This is such a unique and beautiful coming-of-age story about finding yourself and your place within the traditions you wish to honor but still being true to who you are and who you love. Ánte is a Sámi teenager (same in Swedish, the indigenous people of the Northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden) and loves the Sámi culture and the reindeer herding work, but can he be part of that and gay at the same time? Or does he have to choose; either be true to himself and risk the repulsion of the others, or hide and be accepted within the community?
This book completely blew me away. It was so beautifully written and with such raw emotions. I immediately rooted for the main character, Ánte, and his best friend Erik, as well as many of the side characters. (Lasse who will make an appearance at the end of the book is one of my favorite characters ever, just have to point that out without hopefully giving away any spoilers.) I also loved the way the Sámi culture was described and the close connection to the land, but also how the heritage and dark history with discrimination and oppression was weaved into the story.
“Are there any homosexual reindeer herders?”
This is what Ánte googles in the beginning of the book, trying to sort out his feelings for his best friend Erik and trying to understand how he can go on with the life he loves as a reindeer herder but be open with the possibility that he might be gay when he’s never heard of any gay herders, only whispers about people leaving Jokkmokk.
Ánte’s doubts and worry, his feelings that he’s about to burst and go crazy if he doesn’t figure out what’s wrong with him, the fear that his feelings are unrequited, the joy and excitement of first love, the jealousy he’s not allowed to show, the way his father’s homophobic jokes feels like a knife in his chest; it’s all so well written that you feel it in your stomach. Moa Backe Åstot really managed to show how love is both the most wonderful thing in the world and a curse. I also loved the way she made us understand Ánte’s love for the reindeer herding and the place where he lives and the people around him. It’s very rare for a YA story that the main character wants to stay and doesn’t dream of moving away to become themselves. This also makes the story even more emotional and raw. Ánte’s fear of not being accepted by the others and being forced to leave the life and place he loves, is so understandable and palpable it made my heart race.
Himlabrand is such a strong, emotional, wonderful, addictive, unique and unforgettable story that I recommend with all my heart! I hope that it will be translated into many other languages soon, to allow more readers to get to know Ánte and read his amazing story.
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Moa Backe Åstot
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray John Green Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson T.J. Klune Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez