D.J. Schwenk is the exact opposite of most YA protagonists. That's right, she's got a brain. Also? She won't let any boy mistreat her, no matter how rD.J. Schwenk is the exact opposite of most YA protagonists. That's right, she's got a brain. Also? She won't let any boy mistreat her, no matter how ridiculously good looking they might be. She's a little shy but will speak up when she has something worthwhile to say, which, honestly, is more often than she gives herself credit for--like I said, the girl has brains. She's so easy to relate to, on several levels, you can't help but root her on.
The Dairy Queen series is up there on my list of favorites now. I highly recommend it. D.J. Schwenk is my hero.
I happen to like books which feature kick-ass feminist heroines and are light on the romance so I should like this book, right?
I happen to like books which feature kick-ass feminist heroines and are light on the romance so I should like this book, right?
Yeah, but I don't.
First of all, Katsa acts like a petulant little girl throughout the entire book, not some strong feminist poster woman. Katsa shows very little, if any, personal growth over the course of this novel. Also, I felt like the author spent too much time trying to sell us on the following ideas: femininity is an idea forced upon women by the patriarchy, men don't respect women, commitment ruins relationships, marriage is a tool of the devil, and so on.
Look, I understand that some women feel that way, and I'm completely cool with it. I'd be lying if I claimed that I've never thought some of the same things during my lifetime. That said, I hate how the author seems to be shoving very specific views down my throat instead of telling me a story that challenges me to think for myself.
This book is written in such a way that it makes me think Cashore, the author, is using her character, her story as a vehicle to voice her very strong opinions. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily have a problem with that sort of thing, it's just that this book is being touted as 'feminist' but I fail to see true feminism within the pages of this book. I mean, I guess you could consider it a version of feminism, but it's not very inclusionary. In fact, it's a very bigoted version of feminism.
Other than Katsa every other woman in this book is portrayed as weak and dumb. So basically unless you're an angry, dress-hating, man-hating woman with an aversion to commitment there is something wrong with you.
News Flash: femininity isn't anti-feminist. I'm sorry but it is possible for independent, intelligent and stable women to embrace femininity without losing credibility. And anyway, isn't that the point of the feminist movement? Gaining equality without having to act like 'one of the guys'? I mean, sure, you can reject femininity if you want, but don't go around assuming that those who are feminine are pathetic weakling losers who do nothing to help the cause.
It just so turns out that line of thought is backward and does nothing to advance the cause.
Also, Katsa's view of other women in the realm is quite condescending in that she never seems to consider how privileged she is compared to some of these other women. Katsa's lucky in that she has the ability to kill pretty much anyone she wants so it's not like she has to do a damn thing anyone tells her to do. Despite all the crap she supposedly has to put up with, Katsa has benefitted from an education and she's also afforded more freedoms than most women because someone else pays her bills. She doesn't have to milk the cows or churn butter or become a serving wench. She doesn't have to prostitute herself out in order to make ends meet.
Girlfriend needs to shut the hell up about all that because it's not like she's doing anything other than making a-hole observations. Katsa's not doing anything to change the way all women in the realm are treated, which is fine, it's her life, whatever. She just needs to quit it with the judgmental attitude toward others who can't afford to live or think the way she does.
I could have handled Katsa's aversion to having a relationship with Poe if she hadn't had any feelings for him, or if she knew she wasn't emotionally ready to make any sort of commitment. But no, Katsa's aversion to commitment was built up do be some great personal strength of hers.
In the end it just felt like she ('she' being Katsa. Or Cashore. Kat-Shore?) was trying to prove a point or something, like "look at how independent I am. I'm not a barnacle. I don't need a man...except for when I needs teh sex. So Poe, my lover, sorry you lost your sight and all but I'll prolly be drunk-dialing you in the future, cause I am comfortable with my sexuality. kthanxbai." *sob* "Walking away is waaaaay hard, which is why I am so strong." *sob* "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrl Powerrrrrr!"
Yeah, because being in a loving, trusting, equal and committed relationship isn't a sign of strength. Strength can only be had by loners who don't like to commit because doing so will supposedly lower their self-worth ...ummm....I mean..."independent" people.
Also, it has to be said: The love scene grosses me out as much or more than the sex scene(s) in Titanic and/or Avatar. Some people just don't know how to write a love scene. James Cameron and Kristin Cashore are among that group.
One last thing: why is it that no one seems to have an issue with Katsa hitting Po, literally knocking him to the ground so hard that he bruises? All he did was voice his opinion, that's it. Had the tables been turned, had Po hit Katsa for voicing her opinion, you people would be unbelievably angry. I'm sure some of you would be burning Cashore in effigy.
Let's do a little more of this whole turning tables thing. Pretend that Katsa is actually a male character and Po is female. Okay, how much do you love this new topsy-turvy version of Graceling? Not very much, you say? Yeah, I thought so.
If you ask me Katsa is one of the least deserving protagonists. She's a violent, judgmental a-hole who shows little to no personal growth over the course of this entire book. I don't care if she had a difficult childhood, having a difficult childhood doesn't mean you have to go around inflicting the worst parts of yourself on others. Having a difficult childhood doesn't give you license to be an awful person.
