Siblinghood and social stigmas are at the core of this novel, which was woven together with a deft hand by Brandy Colbert. From the synopsis alone, I was drawn in. The entire book itself, however, kept me hooked from start to finish.
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is the story of Suzette, or Little, who has returned home from boarding school for the summer. There, she reconnects with her friends, as well as the rest of her family. However, her brother Lionel, or Lion, is less than receptive upon her arrival, as well as struggling with his mental health. Through a series of events, she is hurtled back into the world of watching over her older brother, as well as spending time with others that she had been made to leave behind. Along the way, she begins to question her identity, as she finds herself feeling romantic intentions for not just a boy, but also a girl. A girl who Lionel just happens to be falling for too.
While this happened to be a last minute addition to my February TBR, I am thrilled that I chose to delve into it sooner rather than later. This book is not what I expected but in all of the right ways. Suzette is a wonderful MC, who is smart as well as compassionate. Her relationship with her brother is a foundational part of the book, which I found to be a well laid one. Along with the parents that these step-siblings share, this was a realistic depiction of family, and what it means to be a familial unit.
As for the story itself, I thought it ebbed and flowed well. Each scene added something to the story, including the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the book. Coupled with the concise writing, and well-portrayed discussions regarding various topics such as racism, mental health, and being bisexual, all made this a joy to read.
With regard to the pansexual representation displayed in this book, despite what I have read in other reviews to the contrary, I as a pansexual individual enjoyed it. Art truly does imitate life. Therefore, not every LGBT+ person in a book has to be a decent human being. Does that represent every single person of that group? Hell no. So, with that being said, it stands to reason that there will be characters who are LGBT+ that are not the greatest as well. That does not necessarily mean a writer is villainizing that subset of sexual preference, but more so just being accurate to the world as a whole.
On a different note, as far as the mental health representation goes, I cannot wholly speak for it, because I do not have any form of bipolar. However, as I have anxiety, certain points really stuck with me, and I felt that they were conversations that need to be heard.
In that same vein, I am neither Jewish, as Suzette and her family are, nor African American, as the main character is. However, it was interesting to see this intersection. I loved reading about this character’s experience with it, as it was enlightening.
Concerning the “emotional” love triangle that develops, though I am not usually a fan of these, I felt this one was well placed. Suzette is at a point where she is figuring out who she is, and in life, these types of situations can happen as a result. As someone who is attracted to “everyone”, I understood her misgivings as she wonders whether or not it is even possible, and if so, how does one choose between one or another? The end result of this plotline of the book as a whole, in my humble opinion, was also a feasible possibility that was not meant to denigrate any single sexual orientation, but rather emulate one life path choice.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think the author did an excellent job with this one, and I do plan to pick up more titles written by her.
I give this book 5/5 stars.