Book Review: Bleeding Earth
Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward
Warnings: Mentions of suicide, attempted murder-suicide, gore
Positive Representation: Incredibly positive lesbian representation.
Rating: 6/5 stars
I cannot put into words how much I loved this book, but I am damn well going to try. Bleeding Earth begins with Lea and her best friend Hillary visiting the local cemetery as part of a history project when suddenly blood starts oozing out of the ground. Unsettled they each go home, chalking it up to a fresh grave even though they don't believe it. But then the blood starts rising. And rising. And rising. Oozing up out of the ground all over the world. And there's things other than blood starting to appear as well. There's nowhere that's safe, no one that knows what's going on, nowhere to hide, nowhere to evacuate to. Lea and everyone she knows are trapped in their homes in their little town, desperate for answers that aren't coming as the world slowly unravels around them. All Lea wants to do is be with her new girlfriend, sneaking little kisses and dates whenever they can, but that's getting harder and harder to do the more the Earth bleeds.
The horror in this book starts quickly, but it's still a wonderfully slow build to the end of the world. There's no nuclear bombs dropping, no sudden natural disasters, just blood slowly oozing out of the ground all over the world. Things go wrong little by little, one by one, in a way that feels so real it makes you want to immediately go to the grocery store to stock up just in case.
The character's reactions feel refreshingly real as well. Everyone is checking the internet and texting and morbidly joking about death. It feels exactly how you'd expect a slow moving disaster to go down in our modern, technological society; more than in any other apocalypse book I've read. At one point Lea even says that she's surviving just out of spite, the most wonderfully accurate millennial sentiment I have ever read in a book.
There were so many apocalypse tropes that this book didn't partake in. There's no annoying waffling over morals mid-fight. Lea isn't striking out on her own to save the world--the thought never even crosses her mind. Both her parents are present and decently attentive, trying to keep her safe rather than just letting her wander the blood soaked earth. The same goes for most other parents in the book. There's no military roaming the streets and anarchy doesn't develop at the drop of a hat. Businesses and schools stay open for awhile, the hospital is still functional. It really is a slow-moving apocalypse.
Through all of this Lea's girlfriend is at the forefront of her mind. Everything about the representation of a woman-loving-woman relationship in this book had me about ready to cry. Lea and her girlfriend Aracely felt so real. They're already together at the beginning of the book, something I very much appreciated because you just don't see that often in books (especially traditionally published ones). New romance stories of LGBTQAI+ youth are important, but there's a glut of them out there. It's just as important to show established relationships and, even though Lea and Aracely are relatively new to one another, they are already together.
The depiction of a relationship between someone who is out and someone who is in the closet was handled very respectfully, and the struggles of it were acknowledged by both Lea and Aracely. Lea worries about not being able to spend enough time with Aracely causing her to lose her, and while she doesn't like that Aracely is in the closet she understands exactly why and never blames her, nor pushes her to come out. Aracely acknowledges that her being in the closet hurts Lea, and why she wants to remain in the closet. They communicate, and they know where the other stands.
That communication extends throughout the book, even when things get incredibly dark. They admit their problems, their fears, their struggles. They stand by one another even when things seem to get as bad as they possibly get, and they help one another up. They are both the knight in shining--well, bloody--armor in their relationship.
Meanwhile, Lea is shown to have other female friends, friends she is not attracted to in any way. Friends she's had her whole life and who support her sexuality. The book even acknowledges what the first days in that friendship were like after Lea came out, acknowledges the realistic questions and shifts that occurred only to end up building an even stronger friendship. It doesn't gloss over any of the negative aspects of what it's like to come out--to female friends and otherwise--even when your coming out goes well, but it also doesn't over-focus on them to the point you're left feeling uncomfortable and a little depressed.
Honestly, I didn't have a single problem with this book which I don't think has ever happened before. I would die for a sequel though, because while the book ended perfectly I still want more because of how damn well it was done.