In a world where the skies are filled with superheroes and supervillains, 15-year-old Danny's dreams come true when the fa
"Genetics aren't destiny."
In a world where the skies are filled with superheroes and supervillains, 15-year-old Danny's dreams come true when the famous Dreadnought perishes in her arms and passes his powers on to her - powers that include super-strength, flight, and an outer body that matches the girl Danny's always been inside.
And, well... I loved it! Danny is going to steal the hearts of so many readers. This is such a beautiful ownvoices work and it shows from the very first chapter when we meet Danny sneakily buying nail polish. She tells us:
Painting my toes is the one way I can take control. The one way I can fight back. The one way I can give voice to this idea inside me that gets heavier every year: I'm not supposed to be a boy.
The author gets the balance absolutely perfect between light, quirky superhero novel, and a darker, thought-provoking, coming-of-age story. The flying, world-saving and GIRL POWER make this a wonderful, heart-warming read. The other members of the former Dreadnought's group - "Legion Pacifica" - think Danny is too young to take on the villains and save the world, but that just gets added to the long list of mistakes people make about her.
However, as noted above, there are some darker aspects of Dreadnought. The author doesn't shy away from portraying the reality of transphobia and how difficult it is to grow up with a father who wants to make you a "real man". Many trans slurs are thrown around, and Graywytch (another of the Legion Pacifica members) deliberately misgenders Danny.
Additionally, Danny must now deal with the lingering eyes of certain men and boys, other forms of sexism, and the assumption that she now wants to start dating the boys at her school - which is incorrect because Danny is, in fact, gay. It's fantastic to see, despite all of this, that Danny comes out on top again and again. She's allowed to be weak and scared and unsure, but in the end, she knows who she is and who she's always been. She calls out the boys on their sexism:
“I don’t like boys, any boys. If I did like boys, I wouldn’t like boys who talk to me like you just did.”
Though a superhero story, Dreadnought is first and foremost about its characters. Its women, I should say. A diverse array of women drive the novel - from the white, gay and trans Danny, to the Latina Calamity, to Doc Impossible who is coded as non-white (Her dark hair is pulled back in a braid) to Utopia who is - wait for it - a cyborg villain.
The character dynamics - particularly between Danny and Calamity - shine throughout. Reading this the weekend of the Women's March made me feel quite emotional. This message of female solidarity is so important; and add to it a much-needed, complex, trans superheroine and you have one hell of a powerful book. I can't wait for more.
They want me to cooperate in my own destruction. They want me to tell them it's not true. They want me to help them believe the lie. Never again.
I am NOT okay. Paper Butterflies is very compelling, but read it when you are in a good mental place. An ext
“But at what point is a child to blame?”
I am NOT okay. Paper Butterflies is very compelling, but read it when you are in a good mental place. An extra warning to those sensitive to scenes of physical and psychological abuse.
I don't know how to talk about this book, or if I should really give it four stars, which means "really liked it" when I absolutely hated it. It crushed my heart. I actually felt a little panicked at times, like I couldn't breathe inside June's head. I found it hard to sleep while thinking about this book. It made me feel quite ill, if I’m honest.
Are the best books those where the author is so convincing that it becomes hard to separate the book you are reading from reality? If so, Paper Butterflies deserves all the stars. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't real for the sake of my sanity. I recently said in my review of Allegedly that the best books are those that make me furious for the characters, but this book made me beyond furious - I felt terrified.
If I can control my emotions for a second I'll try to tell you a bit about it. The story follows June from her young childhood to early adult years, moving between the "Before" and the "After". During her childhood and teen years, she lives with her abusive stepmother, Kathleen, who plays vindictive mind games; her stepsister - Megan - who acts as an accomplice; and her completely clueless father who refuses to see what is right in front of his eyes.
June is black, like her deceased mother, which further makes her an outsider in her white family, and in her predominantly white school. Her torture from her stepmother and schoolmates, it seems, never ends. The only reprieve she gets is in the form of her secret friend, Blister, and his eccentric family.
It's a book about how family members, teachers, society, all authority figures can fail someone so entirely. It's about how the truth can be grossly twisted, to devastating effect.
What is interesting, however, is the way the book examines cycles of violence and abuse, asking us to consider at the book's darkest moments: what horrors must have happened to Kathleen to make her this way? How much fear must Megan live in to assist her mother in abusing her stepsister? We are reminded that no one is born evil.
“But Megan hurt me.” My tears are sudden and angry. “I know.” “I don’t feel sorry for her.” “I do,” Reverend Shaw says calmly.
I've spoken before about how I think one of the most truly scary things is to tell the truth and have no one believe you. To have people believe you're the bad guy, that you have some hidden agenda... this book is that feeling x1000. I was so scared and horrified for June. I kept turning the pages in a desperate need to know what happened to her.
This book hurt me so bad. The unfairness, the injustice in Paper Butterflies was almost too much for me. It was a claustrophobic, suffocating, horrifying book. And yet, somehow, I feel the need to read everything Heathfield has ever written.
The most pervasive aspect of the Default Man identity is that it masquerades very efficiently as 'normal' - and 'normal' along with 'natural', is a d
The most pervasive aspect of the Default Man identity is that it masquerades very efficiently as 'normal' - and 'normal' along with 'natural', is a dangerous word, often at the root of hateful prejudice.
Grayson Perry is known mostly for his artwork and transvestism. Here he draws on his own experiences with masculinity and femininity to explore traditional ideas about what it means to be masculine, and challenge those ideas. It's an easy, interesting read, complete with some great artwork.
Where it fails a little is when considering this alongside other books about gender. It works better as a memoir on Perry's growing up and transvestism. The Descent of Man is very personal - which alternated between being a positive and a negative. His experiences as a boy trying on his mother's dresses and redefining his own personal gender norms were great to read about and kept the pages turning, but what this book adds to the discussion on gender and masculinity is less impressive.
Perry doesn't cite any references, though his ideas have already been brought forward by numerous other writers - most notably, Judith Butler in Gender Trouble. Anyone who has read a little into gender studies already knows what he tells us: that masculinity is a social construct; that the patriarchy and gender binary are damaging to women, men and those who identify as both or neither; that a better world, a better notion of masculinity, would allow men to be weak, vulnerable and emotional.
He sets out with two clear agendas: 1) To expose the social construct of masculinity, and 2) Convince men it is beneficial to them to change the traditional idea of what it means to be "masculine".
He does the first mostly by reiterating the work of other writers. By far his most valuable contribution to the gender discussion is his idea of the "Default Man" - an oblivious creature who doesn't see the detriment to society caused by traditional ideas of gender because they tend to work in his favour. Too bad Perry makes way too many generalizations with this idea without pausing to consider how some might intentionally use it to their own benefit, or simply not care about the harm it does because of their personal beliefs or gains.
Additionally, by his own admission, he wishes to convince these "Default Men" that they should change, and despite showing his own experiences and how a new interpretation of masculinity could benefit him, I don't think he did that. The later chapters of the book lost the initial focus and I felt it lacked a strong conclusion as to how the "Default Man" would benefit from a change. The DM, by his nature, believes in traditional masculinity that shuns male weakness, so offering him the opportunity to be weak feels, itself, like a weak argument.
Also, though he expresses many ideas aligned with feminist ideology, he refers to them as "the feminists", a separate group - it seems - from himself. And though I don’t believe he meant this to be derogatory, his clear desire to distance himself from the word was unfortunate, given the book seems in many ways a feminist one.
Still, a quick and interesting read. I especially liked Perry's acknowledgement of the masculine and feminine traits that can exist alongside one another in anyone. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, this reminded me of one of my favourite songs: When I Was a Boy by Dar Williams.
“This novel is called The Pain Eater,” said Kara. “In the hills of Faraway, there lived a tribe that had a tradition. Once in each generation, they c
“This novel is called The Pain Eater,” said Kara. “In the hills of Faraway, there lived a tribe that had a tradition. Once in each generation, they chose a child who had to carry the pain of everyone in the tribe. They called this child ‘the pain eater.’”
Warning: both the book and this review contain discussion about rape.
Goobie's The Pain Eater is about fifteen-year-old Maddy Malone who was raped one evening by three boys from her school, held down by another, while a fifth boy stood by and did nothing. This is the first thing we are told in the prologue and it paves the way for a searing tale about rape culture, victim-blaming, and all the reasons why rape victims don't speak up - as well as all the reasons why they should. It is somewhat inspired by the Rehtaeh Parsons rape and suicide.
It shares similarities with Speak - Maddy shrinks into herself, pushes her family and friends away, and refuses to talk about what happened to her. But Goobie has chosen a different and very effective technique here: Maddy's English class is given an assignment to collaborate on a novel by writing one chapter each, and, through this novel about 'The Pain Eater' and the class discussions following it, many parallels to Maddy's situation become obvious.
Upon entering the classroom, she’d folded herself inward like a jackknife; her goal now was to be present as little as possible. From this point onward, during English class she would not exist.
'The Pain Eater' is a fantasy character who is sentenced to literally eat the pain of her village on every full moon. Everyone else gets to live in peace by unloading their burdens onto her. Every student in Maddy's class comes to the assignment with a different style and angle. Some students sympathize with 'The Pain Eater', whilst others suggest her fate is her own fault, or even that she likes it.
Some of the messages are, admittedly, a little heavy-handed, and yet that didn't really matter to me. I feel like this book is intentionally accessible for younger - perhaps middle grade - readers. The author writes in a simple, straightforward way about the issues, and she doesn't shy away from drawing clear-cut metaphors so no one can be in doubt about what is being said.
The Pain Eater is extremely powerful and moving despite, or perhaps because of, it's simplicity. I was pulled so entirely inside Maddy's head and felt a very real fear and sadness for her.
What is especially wonderful, though, is when some classmates stand up for 'The Pain Eater', give her a voice, and humanize her. The strength that can be gained from a single ally is astounding and beautiful. I cried a little at the end, if I'm being honest.
One of my most FAQ of 2016 was "how do you read so many books?" Maybe the 9-page count ^ has something to do with it XD
2016 has been a real mixed bag
One of my most FAQ of 2016 was "how do you read so many books?" Maybe the 9-page count ^ has something to do with it XD
2016 has been a real mixed bag of highs and lows for me, both with books and in "real life". This year saw the birth of my baby boy, and a more permanent move to the United States. But I also dealt with a cancer scare and, of course, there has been an increasingly disturbing political climate in both my home country and my current country of residence, as well as the deaths of many wonderful people.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it or turn it into a lighthearted joke: this year has hit me very hard. I know it has hit others a lot harder. Recent events have soured previously enjoyable places like Goodreads; the online atmosphere has become more poisonous. I sympathise with Anna's sentiments: something as simple as sharing my bookish opinions with other book lovers has become a daunting exercise. I triple check every review, looking for things that people might use against me. I don't know what there are more of right now: those out looking to anger and offend others, or those ready to be offended by everything they don't agree with.
A couple of years ago, I was angry at Goodreads and even joined alternative sites like Booklikes and Leafmarks, but I never felt like I wanted to leave. Not really. I was always desperate to get back to GR. This is the first year I've really considered it. The first year I've dropped offline for a few weeks and felt... relieved. But I plan to stick around for now. Beneath all the shit, there are a whole lot of wonderful people on GR. I have friends all across the globe because of this place. I'm not exaggerating when I say that GR has literally changed my life.
I hope 2017 will be better for all of us. Thank you to all the people who continue to make me smile and support different opinions. I'm sorry if I was a bitch to a book you loved, but remember always: They All Saw a Cat.