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To Best the Boys

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The task is simple: don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.

In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

Welcome to the Labyrinth.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2019

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About the author

Mary Weber

11 books1,527 followers
Hi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I'm also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. {We can chat about life (in sweatpants over tea, obviously) in my Newsletter.

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 1,463 reviews
Profile Image for Mary Weber.
Author 11 books1,527 followers
December 15, 2018
I clicked "Read" on my Goodreads bar and it promptly nudged me to (1) rate my own book, and (2) answer the question, "What did you think?"

Well... to the first part - I won't rate it other than to say...you know, my mom and I kind of like it.

To the second -
What I think is that I wrote To Best the Boys for the girl I've been and still often am. I wrote it for the daughters I have who've lived so much of this book, and for my sister who recently returned to school and earned a bio-chem degree. I wrote it for our mom who's struggled with dyslexia her entire life and is one of the most successful women I know. I wrote it for every girl who's been told to quiet down, calm down, sit down, or has been intimidated by another because they could not handle her strength. I wrote it to honor those who've had to break a mold just to get places and be heard. I also wrote it to honor the heart of my 12-year-old son who understands what it is to be a good, good man.

And I wrote it for certain other dear family members and friends. Author note: You’ll notice a variety of individuals, families, and situations represented in To Best the Boys, particularly some reflecting learning struggles and different needs. These (Rhen, Ben, and Lute's family specifically) are based upon specific loved ones within my own family and close friends, and it was their desire and mine to represent them accurately and with honor in this novel. For this reason, they were given absolute control over their word choices, scenarios, and representation within To Best the Boys (and in this note) and final say on its finished version. However, we are aware that not everyone agrees on language, word preferences, or portrayal. With that in mind, if anything rings as inaccurate, hurtful, or insensitive to you, please accept our very deepest apologies. Our hope is to honor the beautiful people and stories in this world. And in doing so, we hope we’ve honored you, dear reader.

Humbly, ~m

(and since some have asked, the preorder gift info is here)
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,954 followers
March 31, 2019
March Fairyloot Book Of The Month. Click on link below the picture to see the wonderful goodies!


Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a hardback of this book!

Partial quote from the author:

For the girl who’s been told to quiet down, calm down, sit down, or just leave it to the men-this is for you. And to those who told you such things? Watch. Us. Rise.

I feel like this will be an inspiration to young girls. The book will show them they don't need a man to make it in life and to think for themselves.

Rhen wants to be a scientist and she creeps around the town collecting "things" to try to find a cure for a disease that is killing people. Some of her loved ones have the disease. Rhen and her father both want to find a cure.

Meanwhile, Rhen and her cousin Seleni enter a maze that is supposedly for only boys. It doesn't specifically say that in the invitation so there is that. The two girls and boys go up against each other in the maze and there are some deaths.

But in the end will get to see Rhen make life choices that include a boy but not primarily a boy. She's going to do HER thing.

I liked the book well enough, I just felt there was bit lacking in the maze department and a few other things that kept me from giving this more than 3 starts.




Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
July 14, 2019
hm. there is a solid foundation present within this story, with really creative ideas, but it isnt developed as well as it could be. in other words, this isnt bad but it could be better.

strong feminist vibes and women empowerment are very present themes in the story, but its a little too overpowering. every word and action by rhen is basically to prove men wrong. i get it, i think it will inspire the target audience of this story, but it was just a bit much for me and took too much attention away from the plot.

there is a really unique urban fantasy atmosphere filled with ghouls and sirens, but the world building is lacking. there is a really odd shift between quite formal language and modern terms/phrases, which confused me in terms of figuring out the time period of the story. and there really isnt any sort of background on why the world is the way it is.

the way to win a scholarship to uni is by being the winner of the competition, which is a maze. fun, right? except the competition itself is only a couple chapters long. the book blurb makes it seem like its the focus of the story, when its actually not. i was very underwhelmed with it.

there is also a really interesting side plot regarding a disease that affects rhens mom. its the main motivation for her to enter the competition, but its not really resolved. other than discovering the origins of the disease, its seems like an abandoned idea towards the end. a bit odd.

so while there are a lot of really great individual elements to the story, it missed the mark by not developing into the fully cohesive story it could have been.

3 stars
Profile Image for Ivana - Diary of Difference.
567 reviews731 followers
July 9, 2022
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I love Mary Weber as much as her food recipes she shares with us every single month! I don’t usually decide whether to read a certain book by its cover, but this cover made me want to find out more about it. When I read the synopsis, I had to read it, as it captures women fighting for their rights in a young-adult format, and it simply was something I couldn’t miss.

I will be honest with you and say that this book didn’t deliver. Maybe it was my expectations, after all, that got me too excited for my own good.

Let’s start with Rhen. She is a girl that loves science, and her father has taught her everything he knows. They are poor family and don’t have all the equipment in the world, but that doesn’t stop them to keep discovering and learning every day. In their kingdom, an unknown disease comes around, and Rhen’s mum is ill, with no cure yet. Rhen wants desperately to find a cure, and a rich boy wanting to marry her might promise her all the equipment she needs, but now it’s time that she lacks.

When the men’s annual tournament is about to begin, with boys fighting for the science scholarship, Rhen knows that she has no choice but to enter, disguised as a boy, and try to win this – for her, for her dad, and most importantly, for her mum.

The book flows really slowly. We get to about half of the book when Rhen decides to enter the tournament. I expected this to happen in the first couple of chapters, and to then have the adventure from within the labyrinth. For me, it was quite a slow beginning, but some of you might enjoy that. The writing is beautiful throughout.

I loved the fighter within Rhen. She is a fierce person, determined to fight for what she wants. Even though throughout the book she has trouble with realising what is it that she really wants, we can see a bit of character development in her.

