title: stage dreams
writer/artist: melanie gillman
genre: historical, western, romance
target audience: young adult
publisher: graphic universe
my rating: highly recommended

i received an earc of this from the publisher, via netgalley. this does not influence my thoughts or opinions.

stage dreams by writer and artist melanie gillman is many things – a historical romance, a western, a young adult graphic novel, very queer. it’s set in the new mexico territory in 1861, and follows grace – a trans woman and runaway – and flor – a latinx outlaw – as they meet, form a plan to sneak into a confederate gala to steal some important documents, and fall in love. i’m not one who has read ever really read westerns, but when i saw this on netgalley i knew i had to read it. a gay as hell sounding graphic novel about two girls on a dangerous adventure? sign me up! i am now happy to announce that it lived up to all my expectations and more!

stage dreams pulls you in from the very beginning, and does not let you go until you get to the last page. and when you get to that last page, you really wish it was longer. not because it feels like something was missing, but because you don’t want to leave grace and flor just yet. it is an adventurous and fast paced graphic novel, all about living your truth no matter what others might think. i was a bit worried going in that while i would like it, it might be a bit of a downer. i thought there would be lots of – challenged, but still – racism, transphobia, and sexism strewn in because of the time period. i was so wrong. it is fun and light hearted and it made my heart flutter. it reminds me of that ao3 tag that’s something along the lines of “it’s the 50s except without homophobia bc i’m gay and i said so”. no? just me? okay.

flor and grace are so sweet together. they are two very different people – flor is hot headed and up to fight at any time, grace is more calm and held back, but still ready to do what it takes. their sexualities aren’t specified, but both of them are queer. i’d definitely say that flor is a chaotic queer, but i can’t really decide between lawful or neutral for grace.

probably the detail i appreciate the most about stage dreams is that there is literally zero shitty comments, misgendering, or dead naming aimed at grace because of her assigned sex at birth. none at all. at one point someone who knows her father mentions that he has a kid who deserted, and that’s the word that’s used. kid, not son. i think that’s really important to point out and highlight, because so many people write harmful tropes and language into books, tv, comics, you name it, in the name of being “historically accurate”. this is how easy it is to keep away from that, and therefore keep any readers who would be affected safe.

all in all, you can probably tell i adored this graphic novel. it’s very short, so don’t go into it expecting too much to happen, but if you’re out for a fun, gay time i’d highly recommend you pick this up when it’s released in comic shops on september 4th.

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