Two stars because the concept was cool. Too bad it was poorly executed. ...more
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the plots from Drop Dead Gorgeous, Austin Powers, Mean Girls, Lost, and Lord of the Flies. Whip untiPreheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the plots from Drop Dead Gorgeous, Austin Powers, Mean Girls, Lost, and Lord of the Flies. Whip until nice and fluffy. Stir in equal parts Bollywood, Boy Bands, Pirates, An Evil Corporation, Crappy Parenting, Reality TV, Miss Teen USA pageants, and commercials aimed at teens. Next add 4 cups Teenage Sexuality (all types), 2 cups Feminism, 1/2 cup Identity Issues, 1/2 cup Self-Esteem Issues, 16-Teenage Beauty Queens (all types. Just make sure one is much more intelligent then the others), a handful of henchmen, a handful of open-minded hot guys with British accents, one hot eco-"terrorist", one crazy-go-nuts dictator, copious amounts of satire, and 1-20 oz. bag of Sarah Palin. Stir until well blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Pour into cupcake pans (cuz cupcakes are all the rage, yo!) Bake for: 35 minutes. Let cool.
Frosting: Mix equal parts Sunshine, Love, World Peace, Sparkle Ponies, Sequined Dresses, Cute Shoes, Makeup, GRRRRRRRRRL POWER! a handful of sand, one Lesbian makeout session, and one Sex Tape. Whip until creamy.
Frost cupcakes then sprinkle with way too many unnecessary footnotes. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry that has been laced with an organic hallucinogen.
Take those cupcakes and dumb them down.
Dumb them down again.
A little more...
One more time...
Okay, there you have it: the recipe for Libba Bray's Beauty Queens (in cupcake form). Enjoy!
2.5 stars. Real review to be posted after the weekend.
I spent the weekend thinking about what I would say in this review, how I would explain my beef with this book. I want to make it clear, I don't hate Beauty Queens, nor do I like it.
It was okay, overall. I mean, sure, it did have it's moments. Not that Beauty Queens caused me to laugh out loud--because it didn't, especially not after the novelty of the "helpful" footnotes and commercial parodies wore off. They were fun for the first few chapters, then they became an irritation.
Also, I don't particularly care for Libba Bray's brand of satire. At times it was so overdone it only inspired sighs of frustration, eye-rolling and thoughts of, "that would have been funny if" or "that could have been more powerful if" from me. I felt as though I was watching one of those really bad (read: not funny) movie parodies, like Dance Flick, or Epic Movie.
Yes, at times Beauty Queens is that much of a punishment, and then some.
But that's not the worst part. My major problem has to do with the fact that Bray's story had a great foundation. I mean, just read this:
“I’ve been thinking about that book about the boys who crash on an island,” Mary Lou said to Adina one afternoon as they rested on their elbows taking bites from the same papaya.
“Lord of the Flies. What about it?”
You know how you said it wasn’t a true measure of humanity because there were no girls and you wondered how it would be different if there had been girls?”
“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”
There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.
They were becoming.
Sure, it's all a little contrived, but still it's a great jumping off point. Instead of doing anything worthwhile with it, Bray took that idea and made it into a Very Special Episode of The Facts of Life, except way more condescending and a ba-zillion times more preachier--it's not like the main message Bray is pummeling her audience with is new. Girlfriend is preaching to the choir the entire time. And at no point does this book challenge one to think. Beauty Queens thinks for you, because thinking is hard, y'all.
You wanna sell me on something? Give me a chance to think for myself. Show me both sides of the argument. Present me with questions that don't necessarily have an easy answer. Let me draw my own conclusions. Don't incessantly beat me upside my head with your answers, your way of thinking. See, when that happens I tend to lose interest in what you have to say--even if I happen to agree with you--because you clearly think you're superior, that I'm not intelligent enough to come to the right (read: your) conclusion. Do. Not. Like.
And don't even think of telling me that some teenage girls need a book to do their thinking for them, that they need to be force fed the messages contained within Beauty Queens because their parents, their peers, the media has damaged them, tricked them into thinking otherwise. Even if that is the case with some teenage girls, I fail to see how shoving a message down their collective throats--be it negative or positive--is the way to go about building up self esteem, or fixing identity issues.
I don't fault Libba Bray for wanting to make this book funny, because Beauty Queens would have bombed royally had it taken itself too seriously. But like I said earlier, she took the satire, the tongue-in-cheekiness, way too far. Beauty Queens is obnoxious. Beauty Queens is that know-it-all girl that you sort of want to punch in the face because she isn't as clever as she thinks she is; someone ought to bring her down a few notches.
Anyway, because of Bray's lack of control every character has been reduced to a cardboard cut-out of a stereotype. Beauty Queens has two really stupid blondes from the south, a really slutty girl from the midwest, a super sexually repressed girl from the upper-midwest, two minorities, a crazy pageant-head from Texas, A stereotypical lesbian, and a girl who is hearing impaired. Even Ms New Hampshire--whom, might I add, is this story's Marysue--is feminist to a fault, goes around feeling superior to the other girls on the island because she's "enlightened" and they're just a bunch of "stupid fools".
