Author: T.J. Klune
Are there LGBT characters? It’d be a lot shorter to talk about what isn’t gay in this book. I mean, just look at the cover.
Brief summary / book review: Linus Baker is a middle-aged, overweight case worker who inspects orphanages filled with magical children, for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (known as DICOMY). He gets a special assignment from the hilariously named Extremely Upper Management to go visit a strange orphanage far from home. It’s a secluded place, filled with very dangerous magical children, including the son of Satan.
If you’ve read any other review of this book, you’ll probably have seen it described as “Pixar-esque” and yeah, that’s pretty spot on. You get the usual beats — a lonely man who is firmly entrenched in his own habits, denying the plain truth that he is miserable, being literally transported to a different place that shakes him out of his rut, makes him do things he normally otherwise wouldn’t do, and completely changes his life for the better.
Before long, Arthur Parnassus, the head of the orphanage, and Linus clearly develop feelings for each other. Linus develops paternal feelings for the children (which is obviously a no-no). The children develop feelings for Linus. Feelings for everybody!
In any other year, in any other circumstance, this book probably would have warranted a rating of 3 out of 5 instead of 4 out of 5, given how saccharine it is. But you know what? In the midst of a global pandemic that has infected millions, amid a contentious election season where nearly 75 million Americans voted for a President who acted with bigotry and hatred and ignorance, who fanned the flames of radicalism and mismanaged said pandemic, where people are flatly denying reality and are buying into lunatic theories of “globalists” running pedophile rings out of pizza parlors, where misinformation and violence is in ascendancy, and Black, trans people are being targeted and murdered around the world, and any and all other societal ills you can think of…
I fucking needed a book like this.
So yeah, when Arthur tells Linus that he deserves to be loved (even though they’ve only known each other for, like, 5 minutes and Linus didn’t really do anything to earn Arthur’s undying love other than being a generally decent person), or when Linus goes on a very long, earnest speech about acceptance — part of me rolls my eyes, sure, but also? It sounds really good in days like these.
Some books were born out of a moment (like The Great Gatsby). Some books were made for a moment (like On the Road), and this book is one of them. Save it for when you desperately need sunshine in the dark days of your life.
About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.