Skin Care Beauty Lookbook

Everything I was doing wrong in my skincare routine, according to TikTok

The first time I went onto The Ordinary website, I felt like I was back in high school Chemistry. Niacinamide, granactive retinoid, ascorbyl glucoside, hyaluronic acid…every inch of me was screaming about how wrong it was to put any form of acid anywhere near my face. But that was what the skincare TikTokers had told me to buy, so into the basket it went.

Over the last few years, everyday skincare routines have dominated social media. However, no platform has been the driving force behind this craze more than TikTok; with more than 9.1 billion video plays under #skincareroutine alone, the video-sharing app has allowed both dermatologists and skincare experts, and normal people with common skin conditions, to share their tips and hacks.

The influx of people suddenly sharing their advice for relatable skincare issues like severe acne, oily skin, and chronic eczema has changed the face of skincare. Those that previously had a skincare routine went from being called “neurotic” and “weird” to hailed as an actual God, while those that don’t have a step-by-step guide on how to properly wash their face are now behind the times. Skincare isn’t just a face wash and moisturizer anymore — there are new players in the game.  


@skincarebyhyram is an angel 🤍. #foryou #foryoupage #fyp #fy #skincare #skincareroutine #nightroutine #mariobadescu #theordinary #acne

♬ original sound – billy

At 23 years old, I consider myself a zillenial — falling right bang smack in the middle of the two generations. I’m young enough to have swapped facial wipes for micellar water, but old enough to still be choosing a moisturizer based on how cheap it is, not how much sun protection it provides. 

The thing is, my skincare was never bad, it was just never a skincare routine. After suffering from chronic eczema my whole life, I’ve always stayed far away from perfumed products; however, according to TikTok, that was the least offensive sin I was committing in the name of skincare. 


Only skincare nerds will understand ✨ #skincare #skincaretips #skincareroutine

♬ I Thought – moeed💫

Four words. St Ives Peach Scrub. This scrub was a staple in every zillenial’s bathroom after beauty influencers on Youtube told us it was the only thing guaranteed to make our faces smooth. But according to skincare TikTokers, it’s one of the most abrasive and irritating products for your skin. In fact, they’ve vetoed scrubs completely — I have never felt so much shame when I had to throw this thing out. 

SPF. Otherwise known as sunscreen or sunblock. Whatever you call it, I wasn’t wearing any. Don’t get me wrong, I always wear sunscreen on holiday, but I live in one of the rainiest and cloudiest countries in the world. Why would you ever need SPF in England

Skincare TikTokers on the other hand have since convinced me that your skin should be protected against the sun in every country you’re in, and is the best way to avoid wrinkles when you’re older. As a result, I now have a fancy pants moisturizer with SPF 50 in. ¡Viva Inglaterra!


i brought four bottles to share for NOTHING #skincarebyhyram #sunscreen #spf

♬ original sound – xxx

My moisturizer, or should I say, my nighttime moisturizer. Skincare TikTok told me that I shouldn’t have just one cream for my face, but two. Before TikTok, my day cream was my night cream, and most nights I would slather my face with my thick eczema moisturizer to the point that I could literally feel my pores clogging up. But suddenly I was ordering myself a separate cream for when I went to sleep. 

As much as I understand the logic behind using a slightly thicker moisturizer for when you go to bed so your skin can regenerate overnight, I still find some of the nighttime skincare routines on TikTok incredibly long-winded. Who honestly has the time to do all of this? I’ve got a Netflix show to watch while I play on my phone, and impossible imaginary scenarios to make up in my head!  

Only true zillennials will remember the Pixi Toner. When this first came out, the world practically imploded. Much like the banished peach scrub, the Pixi Glow Tonic was made popular by the likes of Zoella and Tanya Burr, back in the heyday of true Youtube culture. It was the first skincare purchase I made that was over £20, and my god didn’t it burn, but that was nothing compared to how I felt like a total beauty influencer when I used it. These days, I’ve swapped my toner with a cleanser instead, after also washing my face with one as well — that’s right, apparently we’re double cleansing now.

The last skincare sin TikTok shamed me for (but which I’m still blissfully committing) is eye cream. Skincare TikTokers suggest that you should also add an eye cream to your skincare routine. But I still don’t fully buy into this since despite how much water I drink, how much sleep I get, and how much Vaseline I put under my eyes to try and stop them, the bags keep appearing. I guess I should have listened to Smash Mouth when they said, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.

This new era of the perfect skincare routine is led mostly by Gen Z. While the dermatologists and skincare experts are usually a lot older, it’s the everyday TikToker still in High School who is experimenting with these acids, serums, and peeling masks; I dread to know what they would think of 16-year-old Tilly coming home drunk after a house party and violently scrubbing her red lipstick off with a mangled old face wipe before passing out with half a face of makeup still on. 

Yet if I’m being completely honest, my skin has improved since I’ve adopted a TikTok skincare routine — and there are some simple skincare routines out there. As happy as I am that I’m finally using products that don’t feel like they’re burning off a whole layer of my skin, I still don’t have the time, economic resources, nor inclination to do a 16 step skincare routine like most of Gen Z. And retinol? That can quite frankly fuck off.

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Hair Lookbook

Why I’m no longer worried about my hair going grey when I get older

It wasn’t until I finally accepted my hair was naturally curly, that I started to worry about going grey. Think about it, how many older women do you see with curly grey beach waves? Scratch that. How many older women do you see with shoulder-length hair? Eight minutes later and I’d already started typing in ‘Legally Blonde courtroom scene’ on Youtube to try and take notes on Elle Woods’ tips for perm maintenance. Was that what the future held for me? A curly grey perm?

There is a certain stigma about women turning grey. While a man with grey hair is considered a ‘silver fox’, grey hair on women has long been associated with an air of unkemptness and the worst parts of getting old. And surprise, surprise, we’ve got society’s sexist beauty standards to blame. While men are often praised for ‘aging well’, women have been told their entire lives that getting old should be our biggest fear. it’s estimated that the anti-aging beauty market will generate a revenue worth $421.4 billion by 2030. That’s in less than 9 years’ time.

And there is no doubt that this narrative has affected the way I see grey hair. I grew up reading fashion magazines aimed at women in their twenties with free sachets of anti-aging cream sandwiched between countless articles about the best way for women to look younger. Going grey meant getting old, and according to these magazines, my life would practically be over by the time I hit 30.

However, the pandemic has seen a shift in the stigma of women going grey. As a result of the numerous lockdowns leading to constant salon closures, more women have been letting their hair turn silver and not reaching for the dye to change it back. In a year that has been full of restrictions, having to dye your hair just to fit into society’s ideal of supposed perfection was one limitation too many to handle.

While salon closures meant that women were inevitably forced to decide whether or not they wanted to cover their greys, the idea that women can embrace getting older the same way men can has been gaining traction for a while. This so-called anti-anti-aging movement, see also: pro-aging movement, views age not as a restriction, but as another step for female liberation. The older women get, the freer they are from the pressure of society’s impossible beauty standards. This, of course, includes keeping grey hairs, well, grey.

Although it’s not the same as going grey, when I finally accepted that my body probably will never look like it did when I was 17, I felt a massive weight come off my shoulders. I realized that I did want to look my age and  I have no interest in appearing younger. I don’t want to look like I did when I was in my late teens, I want to look like I do in my early twenties. Because I am in my early twenties. And there’s no changing that.

