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.
Get your own copy:
Moa Backe Åstot
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon 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 Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters 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 Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru 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 Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez