Maybe people who live in cities like New York or L.A. get to read books and watch TV shows and movies that actually feel like they represent the places where they live, and all the different kinds of places one city can be to the diverse groups of people who live there. But as a Vancouverite, I’ve never read anything like Leigh Matthews’s All Out Vancouver series, a modern-day take on the lesbian pulp genre investigating the lives and loves of a diverse group of queer folks, mostly in East Vancouver. It’s such a treat to read a book that feels like an authentic representation of the Vancouver I know, describing pubs, parks, music venues, intersections, streets, and, most of all, people that I recognize.
The second book in the series, Go Deep, was just released earlier this month (the author is a friend, so I got a copy right when it came out!). If you haven’t read the first one, you must! And you should probably not read this review because there will be spoilers for the first book, which I review here.
Go Deep picks up right where we left off: Kate is living in Amsterdam with Cass, who continues to be sexy and funny and hot but also plagued by a perpetual Peter Pan syndrome. To go with the running softball metaphors in this book, can Cass step up to the plate and be a real grown-up in a real grown-up relationship, or is she going to let Kate down? What makes matters worse is that Kate has to suddenly return to Vancouver, leaving Cass alone in a foreign city. Can Kate trust Cass not to go all self-fulfilling prophecy and do something reckless, ruining their relationship while she’s gone?
When Kate gets back to Vancouver, you’re (re)introduced to a bunch of your favourite queers from the first book, plus you get a meet a few more! Em, your favourite bisexual, is still dating Steve and Hanna, and they’re officially, as they affectionately say, a trifecta.
This is kind of an aside, but reading about a triad—a ‘couple’ made of three people—as a monogamous person honestly kind of puzzled me, made me feel like I’m not sure I understand this! Part of it I guess is that I’m also bi and it’s happened a few times that people have assumed I’m poly, I think, because I’m bi and in a relationship with a guy, and I’m like, damn, do I have to be poly to show that I’m bisexual? But that’s clearly my own shit that I’m projecting. Anyway, while I was sitting there thinking that I could not fathom having two partners, let alone two partners who are also involved with each other, I had this revelation: oh my god, is this what uninformed straight people think when they read about queer people for the first time? That was pretty telling! So I’m glad that I got a little glimpse into what was a totally new world to me by reading about Em, Steve, and Hanna. If you don’t know much about polyamory or triads and/or don’t know anyone who is poly, this wildly entertaining book will also be educational for you!
But not to harp too much on education, because, like its lesbian pulp foremothers, Go Deep is all about queer drama. What I love about this series is how it fulfills that desire for a lighter, beachier kind of read, but is also smart, well-written, and full of characters who are never caricatures. Back in Vancouver, Matthews runs her characters through all manner of excitement and commotion. Women are dumped, new relationships are formed, people end up in the hospital, and softballs games are lost and won. There’s a new minor character named Afra who’s genderqueer and who I hope shows up more in future books! Kate’s ex Janice is still around too, and in typical queer women fashion, becomes entangled in a web of dating, relationships, and hook-ups that eventually all lead back to the new flirtatious queer in town, Scout.
Strangely enough, Scout is a dead-ringer for Cass, down to the softball playing, masculine of centre gender presentation, and lady killing. In fact, ex-lovers of Cass’s have literally been confusing Scout with Cass! What is going on? Who is Scout? Who’s going to end up with who? And most importantly, when is Em’s cat Thunderpuss going to get the screen time he deserves?