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Tiger Gray writes serious and seriously twisted LGBT speculative fiction. Often Tiger's stories include complex treatments of intersectionality and incorporate the experience of being Othered. The extremes of human behavior and questions about morality often play in to Tiger's tales. Tiger also co-owns Hard Limits Press, a company focused on multicultural novels not for the nervous. If you're yearning for a novel with a cast of minority characters in primary roles, check out the offerings on the company webpage. Pronouns (a work in progress): they/ze/he
The Bubble Gum Thief (Dagny Gray) - Jeff      Miller

Where to start.

This is one of the books I should have loved. It had all the right elements. FBI investigators, mental illness, history, murder. And yet somehow all of these ingredients never came together in to a finished dish.

1. Anorexia portrayal

Dagny, the main character and an FBI agent, has anorexia. Good. I'd like to see more novels that tackle these types of issues.

However I have several problems with how anorexia is portrayed in TBGT.
1a). she's awfully physically adept for a woman struggling with a moderate to severe eating disorder. She regularly runs, jumps, and otherwise exerts herself. The worse consequence she gets in return is falling down and spraining her leg.

1b). She has none of the less 'sexy' symptoms like hair all over her body, and dealing with such doesn't get mentioned until at least 60% through. Even then it's mentioned as something that happened in the past.

1c). I think it also stretches suspension of disbelief that she got in to the FBI in the first place. Of course she could have hidden her disorder and aced the psych tests by knowing how to fool them, but in college she was actually committed due to the severity of her illness. There is NO way that is not known to the FBI. Their background checks are obsessively thorough.

1d). Her coworkers and supervisors seem to think they can fix her anorexia by simply forcing her to eat. You can't handle an eating disorder that way. Yes, not eating and being severely underweight are symptoms, but the true issue is a mental and emotional one. If you don't handle the underlying reasons for the disease, forcing sandwiches down her throat is going to do far more harm than good. It angered me that the FBI is portrayed as handling such a serious issue in such a superficial way. I find the lack of psych resources and understanding of psych issues difficult to buy in to.

1e). Michael, the love interest, starts to heal her with his love almost immediately. He cooks her dinner at one point and she eats it without protest because his love is magical. Now I am a sucker for that kind of thing in a way, but you have to draw it out more, imo, to make it effective. They've been together for two months. I don't understand why she trusts and loves him so much that he can influence a deeply entrenched issue of hers in this way.

2. Lack of action

Dagny does absolutely nothing of note for the first 30%. She goes to art shows, she goes to class, she goes to the doctor, and she goes for runs. That's...really it. Of course in some ways this is a police procedural and they're going to go at a slower pace than a thriller or a mystery, but it takes too long for Dagny and the antagonist to meet up and interact.

Also what the heck [is with the bad guy kidnapping her and forcing her to eat?

3. Transphobia

If your only portrayal of a black trans woman (Regina) is a person in prison, well, that's questionable. Not to mention, said trans woman isn't really a trans woman. No, see she had the sex change so she could transfer to the women's prison, which is nicer.

I don't even know what to say. I mean, really? Thanks for perpetuating about a thousand different stereotypes about trans people, all crammed in to one character.

NOW, I think you can do ANYTHING you want as an author. BUT, it might behoove you to portray these things a tad differently if you don't want to come across as a callous ass. Like, you can totally have the character who had a trans surgery for mercenary reasons, but that better not be your ONLY trans portrayal. At the very least Dagny could have reacted to this news by thinking about how Regina is NOT representative of the vast VAST majority of trans people. But no.

The portrayal of rape is pretty tacky too.

4. Lack of care

As in I don't. About any of the people in this book. When Michael [gets murdered. I don't care. And I am a crier. I am pretty easy to manipulate emotionally. (I am STILL pissed about CSI and that was years ago) But he and Dagny haven't been together long enough for me to give a crap. Plus, Dagny doesn't even go to his funeral. I do not sympathize. It just makes her look like a jerk. The author seems to care more about history lesson info dumps than making Dagny a person I want to spend my time on.

5. Straw sexists

I hate this. It comes up in Anita Blake too. In order to portray sexism the author feels that the main character needs to be beset on all sides by woman hating caricatures. Sexism is often more subtle than that, and more hurtful. It's easy to dismiss some asshole who is in your face telling you that you don't amount to anything because you're a woman. It's a lot harder when someone you like and respect comes out of left field with a bunch of misogyny. Also street harassment definitely happens, a lot, but she literally gets cat called or otherwise denigrated three times in a single day. It's too much. Fabee (a coworker) is inexplicably hostile, calling Dagny a bitch at the slightest provocation.

Also there's the message that you can't have a good male lover and a career. Everyone told Candice (the ex) to stick with Michael and her publicist actually feels bad for helping Candice get fame. Candice
has botox and is a sad lady.

It also goes so far as to do a disservice to men, who are portrayed in this book as A) kindly quirky professor B) rich tycoon with a far too young for him trophy wife C) a rapist/murderer D) and he of the healing penis. Who also gets murdered. In short, the men in this book are all
striving, impotent, balding idiots except Michael, who is bland and perfect and then dead.

6. Dagny is an incompetent investigator

She tampers with crime scenes. At one point she goes in to a dead guy's house and sees a pornographic picture on his computer. She closes it out in order to give the guy some privacy. NO. A thousand times no. She has NO IDEA what the context of that image is. The whole case could hinge on it. What if that's his mistress? What if he's involved in a sex trafficking ring and that is his latest victim? Come ON. She also dumps fingerprint powder all over a book, without going through the chain of custody regarding evidence, without checking herself in and out of the crime scene, anything.

but the biggest problem of all is that Dagny's emotions are just...not there. I never feel her pain. She doesn't react to things when she should. She's even remarkably unemotional, relatively speaking, about [getting kidnapped.

I am giving this two stars because the writing is pretty good. Otherwise, not for me. Obviously.