Full disclosure upfront: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Since this isn’t a book that’s been out for a long time or one that’s from a big publisher, this will be a spoiler free review!
Choosing Charity by Sara Zavacki-Moore is a story focusing on mental health, self-discovery, and personal growth. You can find the corresponding YouTube video review here.
Content warning: it does deal with some very serious issues such as suicide, self harm, pregnancy loss, sexual assault, pregnancy, and mention of drugs. I think that’s everything, but I might have overlooked something. While it’s a good book, if any of those issues are something you’re sensitive about, this may not be the book for you.
While this isn’t my usual genre, falling under Women’s Literature instead of Paranormal Romance, it’s still got some romance, and still queer as it features bisexual main characters, so I was more than happy to give it a go! I was also excited to read a book that’s also from an author published with my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, even if it’s with a different imprint and genre.
I enjoyed the writing style of this book very much. There are a lot of little scenes heavily focusing on the dialogue exchange between characters, and I particularly liked the ones with one of the main characters (Anna) and her psychologist. It felt very grounded, very real. There were moments of excellent descriptive paragraphs that put me in the setting of, say, a hospital, and others that limited the descriptive narration and just focused on the dialogue, and both worked excellently. The dialogue is definitely the strongest part of the writing style though! On that note, since this isn’t a paranormal, fantasy, or scifi type romance, but rather a fiction set in the real world, I’ll be skipping my usual analysis of worldbuilding, since it doesn’t apply.
The characters are the book’s strength. They are all deeply flawed in different ways, and that’s okay. This is a story of flawed people trying to figure out how to make the most of life when difficult curveballs keep getting thrown at them. They’re difficult, they’re numb, they’re manic, they’re desperate, they’re codependent. And it’s all done in a way I would consider respectful. Their various issues intertwine and struggle in ways that are very true to life.
The plot of this book starts with the very intense hook of Anna saving a stranger named Kylie from a suicide attempt, then inviting Kylie to live with her, as the stranger has nowhere else to go. Anna knows next to nothing about Kylie, though gradually learns bits and pieces like she’s got some severe mental health issues that she needs medication for. Something interesting for me, is a theme of charity through the book, as indicated by the title. Anna is charitable to a fault. Kylie’s issues are far beyond something a new friend can fix, but Anna is the kind of person who wants to fix people. The talks with the psychologist shine a lot of light on this. There’s also the issue of Anna’s ex-boyfriend popping back up after abandoning her, following some very painful hardships in their lives.
Regarding the romance, it felt very relationship heavy, but not necessarily romance heavy. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but I actually didn’t hate it (as I usually hate love triangles). The resolution was satisfying for me, and one that fit the characters. This story didn’t feel like it was meant to be about romance as much as it is about characters learning about themselves, and falling into the relationships that work best for them. It felt very realistic in that approach, so I liked that. It was interesting to watch the self-discovery on Anna’s part as she came to terms with the idea that she likes women. I feel like it’s a very personal story, and one a lot of bisexuals coming to terms with their identity can relate to.
Regarding the health of the relationships… I’m not sure any of the people in this story are healthy enough to have healthy relationships. This is not a bad thing mind you – that’s the point of the plot. Broken people trying to find happiness, or at least contentment, and maybe put a little bit of duct tape on their issues so they can make things work. It makes for a compelling story and realistic characters. A good thing is that they’re all aware of their issues, and I think that the calling out of unhealthy behaviors (for example, opening someone’s phone and using it to contact their ex or deciding without any conversation that someone is in a relationship) counts as the Twilight Pineapple of this book. Anna and Kylie both get professional help for their issues, which bleed into their relationships, though I would have liked to see more help given to Henry (the ex-boyfriend) to indicate how he was working on his issues. Something like couple’s therapy would have been good to see.
I would rate Choosing Charity by Sara Zavacki-Moore the following:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the writing style. The descriptions were good, the dialogue was great. It’s very grounded and real, and the author has an engaging voice!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the characters. I love that this book respectfully handled difficult subjects such as mental illness and how it affects a person as well as how it affects the people around them. The characters are all flawed, and that makes them real and compelling.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the plot. It was very character driven, and since the characters are this story’s strength, it makes for a good plot!
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the romance. This… simply wasn’t a very romantic book. It was a relationship book, with focus on individual journeys. The romance wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t go to this book if you’re looking to swoon over attractive fictional characters. That’s not what this book is about. That’s not a bad thing, mind you! Just a personal taste thing for me.
🩺🩺🩺 3/5 for the health of relationships. I have to take a few points off because the relationships aren’t very healthy and because the ex-boyfriend who shows up isn’t shown to be really working on himself the way Anna and Kylie are, but have to give a few points because the unhealthy behaviors are addressed as unhealthy and there is positive growth!
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Overall: 4/5 – this is a fascinating read that dives into a lot of serious topics without being solely about those topics. There’s trauma, there’s mental health, there’s sexuality… but the book isn’t about any of these one things. It’s just a book about being human and dealing with these things as they organically happen in life and that was very well done.
🔥 Heat level – 1/5 This is not factored into the grade, just putting it as a statement. This book has a low, fade-to-black heat level.
You can find Choosing Charity for purchase as an ebook or physical copy at these places:
Thanks for reading!
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