Bubblegum by Sari Taurez is a self-published book with a lot of LGBT characters and a quite unlikeable but badass female lead set in a near-future dystopian society.
Tiana is your typical pampered young blonde with a love for expensive shoes, hot guys, and murder.
After Tiana is cut off from her family’s riches, she takes advantage of her talents and becomes a killer for hire. It’s a lucrative business in her country, where a call to the police can amount to a lifetime of debt.
Her first client: Julia, a lower-class IT genius, lesbian, and devout Catholic. When the orphanage Julia volunteers at is targeted by the infamous brothel-owner Bobby Nails, Tiana is excited to take the job. But when she discovers Bobby Nails has a full army of mercenaries at his disposal, Tiana wonders if she may be in over her head.
Tiana and Julia face an unexpected adventure as they seek vengeance against the elusive Nails. Along the way they are joined by Ruby, a pyromaniac ex-prostitute who catches Julia’s eye, and William, a mysterious acrobatic fugitive searching for his daughter.
In the end, will they be enough to stop Nails and the chaos he has created?
My feelings on this book are a bit mixed. There were a lot of aspects that I loved, but something just didn’t click with me, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The main character Tiana starts out as quite a terrible person: she’s selfish, arrogant, and rude. She decides to fight crime but not for the reason that she actually wants to help people, no, she does it for the money. Throughout the book, Tiana actually changes a lot and her motivations also change, her character grows and she becomes a better person. This mostly because of the people she meets while fighting crime.
“Tinni Sellers, changing the world one ass-kicking at a time.” I fold my arms and admire the tall, shiny ice cube of a building in front of us. “I don’t mind the sound of that.”
As much as Tiana annoyed me (especially in the beginning), I adored Julia. She’s in many ways the opposite of Tiana: sweet, kind, and selfless. The story is partly written from Julia and partly from Tiana’s perspective. Another minor character that I loved is Ruby – she’s a sex worker and likes to make things explode. The only thing I didn’t like was how (since she’s French) her accent was really dramatised in the dialogue. It could have been a little more subtle because it was getting annoying.
I loved the LGBT themes sprinkled throughout the book. There’s a lot of representation and I think it’s also worth mentioning that Julia is black, lesbian and a Christian (which is quite a big part of her character and life). There is an f/f relationship which is incredibly sweet and had some very cute moments, there’s a transgender woman and also one or two bisexual characters (I’m not sure).
“None of us got what we wanted. Not from life, or the world, or the people we’ve loved. But we’ll be damned if that holds us back.”
The story itself was however a bit confusing to me. I struggled to keep up with all the characters (especially the bad guys) and to know what was exactly going on at all times. The world is fairly simple and good to understand with there being some kind of ranks and people that have a high rank are richer and more powerful than people that have a low rank.
I am giving this book 3.5 stars because despite that it had all the aspects of a story that I would love, something didn’t quite work for me. I couldn’t get really into the story and I don’t really know why. I had also hoped that the feminist themes were a bit more prominent in the story. It was, however, a really enjoyable and fun books with really original characters.