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Damsel Distressed

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Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.

321 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Kelsey Macke

1 book115 followers
Kelsey B. Toney has been creative for as long as she can remember. Her formative years were a swirl of bad poetry, journals full of songs, and absolutely TONS of jazz hands. DAMSEL DISTRESSED, (published under the name Kelsey Macke) gold medal winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Award for YA, was released with its own soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, a full album of original songs inspired by the book. Kelsey, a Dallas native, is a public speaker who regularly gives talks about writing craft, publishing, and mental health awareness and destigmatization. In addition to writing and teaching, Kelsey watches Gilmore Girls on a near-endless cycle, shows videos of her orange cat to everyone who stands still long enough, and is among the first 1% of all twitter users (@KelsNotChels).

She also loves cheese. All kinds.

Kelsey is represented by Devin Ross of New Leaf Literary and Media.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 208 reviews
Profile Image for Hazel (Stay Bookish).
635 reviews1,615 followers
December 29, 2014
Visit Stay Bookish to win a copy of this book and for more book reviews!

Have you ever had a book speak to you even before you actually read it? Because I can confidently say that Damsel Distressed spoke to me. It wasn’t even a case of ‘judge a book by its cover’ because I knew about this book before it had its gorgeous cover. I’d simply read the summary and some more bits that Kelsey shared about the book and I knew I needed to read Damsel Distressed. I was so excited about this one that I even preordered it on my kindle app (just so I could read ASAP) despite already ordering a physical copy, which is a first for me.

When are we gonna get a fat princess? How about a princess with bad acne and crappy posture and the mouth of a sailor? Probably never. Every. Single. One. Is the same. Totally hot. Totally predictable. Snow White has the attention of seven little men, not because she’s the only one who can reach the top of the bookshelf, but because she’s a porcelain-skinned, ruby-lipped knockout. The Little Mermaid got a prince because she shut her trap for five whole seconds and looks fierce in a bikini. And Cinderella? She’s a girl who clearly demonstrates to the prince that she’s got lots of experience on her knees and doesn’t mind getting dirty.

Anyway, after finally getting to read Damsel Distressed, I have a newfound love for this book and it knows no bounds. Damsel Distressed was all I ever expected to be and much much more. There was snark and banter and swoons and tears, but most of all, there was heart. In fact there was so much of it that my own heart was filled to the brim. A reversed fairytale retelling of Cinderella, Damsel Distressed explored the story of the ‘ugly step sister’ who in this case was our female lead, Imogen Keegan.

I am whole. I am more than just the pieces that I see. I am stronger than I seem.

Imogen thinks that a happily ever after for a broken, overweight girl like her is impossible. She’s meant to be behind the sound booth not center stage of a theatre performance. Her prince charming best friend, Grant, won’t ever fall for her the way she has with him. She’ll never live up to her princess step sister, Ella Cinder, who is perfect and gorgeous (not to mention evil). Life is a constant struggle for her as she deals with these harsh realities, as well as the death of her mother and the absence of her father. I felt for Imogen so much. The thoughts and feelings her character conveyed stunned me and moved me- they were so honest and heartbreaking.

People should treat each other with kindness, but I’m not talking about them. You can’t fix them. I’m talking about you. You deserve better treatment from yourself.

Imogen’s insecurities about being heavy-set which were something I especially shared with her. At almost 160 lbs, some people might say I’m only slightly overweight compared to Imogen’s 200 lbs, but when you’re the oddball among your petite friends and when your own family likes to remind you about how your voracious appetite and addiction to sweets is getting you bigger, confidence doesn’t come easy. You start to wonder if being chubby is the reason why you’re so unpopular or why you’ve never had a boyfriend. Like Imogen, I rarely had the luxury of feeling pretty. When you see yourself in a character like that, and you root for her to realize that she’s beautiful inside and out and she finally does, there’s a feeling in your chest that’s warm and radiant. So thank you, Kelsey Macke, for writing Imogen the way she was.

“What if I broke us?” In less than a breath, a smile—his real smile—breaks across his face, and his eyes stare straight into mine as he shakes his head, laughing. “Oh, would you stop being dramatic? Nothing’s broken. A little bruised, maybe, but not broken. Never broken. Not us.”

Now, let me talk about Grant, Imogen’s bestfriend. OH THIS BOY. I love him to death. I love him because he wears cute geeky shirts and because he always makes Imogen happy. I love him because he is loyal, caring, sweet, wonderful, hilarious, charming and REAL. I love him because he accepts Imogen wholly and believes in her. I love him because he gets her and because he know’s what’s best for her. I love him because he is the anchor that keeps Imogen grounded. There are a million reasons to love Grant but I love him most because while Imogen may feel alone in battling the darkness that attempts to consume her, he always has her back. No matter what and no matter how bad things got, as he promised her once upon a time.

Someday you’ll have to let some of that pain go to make room in your heart for something even bigger.

Aside from Imogen and Grant, the rest of the Damsel Distressed cast left such significant marks as well. I loved watching Imogen develop such strong friendships with Brice, Jonathan and Antonique. Imogen’s relationship with her family, her stepmother Evelyn, her dad (and even how she deals with her horrid stepsister) was moving. Honestly, I ugly cried a whole lot especially during the last few chapters. And really, the best books are the ones that go so deep and awaken so many many emotions inside of you.

I feel like a door has been unlocked by a key that was in my pocket the whole time. I’ve been broken, but I’m not broken. That pain won’t disappear anytime soon, maybe not ever, but it’s not all I have.

Damsel Distressed is a beautiful emotional journey. Mixed with amazing music and artworks, Kelsey Macke has created a phenomenal debut novel, one I’m sure will leave a huge impact on its readers as it did for me. Despite grappling with tough issues of grief, self-harm and depression, this book is a shining ray of light- one that promises hope and happy beginnings. This is a story that deserves to be read and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Paula M.
547 reviews641 followers
December 25, 2015

You can also read my review here!

"I am whole. I am more than just the pieces that I see. I am stronger than I seem"


Wow. That gif right there is right, my feelings right now is indescribable. Kelsey Macke just slayed me with her words. I can literally feel my heart squeezing while reading Imogen's thoughts. I don't know how to go about reviewing this book. Frankly, this is a book that will linger in my mind for the rest of my life. It made an impact on me.

Imogen is overweight and depressed. She's Ella Cinder's step sister. And she hides in the audio room because she thinks that that's where she belongs. Imogen is such a real character that it scares me. She's engraved in my heart now and I'd be lying if I say that it's easy letting her go because it's not. I cried with her, laughed with her, she shared her feeling about everyone that surrounds her and she even let me know her greatest fears. And I am grateful for that. There are characters that you read, but there are characters that you read.. and stays with you.

Imogen is also Grant's best friend, the sound goddess and a precious friend to have. Grant.. Gosh, how do I even describe Grant? I want to say he's perfect. But he's not. He is absolutely flawed and beautifully made. I have a feeling that I might love him more than Imogen.

This book is stunning. It will break your heart. It made my stomach hurt as I recalled my past experiences, and made me cry at how cruel people can be to others. But this book needs to be read. Bullying and depression needs to be brought into the light.

This is not an easy book to read, but well written, capturing the truth and hardness of high school bullying and where it leads to, the damage it can do. With a cast of characters that you will love to hate, Kelsey Macke has portrayed the bullies in this book exceptionally well.

I enjoyed this book despite it's difficult message and content, a YA book that adults can read, an intelligent book talking about important matters using fiction as the messenger. What happens to Imogen? Do the bullies get the best of her in the end? Will she learn to love herself so she can finally open her heart for other people who wants to love her?

Damsel Distressed is a powerful debut. It's provocative, beautiful and creative. Kelsey Macke is an author to watch out for. I cannot wait to see what's more in store for her readers. I really hope everyone will read this book.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
843 reviews3,775 followers
December 18, 2014
Warning : This isn't a review, just a please still love me post. Yikes.

Actual rating : 2.5/5

(Of course the 'yes' is ticked, you know I'm a hopeful girl, right?)

Because I think my I'm putting this on hold because I'm feeling too guilty to dnf it "I didn't like the book that much" is a case of That's not the book but me.

To be clear:
I don't want to be annoyed but I am. Sorry Imogen, maybe I just reached my month limit in teenagers' insecurities.
I don't want to be bored but well, I am. Sorry writer, because your writing is great, it's just - I don't have a damn clue of how I'm supposed to be interested in highschool stage - I'm just not.
I don't want to guess the end but... Let's say I am wrong about it and I didn't guess what will happen next, shall we? I wasn't wrong.
I wasn't lying when I said I wasn't a huge fan of this let's love my best friend kind of plot. It did happen I loved that - but that's far from the majority, unfortunately.

Because here's the thing : sometimes I'm okay with the fact I'm reading a predictable book. Hey, I'm reading romance for God's sake.

But sometimes I'm not. That's not fair, I agree, but that's what I feel right now.

Forgive me?

Of course I'm cheating with that Gif. And I'm really proud of it :p.
Let's try this! I never loved Cinderella that much in the first place.

I mean, she was a bit dumb, don't you think? (please don't hate me for saying this) I always preferred the birds. What can I say? I'm weird.

But they're cute, aren't they?

Okaaay, I'm so missing the point. I'd better read.
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,037 followers
May 2, 2015
4.5 stars. This was great. Just great. Also, this book is begging for me to do this so I just have to:


Profile Image for Brooke's Epic Emporium.
881 reviews193 followers
September 30, 2015
I would like to thank Spencer Hill Contemporary for providing me with a copy of this book to read and give an honest review. Receiving this book for free has in no way altered my opinion or review.

Imagine you are Cinderella's sister. She's gorgeous and beautiful and everyone loves her. Your fat and you have tons of mental health issues and people aren't quite sure what to make of you. Well this is that story. The story where we come to see that Cinderella's step sister is not quite who we thought she was.

Imogen has issues. She's overweight, she's had a nervous breakdown, and she takes lot of medications to keep her balanced. Not to mention she has to see a therapist who also tries to keep her in check. It's impossible not to like Gen, not to feel for her and want her to have her HEA. She carries so much on her shoulders and throughout the book there's always that inkling that she can somehow overcome it. But then things always come crashing down on her and she's right back where she started. Despite all her quirks, her eccentricities, her ability to be up one minute and down the next, you fall completely in love with this character. She's smart and witty and absolutely relatable.

I have to say that this book was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I laughed, I cried, my stomach got twisted in knots because I kept thinking something bad was surely going to happen. I love that Macke was not afraid to really delve into the emotional issues Imogen had. To show her audience that there is so much more to being a teen than we ever think. Compared to most YA novels, this one shows so much more of the truth of what teens go through than I've seen in the past. It's not sugar coated, it's not glossed over, it's you and the character in the thick of it page after page.

Macke's writing and ability to engage her characters in interesting and meaningful dialogue is fantastic. The words she uses are sometimes poetic, sometimes harsh, but always on target with bringing you to where you need to be emotionally. Mostly she is able to really pull your focus on the development of the main character, her growth, her change, her resistance, and even her stumbles and falls.

It's a story about finding out who you are in the mist of battling your demons. It classically demonstrates the roller coaster ride that is high school and all the intense issues teens have to face. The gripping reality of the book is really what pulled me in and kept me there. Fans of Gayle Forman will enjoy this one for sure!

***Disclosure: I work for Spencer Hill Press but this has in no way altered my reaction to this book***
Profile Image for Erin Lynn.
336 reviews79 followers
November 12, 2015
Full review can be seen at The Hardcover Lover.

First of all, I must applaud Kelsey Macke for the creation of this stunning book. Everything in this book is just perfect. It made me cry. It made me laugh. I pretty much experienced every human emotion possible while reading my book. In my opinion, I feel like the more emotions represented make it a better and more captivating read.

The main character, Imogen, is unlike any YA character that I've ever seen in a book before. First of all, she's overweight. As someone who struggled with my weight my whole life, I finally felt like this weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I'm twenty-five now, but much I still experience the nights where I want to binge eat like Imogen, and I felt like much of her struggles with obesity were realistic and true. Not only is Imogen overweight, but she's also got a lot going on emotionally and mentally. I think fans of books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Love Letters to the Dead, and It's Kind of a Funny Story will be drawn to Imogen and enjoy her story.

Macke shows her incredible support of the arts in this book, and as a teacher, I must thank her. I am obviously an English teacher, but I was very involved in my high school's music program when I was a student. I was in concert band, jazz band, pit orchestra, and marching band. I still support that music program to this day, so happy tears were brought to my eyes when I saw just how much Macke cares about the arts. Maybe people will read this book and realize just how important the arts are to keep in schools.

So how exactly does Macke show her support for the arts? Imogen, our main character, is involved in her school's musical. She works in the sound booth. During much of the book, Imogen is at rehearsals. Another way that Macke shows her support of the fine arts is by including a special event dedicated to them in the plot of the book. Can you say awesome? Also, there are going to be pages full of original artwork throughout the book. And finally, Kelsey Macke and her husband are releasing an original album as a soundtrack to the book. Talk about dedication. Ms. Macke certainly knows how to tell a story while supporting the fine arts. Kudos to her.

