Member Reviews

This is a story of a young trans woman growing up in a working class suburb. It’s coming of age, evocative and poignant. The book is so heartbreaking and devastating. I deeply felt for the main character and all those women.

Set in downtown Madrid. Author takes us back in 80s and 90s. A young girl was growing up but she had so many questions. She witnessed some things and some terrible things happened with her. Author has portrayed lives of a transgender people and how it is for them growing up, realising the truth and accepting it along with self realisation. While the narrative kept me engaged. I liked the observations of the main character and how she just did not believe what she heard but tried to see everything from her own perspective. Author has also splattered light upon gender and class. I like the main character’s interest in mythology, how they related their life with it and strived to become powerful.

Thanks to the Publisher and Author

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A brilliantly written and devastating book about transness and the heroin epidemic in the poorest neighbourhoods of Madrid. This novel is political and brutal, not shying away from the root causes of the epidemic and how it affects the most impoverished, keeping poor neighbourhoods poor through planned action. But it is also tender, bringing the characters in these neighbourhoods to life and treating them with the respect that they are not given by the outside world. A brilliant expose on the intersection of transness and poverty with a truly human heart.

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I thought this book was a really great queer novel which explores the underbelly of Madrid and the variety of people which inhabit the city. It looks at the negative things which plague a lot of the people but also the main characters experience as a trans women and how she finds her way in this world.

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My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my free digital ARC of Bad Habit by Alana S. Portero, translated from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. I bloody loved this book, it was messy and devastating and beautiful and hopeful. It embodies the powerful bonds forged between women, and trans women in particular. Álex, the main character, recounts her life and the women who have helped shaped it. Hers is not an easy life, growing up a trans girl in a working class neighbourhood which both scorns and reveres its women. The theme of neighbourliness is not one I come across often in fiction, which I definitely think is reflective of how isolated we are now as a society. But the women who live in close proximity to Álex, both trans and cis, look out for one another, doing the best they can amid violence inflicted by men. A flawless translation, a love letter to solidarity, just gorgeous.

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This is such a painfully tender story of a trans woman's coming of age and moving through the world that doesn't want to accept her for who she is.

Whilst the book is filled with pain, violence, anguish and longing it's also overflowing with love from family and the love and support of the different women she meets in her life, who each teach her something about being herself, resilience, beauty and bravery. The trans solidarity all throughout the book gives strong rays of hope through the darkness and made life worth living for our main character.

This book rings so true and reads as if it were a real memoir telling the real and authentic story of how it can be to grow up and survive as a trans person in a working class neighbourhood and a city of little acceptance, but still being surrounded by so much love by those few special and important people we encounter in our lives.

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This book was beautiful, well written and translated, extremely descriptive and funny but above all, devastatingly honest.

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Bad Habit is a coming of age story set in a working class district of Madrid. Starting from the 1980’s and moving onwards, this memoir-like story explores the life of a trans girl/woman as she grows up. Although having discovered the likes of friends, role models, allies, and a community of support along the way, life for this protagonist is difficult, dangerous and one filled with fear and terror and being wholly misunderstood.

After seeing so many rave reviews from several other book bloggers, I was so excited to read this, and for the most part, this book really lives up to its hype. It’s a very poignant story and a very powerful one too. It lyrical, it’s poetic, it’s incredibly beautiful to read, and incredibly moving aswell <3 I love that it’s written like a memoir because it gives it such a fresh and unique voice, and I ADORED the cast of characters we were introduced to, in particular Margarita.

That being said, there were times when I was reading this that I felt like something was missing? Maybe it’s because I expected this to be a stand out 5⭐️ read, given that I’d seen so many other high reviews, or maybe because I felt quite distant from the story due to the short, quick chapters that never quite delve into detail as much as you want to.
As I said above, this is a very lyrical and poetic novel, and whilst I can appreciate that (and often enjoy that type of writing) this was bordering on being a teeny bit too much for my liking.

This is still such a beautiful novel and i highly recommend adding to your TBR's!

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Alana S. Portero's "Bad Habit" is an empathetic and extremely touching look at the unnamed heroine's life as a transgender woman. The character's life is so vivid and so compassionately told that we only want the best for her. Portero creates a vivid portrait of her Madrid neighbourhood and how she must hide her true self in order to function in this world as a teenager and young adult. Potero's novel has the touch of Pedro Almodóvar's early anarchic films, and his fictional stories about Patty Diphusa. Admirers of his work will find a kindred spirit in Alana S. Portero.

Portero's storytelling and her talent for writing a large supporting cast of characters gives the novel its heft. I was particularly struck by her portrait of Margarita and how Rocío Dúrcal's La Gata Bajo La Lluvia plays such an important role in Margarita's story. In Bad Habit, there's also a strong undercurrent of sisterhood and wanting to connect to other women. It's also about resilience under the lasting effects of Franco's reign. If there's a drawback to this slim novel, it's that I wanted more. I wanted to live in this world a lot longer.

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Bad Habit by Alana S Portero, translated by Mara Faye allergen
Publishing Date: 23rd May


📝 - Anchored by the voice of its sweet and defiant narrator, Bad Habit casts a trans woman’s trying youth as a heartfelt odyssey. Raised in an animated yet impoverished blue-collar neighborhood, Alana S. Portero’s protagonist struggles to find her place. As the city around her changes–the heroin epidemic that ravages Madrid through the ‘80s and ‘90s, rallying calls of worker solidarity and the pulsing beat of the city’s night scene– she becomes increasingly detached from the world and, most crucially, herself. Her relationships along the way shape her evolution, from the local trans woman she’s know her whole life, to her first love.

💭 - In short, I loved it. Thoroughly deserving of a 5-star rating, Portero’s writing is sublime. Some of the book even reads as if it were a memoir, the emotion is so raw and unflinching, and then paired with some beautiful, lyrical prose. Moments of the story are of course heartbreaking, but the focus on the relationships that build us up, the family that we may choose outside of where we were born, and the impact each person can have on our lives, bring so much hope and beauty. I really did not want this one to end.
A potential contender for my favourite of the year so far…
Get your hands on this one as soon as you can.
Thank you @netgalley and @4thestatebooks for the e-ARC!

#badhabit #alanasportero #transgender #transwomen #lgbtqliterature #queerlit #transstories #fiction #spanishliterature #netgalley #4thestatebooks #newrelease #newfiction #bookstagram #bookreview #bookrecommendations #readdiversebooks

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This is a gorgeous exploration of life. A true coming of age story that yearns to be read. I really enjoyed parts of it, but others just felt rushed. You can’t take away from this book however that you’ll be gripped by the story and the voice.

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Raw and tender at the same time, this novel/memoir tells the story of growing up queer in a working class district in 1980s Madrid. It grew on me and then it touched me and I couldn't put it away.

Alana tells her story through the big-hearted women that she looked up to and that guided and taught her on her extremely hard journey as a trans woman.

It is one of those novels/memoirs that really manages to transmit all the doubts, feelings, inevitabilities and injustices. In that sense it reminded me of Edouard Louis.

Some reviewers say this should be mandatory reading and I would definitely support that - an important book!

Many thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for the ARC.

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Described as a staggering coming-of-age novel, deeply rooted in the class struggles of a trans woman growing up in Madrid in the last decades of the twentieth century, I went into this novel with high expectations - which were not only met, but far surpassed.

This novel is just heartrending. A lyrical, emotive fever dream, that whisks you to the setting and immerses you fully in the heartbreak of the era. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Clement.

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I would give Bad Habit more than five stars if it were possible. It is an achingly beautiful book of love and loss, yet throughout it maintains a feeling of hope. The sheer amount of emotion conveyed in what's a relatively short novel is incredible.

Alana Portero transported me to Madrid, bringing it to life via vivid depictions of the local neighbourhoods and communities therein. The young trans narrator is so well-realised, I was completely invested in her story.

Bad Habit tenderly explores the narrator's struggle for self-acceptance. She sees the path ahead of her, well-trodden by her neighbour Margarita and, later in the book, Eugenia, as fraught with challenges, and this is, understandably, terrifying. I found the depictions of the older trans women heartbreakingly beautiful; Portero describes them reverentially, according them the respect they seldom gained from their communities.

I wish that anyone harbouring anti-trans views could read this novel and maybe then they would develop some understanding and compassion towards people who are simply trying to exist as they are in this world.

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How can I not give this 5 stars? The writing is immaculate and exquisite. And it destroyed me emotionally. The trans narrator is unnamed, but one of the most memorable for sure. And oh the people of the community (in the working class Madrid during 80’s-90’s) are memorable too. Her parents too. They all had a hard life but there was so much love and support to one another. The narrator witnessed it all and observed and learned from them. The comminity became a large part of her.

