Holding Still For As Long As Possible is another book I picked up at The Festival of Literary Diversity. Zoe Whittall hosted one of the sessions I attended and she impressed me so I picked up her book. It also won the Lambda Award, so I figured I probably wasn’t gonna go wrong with it.
In Holding Still For As Long As Possible, Zoe Whittall follows the lives of three twenty-somethings living in Toronto. Billy is a former teen pop star dealing with panic attacks. Josh is a paramedic dealing with his own emotional damage. And finally, Amy is a rich kid going through her first broken heart. They’re lives intertwine in a love triangle that forms a portrait of the emotional struggles of young people in the 21st century.
Let’s get into it…
I can’t say that I’m extraordinarily well read when it comes to LGBTQA fiction, but if this is what that “genre” has to offer, then I am missing out. (Note, the quotes are because relegating books about LGBTQA people to their own genre seems a bit like othering to me. Still, the label is helpful if you’re trying to find such books.) With this book, Zoe Whittall demonstrates what it means to have gay and trans stories be about more that sexual and gender identity. Her characters are realistic, sometimes loveable, sometimes frustrating, and their relationships are messy. But this isn’t a story that paints gay and trans folk as the subjects of tragedy. There is some sadness, but the novel itself is life-affirming.
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel for me was the look into the lives of paramedics. Everyone knows what paramedics do. But if others are like me, then they probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what paramedics do in their down time or how they interact with one another between saving lives. Whittall shines a light on their lives and the emotional weight of their jobs, as she does on mental health in general through her three characters. It’s always good to get a glimpse of what others’ lives might be like, and Whitall does it well.
Though I’m around the same age as these characters, my life is a bit quieter theirs. I don’t live in nor experience the energy of Toronto. I don’t drink a lot or party like they do. Still, the novel does seem to capture something of what is like as a twenty-something in this age. (It goes beyond the use of cell phones. I don’t know why people point out cell phone use when referring to contemporary novels about young people.) Perhaps it’s the idea that one’s twenties are a time of change, a time between being a kid and being an adult. Perhaps I just identify with characters who are just trying to figure it all out, and I recognize the sense of urgency and anxiety that goes with that. In any case, I felt the novel captures young life well.
Final verdict: Holding Still For As Long As Possible is a lovely contemporary novel. It’s a fairly quick read that’s good for anyone looking to explore queer literature or the topic of mental health.