I loved this book, and everything that it represents. Yes, it's a retelling of "Cinderella" with a point of view twist, but it's so much more than that. It's a book about grief, love, family, and friendship. Most importantly, it's a book about self-acceptance that I think all teenagers and young adults should read.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
October 18, 2017

TW's: cutting

DNF at 68%

I give up. It's not that the book is badly written _ it isn't _, but for the life of me I can't listen to Imogene's whining anymore. Yes, she has clinical depression. Yes, her mother died seven years ago when she was about ten years old... I'm not a sociopath, that made me sad, BUT, she has had so much support that I've reached a point in which I just want to scream at her, as well as to keep her from binge eating junk food until she throws up...
Some people at this point will probably want to point out that I shouldn't talk like that, that depression doesn't work like that, and that I'm being a bitch. I don't care.
This is not a book about a criminal, I'm reading a story about a troubled teen, so as a reader I'm supposed to feel some empathy for her plights... since I'm not, I think it's better if I just stop.
"Objectively" speaking, this story is leaving me all kinds of depressed, stressed and angry.
Oh poor "kid" with a father who cares about her, even if he has his faults. Poor kid with access to psychological help. Poor kid with a bff who has been there since always... *breathes*
With a friend out of a Dawson's creek plot who decides to be her guardian angel; since he was ten.
Did I mention how incredible mature these kids are?
Because,wow, also aren't Grant's parents, the best?!
Honestly, I kept thinking about that. His best friend is depressed so, "hey mom and dad _ I'm presuming the guy isn't a clone_ I'm going to spend the night with my depressed friend, who is a child just like me."
"Oh, sure honey."
I hate soap operas, and I hate how judgemental, narrow minded and egotistical Imogene is.
As for the Cinderella wanna be retelling, what can I say?
Her stepmother isn't an ogre. Her father isn't dead. Her stepsister is a sociopath just because, and the Grant the Prince has the soul of a dog; clearly, Grant is just way too good for all us mortals.
Also, you wouldn't believe the amount of dialogues and plot involving a high school musical.

As for the secondary characters _ see, incredible mature peeps _ they're good people: As I mentioned before, there's the bff, the cute gay couple (one of them a wonderful tailor because... why not?!), and the new girl who is actually a good person.
All of you deserved more.
Susana out; I'm mentally drained.
Profile Image for Mei.
265 reviews160 followers
March 4, 2016
Actual rating: 2.5 stars
“This hurt is never going away. Ever. And neither is yours. But that doesn't mean life is over.”

This book is certainly not for everybody. The chances that you love this book largely depends on whether you relate to it and how much you understand it from the main character's perspective, like really feel her, be patient with her and not hate her at all despite how intolerable she is.

Imogen, the main character, is struggling with depression due to grief from her mother's death seven years ago and loathes her plus size body. When her father remarries a woman with a daughter the same age as her--Carmella--and moves to their house, her seemingly okay therapy sessions have gone much worse.

Damsel Distressed is a retelling of Cinderella, but the only resemblance the book has to it is that there is a stepsister and you can tell that she is mean, rude and annoying, and the "princess" gets the prince in the end. And that was the problem. Carmella was so mean and evidently irritating with her flipping hair attitude and that's fine, she's supposed to fill that role since she is the stepsister after all. But no justice has been made to her character. Her parents divorced leading to her mom marrying Imogen's father, and I get it, the girl is suffering from a parent's divorce, incomplete family and stepping to a new life with a new sister, away from the life and friends she's always known. Depressing, I know. But while that is already given, the book did not gave hints why she acts that way, saying those through her feelings. There was no spotlight for her to share her emotions, and if it's okay for you to know a minor spoiler, And that was sad and I did not like it. She barely even had dialogues in the book.

Also, there was a kind of a slut/body shaming in this book, which made me hate Imogen even more. Oh, my stepsister wears short shorts, why does she always wear that, is that her everyday clothing? And more commenting how sexy Carmella is, how flawless her skin is, how she can attract boys' and attention, in general, easily, how she has the perfect life, how she has the fashion and beauty, etc. Like that was supposed to make me like Imogen more, eek, no thanks.

Imogen is having panic and anxiety attacks. I could never connect to this character at all. She was insecure, lacks self confidence, wallows too much in self pity and in her weakness, shortcomings or anything she lacks, feels like she's unimportant/rejected. I've experienced all these as a human and I'm supposed to relate to her, but I couldn't bring myself to like her. She has mood swings that are so random and unreasonable that she doesn't care if the people she loves are affected. She hates it when they don't understand her situation. I have depression, please understand me, I am exempted! She also hates it when she loses the argument, even though obviously, she's the one who's wrong.

She has a strong support group of friends. That's the second thing I liked most about this book. The secondary characters Evelyn (her stepmother), Brice, Jonathan, Antonique and maybe even Andrew did nothing but to show her how amazing and important she is, despite what she thinks. What a pity that I liked them more than Imogen. Going back to my point, the love interest, her long-time best friend, Grant, is the receiving end of these mood swings. She always tells Grant how Carmella makes Imogen feels miserable so there was one time in the book that Grant personally witnessed it. So Grant says, wow, it really is true (non-verbatim) and then Imogen says You don't believe in what I say? Leave my room! I can't believe you're my best friend and you don't believe me! (again, non-verbatim). They were so okay telling happy stories and then she transitions to THAT! Obviously, Grant believes her, it was just an expression of making it more true than he knows because he witnessed it. And so this goes on forever, with all the pointless and stupid drama, with Grant always being treated like this, and Imogen always starting it, but in the end Grant's the one who always apologizes and initiates it. This goes on for a long time that it got tedious.

Grant is what I liked most about this book. Honestly, I can't believe how he can tolerate Imogen being like that. He was there for her when Imogen cuts herself, cleans her wounds, goes to her house, sleeps in her room, holds her hand while she cries, etc. They've been best friends since kindergarten. I wish he was mine, though! Poor Grant have to suffer these! Anyway, best friends turned couples type of romances are not a bother to me. I think for this book, it was well-executed. The build-up of the romance was slow, Grant is not a bad boy, he was even a science nerd (which made me love him even more!) and his actions towards Imogen are genuine. You know he likes Imogen but his actions, no matter the subtlest they are, are still not obvious and I liked it that way.

I love the ending, except for one part if you opened the minor spoiler. There was one part that did not suspend belief----but overall, it was a happy ending. Relationships were built strongly on each of the characters, specially her dad and stepmom Evelyn who did nothing but care for her, Grant and all her theater friends. There is not much to say for this book, really. I did not find the story special and might forget the story in a few days or weeks. I think if Kelsey Macke removed the pointless drama and made Imogen more likable, I might've liked this book more.
Profile Image for Gray Cox.
Author 4 books163 followers
January 1, 2018
This is one of the most original re-tellings I've read since Marissa Meyer.

Instead of the gorgeous Ella being the sweet protagonist, why don't we switch it around to the ugly stepsister?

YES. A 100%, yes.

Besides the plot idea, this was beautifully written. 'I am made of glass. And I've been broken before. I've been in a million little razor-cut pieces and I've been totally lost and alone.'-Damsel Distressed (pg. 85).

