Fluids is a Strong, Disgusting Debut Novel

[Image description: (skip to content) A black background with a pink wide-open mouth, teeth showing, the word 'Fluids' in red lettering underneath it. Directly underneath, the words 'May Leitz' are in yellow letters. To the right, two circles above crosses signifying 'female' are interlocked together--one pink, the other purple. Underneath them are the words 'I can teach you how to like it' in white letters. On the far right is a transparent purple knife. There's also a list of trigger warnings: 'eating disorder, suicide, matricide, dismemberment, suffocation, abuse, rape, torture, incest.']

Horror writer May Leitz says she has "a penchant for the shocking and gross." While her debut novel Fluids certainly is those things, they're natural outgrowths of the characters' mindsets and needs. It makes absolute sense that they do the things they do, which is the true horror (and tragedy) of the book.

At the height of COVID lockdown, two isolated women connect on the Internet--Lauren, whose father has recently died of COVID, and Dahlia, a trans woman living in a deeply transphobic Oklahoma town. Despite the combined threat of the virus and meeting an Internet stranger in person, Lauren impulsively arrives to "rescue" Dahlia--and everything goes downhill from there.

I was already familiar with Leitz's work from her YouTube channel Nyx Fears. There she often reviews horror and other types of extreme films--she's one of the few YouTubers who covered the Disturbing Movie Iceberg who's seen most of the films on it. Naturally, I expected some nasty shit to happen in Fluids, and I was right.

But that nasty shit doesn't happen just to shock the audience. Dahlia's identity is in a period of transition, and she's been too busy surviving her transphobic town to decide who she wants to be. Unfortunately, Lauren is enamored with the idea of Dahlia and what she can mold Dahlia into. When Dahlia initiates a video chat but leaves her camera off, Lauren says:

[W]hoever someone pretends to be is who they are. The vagueness isn't fear as much as it's authentic to who she is. She doesn't have a personality or an appearance. Not yet. Maybe I have to give her that.

Yet, Lauren's feelings are sympathetic (if fucked up) and Dahlia isn't helpless. (The first thing she does when Lauren shows up at her house with no warning is attempt to strangle her.) Both women are compelling characters; the insides of their heads are rich and interesting places to visit, even if we don't want to live there. Their depth makes the trigger-warnable content--perpetrated by by and to them--even more disturbing.

Just how disturbing that content is, I can't tell you. In fact, I can't tell you much about this book in good conscience, lest I spoil the fun. Suffice it to say, Fluids is by turns sweet, sad, funny, empowering (yes, really), and most importantly, disgusting. At a slim 186 pages, it's a quick read that gets its hooks in you immediately. Its material isn't for the faint of heart (or stomach), but this little book made May Leitz one of my favorite writers and I can't wait to read more of her work.

You can buy Fluids (as well as May's music and other novel Girlflesh) at May Leitz's Bandcamp. You can also get it as an audiobook..