Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss is one of the few novels I’ve found that hits the right time period for me that balances between young adult and adult, the coveted New Adult genre that I wish was better marketed at large. This book is one of excellent quality and represents NA books well.
The story of graduate students Elena and Cora, as short as Learning Curves is considering it is a novella, there’s a wealth of interest within ranging from the little details that enhanced the story line to the diversity and representation.
Published: 16 August 2018
Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.
And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.
A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.
From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Representation: Fat MC who is Puerto Rican Amercian/Lesbian, MC who is ADHD/Panromantic asexual
Learning Curves is a short, sweet story about two people meeting and getting to know each other over the course of a few months. While a longer story might have been jam packed with more scenes of excruciating detail, in this case the author knew what scenes of intimacy, both friendship and relationship, to highlight to make it heartwarming in the time that we had to spend with Elena and Cora, the main characters.
Elena is a fat, Puerto Rican American lesbian law student who meets Cora, an ADHD panromantic asexual business student, when Cora asks to borrow notes for a mutual class. Such an innocent, pass-you-by moment, but in the hands of Ceillie Simkiss it was the catalyst for something more.
There’s real evidence of trust, the building block of a good relationship, wherein we see Elena and Cora sharing things about themselves that we learn along with them, such as Cora sharing her ADHD and her sexuality, plus her hesitation due to past difficulties within the LGBTQIA+ community.
“…it’s unfortunately common for ace, aro, bi and trans folks to be shut out of their own communities because we weren’t the “right” kind of queer,” Cora said sadly.
Elena also talks about what her experience being a lesbian in a religious family is like, what acceptance/”acceptance” is like from different generations. The pair of them talking through these facets of their identities felt wholly organic, something I loved, because it felt like being acknowledged instead of preached to.
Their identities does not render them one dimensional characters, however. Elena and Cora are fully fledged individuals with more passions and facets. Elena, for instance, embraces her Puerto Rican roots and connects to it with her cooking, especially recipes like sancocho and coquito. Her relationship with her family is apparent, particularly with her mama, seen through phone calls and at the family Christmas party. We also learn about why she’s a law student and not just that, but why she wants to be a family attorney.
Cora was a bookworm after my own heart. Her aesthetic aside (which I loved – that hair! a curly pompadour on top with the sides shaved), it was clear how much she truly loved reading, from investigating the admittedly meager bookshelf in Elena’s apartment to bringing books of her own to the school’s academic library:
“The library doesn’t have the right books,” she said with a pout. “This library only has academic stuff. I want fun – magic, dragons, queer people. The works!”
To sum up my experience with Learning Curves: I think it will make you laugh. It’s a current book with little nods or name drops that those in the bookish community will be able to enjoy, but those that are just picking up a good book won’t mind either. There will be some quiet, slow smile moments of contentment. There are a couple of instances where a slight hint of sadness creeps in, like the tiniest puncture in a balloon that begins to leak.
In the end, though, there is a warm glow and it makes everything worth it. I hope Ceillie Simkiss writes more books because her writing was so good that it made me want to immediately buy everything she’s ever written or will write. That is a truly A+ book, when it elicits that reaction. Here’s to the next one!