There were a few others who had even less going for them. Ms New Mexico, for example, had a tray table embedded in her skull. That was her only defining quality throughout the entire book. I kid you not. *headdesk*
The only character that I found interesting, that had any sort of depth, was Ms Rhode Island. (view spoiler)[ Ms Rhode Island was born a boy; transgendered (hide spoiler)] She's the only character I truly liked; seemed to have her crap together. She's probably the only reason anyone should read this book. Really. The rest of the ladies? Were really irritating and irrational and totally rubbed me the wrong way--go figure.
You know how every chick flick has at least one painfully ridiculous cringe-worthy scene? The sort of scene that makes you wonder how stupid Hollywood thinks women are. The sort of scene that makes you vow to never see another chick flick again, like that random musical number with synchronized dance moves in My Best Friend's Wedding. Or the 'Bend and Snap' scene from Legally Blonde. Or the entire length of the movie Mama Mia? Yeah, this book has that. It ENDS with one of those scenes.
Read this book or not. It's totally up to you. I didn't like it, clearly, but I'm not pleased with a lot of books these days.
P.S. Why is it books meant to inspire and empower women to be proud of who we are, to stop aiming for an an unattainable level of perfection in the looks/weight/personality department, always have MCs that fall in love with men who are perfect in every way? Like, especially their bodies are super beautiful, and the MC can't shut up about how physically beautiful her love interest is. How come female MCs don't fall in love with guys who have great personalities but are lacking in the looks department? Why can't it just be about a meeting of minds? Why do looks ALWAYS play a part in books written for a female audience? Especially when we go around telling ourselves that looks shouldn't matter, to anyone (especially men). Isn't that more than a little hypocritical?
Oh, yeah, I forgot. No one wants to read about ugly people falling in love. At least one of them (*cough* the guy *cough*) has to be super hot.
P.P.S. I'll have you know, starting when I was 12 years old my parents sent me to a girls camp in Colorado--five summers in a row. No electricity. No cabins. No toilets or showers or mirrors. No boys. Just a bunch of girls forced to sleep in tents with a bunch of other girls their same age. Wanna guess what THAT was like? Hell on earth. Friggin' WWIII broke out every single year! I hated it. Adolescent girls are mean. Like, ridiculously mean, especially when civilization isn't present. You think Lord of the Flies is insane? Take those boys and replace them with teen girls and you'll have a massacre on your hands. At the very least there would be a few violent cat fights. I'm just sayin'.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If you're looking for the next Hunger Games, this is probably the closest you're going to get. I wouldn't say I really liked this book--because, quiteIf you're looking for the next Hunger Games, this is probably the closest you're going to get. I wouldn't say I really liked this book--because, quite frankly, the main character got on my nerves way more then Katniss ever did. I'm going to go ahead and give it four stars because next to The Hunger Games series Blood Red Road is the best YA dystopia I've read.
Actually I sort of take that back. Blood Red Road ranks right up there with Ship Breaker as far as YA dystopias go. Both books held my interest, had decent world building and were well written. It's just, for me, neither had that unputdownable quality that The Hunger Games had. Also, I feel the author took shortcuts all over the place in order to focus on the romance.
Speaking of: the romance was a little obnoxious at times. Moira Young was trying to create the sort of epic romance that's rife with sexual tension and antagonism--what I refer to as the Han Solo/Princess Leia special. I feel Young went overboard in this area. But then again romance-heavy stories never were my thing so there's a good chance Blood Red Road will charm the pants off most readers.
The one thing that made me wanna go on a stabbing spree? The adorable little sister Emmi. Don't get me wrong she served a very important purpose in the first half of this book, but after that her presence is completely unnecessary. And it's not like they had to bring her along. Jack, the love interest, insists upon it. All sorts of bad stuff happens because of her. Stuff that served no purpose whatsoever besides irritating the crap out of me and the MC, Saba.
That said, most people seem to like Emmi. I'm just weird in that I don't like too many unnecessary characters mucking up the storyline. I know--nitpick much.
I have more to say but this will have to do for now--stuff to do!
Okay, I'm completely in the minority with this one. Pretty much everyone and their family loves this book. I, unfortunately, do not. And at this timeOkay, I'm completely in the minority with this one. Pretty much everyone and their family loves this book. I, unfortunately, do not. And at this time I'm not capable of writing a fair and thorough review about Hallowed because just thinking about it still makes me ill, as if I'm recovering from food poisoning after eating at my absolute favorite restaurant. The whole thing just makes me so sad and disgusted. That said, I do feel, for the most part, Cynthia Hand ended this book the way it needed to end. Anything else, given the circumstances, would have been completely wrong.
And I need to give Hand credit for writing something that made me, the reader, feel like I was going through the worst break up ever. Like my soul was ripped to shreds in the slowest, most torturous way possible--look, I felt like I had a car resting on my chest when (view spoiler)[Clara drives away from her last date with Tucker, wanting to turn back but not doing it because that would have been wrong. By the way, how great is Tucker? He loved her so much he let her go. In his situation that was so much more difficult than fighting for her. (hide spoiler)]. I had difficulty breathing and I wanted to cry but couldn't. I mean, (view spoiler)[ 'Tucker & Clara' is only YA PNR pairing I've ever believed in. Cynthia Hand wrote their relationship so well in Unearthly I would have been fine if they eventually got married. They just seemed so right for one another, so solid, so genuinely in love. So...yeah...I'm ridiculously angry over how things ended between them, but I'm also glad because, all things considered, it had to happen.
Having said all that, I hope Christian dies like a stupidly long, drawn out, merciless, torturous death. I really mean that, and it's okay because he's a fictional character. A fictional character whose entire existence ruined the only good thing YA PNR had going for it. (hide spoiler)]
Someday I will write an in-depth review of Hallowed in which I will go into Cynthia Hand's brand of angel lore and what not. But today is not that day. Today I'm still feeling a whole lot of Hatred with an extra serving of Bitter on the side. 2.7 stars*.
* Star-rating subject to change at reviewer's whim.
The 'day after' reaction to this book: I'm going to have to think about this one for a while. Hallowed is well written, that's undeniable, but it makes me really uncomfortable in the sense that had it really been playing out in front of my eyes I'd have to stop watching. I had to put this down several times. At one point I started skimming (something I never do) just to get the whole nightmare over with.
Hallowed is such a depressing follow up to Unearthly. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I wasn't going to read this book. Really, I wasn't. The title of this book alone is enough to make me run screaming in the opposite direction. And theI wasn't going to read this book. Really, I wasn't. The title of this book alone is enough to make me run screaming in the opposite direction. And the cover art? Is even worse--I'm not your stereotypical girl in that I don't dream of visiting Paris, for any reason, ever. Though I can't help but admit that all positive reviews from trusted Goodreaders did make me a little curious. I mean, it sounded like this book was a really fun YA romance. But for me YA & Romance are never a good match. The vast majority of YA romances are gag-worthy and cause me to sigh with frustration and/or roll my eyes a lot until I finally chuck them across the room because I've got a migraine.
This past summer I was vacationing with my stepdaughter and she was looking for a fluff-tastic read. Knowing I read quite a bit she asked if I had any suggestions. Since I don't really do fluff I couldn't think of anything besides Unearthly, which she promptly gobbled up and begged for more. Then I remembered a number of my GR friends seemed to like this book and I figured it would be right up her alley as well, so I purchased it.
That was way back in July. And my stepdaughter never got around to reading this book because she was suddenly too busy text messaging her stupid ex-boyfriend (I'm not kidding. The guy is a freaking moron, though I digress). Since then my copy of Anna and the French Kiss has been gathering dust because I didn't get around to returning it before the 14-day grace period for returning books to Barnes & Noble was up.
Then the tenth anniversary of 9/11 snuck up on me and I fell to pieces--I mean, completely freaked out. See, I typically prepare myself for this time of year, make a point to avoid footage or pictures from that day. But, yeah, without really thinking things through I decided I was ready, that I would be okay. Now that the tenth anniversary has come and gone, I'm fairly certain I'll never be ready for any of that, ever.
Anyway, by Sunday night I was in the midst of having an nasty anxiety attack that was only increasing in it's severity. I needed something--anything!--to divert my attention, so I found refuge within the pages of Anna and the French Kiss, the fluffiest novel I own. I'm not going to lie to you, it helped.
Right away I could tell I was probably going to like it. The first paragraph sucked me right in because it reminded me of a cheeky little game my husband and I play where we name every stereotype we know about other countries (we're lame, I know). I liked the opening paragraph so much I then read it to my husband and it brought a small smile to his weary face as well.
Check it out:
"Here's everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is. Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and a lot of kings named Louis. I'm not sure what they did either, but I think it has something to do with the French Revolution, which has something to do with Bastille Day. The art museum is called the Louvre and it's shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with that statue of that woman missing her arms. And there are cafés or bistros or whatever they call them on every street corner. And mimes. The food is supposed to be good, and the people drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes.
I've heard they don't like Americans, and they don't like white sneakers."
That's just awesome, right? My husband and I particularly loved the bit about mimes. We even added to the list--"Black and white striped shirts", "red scarves", "Berets", "people gnawing on baguettes Regina George style" (see: Mean Girls. And yes, we totally made this one up because we amuse ourselves in the most idiotic of ways), "people pretending they don't speak English", "Escargot!" and so on...
After we finished proving our ignorance to one another I read on.
All-in-all Anna and the French Kiss was a pretty good read. It's not the sort of book I usually pick up, or enjoy, but I liked well enough. It's kind of fun to be inside Anna's head because she's got a quirky personality. Her exchanges with St. Clair are, for the most part, fairly amusing and remind me of the sort of silly and/or ridiculous conversations my husband and I have when we're alone.
That said, I did feel like the story was a tad bit disjointed. The first half of the book is written in such a way that I continuously forgot I was reading a fluffy YA romance, which I really appreciated. The second part of the book is pretty much all fluff, which was alright(-ish). I mean, I could have done without some of the angst (most of which was unnecessary, by the way), and I didn't particularly care for the fact that Anna pretty much becomes a mental patient for the second half of the story, nor did I care much for (view spoiler)[how the whole Bridgette thing works out, or how Anna really didn't give any credit to her father for sending her to France, or how Anna calls St. Clair by his first name when she's in love with him, or how there was a stereotypical mean girl & mean guy out to get Anna, or how St. Clair resolves things with his father, and so forth. (I could nitpick the second half of this novel to pieces, but I won't) (hide spoiler)]
The ending was pretty good, though, which I appreciated. It even has a sweet message, ends on a positive note.
Anyway, because Anna and the French Kiss provided a much needed escape when I needed it most, and because it's much better than most (or even all) fluffy YA romances I've read I'm going to go ahead give it four stars, even though it probably only deserves three. I recommend this to anyone looking for a good fluffy YA romance and/or a quick escape from reality. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book yet. I mean, yeah, it's beautifully written--Courtney Summers wrote it--but it's missing something. (I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book yet. I mean, yeah, it's beautifully written--Courtney Summers wrote it--but it's missing something. (view spoiler)[Like a satisfying ending. (hide spoiler)] And yeah, I know that's the whole point of this book. But still...
(view spoiler)[Okay, so I feel (more than a little) screwed over. I need some sort of closure, people! Bah!
Just so everyone knows, I'd totally lose it just like Eddie does in this book. I'm that kind of person. I mean, you can't just off yourself without leaving some sort of explanation as to why! People who love you deserve answers! (hide spoiler)]
Whatever. Four stars, I guess. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Alright ladies, I've got a question: say you're at a scummy dance club that your friends all but forced you to go to. You're not having a good time. IAlright ladies, I've got a question: say you're at a scummy dance club that your friends all but forced you to go to. You're not having a good time. In fact, you're pretty miserable and can't wait to go home. As you sit at the bar nursing your Cherry Coke a good-looking guy comes and sits next to you.
That would be nice, right? A good way to pass the time until your friends decide they've had all the man-handling they can take (for the night).
Well, say the hot guy in question turns out to be the village bicycle--"everybody has had ride!"--the infamous man-whore of your school/town. You're disgusted this vile creature is in your immediate vicinity, don't want him around. So you tell him to go away. And he doesn't. He tells you he needs your help because, in his words:
"You, darling, are the Duff. Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend. No offense, but that would be you. Hey, don't get defensive. It's not like you're an ogre or anything, but in comparison..."
He proceeds to tell you that he's talking to you, the Duff, so your über hot friends will think he's a nice, sensitive guy. He's hoping this will up his chances of getting into their pants.
How would you react to that?
If this happened to the person I am today I'd totally laugh in the a-hole's face and walk away. Because, really, I couldn't care less what a (most likely) STD-infected man-whore thinks of me, regardless of how ridiculously hot he might be. I'm an adult. I stopped caring what other people think of me. All that matters is what I think. (for the record: I'm happy with the way I look). Besides, I'm married.
But if that happened to me fourteen years ago... well, let's just say it would have destroyed--I'm talking completely pulverized--what little self-esteem I had at the time. Back then I was--comparatively speaking--the Duff among my circle of friends. I didn't get attention from guys when I was with my unintentionally hot friends (seriously. And they didn't even know it. They were all long-limbed, willowy, girl-next-door beautiful. I was the average height ethnic girl).
What's my point? My point is I can see why teenage girls would want to read this book. Like I said, I've been there. I get it.
BUT what I fail to appreciate is the way this story plays out.
Bianca Piper, the Duff in question, is a seventeen-year-old girl finishing up her senior year in high school. She has two good friends who really care about her. Parents who, dysfunctional marriage aside, love her. She's intelligent, witty, and successful--for the most part.
Bianca only real major downfall is she is much too cynical, especially when it comes to love, though I can't say I blame her. Bianca was only fourteen when she had her heart stomped on by an upperclassman.
It is her wit and cynicism that comes to her aid the night she's told that she is The Duff. She insults the man-whore, Wesley Rush, and throws her Cherry Coke in his face--**plus twenty points for Bianca, am I right?**--and walks away in a dignity-at-all-times manner.
Unfortunately Bianca doesn't walk away completely unscathed. She is unable to get over the fact that she's the so-called "ugly fat girl" among her friends. It starts eating away at her self-esteem.
And to make matters much worse, her home life begins to crumble.
Instead of dealing with her problems, Bianca masters the art of escapism. Totally understandable. I've been there. But instead of losing herself in a good book, movie or yogalates, she loses herself in the bed of...(wait for it)...Wesley Rush, resident man-whore. The guy she hates with the intensity of a thousand suns.
Oh, it gets better. He lovingly nicknames her 'Duffy'. That's right, as in The Duff. And Bianca has a bevy of insults to hurl at Wesley whenever it pleases her. Neither of them them pretend their relationship is based on anything other then sex. Call it what you will: escapism sex, hate sex, cheap sex, a hook-up, sex buddies, booty call...I could go on. Regardless of the label, this is where the author starts to lose me.
I hope I'm not coming across as 'holier then thou', because, seriously it's not like I was an angel when I was a teenager. I had a wild streak back then, I made mistakes. Lots of them. It's just my mistakes involved less sex. Okay, sex was never involved. Neither was nudity. But I kissed (read: had total make-out sessions with) a bunch of guys. Sometimes with the sole intention of getting my mind off my problems. So really, I understand Bianca's motives. I even understand how in a twisted way she felt pretty, more desirable afterward.
That being said, I can't understand why/how she's able to repeatedly hop into bed with a guy who makes her skin crawl. She's with him as much as five times a week. Not that I'm a sexpert (see what I did there? I combined sex and expert. Hee.) but I'd wager to say that's a lot of sex for a couple of teenagers who are using each other. Especially considering how cheap and dirty Bianca claims to feel afterward.
While reading this novel I was all, "Stop it. Stop having sex with the guy you hate. Just STOP! Go talk to your friends or a counselor. You need help." But clearly, she didn't stop. It wouldn't have been so bad had she felt more guilty or ashamed afterward. And I could understand her need had it been described as some sort of an addiction. Or perhaps the author could have described Bianca's home life much worse, making her incessant need to escape that much more plausible.
But yeah, my point is: I just couldn't relate. Not entirely. And so this story fell apart for me. Okay, that's a lie. It didn't fall apart--the story was still in one piece when I finished this book, but just barely.
The only real redeeming thing about The Duff is the conclusion Bianca comes to near the end of the novel, about what it means to be a Duff. And she realizes how stupid she and Wesley were by having so much sex, regardless of how much protection they used (for the record: condoms and the pill).
And though it pains me to do so, I'll admit that I'm sappy enough to like how this book ended. (Kill me.) It wraps up so neatly with a giant bow on top, Pretty Woman style. Three stars but just barely, and if I were I being totally fair I'd have to give it just two stars (waaaaaaaaay too much swearing going on in this book. It's completely out of control). But I liked this book, despite all it's faults, so yeah, three stars. ...more
This is such a bizarre piece of work, I'm not sure what to make of it. It started out fun, got interesting, then got bizarre, then got really bizarre,This is such a bizarre piece of work, I'm not sure what to make of it. It started out fun, got interesting, then got bizarre, then got really bizarre, and then became a full on crap-fest, theeeen it ended okay. Unfortunately the conclusion was really open-ended. No word on whether or not it will become a series.
Am I still interested in this storyline? Enough to pick up a sequel? The answer to both those questions is no.
I'm teetering between 'I really liked it' and 'it was amazing'. But I'm going ahead and giving it five stars because it made me cry. That in itself isI'm teetering between 'I really liked it' and 'it was amazing'. But I'm going ahead and giving it five stars because it made me cry. That in itself is amazing as I've been accused of being 'dead inside' on more than one occasion.
I'll have to finish my review when I get home, which will be soon since I'm starting back tomorrow, though I have over 1200 miles between me and my destination. But yeah, yay for fun road trips! And yay for fantastic books and the authors who write them!...more
I'm still on vacation with limited access to the internet so I have to make this quick. To be honest, I spent the majority of this book thinking, "thiI'm still on vacation with limited access to the internet so I have to make this quick. To be honest, I spent the majority of this book thinking, "this is a good book, but it's not that good" because I knew exactly what was going on. The "mystery" was never a mystery for me but I kept reading, waiting patiently for this book to blow me away--because I knew it would, eventually, based on all the four and five-star reviews given by trusted Goodreaders (namely Reviewer X, Tatiana and April).
And, yeah, now that I've finished reading Jellicoe Road I can say this book has 'it'. That thing that so few YA books tend to have these days. I don't even know what 'it' is, exactly. But I'll tell you this for free: my cry-holes got leaky during the last fifty pages or so. Yeah, you read that right. I. Cried. And the author didn't have to stoop to throwing some insane manipulative twist at me. She's just that good at writing. Her story came together beautifully for me and I am thoroughly satisfied. This book deserves all sorts of awards.
I will say that I spent the first fifty pages or so wondering what the hell was going on because I was dumb enough to assume the prologue was from the main character's POV. Then I looked back and saw that the incident that happened in the prologue happened twenty-two years before chapter one. Our main character is seventeen years old. So, yeah--not the same person. Just keep that in mind when you pick this book up. Also, you might want to write down the names of the characters mentioned in Hannah's manuscript--who's related to who and whatnot. It makes it much easier to keep track of the story within the story.
Anyway, I love this book. I'm going to start recommending it to anyone who asks. Soooo...read this book. Now.
P.S. I'll probably post a much better review of Jellicoe Road when I get home. Which won't be for a few weeks or so.
This book really made me think, especially about all the dysfunctional relationships disguised as romance in YA novels and movies.
I had an interestinThis book really made me think, especially about all the dysfunctional relationships disguised as romance in YA novels and movies.
I had an interesting conversation with one of my nieces about this book (she read it during our family reunion). She's twenty-four years old and she felt as conflicted as I did about how this book ended. We were both frustrated with ourselves (or the book--it's hard to tell) because we kept wanting the relationship between Gemma and her kidnapper to develop. How sick is that?
We talked about the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, in which a group of young women are abducted by a group of supposedly well-meaning young men. These girls are upset at first but soon grow to love their kidnappers. My niece and I both grew up loving that musical, but now that we've read Stolen we're disgusted with it.
Since reading Stolen I've spent a lot of time thinking about why I think such creepy behavior by the hero/love interest is not only okay but romantic in some of the books/movies I read/watch. It's funny (read: frightening) how some women/teens find abusive/crazy behavior romantic.
I'm glad that I read this book. I'm glad Lucy Christopher wrote it. It's a quick read but it speaks volumes. I can't stop thinking about it.
Look, I like the message the author is trying to convey, but I think Melina Marchetta does it better in Saving Francesca. Heck, aBarely three stars.
Look, I like the message the author is trying to convey, but I think Melina Marchetta does it better in Saving Francesca. Heck, a lot of other authors did it better. But Carolyn Mackler did an okay job.
Have you ever read a book that's so irritating you can't help but think, 'It would be great if most of the characters died right now, especially the mHave you ever read a book that's so irritating you can't help but think, 'It would be great if most of the characters died right now, especially the main character because she sucks'? Possibly even go so far as consider writing and posting your own ending to said book on fanfiction.net? An ending in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows up and kills everyone in a hilarious yet incredibly violent fashion?
If your answer is YES then you've probably been reading this series. XD
Seriously though, Tempted killed my addiction to the House of Night series. And I know I should be grateful--in a way I am--but, more than anything I can't help but be incredibly disappointed. The first HON book had some potential but instead of getting better as the series continued, it just got worse. So. Much. Worse.
Zoey Redbird went from being a normal teenage girl, who just so happened to be a vampire, to a complete slut-faced ho bag vampire with extrasuperspecial powers by the sixth book. To be completely honest, the full transformation to Supernatural "Slut-Face" Sue occurred a few books back.
Zoey is so much worse then Aphrodite was at the beginning of the series. And I think we can all agree Aphrodite was kind of slutty way back then, what with her forcing her company on an obviously uninterested, slightly disgusted Eric all the time. Now that I think about it, that's way more sad then it is slutty. I digress. My point is now Aphrodite is committed to a nice guy who loves & respects her, and Zoey is lusting after/sexing/heavily-petting/groping/making out with just about every guy that comes her way.
For whatever reason Zoey's behavior is not considered slutty because she's a priestess, or whatever. Apparently if you wield the power of Nyx you can get away with anything, even being the Whore of Babylon. How nice.
Erik/Stark/Kalona/everyotherwaytotallyhotguyevuh? Hate them. So much. Because seriously, Zoey is the Whore of all Babylon, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, yet they're all hot and bothered over her. Morons. All of them. Obviously Kalona is just some disgusting, evil...God? Demon? Whatever! who wants to get Zoey in the sack and then kill her--I'm sorry but where's the downside to that plan? Just kidding! (not really) And I really don't understand Erik's attraction to her, especially since she cheated on him with THEIR ADULT TEACHER the same day Erik became a full-fledged vampire (It was, what? An hour after the fact???). And Stark? Ugh! Don't even get me started on the Stark/Zoey 'ship. That whole complicated/nonsensical mess just makes me want to bash my head against a brick wall. Repeatedly.
The gay couple in this series is completely ridiculous. Look, I don't have an issue with homosexuality in YA fiction, but I do have a problem with the way it's portrayed in this series. Damien and Jack are like a parody of a stereotype, if that makes sense. Their relationship is so--dare I say--gay, for lack of a better description. It's just a bunch of rainbows, puppies, kittens, lollipops, fluffy clouds, sunshine, glitter-farting unicorns, and of course fabulousness! in Damien-and-Jack Townshipville.
The Twins? Sooooooo stuuuuuuuuuupid. These are two of my least favorite characters and were I to write a Buffy the Vampire Slayer/HON crossover, these two would go first (at the exact same time). It wouldn't be pretty, either.
Stevie Rae? I don't even know what to think about where her story is going. I mean, seems like the girl's gonna be gettin' it on with some sort of demented raven-man thing, which is incredibly disgusting. That whole weird relationship aside? Stevie Rae just isn't the same. In fact, she hasn't been since she died and came back. Stevie Rae just flat-out gives me the creeps so I don't like her either.
Then there's Heath. Poor, stupid, very mortal Heath. One of the few characters I still kind of liked in this horrible horrible, oh, so very horrible series. And yes, I know I'm probably the only person who actually liked Heath (you slags were wanting him to die and you know it!) but I don't care. The fact is, he's the only person that really knew Zoey and he still loved her, despite all her faults. He loved her so much he decided it was time to grow up and quit drinking/partying. And put his life on the line for her. He's the only person that kept Zoey grounded (besides her grandmother, of course). I actually liked the interactions between Zoey and Heath. Their conversations were cute, and sweet, and fun. I actually kind of liked Zoey when she was with Heath--I could relate to her.
And what did the Casts' do? They killed him. KILLED! At the end of the last chapter! And because he's mortal he's actually dead dead. As in, never coming back dead (unlike Stevie Rae and Stark whou should have stayed dead, IMHO). And I've got the feeling the Casts only killed him because their story got away from them and they didn't know what else to do.
The Casts are going to drag this series out for SIX MORE BOOKS, people! And considering the fact that they've already lost control of their story, It's pretty safe to say that this series won't end well. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)
And it needs to be said, I am dumber for having read the first six books in the House of Night series.
Before I get to the review I just wanted to let everyone know I don't typically write reviews for books I love. The reason being, I'm not good at writBefore I get to the review I just wanted to let everyone know I don't typically write reviews for books I love. The reason being, I'm not good at writing worth-while and positive reviews (as opposed to my uncanny ability to write crazy rants about books I totally loathe). Or rather, I know I'm not up to the task: writing a review worthy of a book so beautiful, so eloquently written I can't stop thinking about it long after I've finished it.