As a book that is supposed to cover gender equality, and women fighting for the same rights as men, this book didn’t really deliver. The letter states that every gentleperson – not gentleman. Which means, that inequality never truly exists at all. Women could have entered this competition, but they just chose not to.

The whole competition, the labyrinth and the scholarship lacks details and has enormous loopholes: one scholarship is given to one person – the one that wins the labyrinth. And after the winner is chosen, we have a scene where they all take a test, including the winner?

The disguise was a huge and important part of this book, as Rhen and her friend are pretending to be boys. Rhen cuts her hair, and her friend just pins it and ties it with a hat. They both wear boy clothes and barely remember to lower their voices. And that is all they do to not get recognised. And somehow, the people that know them their whole life fail to recognise them. A bit unbelievable…

I wish I loved this book, because I truly fell in love with the cover and the synopsis. But the whole labyrinth set-up seemed to be a side-story, with the illness being the main story, and the realisation of what Rhen actually wants to achieve. Random characters were introduced, that didn’t drive the story one bit, and the author also happened to throw in an inconsistent romance and a love triangle.

I hate to say this, but the book seems like an unfinished draft. It seemed so promising, and all I thought I would get out of this was non-existent.

I am not sure if I would want to recommend this book to you guys. If you want to give it a try, I encourage you, and would love to talk about it and hear what you think, but if you are here because you loved the synopsis, this book will probably not satisfy you.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Netgalley, for giving me a complimentary ARC e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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March 29, 2020
One of my favorites so far this year!

Fascinating tale of feminism in a world where women are not yet able to do anything but get married off In hopes of bettering their position in society. The heroine Rhen has been homeschooled by her father who was of a lower class than her mother’s family. When her mother married him she was disowned from the family.

Rhen wants to be a scientist like her father and wants to cure a plague like disease that is running rampant through the lower classes. Her mother is dying of the disease end her and her father are working to find a cure, but don’t have the tools or supplies needed to really study the disease and the uppers don’t care about it since they believe it only exists because the lowers are unsanitary.

Every year a tournament is held for a full ride scholarship to the university but it is only for males. They have to make it through a magical labyrinth first and without getting magically thrown out of the maze, eaten by the ghouls and creatures or killed in any of the traps. It is an extremely adventurous and thrilling book.

Meanwhile Rhen has a rich suiter, Vincent, whom she doesn’t really like but seems to be pushing her into becoming his. He is also the upper that her parents would like her to be with. Rhen also has extended family who have helped her out despite disowning her mother. However, Rhen has a crush on a fisherman named Lute who is a lower.

In a way it is a mix between the hunger games and some of the tournaments in the Harry Potter books. Either way, I loved it. I was enthralled throughout and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. There were so many dynamic characters in the story and some very unexpected plot twists that made the book one of my favorites this year. It was nice to see such a strong female character amongst the males!

Profile Image for Carrie.
3,230 reviews1,565 followers
January 15, 2019
To Best the Boys by Mary Weber is a young adult fantasy that I couldn’t help but think was a bit like taking The Handmaid’s Tale and mixing with The Hunger Games. This is a lighter read than either mentioned but it does take place in a male dominated society which runs an annual competition.

Rhen Tellur is unlike other girls her own age who only train to run a household and please a husband. Rhen instead is out surveying corpses and trying to come up with a cure to her mother’s disease working alongside her father in his laboratory wanting nothing more than to become a scientist herself.

Every year the citizens receive an invitation for all teenage boys to come compete to win a scholarship to the all male university. The labyrinth is by no means easy to complete and not all entering will make it out but Rhen decides that she needs to do whatever she can to change her own future and win that scholarship so dressing as a boy along with her cousin Rhen enters this year’s competition.

The world building in this one with the treatment of women in the society could really remind you of any time in history that has women barefoot and pregnant and off in the kitchen. Heck what am I saying? There are still areas and women treated as less than in today’s world so as far as that goes it gave it a realistic feel. Rhen then became that voice in the crowd that refuses to be treated as less and stands up for what she wants in an interesting fantasy story way by competing in the male tournament. There was plenty of action and adventure to the story to keep the pages turning and you can’t help but root for Rhen “to best the boys”!

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Nicki Chapelway.
Author 29 books253 followers
May 3, 2019
Kind of was expecting a cliffhanger because, well, this is Mary Weber after all. I guess this was a standalone, which is somewhat disappointing because I would have loved to have spent more time in this world.

Rhen, Seleni, Lute, Beryll, Sam and Eric <3 <3 <3 <3 I loved these crazy kids more than I can say.

And I am so appreciative of this portrayal of strong females. They don't all have to kick bums or sass every nearby males. They can take care of their family and have different dreams. Whether it be to get a higher education or start a family. And I love how this books showed that these dreams are equally important.

And also the labyrinth. Meep.

Needless to say, I loved it.
Profile Image for mary liz.
213 reviews18 followers
June 5, 2019
Well then.

I didn't hate it, but that's the most glowing praise you'll get out of me.

Two stars feels slightly harsh, but three stars feels too generous . . . *scratches head* Times like these make me wish Goodreads had half stars, but c'est la vie.


-The cover. The way the letters loop around the maze and the gorgeous greenery everywhere?? Yeah. I'm digging that cover.

-A YA BOOK WITH SUPPORTIVE PARENTS. Ladies and gentleman, you heard that correctly. This is indeed a rare specimen. It's not often I read YA books with parents, much less supportive and loving ones with whom the protagonist shares a close relationship. This was one of my favorite parts of the book. Rhen's parents never stop encouraging her to pursue her dreams and challenge the status quo. I especially loved her Da, who Rhen worked with in their in-home laboratory. Alllllll the kudos to the author for wonderful parental relationships.

-The whole science/uni focus. I'm not a science girl--like, at all--but I really appreciated seeing a character who loved science and was education-focused. We need more stories with girls (and guys) who actually want to get a higher education and love learning.

-Seleni. She was probably my favorite character in this book. To be honest, I feel kind of "meh" about the characters in this book as a whole. However, I loved that Seleni unashamedly loved her long hair and fancy dresses and wanted a family of her own . . . but she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty and fight for what she believed in. She was a strong female character who was still feminine. I really appreciated that Mary showed there's more than "one type" of strong female character. WE SUPPORT.

D I S L I K E S:

-The writing style. Ehhhhhhhhhhhh. I really disliked the writing style in Storm Stiren, so I didn't expect it to be different here. Her writing style is pretty clunky and awkward. Sometimes I have to reread sentences for them to make sense. Most of the writing consists of run-ons, sentences with an excessive amount of prepositional phrases, or cliche/boring descriptions. I don't know. I'm not trying to be critical, but her writing just isn't My Thing. It feels very unpolished and awkward. (Plus, I came across several grammatical and syntactical errors. I know it's impossible to avoid, but it was more frequent than I would have liked.)

-The setting. Mary Weber does an . . . interesting job at worldbuilding. Her worlds always feel so random and unnecessarily weird. I never got a good sense for what the world was like other than the fact that it had a lot of dead bodies/ghouls/creepy sirens. IT WAS WEIRD, GUYS. I just felt really weirded out by the setting. It didn't seem like she really thought through her worldbuilding that well. She just came up with a bunch of odd creatures and dumped them in a random setting. #notafan

-The labyrinth. Speaking of weird . . . *cough* The labyrinth was really bizarre. Reading about it was such a disorienting, unsettling sensation. It wasn't actually a maze but a bunch of mind-games and anticlimactic tests. This whole book felt like a wild, trippy experience & the labyrinth just emphasized how W E I RD the whole setting was. To be clear, I don't mind weird things; there just has to be a method to the madness. In the case of To Best the Boys, there were no rules to the world. It was all very undefined. I never really understood what the world was supposed to look and feel like. It just left me confused and Very Disturbed.

-aLl ThE dEaD boDiEs. NO THANK YOU. The first chapter should have been a warning to me. I honestly felt sickened by all the corpses, blood, and nasty dead things that were described in length. It felt superfluous. Like yeah, I get it - Rhen does a lot of experiments. But her interest in dead things borders on morbid. I got a really "icky" feeling. and legitimately almost stopped reading because of the excessive discussion of bodily fluids, exploding corpses, etc. Not to mention, she actually flirts with people by talking about corpses. I don't know whether to laugh, cringe, or gag . . .

-The romance. It felt so awkward but not in a cute way. Rhen kept thinking about Lute's pursed, anatomically perfect lips (gross) and the kiss scenes made me put the book down. I don't know why, but the romance between them made me Uncomfy. It had a good amount of teenage angst, and I'm not here for that.

-Everything was just "meh." The dialogue felt forced, the writing was awkward, the setting was odd, the characters (mostly) felt bland, the plot didn't get underway until halfway in the book, etc. I feel rather "meh" about the whole book. I didn't hate it, but the only feelings it really generated in me were confusion & boredom & disgust. Nothing wowed me; it's just overall forgettable.

Like I said, it wasn't the worst book ever. It was just kind of a waste of time. I highly doubt I'll be reading more of Mary Weber's books in the future because, sadly, she just isn't for me. :)

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Katie.dorny.
1,016 reviews529 followers
September 1, 2019
This was okay but it didn’t blow me away the way I expected it to. My first big disappointment of 2019.

I did enjoy the characters of Rhen, her Da, Seleni and Lute. And I did the hate the characters I was supposed to, but it just didn’t pack a knockout blow.

It reminded me slightly of Caraval, actually a LOT of Caraval. It just seemed to have a slight feminist twist on it.

I did also enjoy the romance, but it was just so obvious that it didn’t overly affect me either way.

This was good, but with a lot of these type of books coming out in the wake of magical realism’s popularity it didn’t transport me the way I wanted.
Profile Image for Mara YA Mood Reader.
342 reviews268 followers
November 30, 2019
2 stars. Did I read the same book as everyone else? I’ve never read anything by this author before so perhaps I don’t have a loyal disposition to her—which I totally get and that’s fine but this felt like it was rushed through editing.

There were a lot of inconsistencies that I am shocked slipped past editing. Things like describing the sweltering heat, but they’re wearing coats and then swimming in the warm sea, but then all the sudden it’s cold and someone’s shivering and standing by the fire for warmth??

Or in one paragraph going from a character description of his “ocean-deep eyes” to his “torrid-grey graze”. So...are they gray or blue? Is “ocean-deep” blue or black-blue or maybe gray-blue....??????

And my biggest hang up was the dialogue disaster: it’s a mashup of Victorian, Northern England/Irish?, modern day American and American slang.

I was sooooo confused. And completely turned off. You can’t from formal speech to “hang on” and “hey, bud”; sounding completely British in one sentence and American in the next.

No no no no no.

Then I didn’t understand the whole scholarship competition at all. Especially why all the “uppers”, the snobby richie-riches, would even bother to have their precious sons compete in such a dangerous game for a scholarship. Why would these rich kids even need a scholarship? Richies would be too arrogant for that!

And it’s not clear as to why everyone even needs to do this ridiculous game for a scholarship when everyone at the end took the entrance exam anyway??? It made the entirety of the plot insignificant and pointless?

