryover of these very adult relationships, I might define this as a YA novel. The issues discussed: gender identity, bullying, peer pressure and family responsibilities are classic YA topics and are handled in an impressive manner. But…this is not a YA book. We are carried into the story as adults, protecting the young, nurturing their growth and allowing them to blossom safely, with our compassion at the forefront of our awareness as we read.
I have so much respect for this author for freely visiting topics that most would be wary of. I am a curious reader, and I love learning new things about people and places, and at no time when reading one of her books do I ever not learn something. Kinks and fetishes are a delight to learn about in the privacy of my own home, but the difficult topics she covers, like bullying and self-identity, are also explored, and these are emotionally felt by the reader as we are so immersed in her books that the events almost seem to happen to us. I would not say that Chyna Doll is an easy book to read, but it is now one of my favorites. The ability to force her readers to see things from multiple sides, and learn about new things in a balanced way, is a pretty awesome talent. It speaks to amazing research and world building, as well as character development which invests us in her work. We want the resolutions to work, and the characters to be happy, but we also want hope for the future, and she always delivers.
I would love to have parts of this book be compulsory for high school English classes, or maybe social studies, if that is still in the high school curriculum, but either way this is a book that should be read; for knowledge and awareness and personal growth. It is not a casual story to be enjoyed on a whim, but is an engrossing tale that will sustain you in ways I can’t describe. It manages to draw on so many emotions; it’s sexy, it has some great dialogue that’s funny and full of wit, it has moments that are disgusting for the portrayal of bullying at their worst and made me angry at parental powers that had been abused. And yet, the story still ended with hope. There are so many reasons to read this book, but I think the hope that endures through the pages is the absolute best reason to pick this story up and delve into the world Mickie B. Ashling has created.
Do yourself a favor and check out the first three books first, though: Horizons, Taste, and Daddio, to see the series journey so far and then tease your senses even more with Chyna Doll.
You can buy Chyna Doll here: