"Sometimes the line between love and desperation is damn thin."
You know, when I was around eleven to fourteen I had this friendship with a girl cal...more
"Sometimes the line between love and desperation is damn thin."
You know, when I was around eleven to fourteen I had this friendship with a girl called Lizzy, and it may still be the most complex relationship I've ever had. I didn't have many friends at that age. I was shy, strange, unpopular... so Lizzy was an unusual case. We were not good friends; we each enjoyed having something the other didn't and I think we were both a little jealous of one another. Her of me because I went through puberty early, and me of her because of her dazzling confidence and ability to talk (and flirt) with anyone.
But our relationship was intense. We spent those few years living and breathing each others lives, sleeping at either my house or hers nearly every night. She knew when I would get my period, the nights and times when my favourite TV shows were on (even if they weren't hers). We would practice kissing on one another and talk about all the things that scared us about growing up, boys and sex. Then we got older, became different people and went to different schools. I haven't thought about her in a long time.
The Girls of No Return hit something deep inside me. I can't promise it will be for everyone - the below average ratings clearly indicate that it is not. But there was something about the intense girl friendships, jealousies and complexities in this novel that made me wonder where Lizzy is now.
“Don't be afraid to explore the shadows. You might find some hope within the hurt.”
This book is a detailed character study about a bunch of girls who have all been sent to a school for troubled teens. They are up in the mountains and away from civilization; their entire lives are tangled up in teen girl politics and their love/hatred/obsessions with one another. The story is full of secrets, pain and sadness. Each of these girls has her "Thing" that they are trying to hide and protect from the world but, as you can imagine, in such a tiny and intense community, it's hard for anything to stay hidden for long.
It amazes me how well-drawn each character is. There are no stereotypes and it's easy to go through stages where you hate one character, only to pity them in the next chapter. Lida is the MC and she's running from her past; Boone is a standoffish girl who no one messes with; Jules is a beacon of positivity who it's hard to imagine has a dark past; and then there's the beautiful, otherworldly Gia, who comes into their lives and stirs up more trouble than anyone ever imagined.
The narrative alternated between the past story of these girls and the "Epilogue" in which we discover that something bad has happened but we're not sure what. I really enjoy effective use of past tense to create a sense of inevitability about the tale. But it is the interesting dynamics between the very different characters that makes this book so special for me. They all feel so very REAL. Uniquely-crafted in their own way but, at the same time, very familiar to nearly everyone who has ever been a teenage girl. And there's something so inexplicably sad about it all... about growing up, changing, facing your demons and learning that someone might not be what you thought they were.
“Jonathan is the cadet colonel. You can’t be all female around him... As if being female is somehow a sickness Mom and I can get over.”
Readers! Psst, come over here. You haven't read this book yet, have you? I'm going to bet you haven't and I'm also willing to bet that I know the reason. So... maybe you saw this book floating around on the internet. You saw it was called Rites of Passage and you saw the dog tags on the cover image and, let's face it, your interest was probably already waning, right?
But you don't like to judge a book by its cover so you decided to check out the blurb. "Blah blah, girl goes to military school, blah blah" snooze. And then you remembered all those other books that promised epic fantasy, fast-paced drama and hot guys (or girls) and this book was suddenly forgotten, right? Then step right up here because you belong in the same club as me. The "I judged Rites of Passage completely wrong" club.
It was a close call. I so very nearly passed up this well-written, well-paced, completely moving contemporary in favour of some (probably terrible) paranormal and fantasy. The thing is: this book is just good. The cast of characters is large but each one is well-drawn and feels very real; the relationship dynamics are complex and realistic but no less engaging; the plot moves along at a perfect pace, telling multiple stories of family, friendship, love and loss. And, of course:
“The Corps may not think it’s ready for females, but you and your companions have the power to change that if you’ll just believe it.”
I didn't know this until I read about the author at the end of the book but apparently Hensley was a female student in military school herself... and frankly, it shows. She doesn't skimp on the details of the rough training the students must face. Nor does she serve up a watered down version of the sexism and homophobia present amongst many young males in the military.
I don't know about you, but there's just something so damn compelling about books that piss me off. As a woman, it was almost impossible to not care about and root for Sam in this book. I've never wanted to go to military school - if you know me, the idea is really quite laughable - but hell, this book made me desperate for Sam to prove everyone wrong and make it through. I raged. There was so much unfairness and misogyny balanced out by Sam's determination and badassery (but still realistically so) that I was unable to look away.
This is one of those books that doesn't get picked up unless some annoying person on the internet fangirls like crazy and tells you to give it a chance! So, fellow readers, here I am: give it a chance :)
Just in case you missed the blurb, let me remind us all what this book is supposed to be about:
In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is...moreJust in case you missed the blurb, let me remind us all what this book is supposed to be about:
In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time... She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.
Magic... check. Adventure... check. Sibling love... check. Recipe for awesomeness... sure sounds like it to me!
But, you see, here's the thing. Apparently, Kai is some badass, talented manipulator of time - that's what we're told. But I guess I missed all her hardcore magical talents somewhere between her poetic ramblings about Avan and her "oh my, Avan's sexy arm just brushed against my innocent, blushing virginal arm" nonsense. Okay no, the author didn't say her arm blushed (or was a virgin), I made it up. But I'm sure you catch my drift.
And apparently there was some adventure and apparently their lives were in danger and maybe I would have got a better sense of that if not every single one of Kai's thoughts were about Avan. The original plot line of her brother being kidnapped intrigued me, but it was quickly lost beneath the romancing and angsting. I felt like I kept waiting for the good stuff to happen in this book. It has such a great title and interesting premise that I was sure something really good was just around the corner.
So... I waited. And got:
“Without Avan in front of me, I felt unsteady. I leaned forward, resting my hands on the seat. It was warm. I drew away, flustered. Sometimes, with the shop counter between us, it was easy to look at Avan and admire him from the safe standpoint of a friend, to see him as just a boy from the Alley.”
“Being this close to Avan was a practice in contradictions. His body heat and the solid comfort of his back soothed me. I could relax against him and feel secure enough to sleep, even if only lightly. It was almost like being with Reev. But Reev didn’t also make me hyperaware of every point of contact between us. The shift of his muscles beneath my cheek. The backs of his thighs. The way our hips aligned on the seat. For the first hour, my heart pounded so hard, it was like a battering ram against my ribs.”
And: “I leaned against his side and felt his arm circle my shoulders. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I imagined his warmth like a Sun that shone just for me.”
I thought this was going to be fantasy, not romance. And interesting, not boring. But this book was about 90% romantic angst; and boring romantic angst at that. The "heroine" was prudish to the point that even thinking about a kiss made her blush... I just lost interest so quickly that I'm amazed I managed to force myself through. I will say that the last quarter is marginally better than the rest but it wasn't enough to rescue the book, in my opinion.