This really had potential though. The beginning gave me Stalking Jake the Ripper vibes and later a dash of Charley and the Chocolate Factory with a sprinkle of Harry Potter. And my favorite scenes were the introductions of the antagonists but it all went downhill for me after that.
Profile Image for Maddy.
114 reviews99 followers
March 20, 2019
Oh my goodness, THIS BOOK. I had high expectations for this story and it completely lived up to them. This book is literally amazing and definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. Yep, it was that good.

To Best the Boys follows a character named Rhen. Wanting to be able to get a higher education, she disguises herself as a boy and enters an all male contest in a maze, hoping that she’ll win the scholarship. If that’s not the coolest story line I don’t know what is. ;)

The first 100+ pages are on the day before the maze, and while I loved that part and thought it was interesting, I was ready for them to get in the maze. XD That’s the only part that I wouldn’t mind if it got changed some, but the rest was literally perfect. Once they got to the maze though, WOW. It was just so good. Rhen and her cousin ( who also disguised herself and went in the maze ) ended up with a group with guys they knew. Some from lower levels of society and some from higher. I thought the group that the book focuses on in the maze was perfect because you have the lower and higher society guys ( some who are at odds with each other ) and then Rhen and her cousin. All the guys in the group that the girls end up in are guys they know / hang out with, but the boys have no idea it’s the two girls. The maze was really cool with how it was done, and then having the group of friends / enemies + the disguised girls made it so interesting.

I loved this book so much and read it every chance I got. It’s full of twists and turns and leaves you in suspense until the very end. It was just so amazing and I loved every second of it!

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange of my honest review. All thought are my own.*
Profile Image for Maya.
858 reviews443 followers
November 13, 2018
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Got to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by this book. It was quite good actually and I really liked the heroine, Rhen and the whole concept of the story. When I first read the blurb my first though was that the story was going to be something similar to The Hunger Games and there was some resemblance to it, with the game and the oppression, but not as much as I thought it would be. In the end that was a huge plus, since otherwise I think the plot would be a bit boring to read.
Aside from that the plot is much more focused on Rhen, her mother's sickness and how to find a cure to save her. In the end the only hope for Rhen to save her mother is by breaking tradition and entering a game to win a scholarship that would later on give her the means to create said cure.

The romance aspect of the story was all right, but to me it didn't feel like it was the center of the story. Which made the story better for me, as a reader. Lute was a cute character and I really grew to like him, sadly I can't say the same for Vincent. Now, he was just a terrible boy and he deserved everything that came his way. Beside those two I also was quite fond of Rhen's counsin, Seleni and Mr. Holm. To me, Seleni felt like Rhen's other half. Both go though thick and thin together, no matter the consequences. I really loved that. They were more like real sisters than cousins. And as for Mr. Holm, let's just say that there is more to this character than meets the eye. This character brings all the elements of magic with him.

Last but not least, is my favourite character and that obviously has to be Rhen. She was such a strong yet gentle character that one couldn't help but fall in love with. Her mind preceded her time and it was so great to see a girl in those times breaking the norm. She stood up for herself and her loved ones and if she had to break a few rules, so be it. You could say she was the black sheep of the society and she was at the same time also, at least for me, the beginning of a new era where woman's rights would exist and be heard.

All in all, this is a great story with strong characters and a great plot. It's also a quick read, so why not give it a chance...
Profile Image for Anja H..
760 reviews459 followers
June 13, 2019

“You take this world and make it what it should be."

I hate to say this, but I’m feeling incredibly underwhelmed right now.
The premise really spoke to me. You know, girl power and all that. I was pretty sure this was going to be one of my favorite reads this year, as the Labyrinth/maze-type setting reminded me of The Hunger Games or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I did love Rhen. She was fierce and smart. I also really loved Lute and Seleni and Beryll and pretty much all of the secondary characters.
However, the actual Labyrinth portion only came into play about 55% in, and I expected way more action and suspense, and all of it completely left me hanging.
Profile Image for Lilian.
269 reviews11 followers
March 25, 2019
WOWWWWWW. WHAT?? *mindblown*

Review @ the blog!


I read To Best the Boys in pretty much one sitting and absolutely loved it. It’s about a girl who enters a maze and competes against boys to receive a scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University–doesn’t that give you the Hunger Games vibes?

It certainly did for me, at least for the first one-third of the book (it’s even in present tense!). And then it kind of steered off into its own thing, which I loved! I wasn’t quite expecting the maze to be what it was–I was expecting more of a Hunger Games arena type of thing?–but it was cool anyway, and I liked all the mental intuition that it required vs. physical strength.

A+ for the gorgeous writing that is laced with sarcasm very similar to my own (seriously, people. when I say TBTB is right up my alley, it is. right up to the sarcasm). 😉 The characters were all so complex and unique–I think Rhen was my favorite for her determination and courage, but Seleni was a close contender because of how different she is to most YA girls.

As for the male characters, LUTE. I wish he could have been explored more as a character, but I wholeheartedly ship him and Rhen. Perfect match for each other, they are. And even though this makes him kind of a cliché male character, I love his gentle exterior and fiery + passionate inside personality. ;D And… Beryll. I’m not quite sure what to think of him? I like that he’s very different from most YA male characters.. but still. The screaming and generall wimpiness (sorry, Beryll). xD I do like him though.

alsothefacthatthecharactersarenamedafter elements on the periodic table???!!! oh my wowww that's incredible.

Deep breath, Lilian.

I’ll wrap up the review now but before I do that. Let me mention the plot twists? There was one that I expected (I think it was on purpose–Mary wanted us to expect it?) and then it turned into a double plot twist and reminded me how much of a writing genius Mary is.

Overall, a must-read if you enjoy books that have a similar style to The Hunger Games, and I strongly recommend it even if you don’t. 5 stars.

Note: TBTB doesn’t have any faith content whatsoever (nothing even vaguely representing God as far as I could tell), which I found strange since it was published by Thomas Nelson…? Just something to keep in mind. 🙂
March 19, 2019
Happy book birthday, To Best the Boys! Go check this one out, guys. It's definitely worth the read!

What do you want?
I want my mum to live.
I want the right to earn an education.
I want to be the first female scientist.
I want to create my own happiness.
I want . . .

Okay this was a really interestingly good book. Like I almost don’t even know how to begin this review???? This is another case of me starting an ARC, being interrupted and reading a million other books, and then finally finishing it. Luckily, I finished the last 52% today all in one sitting so it’s still really resonating with me at this moment.

I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was the writing. Weber is a new-to-me author so I really had had no idea what to expect. Sometimes though, you can tell right away whether or not you are going to like an author’s writing or not. With this book, I literally was entranced within the first paragraph. I can’t really put my finger on what it is about it but I can tell you right now that it was quality writing. I’m actually really happy I immediately thought of the word entranced to describe it. I think the same can be said about the actual story, too.

Like…..it was just so unique. There were times throughout the book where I found myself very interested in this world that Weber created because it all could feel very foreign at certain points but never in a way that made me feel disconnected. At times the language that was used and customs that were mentioned seemed to be a nod at almost a medieval, old fairy tale kind of place??? They all referred to each other and Miss and Mr and women were expected to just become mothers and wives but then Rhen and her father also worked on vaccines and she experimented on rats and dead bodies and there was a king and also an eccentric old man who no one had ever seen but hosted a game within a labyrinth and all these other things that kind of didn’t make sense together but also weirdly meshed and made sense and the same time. That was an incredibly long and convoluted sentence but that’s also how I felt reading this at times lol. BUT NOT IN A BAD WAY! That’s why it’s so hard to explain!

So basically I’m just going to stop trying so that you can pick this book up for yourself and be sucked into this new world and be entranced yourselves!

I will say this, though. I LOVED the characters. Rhen was so amazing and was a genius (while also having dyslexia and never letting it slow her down). She never tried to be anything other than who she was or tried to pretend like her interests (medicine and science and dead bodies) were any different to impress ANYONE. In fact, I loved that when she was truly happy she seemed to word vomit facts about the human body and it made me laugh and love her a little more every single time. Seleni and Beryll, too, were interesting and well fleshed out and I LOVED how Seleni always supported her cousin to the very end. And Lute. OH LUTE. BBF. Like from the very first time he was mentioned I knew I was going to love him and he never let me or Rhen down. Ugh what a dream boat.

This, overall, is just purely a tale that warmed my freakin heart. I loved every single bit of Rhen and what she achieved over the course of this book (just all sorts of women empowerment in general). I loved that she didn’t have to sacrifice any bit of her happiness at the end, either. I was worried she might have to for a hot second. I also loved that note from Weber at the end explaining that certain characters were representative of people in her own life (Rhen having dyslexia and Lute’s brother who seemed to be on the autism spectrum). So while those things might seem different to other people who have dyslexia or know people with Down syndrome and autism, these specific characters and traits came from the people she knew and loved. I had an uncle with Down syndrome and he lived with my parents and me for the last four years of his life when I was in high school and community college. You don’t know what it’s like to be a caregiver to someone with those special needs unless you actually are one. Even with his challenges and specific quirks, I LOVED having him with us because it meant that I now have a better understanding and love for people with Down syndrome. I loved him more than almost anyone in my entire life so knowing Lute acted as caretaker for his mother and brother like that made me love him so much more than I already did.

Gotta wrap things up before this gets too crazy long but I also kind of liked that this was a standalone? Or is it??? Seems like it is. I haven’t read a great fantasy standalone in who knows how long but everything was tied up perfectly in my opinion. I very much recommend!

“You take this world and make it what it should be. And don’t let the beliefs of a backward system define you. You are the one who has to live with the future, baby girl. So you live it. You understand?”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

For more of my reviews, please visit:

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Profile Image for Tracey Dyck.
Author 3 books79 followers
June 29, 2019
AHHHH! I'm so, so glad this book lived up to--and surpassed--all the hype that surged at the time of its release.

Like many of my friends who've read To Best the Boys, I was somewhat concerned that it'd be a heavy-handed feministic sermon. But it turned out to be the best novel dealing with feminism that I've ever read! And that's partially because that wasn't the sole POINT of the story. But let me get back to the beginning.


-I. LOVE. RHEN. She's super relatable, even if I don't prefer to handle corpses like she does, LOL. But it's her heart and logic and occasional awkwardness that made some moments feel like looking into a mirror.

-Lute! *swoons* He's both strong and sweet, and he treats people like his mother, special-needs brother, and Rhen with the utmost respect.

-Seleni was warmhearted and spunky and the perfect balance of "traditional" femininity alongside Rhen's more academic desires. There's one moment in particular where Seleni really shines, and I could've just hugged her.

-Scenes with Rhen's mum nearly made me cry.

-I adored the light fantasy setting--which seemed like Jane Austen meets The Scorpio Races with a dash of science thrown in. And the whole Labryinth concept reminded me of The Maze Runner and even a bit of The Hunger Games. Very cool.

-The book was so quotable! Can I just hang entire pages all over my room?

-Such heartfelt, tastefully written themes. As I mentioned before, this book does deal with feminism. Rhen enters the Labryinth contest to try to earn a scholarship to a prestigious, all-boys university, which is something most people in her world frown upon. But Mary Weber presented the matter SO well. She paints a true-to-life picture of the many stripes of femininity: those who want to pursue a career, those who want to build a family... those who tear other girls down, and those who support each other with incredible strength. AND she does the same for the male cast. We see small-minded men, men who view women as objects, etc., but we also see good men. (Some of those good men get the chance to punch the puny boys in the face. YESSSS.)

-And while we're on the subject, can we just take a minute to give Mary Weber a standing ovation? She's now written about self-harm (Storm Siren trilogy), human trafficking (the Shilo Snow duology), and the kind of feminism I can totally get behind. She's a powerhouse.


-Virtually... nothing? A few turns of phrase might've felt a little clunky, but I gobbled up this book within twenty-four hours, so obviously it didn't slow me down. :)

-The fact that Rhen and Seleni disguise themselves as boys and aren't recognized did push the suspension of disbelief a teensy little bit. Not for terribly long, though.


"I'm just tired of feeling like the way things are is the only way they can ever be."

To Best the Boys is one of my favorite reads this year. And it's definitely my favorite Mary Weber book so far. <3 5 stars!

P.S. Was it just me, or did the occasional use of "hulls" seem like a nod to Storm Siren??? Is it possible it takes place in the same world?
July 24, 2019

O.W.L. Readathon 2019
✔️Herbology: Plant on the cover

First of all: this book takes Nevernight's spot for best opening sentence. So macabre, but I can't help but love it.

The problem with siphoning blood from a bloated cadaver is that sometimes it's belly makes an involuntary twitch just as you're leaning over the discolored skin. The problem with being the girl currently stealing the sticky blood is that while logic says there's an explanation for such phenomena, the rest of me says it must be one of two things.
Either the good king's clerics are out somewhere trying to raise the dead again....
Or I've just discovered the town's first certifiable vampyre right here in the cloying cellar of the local undertaker.

After reading that first chapter, I was sold

We meet Rhen, a young female lower-class teenage scientist in a world where women don't study or are considered smart. She knows what she wants, and has a great friendship with her Upper-class niece Seleni. There's a plague roaming around in the lower-class district that is paralyzing the people, and Rhen and her father are trying to find a cure seeing how her mum has the sickness too.
Rhen decides to take part in the "Labyrinth" contest that is held every year. The person that wins, get's a scholarship to the university. Small problem: while it isn't strictly forbidden to compete as a woman, no one has ever done it and it's considered to be an all boys competition.

solution: Rhen and Seleni join the compitition dressed as boys, to "Best" the other boys

The Good:
- honestly almost everything in this book. The fact that ghouls and siren's exist make this a very interesting universe to read in.
- Rhen and Seleni know what they want and don't look down on eachother for wanting completely different things. Very nice and refreshing to see that the MC didn't look down upon her friend because she strives to become a wive and mother.

The (not really) Bad
- I thought the romance was a tad bit unnecessary in the beginning: finding a cure, worrying about her mother and trying not to die in a competition seemed like enough to handle in the beginning.
- It takes almost half of the book before the compitition actually starts. For a book that is all about this famous labyrinth, a lot of time is spend outside it.

conclusion: if more people could please read this book, that would be great.
Profile Image for Aneela ♒the_mystique_reader♒.
170 reviews101 followers
December 10, 2020
Rating: 2.5 stars

I wanted to read this book because of the feminist vibes and labyrinth as I find them cool. So, this book is about how a girl named Rhen bests the boys in a maze competition for annual scholarship, held by Mr. Holm in which only boys are allowed to participate. So our MC Rhen and her cousin don a disguise and enter the competition which had claimed lives of 5 contestants so far. Sounds interesting, right? I thought so too.

✔Headstrong, inspiring feminist MC.
✔Friendship between Rhen and her cousin Seleni
✔Supportive father
✔Rep of dyslexia, autism and down’s syndrome

Now let me tell you what I didn’t like about this book:

✖I wish it was more show, don’t tell but sadly it was the other way around. I was promised magical labyrinth and magical creatures and I kept waiting for them to make significant appearance instead I was only told the characters hear the screeches of sea sirens and pregnant mountain basilisks. There was not enough magic. It felt like I was promised velvety Magnum ice cream but they handed me sugar-free candy! 😫

✖The much awaited competition starts after 50% of the book and lasts only for few pages. So unsatisfying.

✖The labyrinth was supposed to be fierce and deadly but it turned out quite the opposite. There was no intense competition between the contestants to keep me on the edge and waiting for the next thrilling moment because there were no thrilling moments. It was all mundane.

✖The star plus drama type disguise. Rhen chopped off her hair and Seleni pinned up her hair and covered them with a hat. They also lowered their voice when they talked to other contestants so they won’t be recognized by the very same boys they grew up with. Sounds familiar? 😉

✖The male characters were supper dull, boring and annoying. Seleni’s fiance, Beryll, was a chicken and Rhen’s suitor was an hypocrite (read punchable). Rhen’s crush Lute was nice and caring though but he didn’t ● click with me.

✖There was a lot of gross talk about bloated corpses, stolen blood samples etc.

✖This story could have been completed in 70-100 pages, at most.

✖(Spoiler in this para) The ending was unjustified and did not make sense at all. Mr. Holm was actually a woman who magically takes on different appearances. May be we should have been told a lil bit about what in Merlin’s beard that sort of magic was, if it really was magic at all? And if she could transform herself with magic then why couldn’t Rhen and Seleni?
Why there was an entrance test again after the winner was announced?

I liked the feminist theme of the story but not how it was executed. May be my expectations were too high. You may like this book if you like a light fantasy read and a strong and inspiring feminist MC.

Profile Image for Gabrielle.
Author 4 books68 followers
December 14, 2018
This book was absolutely amazing, and I loved every minute of it. This book has come the closest to matching the feel/tone of one of my all-time favorites--The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Fans of that masterpiece and Mary Weber's previous work should adore this book.

Some highlights:
- Girl Power (without being ragingly feminist). While the story did feature platonic and romantic relationships, the heart of the story was the message that it's okay just to be you. Not someone's friend, girlfriend, daughter, etc, but just be you for you.
- Atmospheric writing with all sorts of creepy beasties. I like a good spine-tingling story with all sorts of mythological monsters--so long as it doesn't get too gory, of course. This one fits the bill.
- Ocean imagery/setting--this will get me every time. The ocean is hugely important to me, with both my personal life and writing, so I love to see it represented in books, both literally and allegorically.

- Wasn't long enough. Seriously, I would love to read a whole series set in this world. I wanted so much more of Pinsbury Port, and the surrounding country, and setting, and people. Can we pretty please make this a series?

5 stars.
Ages 14 and up
(Some violence, non-graphic, and allusions against women's honor. Some frightening scenes of peril, and one off-page death.)

For more reviews, follow my blog at gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy to review!
Profile Image for Rosalie.
Author 2 books30 followers
March 28, 2019
A solid 4.5 stars!

This book is not a man-shaming feminist manifesto as some (perhaps even myself *cough cough*) feared it would be despite Mary Weber's repeated statements that it in no way tears men down.

Turns out she was /right/ when said that it builds up both genders and is a fun, atmospheric, (at times) weird story. Funny how that works out.


I think it's well worth reading if you're into fantasy, girl power that doesn't come at the expense of guy power, creepy ghouls and sea sirens, fun and healthy romance that isn't center stage, weird science stuff, and challenging the status quo for all the right reasons. 😎😎😎
Profile Image for R.F. Gammon.
527 reviews180 followers
December 31, 2018
This is a 3.5 star book, but I'm rounding to 4 stars because I can.

This is actually my first book by Mary Weber (shameful, right? For shame, Faith!), and so I had no expectations whatsoever going in. I have a lot of friends who like this author, and I thought she was--okay? Pretty good? (Please don't kill me for not instantly jumping on the bandwagon! I need time to think! XD)

But anyway...let's review this thing.

-BERYLL. At first when he started screaming I was like "Is it a banshee or something?" but no. It's a guy. And Beryll is like the sweetest, yet still hardcore, guy in the world. I loved him SO MUCH. Definitely takes the spot for my favorite character from this book.

-Seleni. Yes, I liked Seleni better than Rhen, but only slightly. But the thing is--Seleni is that girl we've all been waiting for. She dresses up like a boy, disguises her voice, and goes into the maze with Rhen--but she didn't cut her hair because she liked her curls and wanted to keep them. She wasn't afraid of getting dirty, but she loved pretty dresses. She wasn't afraid of a dip in the sea, but she knew when was the proper time to do it. She braved the maze, one of the two first women to do so--but she wasn't interested in uni, she just wanted to do the right thing, protect her people, and hopefully end up getting her guy. She had so many dynamics and was so complex and I LOOOOOVED that.

-Beryll and Seleni. Because that ship was amazing. Top OTP of this book.

-Rhen was pretty cool too. She was dyslexic, per the author's note! And she was a scientist! And I loved that! Her personality started out not that different from most other YA girls, but by the end I was rooting for her and really enjoyed her journey. <3


-The descriptions of the sea were really beautiful.

-The ending! No spoilers here, but since this is a standalone (I think), some plot threads had to get wrapped up nicely whilst others weren't resolved. And I loved the way that was done in this story. The right stuff was wrapped up, the stuff that didn't need to be stayed hanging, and there were enough questions to make room for a sequel while a sequel is still not REQUIRED. Perfect.

-The maze--I don't know, for some reason it didn't really feel intense enough? At least for me? I feel like I've read similar sequences a thousand times and it was just sort of the same thing all over again.

-Personal peeve here, but the whole villain thing, the true culprit of the book? EVERY SINGLE BOOK DOES THIS. And I understand why, but like...is it too much to ask to make the guy who's seemed bad the whole time be the bad guy? Or to NOT have a twist villain? I don't know, it just didn't work for me.

-Holm's identity. I wasn't expecting it, but again, I did not particularly appreciate it.

-The worldbuilding felt a little...bizarre. I guess that's just what you get for having a world where monsters are the norm, though. :P

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. I enjoyed this! Not as much as I was hoping to, but about as much as I expected to, and it was worth the read. If you like Mary Weber, you're looking for a story of female empowerment, or you want a labyrinth story, pick this one up. :D

Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy!
May 23, 2019
Guys, I'm so excited to finally write this review! This was a book that I received from NetGalley, and it got voted to be read as one of my group's (Anyone Else?) buddy reads for May, so I was able to actually make time to read it and I'm not sorry!

I fell in love with this book by chapter 1, I hope to one day be in the medical field and the main character in this book (a female) was! And especially in the time this book hailed in. I really enjoyed reading this book, one because of all the medical insights, two because I didn't have to skip through pages to get past inappropriate things. I have read so many books this year that utterly disgusted me, so this was a good read! Three, this book kept me wanting to see what happens next. It kept me laughing or upset, very moving. 😂

The Plot
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

Welcome to the labyrinth.

My Idea of the Main Character
At first, I wasn't sure how I would like Rhen Tellur. I figured she would be the stereotype female protagonist. But I was wrong, I can relate to her a lot. She wasn't all "I don't need a man" but she was still independent in some ways. Her character development inspired me. I loved how close she was to her best friend Seleni Lake. It reminds me of my own friendship with my sister's and best friend. I liked how she was able to stand up to the man whom had just asked to court her, and she was seriously thinking about it, but then realized that he was only pursuing her for her brilliant mind to be able to further his own selfish career and goals. Now you know I don't like him, ha! I liked how even though a lot of people thought of her as strange or different and she actually heard them saying bad things about her, she still kept her head up and did what she needed to do.

What I Did Not Like
Alright, first things first... The title of this book. The title makes it seem like some kind of feminist movement book, when I'm actuality it's just a story of a girl who does things differently and is smarter than most boys around her.

I did not like it that the group of "young men" always talked about having a girl to do "things" with! Even though they never came out and said anything, it still wasn't right. I know that in those times, most young men were very honorable. Though I am sure there were others who weren't, too. But still!

I don't know, the whole thing about girls dressing as men just doesn't sit well with me. I know, the whole book is pretty much about all that, I'm just stating my opinion. I still really enjoyed the book. ☺

Yay, my favorite part, hah! 😂 Anyways, the development of Rhen and Lutes relationship was beautiful! I love how he is a fisherman who loves the sea and then compared her to it saying she too was "un-tameable".
I also really enjoyed Seleni and Beryll's relationship too! It was just too sweet. 😍💕😭☺❤

Okay, so I know this isn't exactly a "good" review, but I did my best. I would recommend this book to anyone who liked these sort of reads. But, I advise it for an older person. Being there is some political things and adult-ish stuff. Not for anyone younger than 16.
Profile Image for Raquel Flockhart.
491 reviews309 followers
May 4, 2019
“It’s not that I don’t belong. It’s that I belong to me.”

I’ve been interested in To Best the Boys since I read the synopsis. A mysterious labyrinth and a scientist girl wanting to best the boys in a competition? It sounded like my cup of tea. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

Rhen Tellur is a teenager who dreams about becoming a scientist in a fantasy setting where only boys get a chance to go to the university. When she receives the annual letter inviting boys to compete for a scholarship to the university in Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, she sees an opportunity to prove herself and to get the resources in order to find a cure for her mother’s disease.

The premise got my attention from the first moment. The thing is that, to my great disappointment, only one half of the book takes place in the labyrinth. I was expecting that the main plot of the book revolved around the competition, but I think that it focuses more in the disease that is taking place in Pinsbury Port. Furthermore, I felt that the labyrinth plot was too rushed and although I liked some aspects of it, I was disappointed by the majority of it.

I saw one of the supposed plot-twists coming from the beginning, but I really liked the other revelation—that one actually took me by surprise. I also liked the portrayal of the different social classes, the feminist aspects and the fact that the main character has dyslexia and that Ben has autism and Down syndrome. The inclusion of the latter made me especially happy for personal reasons, but I didn’t like the description (he’s described as a five-year-old in a fourteen-year-old body), although I understand that such portrait is based on a family member of the author and also a friend of hers. I think it was about time to include characters with Down syndrome in fiction, but I wouldn’t have noticed that Ben has Down syndrome if it wasn’t for the author’s note at the end.

Overall, To Best the Boys was just an okay read for me. It has some of the typical ingredients in YA fantasy such as teen romance, but it also focuses on family, feminism and there is autism, dyslexia and Down syndrome representation. The plot has a couple of enjoyable aspects, but the main points were very predictable and even boring.

“And don’t let the beliefs of a backward system define you. You are the one who has to live with the future, baby girl. So you live it.”

P.S.: English isn’t my native language, so I apologise if you see any mistakes.

Profile Image for winnie ʚïɞ.
665 reviews221 followers
May 3, 2020
three stars ∗ wow, i was not expecting to love this as much as i do. i had absolutely no issues with this novel whatsoever, and i found it to be completely charming and such a fun read!

i fell in love with rhen - our main character - and her feistiness and desire to learn and prove herself. she was so smart and cunning; she really reminded me of audrey rose from 'stalking jack the ripper'! i loved her drive and passion and it was so wonderful to read her story. i also fell in love with lute - the lovely love interest - and his kindness and ~mysteriousness~ and just the relationship between him and rhen was *chef's kiss* i absolutely adored it.

the plot was also super intriguing?? like, rhen disguised herself as a boy to compete in an annual competition (held only for men) to win a scholarship in efforts to save her mother from the disease infecting the town?? it was phenomenally written and executed and i'm honestly surprised that i haven't seen many people talk about this?? it was a perfect standalone and i'm so glad i gave it a shot!!
Profile Image for Jane Maree.
Author 9 books107 followers
March 1, 2019
This book was so inspiring. I finished it and I was just so overwhelmed by how encouraged, how uplifted, and how motivated I was. It was beautiful.

The characters were so dynamic. From the first moment they stepped onto the page, they were absolutely bursting with life.

First of all the ladies: Rhen was so untameable and bold, and in the best way possible. Seleni was equally inspiring but in a totally different way. This book really encompassed how women are called to different things. There's no shame in a woman who is incredibly gifted at science and maths, and there's no shame in a woman who wants to be a wife and a mother. It was amazing to see that shown in YA fiction. (Petition for more of this, please?)

This book not only had amazing women representation, but it also had a beautiful example of what a true man is. Supportive, protective (in all the good ways), responsible, encouraging. Lute was all of these things. It was so refreshing and inspiring to see all the characters so well written and so realistic.

The story world was STUNNING. So vivid and unique and I loved the writing style to absolute pieces. There was so much depth to it and I desperately wanted to skim read it because I needed to know what happened at the end, but I desperately didn't want to miss any of the gorgeous details of the writing. (Solution: half skim and resolve to reread after I get a hardcopy.)

The plot was so good too. And the themes. The side characters. Everything was amazing, and I just loved it so, so much. 😂

There was so much hype for this book, but in my opinion, it absolutely met and exceeded all the hype I had for it. I can't recommend this enough. Go forth and get thyself a copy!

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Amitaf0208.
162 reviews36 followers
April 6, 2019
4 solid stars. It is a YA Fantasy, cross between Handmaid's Tale and Ready Player One. Enjoyed it immensely and loved the main character.
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