After reading this book, I had to kind of just set it aside and take a breath because it was totally unlike what I expected-- in a good way. The heroine, Maeve, lives with her mother, who is an extreme hoarder (the kind that gets the fire marshal called to your house). She's also an artist and an introvert who envisions herself as a sprightly pink cat. Maeve's "fursona" isn't sexual at all (in fact, she seems to be aro or ace); instead, it almost seems, for her, to be that sort of drag queen persona, where it allows her to access parts of herself that she doesn't feel comfortable expressing under her own name. As a pink cat, she can be bubbly and cute and happy, which she can't do as Maeve. One of her dreams is to be seen as an artist and validated as a cat. Her parents both know but neither of them really get, and her mother is the worse of the two at acceptance.
There isn't really a lot of plot to this story. It's mostly just Maeve dealing with her mom and going to Furlympia (a furry con in Olympia) for the first time, thanks to her dad. While at the con, she tries to deal with her guilt over her mom and her anxiety over being in an unfamiliar environment. I went to an anime con for the first time a couple years ago and I remember feeling the same blend of overwhelmed and wondrous. When you've grown up relating to a subculture that isn't mainstream, it can honestly feel so freeing to see so many people who share your interests, and to see what is possible when people are allowed to be their creative selves to the fullest. The author also brings up how to be safe at mixed events with both teens and adults, the importance of boundaries when interacting with people in costumes, and the overwhelming sense of impostor syndrome that artists and creators can have.
What really won me over, though, was the anxiety rep and the portrayal of what it's like to live with a hoarder. First, I thought that Maeve's panic attacks were really well done (I've had them; it really is like fainting). Everything can become SO overwhelming when your mental bandwidth is draining away by the second. Second, I have lived with a hoarder (and have some hoarding tendencies myself) and it's honestly so hard, especially when you're younger; you can't have people over and you don't want to tell them why, so you just lie, which is damaging to relationships and to your social life. It also captures the pleading, begging, and anger that happens when you try to tell the hoarder to stop hoarding or to please clean up, and how frustrating it is when the hoarding begins to intrude into your own spaces, so you feel almost suffocated by the presence of all that stuff. It was so well done here and it honestly made me feel seen.
Not sure what else to say about this book except that it took a concept I wasn't sure I'd be able to relate to and made it very relatable and accessible, with some surprising emotional twists and turns. The con is also very diverse and it was fun to see Maeve meet her online friends in person for the first time (I've gotten to do that and it's such a joyous experience). Even the role-play bits, which I normally find quite off-putting, were really well done and not cringe at all. (Maybe I've spent too much time on r/creepyasterisks). So if you, like me, were wondering if this was going to be a sex thing, it really isn't. It's actually super wholesome and very important and I'm shocked that it doesn't have more reviews.
I'd definitely read more from this author.
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
4 out of 5 stars