Rhiannon's Reviews > Keep Sweet

Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene
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Jun 02, 11

bookshelves: lady-writer, jeezis, pliggy, read-in-2011, yr-family-is-fcked, ya-realistic-times
Read from May 30 to June 02, 2011

** spoiler alert ** PliggyLit

Hello! I have made an easy-to-use guide to choosing your Polygamist YA Lit. As you can see, all of the books on the list are ALMOST exactly the same! And none of them are very good. They are mostly "Just O.K." Please be happy that I have wasted my time, so that you don't have to waste yours.

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This book includes a pretty brutal rape scene. Not fond.

For some reason - and this might sound weird - but, I felt like Dominguez Greene had "no right" to the subject matter that she wrote about. I mean, as an author, you can write about anything you want - But, it's just that this book - even though it was fairly well-written - left a bad taste in my mouth about the nature of who gets to write about trauma and why.

I think it was that rape scene that got me. A rape scene in a YA book... Now, some YA books have rape in them, it's true. But, when you START a book about polygamy, you know that there is going to be sexual abuse. And perhaps I was simply more attuned to the way that the writers depicted said abuse. There was no clean-cut happy solution or ending for Greene's protagonist, so the trauma wasn't completely exploited - but... Is polygamy kind of trendy, in terms of subject matter (*cough*Sister Wives)? The answer is yes. So, it just makes me wonder...

Now - of the three books mentioned above:
Carol Lynch Williams - is a Mormon, I think. She gets dibs.
Claire Avery - grew up in a super-Christian-cult community. OK, I dig.
Shelly Hrdlitschka - is a Canadian with crazy last name that makes me imagine that she wanted to write a book about a boy who builds inukshuks, but at the last minute got distracted by polygamists.

Michele Greene? All I could tell was that she likely read the same books I read: God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped, or visited the Tapestry website a few times - because that was what I did during "May: Polygamy Month!" She borrowed heavily from the turns-of-phrase and situations depicted by Polygamy Escapists/Survivors. So, it reads fairly realistically, even if it reads heavily borrowed - hence the three stars!

But, yank some stars back! Because - there he is again. That boy who tries to "save" our protagonist. They are in love, don't you see? Even though this girl is like fourteen. SO stupid. In all of the memoirs that I read about women escaping polygamy (a lot!), do you know how many of them were in love before they were betrothed at fourteen? None. Do you know how many of them had 15-year-old boyfriends who tried to marry them before their uncle did? None. None. None. None.

The point is - each of these authors, Michele Greene included, has tried to take a story of oppression, terror, escape, survival - and throw a little romance in there! And, I just think its bad taste, honestly. I like a good romance. I really do. Even a good teenage romance. But, not a good polygamist teenage romance. Not ONE of the male characters, or their subsequent relationships with the protagonists were believable - or even INTERESTING!

I will say that Greene did super-well with the inclusion of the "new couple" in the compound. I enjoyed those characters. THAT WAS A GOOD STORY. I wish that she had taken a stab at writing a book about them! Instead, Michele Greene mostly just re-hashed what the other author's listed above had already done... she just wrote a little bit better than them.

I said this in my review of Hidden Wives, and it also applies to this book: "The teenage characters that are being imagined for this type of fiction are simply empty girl-vessels for the writer to exploit at her whim, with no care to the methods of characterization that would flesh her out and make her whole. Poorly done. Poorly done."
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