I know there is nothing I could say that could not be better said by the book itself, or even just a review written by someone who is smarter than me has a way with words.
That said, here I am, attempting to write a review worthy of Before I Fall. If I fail, which is more than likely, please do not hold it against the book--it isn't the book's fault I'm not a talented writer.
So without further ado...
Popular girl Samantha Kingston thinks a lot about the what she's done throughout her seventeen years of life as she relives her last day over and over again. In all, Samantha is given seven chances to figure out what went wrong, what chain of events brought about her death. Seven opportunities to change and make things right. Seven days to save herself.
At first glance, Samantha--Sam--doesn't come across as anything special. Sure, she's popular but other than her superior social standing she's basically your average teenager. Her biggest concern is her virginity, which she will be losing to her boyfriend that night--she's freaked out but feels it's time to get it over with. Other than that she's wondering how many roses she'll have by the end of Cupid Day and if she looks okay considering she didn't get to shower that morning.
However, it doesn't take long before we're given a better, more accurate picture of the type of person Samantha Kingston truly is. Over the course of the day she cheats on a test, flirts shamelessly with her calculus teacher, cuts class, gets pretty drunk and treats her classmates like garbage--Sam and her friends are especially cruel to one girl in particular.
All in all it's an average school day for Samantha Kingston.
Clearly I didn't like Samantha Kingston at the beginning of this novel. She's a horrible self-absorbed teenager. What's worse is the fact that she thinks so highly of herself and her friends, saying:
"I'm not going to lie, though. It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences."
And then goes on to say:
"If high school were a game of poker, Lindsey, Ally, Elody and I would be holding 80 percent of the cards."
After Sam finishes recounting her last day--in which she clearly does not come out looking good--she tells us about how she died, then says:
"Before you start pointing fingers, let me ask you: is what I did really so bad? So bad I deserved to die? So bad I deserved to die like that? Is what I did really so much worse than what anybody else does? Is it really so much worse than what you do? Think about it."
Like everyone else I went to high school with girls like Samantha Kingston and her friends. And like most everyone else I haaaaated those girls. So. Much. Who wants to read a story about a bunch of horrible teenagers? No one. But you know what? Turns out when I was seventeen I was not that much better than Samantha Kingston. Sure I wasn't a total A-hole, but the truth is I gossiped, lied, cheated, cut class--the works. And I treated a lot of people badly--peers and adults. But I haven't really spent too much time thinking about the person I was in high school. Not until Sam asks us, the readers, if what she did is so much worse than what we do.
That's why I kept reading.
As Sam relives February 12 we see her grow and change. At first her attempts at being a better person are so half-hearted, or ill-concieved you wonder if she's actually trying. And yeah, as the reader I got frustrated with Sam. I wanted to see her change right away, and she didn't. Then I remembered she's a spoiled teenager that hasn't been made to work for anything in her life. Remember, it was Sam herself who admitted:
"It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences."
That's Sam's mentality at the beginning of this story, her reality, so of course she has no clue how to truly change, to be the better person.
However, not many February 12ths pass when a horrifying turn of events forces Sam to acknowledge the ugly truth. Sam takes a good look at herself, at her friends, and what she sees drives her to an all-time low--when Sam hits bottom she really hits bottom.
Sam needs that low point, the chance to spiral out of control, even if it's just for one day because it is only after she's humbled we see her make any significant changes. She starts to look at all she has (or rather, had) and be grateful for it. She looks at her family in a whole new light, and realizes just how much she truly loves them. She looks at her little sister specifically--a sweet little seven-year-old who is proud of who she is--and realizes she admires her little sister because she embraces the things that make her different from all her peers.
After Sam's low point her thoughts, her ideas become downright beautiful/amazing. There were many times I stopped to reread passages, and even consider them for a bit. Example:
"Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around in it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know."
It's at this point that my feelings from this book went from like to love.
And no, Sam still doesn't get things right away. She still struggles, but the important part is she's really trying, really working. She learns from her mistakes and makes corrections. Sam realizes, despite her belief that she can't be fixed, it's never too late to change. Some of Sam's changes don't come about until the 11th hour, but they do come.
And yes, I love how this book ends. I know there are many people who simply didn't like this book because of how it ends, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Any other ending would have been a complete cop-out (think about it). Plus, (view spoiler)[I happen to like ambiguous endings because they give me the opportunity to think about what I just read--I can draw my own conclusions. I'm not going to say anything more about the ending, I don't want to spoil it for anyone. (hide spoiler)]
I love this book, it is one of my favorites. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished reading it two weeks ago, and because of that it will always have a home on my bookshelf.
By the way, I've spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to cobble together a semi-decent review of this book. Now go purchase a copy of Before I Fall, stat, you won't be sorry.
P.S. this book deserves six stars.
Update April 4, 2010: my husband, who typically doesn't like any of the books I like, just stayed up all night reading Before I Fall. When he finished it he woke me up to thank me for all but shoving this book down his throat (and he wasn't being ironic. Believe me, I checked). He sincerely likes this book. More than anything he loves the way Lauren Oliver writes, but overall he likes the story quite a bit. It was nice talking to him about it this morning, we had a very pleasant discussion. :) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more