Most books I've read dealing with depression, anxiety, and self-harm have romanticized it, and it's disgusting, but this book didn't, it dealt and showed Imogen's feelings with a gritty realness.

This book was diverse, but it felt effortless.

It was also surprisingly clean, I can only recall one swear word used, although it was crudely suggestive in a few places, such as Imogen's rant about Disney princesses in her diary: 'And Cinderella? She's a girl who clearly demonstrates to the prince that she's got lots of experience on her knees and doesn't mind getting dirty.' (pg. 156).


1. A very original plot +1

2. A likeable but complicated character +2

3. Diversity that feels natural +1

4. A stepmother, who actually is kind and wants to be a mother to her stepdaughter (stepmothers get a bad rap, it annoys me). +2

5. Tons of clichés (the mean girl blonde, the boy next door). -1

6. Suggestive themes. -1/2


~3.5 stars~
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,001 reviews370 followers
October 14, 2014
Adorable. Heartfelt. Emotional. Genuine. Raw. Beautiful.

These are all words that I would use to describe this wonderful debut novel by Macke. She took a retelling, twisted it and made it absolutely her own so much so that you barely see the original story underneath.

Gen is not your average stepsister fairy tale villain and the princess of the story, is not a princess at all.

Macke tackles some pretty challenging, pretty tough emotional issues in this story and she does it with such finesse that it is all believable, all real, and all something you can't help but actually feel right along with the characters. You see their struggles and they become your own insecurities and issues. You feel their pain and you feel their heartache. Their triumphs are your triumphs and their happiness is something you want more than anything.

I loved Grant and Gen and Brice and Jonathan, how could I not feel for them all and love them all for their strength and their character? I don't think it is possible to not fall in love with this story, with their stories.

I absolutely loved every minute of this read and I can't wait to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Erica Crouch.
Author 25 books242 followers
August 29, 2014

I love Kelsey Macke, and when I heard that her book, Damsel Distressed, was coming out, I was excited and terrified. I’ve heard so much about it from her and knew that I wanted to read it — but I was worried. What if it wasn’t good? Or if I just didn’t like it? What would I do then? Luckily, and unsurprisingly, Kelsey Macke wrote a beautiful, wonderful, brilliant story of rich characters and I can say with absolute sincerity that I loved (*LOVED*) Damsel Distressed.

Damsel Distressed follows Imogen Keegen, a depressed, overweight, hilariously snarky seventeen-year-old. The story takes place over the time of a play — Once Upon a Mattress – as she is working as the Sound Goddess techie, dressed in standard stage crew black. And while this should be a time of fun-stress-excitement for Gen, as she’s a huge theatre nerd (me too, Imogen, me too), she instead feels like she’s teetering on the edge of a breakdown because of, well, a number of reasons. First, she is still dealing with the death of her mother some years back; second, her father has recently remarried, seemingly out of the blue, though really not out of the blue; third, she basically had a little mini mental breakdown last winter following said marriage; and fourth, her new stepsister Carmella, who is already not too keen on Imogen, is moving in and hellbent on destroying her. Oh, and did I mention that Carmella Cinder is now insisting on being called Ella? As in Cinder, Ella? And just what does that make Imogen, the ugly stepsister?

Once I started reading Damsel Distressed, I was sucked in. Imogen was a unique and realistic *GASP* protagonist with a powerful voice. She was a real teenager dealing with real issues — depression, anxiety, death, family things, friend drama… No matter what you’ve been through, there is something inside of Imogen that you can relate to. And for me, her character struck really close to my heart, for a number of reasons.

I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but I suffer from some serious, heavy anxiety/depression. As Imogen went through everything with her anxiety, I was right there next to her. I knew moments before she had a panic attack that she would have a panic attack, and I could feel that irrational fear with her. I knew that feeling of needing to get out of a situation, of wanting to hide away from friends and family when things got particularly bad. That feeling of “I’m too hot” and “I’m too cold” and “I’m going to be sick” that comes with feeling overwhelming anxiety. Imogen also deals with self-harm, and it can be triggering if someone has been through self-harm themselves, but this topic was handled with such gravity and felt true and necessary to the character and story that I think it was absolutely appropriate to include.

I cannot thank Kelsey enough for writing a character suffering with psychological disorders like anxiety and depression so unabashedly realistically. Nothing about it was romanticized or shied away from. There wasn’t a moment where I felt that the illnesses were being looked down on or treated as anything less than physical ailment. I’ll admit that there were a few chapters toward the end of the book that had me bawling my eyes out because of how close to home they hit for me.

Now, on to some more lighthearted stuff… The play! I loved the level of detail and information we got surrounding the production of OUAM. I was once very involved in theater, and nearly in the same position as Imogen when my high school put on Once Upon a Mattress. That was me backstage (or up in the booth, or running around the dressing room) with a big headset on, mic pressed up to my mouth, finger on the button ready for cues...

(READ THE FULL REVIEW ON MY BLOG: http://www.erica.patchwork-press.com/...)
Profile Image for Imogene Dacanay.
138 reviews65 followers
June 11, 2016
4.5 Stars

Damsel Distressed has the most beautiful and promising dedication I've ever read

“We often try to hide the parts of ourselves that have been broken. We work so hard to make sure other people never see the bits that make us feel weak. This book is dedicated to those precious, fractured fragments, for teaching us to grow and hope and never, ever stop fighting.”

Reading the first line, I knew I was hooked.

I really like the character of Imogen, despite the fact that her name is only a letter different from mine, I can really connect myself to her. Like she's the one who's voicing my thoughts out, expressing my feelings. She felt so real. Similar to Imogen, I'm not fond of Disney princesses too. She always rant about Disney's Princesses. Though she's in pieces, she tries so hard to be strong. The only thing I hated about her is her callousness to her step mom and dad.

A Cinderella story, but Imogen's not very Cinderella like, she's more like the stepsister. Her mom died instead of father. New mom and stepsister moves in. It was 6 Decembers ago when her father decides to marry another woman. Imogen went hysterical of course she hasn't moved on yet, but she has to. Her dad fell in love, and I hate the fact that instead of being happy for her father, she went crazy about the new mother and sister thing. She started putting cuts on her arms, six cuts- one for each year since her mom died. Imogene is broken, and she thinks that she's beyond repair. Yes, I just typed my name. Like Gen, I have a sister (a real one though) and she's adored by everyone. Smart, gorgeous, she has the body I'm rooting for, she's talented. Everyone loves her. Whilst I'm the ignored one. Obviously, I'm insecure. And it pains me that I can see myself on Imogen. I used cut too. Anyway...

Reading Grant and Imogen moments, I felt really cozy. The two of them have been best friends since kindergarten. They're sweet and cute, with the right amount of romanticism. And THE SEXUAL TENSION OH GODS. Grant loves and accepts his best friend for who she is. He's always by her side even if Imo kept on pushing him away.

"I'll stay." He says.

The whole time I'm reading I kept on hoping that they'd just kiss already! You'll like them to bits. Imogen has friends whose always there to help her get through the day. They support her, they give her love.

“People should treat each other with kindness, but I’m not talking about them. You can’t fix them. I’m talking about you. You deserve better treatment from yourself.”

I'm glad Gen learned how to face her fears, accept her failures. That she confronted her weaknesses and all the things that were hurting her. She realized that in the loneliness of one's life, there's always light. I was practically tearing up while reading the character's exchange of apologies. Too heartfelt.

Kelsey Macke's writing skill is truly endearing. It wasn't deep or breathtaking, but loved the way her words were constructed nonetheless. I don't know, her style makes me feel comfortable. I really love it.

Though the book touched my heart, and though it's all about being broken and being whole, I'm still left in pieces despite of the lessons. This book is a really powerful one, provocative. This tells us about an individual's insecurities, jealousy, also one's demons. I just had a beautiful, yet emotional journey. I NEED MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS.

Btw, thanks to miss Macke, I now have a new mantra!

“I am whole. I am more than just the pieces that I see. I am so much stronger than I seem.”
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,526 reviews
October 26, 2014
Most of us grew up with stories of happily ever after, of good triumphing over evil. But in real life the beautiful girl isn't always the good, kind-hearted princess; and the plain girl isn't always the bitter, angry monster. Sometimes it's the other way around...

This is a retelling of...


Imogen Keegan has been depressed ever since her mother's death. It also doesn't help that her father is always away and leaves her in the care of her stepmother. Imogen drowns her sorrows away in containers of food and her secret journal.

She's fat and she knows it. She feels insecure about herself and her image, she pines away for her best friend who she thinks will never want her; and she hides her talent behind the sound booth instead of shining like the star that she is.

But despite of her insecurities, Imogen is genuinely a nice person. She is warm and kind. She is smart and talented. She writes poetry, doodles, and even sings. But Imogen is still filled with all-consuming sadness.

Then Imogen's stepsister Carmella shows up and drives her into more dark waters. Carmella renames herself as Ella for Cinderella. She's beautiful and popular and overflowing with confidence --- everything Imogen is not and wishes to be.

Carmella is a bully. She has a wicked tongue that spews venom and sends Imogen spiraling into self-disgust. But Imogen has loving friends and a loyal prince charming to defend her. Soon she is able to stand up for herself and love the person she is.

I fell in love with this story because even though it's a modern-day retelling of Cinderella, it's realistic and filled with raw emotion. I couldn't help but become frustrated with Imogen but I knew she couldn't help feeling insecure. I loved her journey even though she had to endure emotional turmoil. I also loved Grant's kindness and loyalty, he was there for her always. It kind of makes you wish you had a guy like that for yourself.

The writing was beautiful and I was in awe of the artistic drawings. However, I felt bad for Carmella. I know that she did despicable things but she was also experiencing pain of her own. Everyone has a story, even villains and I felt that Carmella used a facade to protect herself from her own sadness. I wanted her to be happy too.

Anyway, all in all this was a touching tale that pulled at my heartstrings. I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks inspiration.
Profile Image for Alex Toney.
42 reviews3 followers
October 21, 2014
Though its premise is one we've all seen before, Damsel Distressed manages to bring something fresh to the Evil Stepsister subgenre. This 'something' is probably the book's main character, the delightfully wry Imogen Keegan. Imogen is overweight, clinically depressed, and struggles with self-harm. And though my issues have been different than hers, I found myself relating to her in an unexpected way.

This is in part because the novel is told in compelling first person. Macke has a way with dialogue, and manages to toe the line between "witty and delightful" and "things teenagers might actually say." In a favorite habit of mine, Imogen refers to her therapist, George, as "Therapist George." She says this to his face.

The book has a few surprises, but most of the pleasure is in the execution. Imogen has a dream she does not think she can attain, a past she does not think she can escape, and a love interest she doesn't think she can win. She surprises herself, but her path is fraught with difficulty, a task Macke handles evenly and deftly. All in all, a very promising debut from a first time author. Plus, the book is sure to matter deeply to a whole generation of theater-loving, cheese-fry-eating young women . . . and to pretty much everyone else who reads it. Would recommend.

Profile Image for Meredith .
251 reviews146 followers
June 14, 2015
I'm kind of biased because I work for Spencer Hill Contemporary and I'm working directly on this book. But guys, this book was AMAZING. I cried so hard and so many times while reading it, I can't even begin to tell you. I felt like I could relate to Imogen on so many levels. If you haven't added it to your TBR, you should! If you love books with relatable characters and raw, honest emotions, then this is DEFINITELY a book you want to get your hands on!
Profile Image for Lisa (lifeinlit).
695 reviews460 followers
December 18, 2015

Can I just leave the review like that? Just read this book. Trust me. The end.

No? Okay… I will say more, even though I don’t think it’s truly necessary. ;)


Imogen is an extremely fragile teenager. She’s battling emotional issues (including depression, panic attacks, low self-esteem, etc.) that have left her with a less-than-stellar label at school of “emotionally disturbed”. With only her one friend, Grant, she is struggling to keep her head above water and not lose it completely. This year is starting off better though, as she meets new friends, is succeeding in therapy, and is keeping herself busy with theater at school. But this happiness doesn’t last long when she finds out that her father’s new wife and daughter, Imogen’s stepsiter Ella, will be coming to live with her.

Imogen is a character you can’t help but route for. She’s a total mess, and all I wanted to do was be her #1 cheerleader. I have a small understanding of emotional issues, but not to the extent that Imogen was facing them. Her inner demons were mind-blowing, and I just wanted her to find it within herself to stay strong and beat this thing. The secondary characters were equally impacting. Grant was one of the best friends I’ve ever seen in a story. If I had the choice of any book BFF I’ve read so far in my entire life, he would be in my top 5 for sure. I also appreciated the significance of all of the other characters, all playing such an important role in this story. From Brice and Jonathan all the way down to Ella, they each had such an important role in Imogen life; good or bad, happy or sad.

I’m having a difficult time expressing my love for this book without including spoilers. Anyone who knows me knows my hatred of spoilery reviews when it’s not stated. I love going into a book completely blind, and the fact that I did that exact thing for this book made it so important to me. So now I’m going to write a small spoilery paragraph or two just because there are things I want to express my love of, without ruining it for anyone that plans to read this book. (Which should be everyone because this book is THAT good!)