The societal shift from women fearing getting older, to actually embracing it, has been welcomed by celebrities as well. Last April during the first peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Michelle Visage asked her fans if instead of dying her grey’s back to her signature raven black color, she should grow them out. And now, the queen of everybody’s hearts and my favorite adopted anglophile, has switched up her signature hairstyle to a snazzy half and half combo.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Michelle Visage (@michellevisage)

Other women like Michelle who have let their grey grow have noted how their hair feels softer and healthier from not dying it all the time. However, there has also been a recent surge in younger Millennials and Gen Z actually dying their hair silver and grey, long before their first white hairs have come in. In many ways, silver streaks are now one of the biggest hair trends.

While the majority of Boomers and Gen X actively take pleasure from disliking literally anything the younger generation do, young people dying their hair grey on purpose removes the stigma that this hair color is only associated with getting old, and gives it a new meaning – one that doesn’t really mean anything at all. Grey hair is now no longer just for older women, but instead a color that anyone of any age can enjoy.  


♬ Levitating (feat. DaBaby) – Dua Lipa

Yesterday, a friend of mine confessed that he started getting a few of his first grey hairs a few years ago, I think I would have worried a lot more than I did when he first told me. Seeing more and more women of varying ages embrace their silver streaks – including people my age who are actually choosing to dye their hair this color – has meant I’m no longer worried about my hair getting whiter. If anything, I’m actually looking forward to the chance to look like the Queen of Arendelle herself.

And while I’ll probably opt for longer grey curls myself, remember, the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance is that you’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate. 

You’re welcome.

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Health Wellness

How female protagonists in YA books made me fall in love with working out

I’d be lying if I said exercise didn’t help me get through the pandemic. When I found out that my 2020 graduation had officially been canceled, I got my bike out and angrily cycled for 10 miles. And when I started to feel cooped up after moving back in with my parents after four years of independence at university, going for a run every other morning really helped me let off some steam. For me, exercising was a way to stay in control when it felt like my whole world was falling apart. 

I’ve enjoyed working out since my early teens, and I can probably pinpoint the start of me beginning to run, at around the same time I started to read Young Adult (YA) fiction. Like most girls, I was starstruck by these badass female protagonists taking center stage in a fantasy novel, but unlike most girls, I was also totally in awe of how much they worked out – and worked out not to lose weight, but because they actually liked exercising.

Up until then, I thought exercise was just a way to lose weight or a punishment for what you ate. Exercise and weight loss were intrinsically linked, and I firmly believed girls only worked out as a way of getting skinnier.

However, back when YA was just Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, I used to devour the pages of Tris Prior training to be accepted into Dauntless. That scene when they play capture the flag, and Tris scales the Ferris wheel with Four? I couldn’t get enough! It seemed Tris actually took pleasure in waking up every morning to train with the rest of the initiates.

In a world now dominated by female fitness influencers who frame going to the gym as a celebration of what all body types can do, it seems odd that I grew up with the idea that only boys could actually enjoy exercising, while girls only worked out to drop the pounds. 

When I was younger, I would go into school and attend physical education (P.E.) lessons where the girls would spend longer gossiping about boys in the changing room than actually playing hockey on the field. Yes, there was also the fact that there was no way in hell I was risking getting sweaty when 14-year-old me had just discovered how to sneakily wear foundation without the teachers knowing, but I still used to come home and live vicariously through the girls actually enjoying working out in the pages of my YA novel. Most evenings, I used to take off that makeup and go running, as well.

I began seeing these characters not as a vision for the future of feminism, but as a reflection of society today.

As it became normalized for girls to actually enjoy lifting weights and going to the gym, I began seeing these characters not as a vision for the future of feminism, but as a reflection of society today. But still, I couldn’t help myself being drawn to the characters in these books that actually enjoyed working out as much as I did.

Take the popular YA series, The Shadowhunter Chronicles, for example. Despite the books literally centering around a race of angelic warriors who spend their lives training to fight demons, I was still captivated by the character I saw the most of myself in, Emma Carstairs, a sarcastic blonde only child who uses running as a way to manage her excess anger.

Once I realized exercise could actually be enjoyable, it felt like the world opened up. I would spend just as long getting ready for a run, as I would deciding which songs to put on my workout playlist. And since it was YA protagonists that showed me working out wasn’t actually meant to be a joyless experience, I made a YA workout list, as well.

The Divergent soundtrack, music from The Hunger Games movie, and any other songs that made me feel like an angelic warrior saving the world from evil, and not like a sweaty tomato running laps around her local suburb were quickly added. “Blood in The Cut” by K.Flay, and “Problem” by Natalia Kills, are two of my favorites.

And just like most things in life, my exercise journey with YA characters has finally come full circle. When most young adults started to regress to their teenage self in the pandemic and rewatch the Twilight movies on repeat just to feel something again, I was reminded of when I first fell in love with the female protagonists in my YA books—the girls who not only lifted the stigma about working out just to lose weight but also shattered the illusion that boys were the only ones who could enjoy exercising.

The female protagonists in YA books got me to fall in love with working out. And now, when my friends are tagging each other in memes about how if they ran even one mile, they would surely keel over, I can thank Tris Prior and Emma Carstairs that I can make it to at least two.

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Editor's Picks Book Club Books

19 LGBTQIA+ YA books to read instead of JK Rowling this Pride month

There is nothing quite like reading a book and seeing yourself in the main character; it’s like someone has taken everything that makes you you, and put it inside a fictional protagonist who looks the same, thinks the same, and annoyingly, also acts the same. When this character is at the forefront of an action-packed YA fantasy novel, it’s even cooler – oh, so that’s what I would look like if I could wield a mythical sword and slice it through my enemy’s chest in battle?

However, when the YA (Young Adult) genre first came into the mainstream over a decade ago, it was neon impossible to see yourself in the main character unless you were a below-average height, totally white, very straight, and of very little weight, cisgender teen. Take Harry Potter, for example, undoubtedly a blueprint for the genre, but written with incredibly little diversity and by an author who can’t seem to stop endlessly spewing transphobic rhetoric from her massive gob.

Of course, it’s perfectly okay to still love the books – even if you disagree with the author – but YA as a genre has thankfully since diversified, bringing in not just protagonists of color, but also characters who identify as LGBTQIA+. And this Pride Month, we want to celebrate all the great YA authors who are allies to the LGBTQIA+ community and have included great LGBTQIA+ representation in their books for you to find your own fictional counterpart in.  

1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
[Image description: Cover of “Cinderella is Dead” by Kalynn Bayron] via Amazon

Described by one reviewer on GoodReads as ‘queer black girls overthrowing the patriarchy’ Cinderella is Dead is a queer retelling of everyone’s third favorite fairytale.

It follows the story of Sophia, who would rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin, instead of the male suitors lined up for her, as they try to bring down the King once and for all. It’s the lesbian version of Cinderella us queer girls have all been waiting for!

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2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller] via

A staple of LGBTQIA+ YA fiction and a book that had me crying for weeks – The Song of Achilles is another retelling, this time of Homer’s Iliad. But don’t worry, you don’t have to know anything about Greek mythology for this book to tear out your soul. The whole thing is written like pure poetry, and I have never read a more beautiful book about a more beautiful couple. Achilles and Patroclus ’til I die.  

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3. Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Crier's War by Nina Varela
[Image description: Cover of ‘Crier’s War’ by Nina Varela] via Amazon

Slowburn romance. Enemies to lovers. Mystery and betrayals. Sapphic love. If all those things are setting off fireworks in your head, then you need to pick up Crier’s War. With both lesbian and bisexual rep, this book has a proper ‘enemies to lovers’ romance, where the characters are actually real enemies who truly do want to kill each other – hands down, the superior YA trope.

The novel follows Crier, an android-like Automae who was made to be the epitome of perfection, and Ayla, a human who lost everything after the Automaes overthrew the humans. What more could you want, really?

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4. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Brilliant Death’ by Amy Rose Capetta] via Amazon

How would you react if I told you The Brilliant Death was a 19th-century Italian mafia story with genderfluid shape-shifters, a great queer romance, and an unashamed critique of the gender binary? Yeah, I thought so. The novel follows Teo, who is forced to travel to the capital of her state to save her father’s life after he is poisoned. Teo is joined by Cielo, a genderfluid shape-shifter who gives me big Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, and who is able to switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book.

A central theme of the story is Teo’s denial of both her identity as a witch and her complex relationship with her gender. She also turns men that piss her off into inanimate objects. Like, come on, what’s not to love?

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5. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
[Image description: Cover of ‘Legendborn’ by Tracy Deonn] via Amazon

This thrilling urban fantasy follows Bree Matthews, a high school student, who witnesses someone slaying a demon on her first night on campus. This then leads her to the Legendborn: demon-hunters descended from the original Knights of the Round Table. Think The Mortal Instruments, but with much less whiny protagonists.

It touches on grief, inherited trauma, colonial legacies, and being a black woman in the South, and has great LGBTQIA+ rep: Bree’s best friend, Alice Chen, is a lesbian, while there are also two bisexual characters, a gay character, a WLW (woman-loving-woman) relationship, and a non-binary character, as well.

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6. Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry
[Image description: Coverr of ‘Orpheus Girl’ by Brynne Rebele-Henry] via Amazon

Another loose retelling of a Greek myth, Orpheus Girl deals with some incredibly tough shit. After Raya is caught having sex with her girlfriend Sarah, in a conservative Texas town, she is sent to a conversion therapy camp. The novel explores difficult topics like self-harm, electroshock therapy used as a form of torture, misgendering a transgender person on purpose, and countless other forms of homophobia. It will make your heart ache, and then break, and does it so with vivid and unique imagery. It’s a tough read, but well worth it. Just remember the trigger warnings.

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7. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon] via Amazon

Please don’t be put off by how long this novel is – The Priory of the Orange Tree is most definitely a saga; a saga filled with heroism, magic, romance, pirates, plague, dragons, and one of the best WLW slow burns in YA fiction.

Lovingly described as ‘a really killer high fantasy epic that also just happens to be really gay at times,’ this book is feminist fantasy at its finest. I would try and describe the plot to you, but it’s so complicated you’re just gonna have to read it yourself.

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8. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
[Image description: Cover of ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong] via Amazon

A Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai with some of the best representation in all Young Adult fiction, These Violent Delights takes everything that was good about RoJo, and turns it up seventeen notches.

Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, is a young Chinese girl suddenly forced to work with the heir to the rival Russian White Flowers gang, and the boy she once loved, Roma, to defeat two monsters: a killer creature who has appeared from nowhere, and the threat of colonialism. There is fantastic LGBTQIA+ rep in this book as well, including a trans character, and several gay MLM (man-loving-man) characters. Check out our full review of the book and exclusive interview with author Chloe Gong here.

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9. Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought by April Daniels
[Image description: Cover of ‘Dreadnought’ by April Daniels] via Wordery

If you’re a fan of comics, Dreadnought is the YA superhero story.

It follows Danny, a trans girl who is currently living as a boy due to extremely unsupportive parents, who suddenly gets the body she’s always wanted after famous superhero Dreadnought passes his powers onto her. Yes, it’s a heartwarming superhero novel, but the book also focuses on a range of issues faced by those who are transitioning. Long story short, it’s a superhero novel for those who don’t usually get to be a part of superhero novels.

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10. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
[Image description: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver] via Amazon

A groundbreaking YA book that follows non-binary teenager, Ben, who has to turn to their estranged sister, Hannah, after being kicked out of their home. I Wish You All the Best is a powerful novel about identity, complex family issues, mental health, and an important read for both members of the LGBTQIA+, as well as allies.

It’s one of the first books I’ve seen with a non-binary main character that is also written by a non-binary author – this novel pushes the genre even further forward in sharing the stories of those whose stories are never usually told.

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11. A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
[Image description: Cover of ‘A Dark and Hollow Star’ by Ashley Shuttleworth] via Goodreads

If I was going to name four things to put into my ultimate YA book combo, you can bet it would be fae, murder, mythology, and queer teens. Yes, there are tons of books about Faerie being written as of late, but how many of them follow four queer teenagers that find themselves caught up in a series of brutal and ritualistic murders, who are forced to work together to solve them? Not many!

Described as ‘500 pages of action, banter, magic, and pining,’ A Dark and Hollow Star offers genuine LGBTQIA+ representation, not just that token shit that Sarah J Maas does sometimes.

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12. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi] via Amazon

The category is: ‘Six of Crows’ meets ‘The Da Vinci Code’ realness. Set in 1889 Paris right before the Exposition Universelle, The Gilded Wolves is a high-energy heist story that follows six main characters on a mission in an intricately wrought Parisian historical fantasy setting. With 100 more crushes on fictional characters that we don’t have time for, this book also has an abundance of representation, including Filipino and Indian protagonists, an autistic main character, and the best kind of natural LGBTQIA+ rep that doesn’t feel forced onto its characters.

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13. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
[Image description: Cover of ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston] via Amazon

Do you want a book that’ll make you laugh, swoon, and cry? Then Red, White & Royal Blue is definitely the one for you.

An MLM romance between a made-up Prince of England – sorry, Harry – and the son of the first woman president of The United States, this book will make your whole body grin in happiness and is one of the more lighthearted novels on our list.

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14. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
[Image description: Cover of ‘Felix Ever After’ by Kacen Callender] via Goodreads

Felix Ever After is one of those books that stays with you for a long time after the final page. The story follows Felix, a black, queer, and transgender teen, who has his deadname and pre-transition photos publicly outed. However, his plan for revenge leads him into a weird quasi–love triangle which then triggers a journey of questioning and self-discovery.

The book is sad and it’s fierce and it’s funny and full of forgiveness. Moreover, it’s so refreshing to read about a queer POC main character with top surgery scars. 

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15. Malice by Heather Walter

Malice by Heather Walter
[Image description: Cover of ‘Malice’ by Heather Walter] via Waterstones

A sapphic blend of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, Malice takes the “true love” aspect of traditional fairytales and turns it on its head.

This book follows Alyce, a type of fae feared for their cruel powers, and the crown princess, Aurora, who is cursed to die on her 21st birthday if she doesn’t get her true love’s kiss. The two women form a connection – despite the fact it was actually one of Alyce’s own that placed the curse on Aurora’s bloodline. Described as ‘a fairytale world without the fairytale ending,’ Malice is dark, bewitching, and very much a piece of art.  

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

16. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
[Image description: Cover of ‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ by T.J Klune] via Amazon

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a heart-warming and wholesome read with LGBTQIA+ main characters that also take on tougher topics such as discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. It tells the story of Linus Baker, a Case Worker who oversees the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages, who travels to an orphanage to look after six supposedly- dangerous children: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist.

Full of humor and heart, if you like the YA trope of “found family” – and to be honest, who doesn’t? – then this is the novel for you. Still not convinced? This book has been described as ‘a chicken soup for my soul and emotional wellbeing’ by one reviewer on Goodreads. Enough said.

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17. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
[Image description: Cover of ‘Cemetery Boys’ by Aiden Thomas] via Amazon

Want to really send your emotions into a spin? Try Cemetery Boys, a queer book about a trans boy who may or may not be in love with a ghost. Oh, and did I mention it’s also from the POV of the Latinx community?

This vibrant and enchanting story follows Yadriel, a 16-year-old gay Latinx trans boy, who after successfully performing a magical ritual and unlocking his true powers as a brujo, sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. The only problem? He ends up falling in love with Julian Diaz – the spirit of a handsome dead boy Yadriel accidentally summons as well. This story looks at LGBTQIA+ issues from a Latinx perspective and will have you feeling all types of ways.  

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18. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages by various authors

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages by various authors
[Image description: Cover of ‘All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages’ by various authors] via Amazon

Not a novel, but rather an anthology of short stories, All Out is a collection of diverse historical YA fiction written by YA authors across the queer spectrum. From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier to an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene. It truly feels like I was put on this earth to be gay and to read this anthology.

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19. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
[Image description: Cover of ‘This Poison Heart’ by Kalynn Bayron] via Goodreads

We’re finishing this list the same way we started it: with Kalynn Bayron. From the author of Cinderella is Dead, This Poison Heart is a contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique but dangerous power – Briseis can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch. *clutches fist in cottage core lesbian* With long-held family secrets, systemic oppression, and the occult, this novel is the best mix of magical realism and paranormal mythology. It also leads with black and queer characters. Please, just take my money!

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

In a genre that’s largely full of fantasy worlds and made-up creatures, it’s taken long enough for YA to fully encapsulate the diversity of its fans – but it’s now finally possible for all kinds of readers to see themselves in the pages of this genre. 

So go on, purchase them online or head down to your local bookstore and get your hands on some of our favorite LGBTQIA+ YA novels.

Screw you, JK Rowling. Happy Pride Month!

Want more book content? Follow our Bookstagram for international giveaways, exclusive excerpts, and author interviews!

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Life Stories Life

It’s okay to feel angry that you’ve lost a year to the pandemic

In a year full of overwhelming sadness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I also feel an equal amount of overwhelming anger. I’m angry at the year (and counting) I’ve lost and the memories I haven’t made. I miss soaking up the final sun rays in the park as the sun sets for the day. I miss spontaneously saying yes to a great night out that no one had planned for. I grieve a whole year of belly laughs that still ache the next morning that never happened.

Mostly, I feel robbed of experiences that might have shaped me into a different person than who I currently am. 

I’m angry that I even feel angry about this because my emotions may seem hard to justify. How am I in any position to complain? Compared to others, I’ve endured the pandemic with minimal loss. Unlike many people I know, I haven’t lost any friends or relatives to the coronavirus.

So what gives me the right to be angry that I’ve lost a year of my life when others have lost so much more? In truth, I’m coming to understand that experiencing loss isn’t so black and white. It’s not relative. Just because my loss is different from others, doesn’t mean my grief is any less valid. 

It’s estimated young people have been hit the hardest by the pandemic in terms of its economic fallout and its impact on our mental health. In a time when we’re meant to be finding out who we are through new experiences, we had to hit pause and instead watch the year pass us by in constant fear that we’re missing out on what is considered some of the best years of our lives. In fact, many young people have watched two birthdays come and go under lockdown. 

Like many other young adults during lockdown, I went from living independently with friends while in college to moving back home with my parents. What’s more, I finished my four-year degree sitting in my childhood bedroom at 3:41 pm on a random Tuesday afternoon. I don’t even remember what the date was.  

After my time in college came to an end in the midst of a pandemic, the sudden collapse of the job market meant the only work I could find was as a part-time employee in a supermarket. Though a little disappointing, I was grateful for this job since so many other 2020 graduates couldn’t even get that.

However, this job didn’t come without its challenges. For instance, I would spend days getting verbally abused by customers, despite being considered an essential worker. So, in the evenings I would be constantly sending out job applications in the hopes of landing something with more opportunity and that was also less taxing on my mental health.

However, I wasn’t just competing with other graduates who were now looking for jobs after finishing their degrees. I was also up against people with ten years of experience that had been fired from their job and would take a demotion just to be hired again.

Moreover, living at home after the independence college provided me was challenging as well. After having realized in college that I wanted to date both men and women, I was excited to start a new chapter in my dating life post-university. Instead, I was forced back home where I hadn’t yet come out to my parents. 

All of this stress wasn’t bettered by the fact that everywhere I looked, young people were getting blamed for the spread of the virus. Despite many young people having hardly left their homes for the entire year, it was our fault for causing the second wave of the pandemic; never mind, the UK government urging people to go back to restaurants just to keep the economy afloat. 

The worst thing was, we were called selfish for even suggesting we felt at a loss too. What was one year of our lives worth anyway?

As I watched my best friend cry to me over Facetime about how she had applied for 95 jobs over the last two months and had been rejected from every single one of them, I realized we were stuck in a catch-22. 

Every day the news would highlight the horrendous numbers of lives lost from the pandemic. But at the same time, preach to viewers about how precious life was and how we shouldn’t waste it. Though, the only way we could make the most of life was by staying in until there was a solution to the virus.

Turns out, however, most of us were already drowning.

More often than not, I wonder about what would have been if the pandemic hadn’t happened. Would I be traveling the world as I had originally planned to do after college? Would I have fallen in love somewhere with someone after finally accepting my sexuality? What would the dress I had already bought before my graduation was canceled look like without the tags on? 

Though we can’t change what’s already happened, we are still allowed to mourn for the year we have all lost. It’s okay to feel angry for what could have been. Ultimately, this year has been traumatic for all of us.

Even if you haven’t directly lost someone to the coronavirus, we have been inundated with images of people dying all around us. For example, we’ve watched in horror as India started to collapse under the second wave of the virus. And consequently, experts say we won’t see the true impact of this mass trauma for years to come.  

I’m well aware my loss is minimal in comparison to those who have lost loved ones to the disease. And I’m grateful I even had the privilege to safely lockdown when many didn’t even have that. But I want people to understand— young people have lost formative years of our lives, and we should be allowed to feel upset about it.

It’s more than okay to be angry about the year that could have been. Because remember: what you lost because of the pandemic might be different from someone else, but it’s still a loss nonetheless.

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Outfits Street Style Style Fashion Lookbook

Dear Zara, after 23 years together I’m finally breaking up with you

Dear Zara,

It’s taken me a long time to admit this, and it breaks my heart to even say it out loud, but this thing between us just isn’t working anymore. I hate this, I really do, but I know it’s for the best. We’re just not compatible in the way we should be.

You see, you’re one of the most valuable clothing brands on the planet with over 2,250 stores worldwide, and I’m that girl who takes 14 items into the changing rooms and still comes out empty-handed. Realistically, we could never be together.

Everything seemed so much simpler at the start. I remember the first time I took my friend into one of your stores – “this is what the cool Spanish girls wear!” I told her excitedly. I truly believed that effortless European sense of style was a thing of transferable nature and could cure my garishly brash British fashion ensembles. But why does everything look so much better on the hanger, Zara? Faded blue mom jeans, a tie-up leather shacket, a basic white tee; I can walk around your store with whole outfits on my arm, but when I try them on, they look entirely different on my body.


Message for Zara #zara

♬ original sound – Cloie Barrett

For years I convinced myself that it wasn’t you, it was me. It was my body that didn’t fit the clothes, and it was me that needed to change my shape. But I’ve realized, Zara, it is actually you. You’re the one intentionally making clothes that don’t fit properly, so we will keep buying more over time. And you’re the one choosing to keep an S-M-L clothing size system and making me take three of the same item into the changing rooms because I don’t know if the 8, 12, or 18 will fit me the best – I don’t think you realize just how much upper arm strength it takes to carry nine pairs of jeans into the changing room.

But we’ve had some good times, haven’t we? Remember when I spent twenty minutes sitting on the floor in my underwear looking in your mirrors and wondering if that’s what I really looked like? Turns out, the dim overhead lighting in your changing rooms is just ridiculously unflattering. Don’t worry about me getting foundation marks on your white shirt, my tears will only stain it more.

But you can’t say we haven’t tried, Zara. We’ve done the whole online thing, and we couldn’t even make that work. 

Every time I tried to work through our issues, you insisted on putting your models on a cooking stove, making them wear a boot on their head, or telling them to put their arms through the back of the coat instead of the front.

I tried to tell you this in person, but you see, I’m even more terrified of your shop assistants. If I wasn’t already crying in the changing rooms, you bet I am now. I feel like I’m being cross-examined just buying a bikini top. Actually, scratch that. Cross-examination requires actual speaking. And I have had less awkward silences on first dates than at your checkouts. 

I’m equal parts terrified and equal parts extremely attracted to your store staff. Even their thank you and goodbye feel like a personalized death sentence. I don’t understand, isn’t that what you wanted? Didn’t you want me to buy something in store?


ZARA employees be like #zara #zarachallenge #zaraemployee #comedy #fun #trend #goviral #fy #fyp #foryou #foryoupage

♬ Boss Bitch – Doja Cat

So there was really no other way to do this. I’ve tried my best to make it work, but I just can’t do it anymore. I honestly thought you were different, Zara. I thought you were unlike the other fast fashion brands, but turns out you’re just the same. This whole time I thought this is what it was supposed to be like. That I had so much fun shopping in the store, and it was just me being fussy when nothing looked good in the changing rooms.

But you tricked me, Zara! You tricked me with an illusion of good quality garments, and that damned European charm. I guess I’m finally being honest with myself. I’m just not like those effortlessly put-together Italian girls on my Pinterest board. And I’ve accepted at long last that my street style will always be as messy as my nation’s ability to binge drink.

I hope we can still be friends. It would be nice to catch up if I ever bump into you in the center of town. But for now, I need to put myself first. It’s taken me 23 years to realize that we’re just not meant to be.

I’m so sorry Zara, but I’m finally breaking up with you. 

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Love + Sex Love

YA books are guilty of glorifying and glamourizing toxic romantic relationships

In some ways, reading Young Adult fiction is a right of passage for all teens growing up. Not only does it let young readers escape the realities of impending adulthood by temporarily getting lost in a fantasy world, but it also offers them a microcosmic view of wider society today – highlighting the diversity of the modern world, challenging and tearing apart gender norms, and providing a glimpse into dating and relationships.

However, when it comes to love and romance, the genre is also guilty of inaccurately portraying romantic relationships; this could be anything from the unrealistic childhood friends to lovers trope – no one has childhood friends that hot. I’m looking at you, Julian Blackthorn – to the more harmful portrayal of toxic relationships, often glamorising and even glorifying dangerous tropes.

One type of romantic partner that YA often glamorizes is one that is obsessive, hyper-protective, and overly jealous. YA has conditioned us to view controlling characters like these as a sign of love in a relationship when in reality, it’s closer to abuse; gaslighting, intentionally playing on a person’s insecurities, and threatening to leave someone unless they do something, are all common forms of psychological manipulation often glamourized as romantic in YA novels. 

Take the recent Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone novels, for example. Many readers have noticed the relationship between two of the main characters, Alina Starkov and the Darkling, is anything but healthy – citing the Darkling’s powerful control over Alina; “Darklina” is one of the most popular ships in the fandom, yet a controlling partner is never a sign of a healthy relationship. 

The Darkling and Alina Starkov in the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone
[Image description: The Darkling and Alina Starkov in the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone] Via Netflix
Another toxic trope that is often glorified in YA, is the idea that true love can be a cure for deep childhood trauma. Many YA characters are often written with a traumatic past, be that a childhood of abuse, a struggle with mental illness, or another instance of a traumatic event. However, romantic love is not a cure for trauma. And it is not the responsibility of the other person to make you better – that’s what therapy is for. 

The “true love solves everything – even unresolved childhood trauma” trope, often leads YA readers to try and justify the toxic behavior of a character. Many readers cite the relationship between the two protagonists of Anna Todd’s After, as a perfect example of this type of toxic trope.

The cruel way Hardin often treats Tessa is excused by his abusive childhood relationship with his father, however, a traumatic past is not an excuse for toxic behavior in the present; what happened back then does not dictate what is happening now – no matter how you try to swing it. 

Tessa and Hardin from the movie adaptation of After by Anna Todd
[Image description: Tessa and Hardin from the movie adaptation of After by Anna Todd] Via Aviron Pictures
One of the most important parts of a healthy sexual relationship is consent, yet some of the most popular couples in YA fiction are made up of someone who initially wasn’t interested, and the other who just didn’t take no for an answer. In this way, the YA genre is often guilty of trivializing consent; framing constant persistence as a sign of true love. But ignoring someone’s rejection and continuing to pursue them is not romance, it’s harassment.

When you refute someone’s sexual advances in real life, you expect them to understand that no means no. So why should this be any different with fictional characters?

Equally, being in love with someone is not a free pass to have sex with them whenever you want; another harmful trope surrounding relationships in YA novels is that loving someone means you never have to ask for consent. Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, is guilty of mistaking lack of consent for romance – especially with its main protagonist Feyre, and her male love interests.

YA authors always pairing off single characters – even if that person isn’t good for them – is another popular toxic trope. With internet dating apps becoming the norm over the last decade, and society still telling us that single people are just lonely people waiting to be in a relationship, this trope only encourages the harmful idea that we need a partner to be happy.

While the “I can’t live without them” romantic cliche isn’t exclusive to YA books, there are relatively few YA characters that make it through a series without the author putting them in a relationship. Whereas in the real world, data shows that there are more single people than ever before.

By YA authors writing couples that are so codependent on each other they cannot physically stand to be apart, or putting two people in a relationship just because they are the last single characters left, it encourages readers to stay in bad relationships for fear of being alone. That level of codependency is not just unrealistic to real life, but also breeds toxicity – you shouldn’t rely on someone for your happiness, they should only add to the happiness you already have within yourself. 

But YA is fictional. What does it matter if it glamorizes toxic relationships? For many young readers that enjoy this genre, the relationships in these pages might be the only representation of romantic partners they are exposed to; there is the danger that these toxic and even abusive relationships, might be considered the norm by young impressionable fans. It’s different for older readers that are able to spot the toxic red flags, but younger readers might think this behavior is okay. In this way, it’s paramount that we separate fantasy from fact, and fact from YA fiction.

As a genre, YA needs to do more to portray healthy (and also realistic) relationships. We often only read a snapshot of a relationship in a book, particularly the honeymoon phase where both characters are loved up, and absolutely nothing and no one can ruin it – we see how they fall in love but not how they maintain it. 

But love doesn’t work like that in real life. Real relationships are messy, and the happiest couples I know are the ones who aren’t completely reliant on each other – the ones who give each other space and the freedom to be themselves. They are made stronger, not weaker by boundaries, and communicate even the smallest of issues. 

They are the ones who understand that love should add to your happiness, not be the reason for it, and that you don’t need a partner to make you whole, since you were never broken to begin with.

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Hair Lookbook

How Western beauty standards tricked women with naturally curly hair

It’s estimated that 55% of caucasian hair is either wavy or curly. Yet recently, there has been a sudden increase of women on TikTok realizing for the first time that their hair isn’t actually straight.

Following a rise in curly hair tutorials across social media, more women are testing these tips on their own locks, and discovering that their hair isn’t straight after all – it’s curly as fuck. The majority of the products used in these tutorials are usually only aimed at women of color with kinky, coily hair.

But how can someone go their whole life not realizing their hair is naturally curly? In the same way that eurocentric beauty standards have made us believe that the thinner you are, the more beautiful you seem — they have also made us believe that longer and straighter hair is the epitome of perfection.

As a result, many women have never let their hair dry naturally and discovered their dormant curls. Instead, they’ve spent their whole life rushing straight to the blow dryer and straighteners.

Many have also been unknowingly straightening out their curls by brushing their hair when it’s dry, something experts say damages hair cuticles and only leads to frizz. It seems the women in these TikTok tutorial videos have spent their entire life thinking their hair is just thick and frizzy, rather than thick and curly. 

Unlike the women on TikTok who had no idea of their natural curls, I’ve always known that my hair is curly. However, I still spent the first 18 years of my life straightening it. It wasn’t until I went to university that I finally started to embrace my curls and actively encourage my natural hair texture.

I’ve grown up with the idea that curly hair isn’t attractive as the only curly hair deemed fashionable by mainstream media was salty beach waves. And the two things are mutually exclusive. While I’m speaking from my personal experiences as a white woman with curly hair, it’s important to note that women of color have been subject to these harmful eurocentric beauty standards most of all – especially when it comes to the so-called “perfect” hair texture.

The idea that natural kinky coily hair is “bad hair”, while smoother locks are “good hair”, has caused many black women to relax their curls to make them smoother and straighter. My friend Gabby has only just started to embrace her natural hair after having it relaxed for most of her teenage years. This narrative that the smoother, straighter, and more white-looking your hair is, the more attractive you are, not only perpetuates the harmful idea that ‘ugliness’ is tied to non-whiteness, but also the idea that curly hair is less beautiful than straight hair. 

For example, let’s take The Princess Diaries — a series of books and two feature films that were a huge part of my childhood growing up. Despite being caucasian, a big part of Mia Thermopolis’s transformation into Princess of Genovia is straightening out her frizzy curls. According to the royal hairdresser, only with smooth locks is Mia ready to begin her journey to the throne.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that some women are only just discovering their natural curls now — eurocentric hair and beauty standards are ingrained in all sides of the hairdressing industry. As well as drugstores hiding curly hair products at the back of the shop in the already lackluster selection for black textured hair, most white salons have absolutely no idea how to cut and style natural curls.

I am left with two choices when my hairdresser brushes my hair when it’s dry (and turns it into a frizzy disaster). I can either blow dry it straight and then add in curls with straighteners, or diffuse my curls without a speck of curling gel or holding product. Either way, I end up leaving the salon looking like a mix between Charles 2nd of England, and Lord Farquaad from Shrek — neither the vibe I was going for.  

However, despite hairdressers still looking dumbfounded whenever I ask them if I can leave the salon with damp hair to air dry my curls, there has been a rise in appreciation for curly hair over the last few years. This is largely due to the increase of people becoming more aware of the dangerous realities of these eurocentric hair and beauty standards.

Social media has also provided more education on how to care for natural curls. As well as a sudden influx of curly hair routines on TikTok, curly hair appreciation accounts have popped up all over Instagram. Celebrities are also beginning to embrace their curls and share their natural hair on their feeds. Take Jade Thirwall from Little Mix, for example.

For me, Western beauty standards meant that it took me 18 years to fully embrace my curls, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally got a good curly hair routine down. If you’re thinking about investing in Olaplex, this is your sign to do it. But for women of color, these standards have caused years’ worth of chemical and heat damage by relaxing and smoothing out their hair with straightening irons.

While this TikTok trend and recent appreciation for natural curls on social media doesn’t undo the harm that these eurocentric beauty standards have caused, it’s great that more and more people are finally realizing that their frizzy hair is actually full of beautiful curls.

So, if you’re wondering why your locks have never been totally smooth, why not try whacking in a ton of curl cream and chucking out your straighteners? You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Feel-Good The Vulvasation Love

It’s true, women really do hold in their pee to give themselves mini orgasms

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

Peegasms. The innovative trick that lets women (and anyone with a vulva) enjoy mini orgasms by holding in their pee went viral recently after a video on everyone’s favorite sex-education platform TikTok, brought to light this secret trend. In the video, a boy looks genuinely shocked, if not a little smug, to discover that some women ‘hold in pee to get a “peegasm.”’ 

However, this trick isn’t new – in fact, it’s one of the oldest in the book. Turns out, women have secretly been enjoying this sensation for years, it’s just no one knew it was an actual thing.

So, what exactly is a peegasm?

Woman in neon pink knickers
[Image description: Lower half of a woman in neon pink knickers] Via on Pexels
According to urban dictionary, a peegasm is what happens ‘when you have to pee so badly that when you finally do it sends a shiver up your spine, gives you goosebumps, and is almost as good as an orgasm.’

More scientifically speaking, a peegasm is the result of an over-full bladder putting pressure on your other organs, including the clitoris. Releasing this downward pressure by peeing can cause the nerve endings in the clit to fire off, giving you a sensation of mini orgasm.

You can also experience a peegasm if you are already aroused when you pee. For example, if you take a bathroom break during sex, or you pee shortly after you’ve masturbated. Starting to sound familiar?

While the term “peegasm” looks like your classic Hannah Montana mash-up of the best of both worlds, the technical phrase actually originated from a Reddit thread. After a Reddit user shared how they could achieve mini orgasms by delaying urination, the thread quickly became full of women reporting a similar experience – but I’ll let you read those replies at your own leisure.


idk what it is, but imma destroy my bladder if i keep on💀 #fyp #foryou #ladies #relatable #nahfr

♬ lord have mercy – angel

While there’s nothing inherently dangerous about having an orgasm while peeing, experts say there are some dangers from holding in urine on purpose. Frequently attempting to have a peegasm may damage your pelvic floor muscles which could cause you to have urinary incontinence later down the line—giving a whole new meaning to PMSL.  

Intentionally not emptying your bladder allows bacteria to accumulate, increasing the risk of infection and UTIs. It can also increase the chance of kidney stones, especially in those who have a history of kidney stones in their family. However, if a peegasm occurs naturally, then it’s all good in the (vagina) hood.

The danger of frequent peegasms aside, this isn’t the first time people have made a link between urination and the female orgasm. For example, female ejaculation. While female ejaculation – affectionately known as “squirting”–isn’t pee itself, this ejaculate fluid comes from a woman’s urethra which is also the same duct that carries pee from the bladder to the outside of the body. As a result, many mistake female ejaculate for urine. 

The subject of female ejaculation remains relatively taboo – who can forget the time when women who had reportedly ejaculated during sex were treated like actual mythical unicorns? – when in reality, the International Society for Sexual Medicine suggests “squirting” happens to between 10 and 50 percent of women during sex. 

The weirdest part? Scientists still don’t fully understand the biological purpose of female ejaculation or how it works. One person who does? Cardi B. Yep, WAP has no problem addressing just how very wet women can get when they become aroused.

It has become normalized for people to talk openly about female pleasure. Yet while addressing previously taboo subjects and putting the female orgasm into the mainstream is generally a positive thing, sometimes you DO need a gynecologist to tell you what you should try, and what perhaps you shouldn’t. Especially when platforms like TikTok have provided a free platform for misogynistic people to have their say about issues that definitely don’t concern them – in the words of Rachel Green, no uterus, no opinion.

Holding in your pee might be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but remember, there are also other pages to read if you want to have an orgasm.

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Health Wellness

I was 10 when my Wii Fit gave me body dysmorphia

Trigger warning: Mentions eating disorders 

I was only 10 when my Wii Fit first told me I was overweight. I remember stepping onto the balance board and watching as the bar rose up the different colored categories, past the turquoise underweight box, past the golden ideal, and then finally settled in the pink zone: overweight. The thing is, I wasn’t overweight in the slightest; I was just a regular-sized 10-year-old.

Over the last few months, there has been an influx of videos on Tiktok as younger millennials and the older gen z remember what playing on the Wii Fit was really like; being told you were anything from overweight to morbidly obese, recommended you do back-to-back aerobic step workouts to monitor your “dangerously high” BMI, and even the tiny “oh” noise the game would make when you stepped onto the balance board.


Nintendo causing eating disorders in all the late 90s/00s kids or was it just me lol #fyp #wiifit #90skids #00skids #funny #nintendo #nostalgia#obese

♬ original sound – Monica Geldart

For me, my Wii Fit was the start of an unhealthy relationship with my body. A toxic partner I’ve still not managed to totally break up with, even more than a decade later. Before my Wii Fit, I had no idea how much I weighed or where my Body Mass Index (BMI) stood—I didn’t even know what a BMI was, for god’s sake. 

Most days after school, I would stand on that balance board and obsess over those colored categories. What would it take for me to lower that bar into the ideal? What would it feel like to be labeled underweight? Sometimes, I would even lie when it asked me how much my clothes weighed, picking the heaviest option in the hope the bar would lower because it was my dress weighing me down, not my body.

I would spend hours doing the recommended workouts. Anything from the monotonous aerobic step exercises to doing yoga cross-legged on my balance board trying to keep the candle alight. And as fun as these games were for 10-year-old me, the Wii Fit would never fail to remind me of the real end goal of the session: to lose weight. 

Whether intentional or not, these games promoted the toxic idea that exercise was punishment for overeating and something that should only be done to burn calories and to lose weight. It was only in my teens that I realized exercise didn’t have to be like this, and I could actually enjoy working out.  


Wii played us all. #wii #wiifit #pov #foryoupage #fyp

♬ confuse the kids – syrupfreak

And I wasn’t the only one whose relationship with their body was affected by this game when they were younger. I spoke to my friend, Joe, who told me, “As a self-conscious child anyway, I was terrified about being publicly weighed in front of my friends—particularly when it calculated your BMI.

“I’d deliberately avoid having to get onto the Wii Fit board; I genuinely felt stressed at the prospect of everybody knowing my weight, which is ridiculous as I was a skinny little kid who weighed absolutely nothing.”

But there’s another side that also needs to be addressed—how the Wii Fit affected those who were told they were dangerously underweight. I also spoke to my friend Annie, someone who has been insecure about how thin she is for as long as I can remember, about her experience playing on a Wii Fit.

She told me, “I had always been ‘gangly’ and thin, despite being that kid who ate literally everything. But I never thought too much of it in primary school. When the Wii Fit said I was severely underweight, it made me even wonder if people thought I looked anorexic. But in reality, I had a very normal diet and a healthy relationship with food.

“About four years ago, I went back onto the Wii Fit as a joke with my friends at university. It was the unhealthiest I’d ever been as I was eating takeaways every day and constantly binge drinking. But it told me I was in the healthiest weight category, along with my BMI.

“Looking back, the Wii Fit kept telling me my body was something that it wasn’t. I know I’m healthy for my size and anatomy—I just have to keep reminding myself that.”

Without a doubt, the Wii Fit caused a whole generation to dangerously obsess over their weight, likely causing a spike in disordered eating and body dysmorphia in people my age, as well. Young children are especially vulnerable to picking up harmful habits around food, and the rates of eating disorders in boys and girls under 12, have only grown in recent years

The worst thing is the Wii Fit measurements weren’t even that precise. Just a year after the game was first released, Nintendo apologized for the game’s body fat readings which “may not be entirely accurate for younger age groups.” Moreover, many experts refute the use of BMI—the very basis of how the Wii Fit calculates a player’s health—as a way of measuring obesity.

Your body mass index (BMI) is based on your height and weight but doesn’t take into account your muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, or what race or sex you are. It’s absurd that a measurement as inaccurate as this, caused so many of us to obsess about our weight at such a young and impressionable age.

The effects of the Wii Fit on body dysmorphia and eating disorders in younger millennials and older gen z have been overlooked until now—hidden beneath rose-tinted memories of spending hours making your mii (avatar), and days trying to find your center of balance on that goddamn balance board.

But looking back, my Wii Fit caused me to do something no ten-year-old should ever do – worry about their weight. No one that young should know how much they weigh, what their BMI is, or be told that they’re under or overweight. The only label they should have at that age is just ten.

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The Internet Comics Books Pop Culture

Artists owe it to YA fandoms to include diversity in their fan art

With people nostalgically rewatching the Twilight movies, Harry Potter trending again on Tik Tok; the pandemic has undoubtedly caused a renaissance in Young Adult Literature as more and more young people seek comfort by returning to the books and movies that shaped their childhoods. But YA has changed a lot since the days of Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior. 

As someone who never stopped reading YA, I have watched the genre grow, and more importantly diversify. There are now hundreds of YA books that include protagonists of color, LGBTQIA+ characters, and plots that don’t just center around a 15-year-old girl (who isn’t like the other girls) singlehandedly saving the world and falling in love with a sarcastic yet mysterious male love interest at the same time.

The YA genre diversifying went hand in hand with the rise of social media, particularly Instagram – which has since turned into the best social media platform for aspiring artists to showcase their work. For illustrators that like to draw fictional characters, Instagram is a great place to share their art with fandoms; similarly, for those actually in these fandoms, it’s the easiest way to see our favorite characters bought to life. 

Fan art of the characters from The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare.
[Image description: Fan art of the characters from The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare.] Via Lariablog on Tumblr

As YA literature became more inclusive, fandom members were excited to see this change reflected in the fan art as well – especially readers of color that were finally able to read about characters that looked like them, after years of reading about characters who didn’t.

However, a large number of artists have continued to consistently draw characters of color with the wrong skin tone – whitewashing them, or even changing their skin color so much it looks like they’re using it as an aesthetic tool to make the image pop.

Even for illustrators that do draw characters of color with the right skin tone, many are often guilty of still giving them features that promote Western beauty ideals, such as a smaller button nose (often with a slight slope), straighter hair, and a thinner body. Not only does this perpetuate the dangerous idea that these Western beauty ideals are the most attractive features for women to have, but it also undoes the hard work of the author who sought to add more diversity into their books in the first place. 

It undoes the hard work of the author who sought to add more diversity into their books

And this seems to be something that exclusively happens to female characters. I repeatedly see artists drawing male characters of color with more diverse features, yet continue to shoehorn their drawings of female characters of color into these anglicized ideals – artworks of two of my favorite YA characters, Alastair and Cordelia Carstairs, a pair of siblings who are both half-Persian, constantly fall foul of this. While most artists draw Alastair with typically Middle Eastern features, for example a longer nose with a bump in it, they are more inclined to turn that nose into a ski slope shape when drawing his sister.

A nose with a bump in it isn’t any less beautiful than one without, yet typically, Middle Eastern noses like this are seen as attractive on men – and a sign of strength and masculine appeal – yet unattractive on women who according to Western ideals, should instead favor one that is small and delicate.

Emma*, an artist, says that “a big problem in fan art is people drawing non-white characters who are canonically beautiful as just white people with darkened skin. People don’t realize how subconsciously our perceptions of ‘ugliness’ are tied to non-whiteness.”

“However, it’s also not totally the artist’s fault, since realistically, they can draw what they want. It’s more a product of Eurocentric beauty standards put in place by colonization and white supremacy than it is the fault of a specific artist. That being said, it is especially important to hold artists accountable for whitewashing POC characters since so many characters of color in YA function as role models for people of color.”

I also asked Emma whether she thought fandoms do enough to call out these artists: “Fans generally do a really good job of recognizing when an artist has lightened a POC character’s skin, and most often an artist will respond with an adjustment to the portrait or illustration and an apology in the caption,” Emma says. “I think it’s important to maintain this level of dialogue since it’s one way for an artist to learn that their depiction of a character may be harmful to people that were hoping to feel represented.”


While some artists whitewash characters of color in their drawings, many illustrators are also guilty of promoting Western beauty ideals by drawing their white characters with these so-called “perfect” features. For example, drawing every single female character with the same tiny button nose – despite only a small number of women in real life actually having a nose that looks like this – and drawing girls who are described as warriors complete with cuts and scars, as stick-thin models without an ounce of muscle between them.

Social media does enough at promoting literally impossible beauty standards, we don’t need it in fan art as well – especially in the artwork of characters that have specifically been written to go against these standards. It seems that sometimes, despite the majority of characters in the most popular YA books having the same skin color as me, even I cannot see myself represented in the fan art.

While like Emma* said, it’s not totally up to the artist to draw these characters exactly the way the readers see them, I do think illustrators owe it to fandoms to include more diversity in their artwork as a whole. Different body shapes, different nose shapes, and profiles that don’t play into these Western beauty ideals of feminity. In the same way, authors owe it to their readers to commission artists who put this diversity at the forefront of their work.

More often than not, fan art is just as important as the book itself. Not only does it bring the story to life, but it also helps readers feel represented in a world that still considers white skin, a smaller nose, straighter hair, and a thinner body, the definition of feminine beauty. 

I have loved seeing my favorite literary genre become more diverse over the years, but I worry this hasn’t completely transpired into accompanying artwork; it seems to me that while the YA genre might be promoting more diversity in its pages, it certainly isn’t in its fan art. 

*All original names were changed for anonymity.

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Poetry Book Club Pop Culture

Poetry can be so much more when you stop reading the white male canon

We’re coming to the end of National Poetry Month – a celebration that will have been marked by those who enjoy poetry and passed by blindly by those who don’t. And despite being a Lit Major, I used to be one of the latter.

At school, we were forced to study the works of Wordsworth, analyze Shakespeare’s sonnets, and read poetry from World War II. The western canon of “dead white men” they always warned you about? Completed it, babe.

So, when I first went to university and saw a compulsory poetry module, I panicked – I certainly didn’t choose to study English Literature as a degree because of my incredibly limited and incredibly white male experience with poetry in high school. 

But that poetry module at university knocked me for six. Instead of being forced to study poems from an exclusive list of white western authors, we were actively encouraged to read outside the western canon. Even if we still wanted to study the more “traditional” poets, we were told to read criticism that addressed important race and gender issues I hadn’t even realized were present in the works.

The poem that had the biggest effect on me was “Strange Fruit,” a poem originally written by Jewish schoolteacher Abel Meeropol in 1937, and then performed as a song by Billie Holiday in 1939. Meeropol wrote “Strange Fruit” as a response to the horrific lynchings that took place across the American South; the strange fruit of the poem’s title refers to the lynching victims who were strung up from trees by white supremacists. 

I had no idea poetry could heave up such raw emotion in me – I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.  

That first-year module taught me that poetry wasn’t just about the poems I had studied at school. It sounds silly, but I genuinely believed poetry was just Elizabethan sonnets we deemed too complicated to enjoy, and poems about British Romanticism that detailed the beautiful birds and the breathtaking bees together in the darling British countryside – the only remotely interesting poem I studied at school was about young chimney sweeps in the Industrial Revolution, and even then, its author, William Blake, was still part of this restricted western canon.

I soon learned that reading poetry didn’t have to be a chore, and my favorite poems taught me something, either about the world or about myself. I devoured poems about the harrowing legacies of British colonialism written by first-generation settlers, and greedily consumed creations about the complexities of cultural identity written by The Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.


My favorite poetry collection was about the political intricacies of Post-Apartheid South Africa and the dangerous reality of being queer in the country today; I will recommend Koleka Putuma’s “Collective Amnesia” to everyone I meet, partly because her poetry is a powerhouse force for modern feminism, but also because she uses Beyoncé lyrics in her poems. Enough said, really.

As I was forced to look outside the tiny box I had put poetry in, I realized that it was never actually in a box at all. And without being too Love Actually, I realized poetry was, in fact, all around us.

Love it or hate it, the rise of Instagram poetry – including household names like Lang Leav, Rupi Kaur, Amanda Lovelace, and my favorite, Nikita Gill – was groundbreaking in introducing people who supposedly didn’t like poetry, to a new style of this genre. Even Beyoncé added poetry to her visual album (and greatest ever artistic creation), Lemonade – citing work from the Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire in the transitions between songs.

Yes, that’s Shire’s poetry at the start of Hold Up, taken from her poem, “Denial.” And yes, when my university supervisor told me she was actually good friends with Shire, I cannot tell you how much I screamed.

And poetry is still all around us. After reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration in January this year, the first National Youth Poet laureate Amanda Gorman gained over 2 million followers on Instagram. Her poem about her hopes for a divided America to come together once more was especially raw given that violent Trump supporters had stormed the United States Capitol just earlier that same month.

Through poetry, Gorman was able to put into words how America was feeling at that moment, as well as the rest of the world.

Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with enjoying the more traditional poets: Tennyson, Shakespeare, Wordsworth – they’re still great in their own right. And if I’m honest, I had a lot of fun squawking like an albatross when reading Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner when I was 13 in high school. 

However, when I opened my eyes to everything poetry could be outside of the western canon, I realized how much it could teach me about the world, and how much I could learn from it as well.

I promise you, it’s not just dead white guys. 

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