I can think of Shaggie Bain as a book similar to this. But I prefer this. I found SB quite bleak and too sad. Bad Habits have warmth and hope. It is more inspiring and empowering. The tranlation didn’t feel like translation at all as the words and language flew so elegantly. The translator did a wonderful job.

Really hope this book does well when it comes out. It deserves praise!

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Such an emotional and brilliantly written novel. The way that Alana has written our unknown narrator in such a way that even though we don't know their name, we find ourselves utterly attached to them. We smile for them, and we cry for them. Bad Habit is such a powerful and absorbing novel, that I really wish 8 had savoured rather than fly through.

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Heartbreaking and sincere novel about the author’s experience as a trans woman in a poor area in Spain. Violence, dreams, family love and death. A must read.

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"Before you get the chance to define yourself, others trace your outline with their prejudices and their aggressions."

This is an incredibly emotional and moving coming of age story of a young trans girl growing up in a working class area of Madrid in the 80's and 90's, with the rippling effects of Franco's dictatorship still felt in the culture and attitudes of the population.

The translation is phenomenal, while still feeling so Spanish. I grew up in Spain and seeing depictions of the culture I'm familiar with was weirdly comforting in a way that I often don't get from books set in the UK.

The book is truly beautiful, a love letter to women, queer family and community, but also a book with a lot of pain and anger within it. I really loved it and will think about it often.

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A trans woman’s coming of age story, set in late 90s Madrid. This has garnered a lot of comparisons to Almodovar and it’s not hard to see why - themes of queerness and acceptance are detailed in a frank and moving way here, and the Spanish setting is absolutely felt in every chapter. The novel is told in a series of short chapters centred on individual events or characters, rather than a single plot which flows from one chapter to the next, which I found made the novel feel a little fragmented and hard to totally lose myself in. There are however a lot of really beautiful moments - the monologue an elder trans woman and mentor gives the protagonist about her switching from male-presenting to female-presenting and back within 10 minutes, and the toll this is clearly taking on her, is particularly effective - and interesting character work which make this a worthwhile read.

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This is an achingly tender story, structured like a memoir, of a trans woman's coming of age. Set in a working class area of Madrid in the 1980s forwards, this has something of the vibe of [book:My Brilliant Friend|35036409] with added queerness.

The writing is frequently gorgeous, the voice alternates between the sassy and the oppressed, and characters are delineated with impressive vividness, even when they are only sketched in like a bar owner, Antonio, in the gay district with his photos of all his beloved friends lost to, it's implied, AIDS/HIV.

There's so much pain, confusion and anguish in this book but the suffering is offset by the love of the narrator's parents, her brother, and her own joy in beauty. Margarita is a standout character whose own tragic constraints serve as both conduit for the narrator's healing compassion and catalyst for her own final embracing of herself.

Lyrical, big-hearted and involving, this feels like a breakthrough voice that we don't often hear in mainstream literature.

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Bad Habit is a novel about a working class trans woman growing up in Madrid and navigating communities and places, death and violence. The unnamed narrator grows up from a young child barely able to understand why she's drawn to groups of women and to the one trans woman in the neighbourhood, to a teenager living with the weight of hidden first love, and then an adult finding and losing community, and then returning to her original neighbourhood and someone she never knew well enough before. All the while, she grapples with how to live as herself amidst the violence of being working class and different.

Translated from Spanish, this is a lyrical novel and the translation really captures this, moving through scenes in sometimes a hazy way, a remembered way, and also a constructed way, as the protagonist builds up a mythology for herself, her neighbourhood, and the people around her. The narrative focuses around particular moments and scenes in her life, rather than a main story, and it has a coming of age feel, as she discovers forms of sisterhood and community even whilst a lot of her connections with people are fleeting. By the ending, this becomes a memorable concluding vision, bringing with it an idea running throughout the book: that we are and become part of a lineage, that the people and stories that come before are important, and also why we must keep going.

This is a beautiful novel that depict darkness and violence, but also connection and forms of community, and particularly the importance and complexity of finding role models as a trans woman growing up. It questions putting people on a pedestal whilst also acknowledging it can be hard to avoid when you need proof that you have a future and can exist in, or outside of, society.

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