Damsel Distressed is simply amazing. It’s extremely difficult to read at times, but well worth it. I had to put it down a few times and compose myself because I was a complete mess, but I always went back to it with an open mind and open heart. I honestly learned quite a bit from this book, more than I ever thought possible. I can’t stress enough what a gem this book is. If it wasn’t for the cover that won my heart, I don’t know if I would have read this book. I tend to shy away from emotional disorder books like this, as they tear my heart apart. I’m so thankful that for whatever reason (totally the cover, seriously.) I chose to pick this one up. Before even finishing it I ordered myself a keeper copy. I knew I just HAD to have this beauty on my shelf.

This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. No, this book isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a fan of contemporaries with quite a few emotional elements, pass on this one. But if you want to be touched deeply, while learning a thing or two in the process, I would say pick up this book immediately. I think it will always have a special spot in my heart.

(Thanks to Spencer Hill Contemporary for the review copy!)

Find this review and others like it at Lost in Literature!


Profile Image for Leanne Crabtree.
Author 14 books82 followers
December 27, 2015
4.5 stars.

This book turned out quite nice. It's almost inspirational for the bigger girl (which I am). How Gen overcame all the struggles she'd faced in her life. I've been feeling all of her highs and lows with her because I think she's going through something we all face but hers has been harder with her finding it hard to deal with the death of her mother.

I could tell that there were feelings of more than friendship between Grant and Gen, and he was a really great friend to her, as were the rest of the group, even Andrew when we finally got to know him.

I also liked Evelyn, she tried her best to make Gen feel like part of the family after Gen's dad married her and she grew on me a lot throughout the story.

Admittedly I was only going to give it four stars but I think the amount of times I cried or nearly did means it got to me, so I bumped it up half a star.

A nice big-girl romance.
Profile Image for Mishma Nixon.
343 reviews67 followers
December 29, 2015
I knew that I am going to love Damsel Distressed even before I started it.I learned about this book from Hazel @ Stay Bookish.After reading her beautiful review for this Cinderella retelling,I knew I had to give this book a shot.Fortunately for me,I could borrow a copy from Nuz @ Say it With Books and thanks to both of them,I found my next new favourite book which ruined and left me drowning in feels and tears.

Damsel Distressed is the story of Imogen Keegan.A chubby,overweight,insecure girl who's battling depression and panic attacks.She lost her mother when she was really young,and her absent father remarries and along comes a ready made stepsister-gorgeous and completely evil.Her only escape is her passion for theatre-she is a sound techie-and her adorable best friend Grant,who she is in love with.

Imogen's story is painful,heartbreaking and it hit a really sensitive spot in me.I personally think that,in a way,every girl is insecure.But still,some of us,carry it around like a burden.As an obstacle.As a barrier to our confidence and happiness.As a wet blanket to our joy,relationships and success.And if you are a girl who feels like that,you'll definitely relate to Imogen's story.

I've always been an insecure girl. I've always felt like I am not pretty enough,not fair enough and not good enough.Often I've stood in front of the mirror and wished that I was prettier.And then there was the bullying.It's amazing how someone can bring down your self esteem and confidence in a few seconds.I was bullied a lot.Bullied for being a bespectacled,braces wearing,plain faced preteen.Bullied for being too smart.Plus I was also diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome-a neuropsychiatric disorder-when I was 11,automatically branding me as a "basket case."

Those times made me cry a lot. I've often felt like I don't want to live anymore.I was utterly miserable,sick and tired of life.
But one thing I am proud of,is that I never gave up.I just had some optimism inside me-which I clung to.
And now,at almost 17 year old,I've matured quite a lot.I can't say I've totally overcome my insecurity-I still am hugely insecure,at least appearance wise.But with the other things,I've come through a lot.So when I read this book,where Imogen went through each and every single agony I went through in my own life,I couldn't help but break down and cry for myself,Imogen and all the other girls in the world,who feel like that.

Imogen is a beautiful character.Throughout the book,I wanted to hug her tightly and say that she is not alone.I could understand every single feeling of hers.Kelsey Macke has portrayed her as a personification of insecurity.Because with insecurity,comes low self esteem,bitterness,hatred and lots and lots of jealousy.She struggled through everything,and by the end of the book,I was shedding happy tears for her,thinking how proud of her I was.

All the characters beside her were wonderful as well.Grant,Imogen's love interest and best friend was basically her rock.He was a shoulder to lean onto and a great support,and I loved him for that.He was there whenever Imogen needed him.I loved his geekiness,cute t shirts,love for Imogen and for being a wonderful best friend.Though I was really happy for them that they ended up together,truth to be told,I actually loved their friendship more.It was truly beautiful.

The rest of the characters,Brice,Jonathan,Antonique were all great people as well.And then there was Imogen's father,who was not an ideal father,but he was there when she really needed him.Imogen's stepmother,who ended up being a great person in the end.And finally even Carmella-who was evil,yet quite vulnerable in a way herself.

Damsel Dsitressed deals with emotions in a beautiful way.Even if you don't break down in every five minutes like me while reading the book,I guarantee that you'll feel touched and will be moved.It's impossible not to feel a deep connection to Imogen and her story.Kelsey Macke presents raw,powerful and intense emotions in the book,and it will definitely drown you in feels.

On a side note,I also want to mention the companion soundtrack.The author's band-Wedding Day Rain-has composed a playlist of songs,titled Imogen Unlocked.Those songs are beautiful,and will bring back the feels that the words of the book brought you.

In the end,the only thins I can say is go read the book!Damsel Distressed is a beautiful book with intense emotions and painful feels.The book stresses on how insecurity can destroy someone totally.Furthermore,it says that though life is clearly not a fairytale,we can make it one.We have the power to design our lives,no one else.
Damsel Distressed is a must read,and I'll recommend it to anyone,especially those who love angst filled,,emotional contemporary tearjerkers.

P.S-Sorry for dumping my own personal grief story on you guys.
But,I am not going to lie,it felt really good to let it all out.
Profile Image for Nicole M. Hewitt.
1,419 reviews283 followers
June 9, 2015
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

I don't know how this book didn't get more buzz when it came out. (Maybe I missed it? Did I miss it? Because it totally deserves buzz!) But I am incredibly glad that I found it!

The synopsis describes the book well, but it makes the book sound much lighter than it really is. This is not an easy read. At all. But I loved it! The book follows Imogen, who has suffered from depression since her mother died when she was a child. She finds some solace in being a techie for her school's theatre productions and in her best friend (and crush), Grant, who has stood beside her through all of her darkest moments.

What I loved:

A realistic depiction of depression.
Even after reading Mishma's review, I still for some reason thought that this would be a lighter read. Maybe just the whole fairy tale reference thing made it seem like the book wasn't going to take itself too seriously. Well, that was completely untrue. This book was a completely realistic and sometimes dark look at depression. Imogen has some serious mental health issues because of her mother's death and her own insecurities. She often spirals into utter depression and can't pull herself out, no matter how much she wants to. She also struggles with cutting. Reading from her perspective was sometimes hard because Imogen is definitely a flawed main character. Not only is she incredibly hard on herself, she's bitter about the people around her because she has been bullied and because she sometimes just takes her own insecurities out on other people (at least in her own mind and in her journal - she isn't outright mean to people). Imogen feels broken and she doesn't know that she can be fixed. She knows that her feelings are wrong and sometimes irrational, but she can't change them. I found this to be incredibly realistic. The fact is that depression is an illness, and you can't simply tell yourself to cheer up and snap out of it. It doesn't work that way. And, while Imogen's friends help her through her pain, the mere presence of people who love her doesn't cure her depression. The book is hopeful, but realistic in leaving the reader with the knowledge that Imogen most likely will still fall victim to depression again, but that she has a support system and will be able to get through it!

I had no idea I would cry so much when I read this book. I cried. A lot.

Grant is pretty much the perfect best friend for Imogen, and you can completely see why she's in love with him. Not only has he supported her through thick and thin, he is sweet and funny, and Imogen is lighter and funnier when she's with him because she feels like she can be herself when he's around. When Grant is in the story with Imogen, the book lives up to that cute, sweet feeling that you get in the blurb, and it's a great balance to the darker parts of the book. Grant is also nerdy, but in a totally adorable way (LOVE his sciency shirts!). And Imogen's other friends are awesome too!

Body image.
One of Imogen's main areas of insecurity is her body image. She weighs 200 pounds at five feet tall and she thinks about her size A LOT. I loved that Imogen did realize by the end of the book that she could look pretty and that size isn't the only factor in beauty!


Some people might have a hard time reading Imogen's perspective because it is really sad and dark sometimes. She gets down on herself constantly and she has some really negative thoughts about other people sometimes too. By the time we see her in a depressed episode, we kind of want to shake her and tell her to see the people who care about her around her. But that's kind of the point. The fact is that these people who love her can't fix her, she has to find ways to come to terms with life and help herself. So, it's hard, but realistic.

I honestly don't know why this book hasn't gotten more attention with the current trend of YA books that address mental health issues, but I highly recommend it. If you're ready for an honest and sometimes heartbreaking look at adolescence and depression, then you need to read this book! I give it an enthusiastic 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Pili.
1,164 reviews216 followers
October 9, 2014
This is one amazing and powerful book. If you've ever felt sad and had any insecurities, you will feel connected with Imogen in one way or another and will feel like her pain is your pain.

I am not clinically depressed and I have not Imogen's issues but I have dealt with insecurities before and even if I'm much better know, there's always a lil something in the back of my head, and now dealing with the emotional distress of a massive heartbreak... Reading this book has meant a lot of anxiety flaring for myself too because I was connecting so much with Imogen, but has also meant a lot of warmth and happiness as I saw every little bit of improvement.

Imogen has been fighting depression since her mother's death, seven years ago, and she was spiraling down to clinical depression for a long time, but things have been getting a little better as of late, getting out of the darkest part of her dark hole, but then a new change comes into her life, only with not the best of intentions.

Gen has a stepmother that has very good intentions and tries to help, but it's still an awkward situation for Imogen since she feels like she's a burden for someone without a real obligation towards her, a father that has written a book about living with grief (about Gen's mother) and is more out of the house than in because of promotion and the new addition, Carmella or Ella, the stepsister.

Seems like the stepsisters situation will be once again like the usual ones in the fairy tales, the beautiful one gets the prince and the ugly stepsister gets nothing. And Gen feels like the ugly and worthless stepsister way too often without Ella helping pushing her down with a vengeance. But Gen is not alone, she has friends and she has Grant, her best friend since childhood, the one that has seen all the worst and the best that she has, and the one that keeps on trying to help her out her dark places.

Gen's journey is a very slow and dark one and with her anxiety and her sadness and self-deprecation and self-doubts. She's her worst enemy and her journey to discovering that and to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel is a tough one to read, but it is never without hope and that's a wonderful message to take from this book, mental illness is a real illness, it's not something you can simply "snap out of it" but with time and the right help and people around you that love you, you can find hope again and you try and go towards the light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Very well deserved 4.5 stars to this one, a wonderful and powerful debut. The ARC didn't have all the enhanced artwork and music that the final book will have, and I am very much looking forward to get my hands on a finished copy!
Profile Image for Kim.
2,435 reviews380 followers
November 19, 2014
Find this review and more at kimberlyfaye reads .

I loved this book SO VERY HARD. I was intrigued by the idea of it from the very first minute I saw the cover and read the synopsis. Initially I thought it would be a simple retelling of Cinderella, but it's not. Sure the basics are there, but this book is so much more.

Everyone wants to see a little bit of themselves in the characters in the books they read. While I can't say I completely related to Imogen, I definitely felt like I understood her and, at times, she reminded me of myself. Imogen is insecure in the way that only girls who have struggled with their weight will understand. Her insecurity and issues have reached an extreme though. Most of the time it feels like the only person on her side is her best friend Grant. Grant, who she is in love with and believes will never see her as more than a friend.

All of Imogen's insecurities are magnified when her father remarries and her evil stepsister, Ella, moves in. You wanna talk about a seriously unlikable character? Ella is that. It's been a long time since I wanted to bitch-slap a character like I wanted to Ella. She was manipulative and bullied Imogen. She tried to steal the one person who means more to Imogen than anyone else in her life. It's here I have to give HUGE props to Kelsey for not taking the story down the road I feared it would go. I think had Grant fallen for Ella's charms and this turned into THAT book, I would have thrown it aside because that story has been done to death. Grant was too smart to fall for Ella's manipulations and that just made me love him even more. Grant really is the swooniest of all swoony book boys. Anyone know where I can find a guy like this (albeit quite a bit older) for myself?

Even with the bullying Imogen was suffering at Ella's hands, there were so many beautiful and wonderful moments in this book. They're mostly between Grant and Imogen and, if I'm completely honest, I was all kinds of emotional reading several of these scenes. There are times when my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest, and others when it swelled so much I feared it would explode. I loved reading along as Imogen found her place and way in the world. I finished the book with a giant smile on my face and a tear in my eye.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for ReadWriteLove28.
257 reviews87 followers
February 19, 2016
Let me start off by saying that I loved the premise of this book before I even started reading it. Damsel Distressed incorporates a completely different twist on the average Cinderella tale and I knew that the book was going to be either a big hit or a total miss. Seeing as I did not enjoy the last fairy tale adaptation that I read, I was hoping for a hit.

To my delight, I thoroughly enjoyed Damsel Distressed. The main character, Imogen, is not a poor girl who has to do all of the chores in the household, nor a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly. Instead, she is an overweight high school girl with depression. Carmella, the Cinderella character in this story, is actually drop dead gorgeous, while also being a complete and utter b*tch. Yes, you read that correct. The Cinderella character in this book is actually the antagonist. How is that for a twist?

Throughout the book Imogen’s depression flairs up and down triggered by Carmella’s tormenting. Most books try to keep the protagonist’s story light and easy, but Kelsey Macke decided to switch it up. I liked the fact that Imogen isn’t the normal Cinderella or stepsister character. Instead, she is someone completely different than I’ve previously seen in a YA book. Imogen definitely has more struggles than the average character, and I viewed her as the underdog. Whenever I sense an underdog, I always feel more empathetic towards the characters, which allows me to be pulled into the story even more than I already am. All of the struggles that each character went through allowed me to fall more and more in love with the story. After all, everyone has to overcome obstacles in their lives; that is what makes us human. The author appears to have hidden that message in the novel.

Profile Image for MJ.
635 reviews15 followers
January 8, 2015
I am whole. I am more than just the pieces that I see. I am much stronger than I seem.

A lot of people loved this and I was excited to read about this. I love retellings especially if it's about the perspective of the antagonist of a fairytale. I thought this book is just like that and I was very wrong. But the premise is great nonetheless and the writing style is very smooth.

The problem is, Imogen, the main character isn't someone I agree with. I disagree with everything the character spouts. I find Imogen self-centered and selfish, she expects anyone to understand her because she has anxiety disorder or obesity or something. I couldn't find anything that I like about her. But thank goodness for the supporting characters, they're a delight to read.

It was slow paced and it was like a cycle of good-bad-good-bad. I want to love this but I just can't.
Profile Image for Dan Jr..
Author 2 books11 followers
August 30, 2015
I'm so wrapped up in Kelsey Macke's novel that, out of left field on page 262, I've got to choke back the tears. And I say left field because the only books or movies that make me cry are "Field of Dreams" and "The Natural." (Baseball movies and short stories from a distant time.) Imogen is a wonderful lead for the book, and Macke surrounds her with a cast of distinctive characters. Makes me wish that I'd tried theater in high school instead of opting for one of the silent Three Wise Men in a Christmas pageant.

Kelsey Macke can flat out write. She evokes wonderful images and grabs emotions out of the pit of your stomach. Macke also knows how to craft a read that pulls you through from start to finish. I'm looking forward to more Macke works.
Profile Image for Jen Malone.
Author 18 books517 followers
July 19, 2014
This is not the least bit didactic BUT it does have a beautiful message about learning self-acceptance, though Imogen goes through the ringer to get there. Her voice is smart and sarcastic and, even with the barriers she puts in her own way, she's very easy to root for. The side characters who form Imogen's support team were my favorite, and special props go to love interest Grant for being 100% dreamy 100% of the time!
Profile Image for Jen Bojkov.
1,037 reviews14 followers
August 22, 2014
Just finished this book. Loved, loved, loved it! Imogen has earned a place beside some my other favorite flawed, but interesting literary characters. Kelsey Macke does a wonderful job of creating a young woman with an authentic voice- I believed Imogene was real as I was reading. That's the gold standards for me. This book and accompanying album will be released in October. Go buy it. Please. You'll be happy you did.
Profile Image for Charley Cook.
137 reviews709 followers
December 14, 2014
A reverse fairytale retelling with a plus size moody theatre geek? HELLS YES!
Profile Image for Jacqueline Smith.
Author 30 books287 followers
January 23, 2018
This is not an easy book to read, and when I say that, I say it with the highest esteem.
Imogen Keegan is something of a wreck. Ever since her mother's sudden death, she's battled depression, weight issues, and thoughts of self-harm. Now her father has remarried and her gorgeous, evil stepsister is moving into the room next door.
Damsel Distressed is a beautifully written, deeply moving, and profoundly real debut novel. And that's why I say it wasn't easy to read. Because Kelsey Macke has created a character that is so flawed, so real, and so recognizable. I have good friends who have battled depression for years and I saw so many of their experiences and heard so many of their words in Imogen's story. Most of the time, I found myself rooting for Imogen, imploring her to keep going. But there were those moments that took me right back to the darker times. Depression doesn't just affect those who've been diagnosed with it. It impacts the lives of friends and family, too. It's sad and it's scary and it can be hurtful. Devastatingly so. And Ms. Macke conveys that beautifully.
I look forward to reading more from this talented author in the future.
Oh yeah, and this book actually comes with its own soundtrack! That the author and her husband wrote and performed! How amazing is that?!
Profile Image for Beverly.
243 reviews52 followers
September 25, 2014
Many thanks to both publisher and author who provided this book free of charge for an honest review.

Fairytales need happy endings, but what happens when you take a closer look at the supporting characters and dig deeper into their stories? Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke takes a contemporary look on the tale of Cinderella from the eyes of the 'ugly' stepsister. Enter Imogen, a junior in high school struggling with a whole batch of problems ranging from depression to struggling with self-harm. Despite this, Imogen on her good days faces the world with self-deprecating sarcasm and staying out of the way of her new step-sister Carmella Cinder.
Overall I was very impressed with the way that Macke took on the role of a contemporary 'Cinderella' retelling. While the evidence and joke was there, (the characters even acknowledged that oh hey, Ella Cinder, stepsister, stepmother probably a thing) it was much more concentrated on the character of Imogen and her own story without the plot of Cinderella ever having to hinder this story.
Probably the strongest point for this book was the eerily accurate telling and portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks. Imogen struggles with a lot through this book and she doesn't always do so gracefully. I have a feeling that if I had read this book earlier than I would have accepted the fact that I myself have anxiety a lot sooner. I think this is a huge step forward in helping young women and readers wrap their brains around something that affects millions of people in an honest way.
I felt that the pacing could have been a bit different. The many different highs and lows worked on one level, due to the fact that it is exactly how people who suffer from depression and anxiety go through life, but some shuffling of the highs and lows would have made it a bit smoother I think. I also would have liked to see other characters fleshed out, perhaps even more of a look into Carmella so that in the end, when Imogen finally realizes what is up with her it would hit a more resounding note. All of these things minor and personal preference really that are easily tossed aside.
An interesting note was that a lot of the humor of this book was Imogen's own self-deprecating thoughts about herself. From her struggles with weight gain to her lack of self esteem is something that made me think twice about laughing. Sure I can relate to the struggle of putting on shorts that are just to small, but when Imogen was confronted with other hurtful barbs from other characters she minded, and yet constantly threw them at herself. It's difficult to explain for me but it gave me a lot of food for thought.
I would definitely recommend this book to those struggling with anxiety and depression, and will probably most definitely refer back to it and it's descriptions of panic attacks and what it feels like to be constantly be bogged down with anxiety to show others. It was good to see a book from that point of view and to realize that there are more people who struggle with the same daily mental battles.
Very glad to have Kelsey as a friend and now an author from which I look forward to reading more from! YOU GO GIRL
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