book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Image result for bad romance heather demetrios

Author: Heather Demetrios

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Goodreads

Genre: YA Comtemporary

Series? Standalone

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar

 


It’s easy to judge someone for being in an abusive relationship and that judgement is usually tagged along with the age-old question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” If someone is hurting you physically and verbally isn’t the obvious solution to just leave them right away? Just say the words, right? But as this book deftly illustrates, it is neither easy or simple.

Grace Carter doesn’t have the best life. She lives with a cruel and demanding stepfather and a mother who pours all the housework and chores on her. All she wants to do is get out of Birch Grove, California and do theater in New York. Gavin is the ultimate dream boy. He is an angsty teenage boy who plays the guitar. He’s popular and charismatic. Grace has had an unrequited crush on him for 3 years and he has never noticed her before until one day. What starts as a passionate and sweet relationship spirals into a relationship unhealthy, obsessive, and claustrophobic.

What I appreciate most about this story’s structure besides its crafty use of the second person is its deliberate slowness. Demetrios really paints a detailed picture to helping you understand why Grace would fall in love with someone like Gavin even as you know from the very beginning how the relationship will end. The eventual deterioration of the relationship was perfectly paced. What is so poignant is how Demetrios sets up the relationship because it starts off like any other happy and healthy relationship. Gavin is sweet and dotes on Grace. He writes songs about how much he loves her. He is emotionally and physically supportive of her when things at home are too overwhelming. He makes sacrifices for her. Demetrios captures that euphoria of being in a new relationship when everything feels fresh and new and full of love and possibility. When the sweet nothings feel even sweeter and every compliment makes you feel like you’re on cloud 9. So it’s understandable when the first red flags come Grace does not even notice them especially when they are wrapped under the guise of toxic manipulation. The progression of the relationship really shows how Grace, someone who has big dreams and a sense of individualism can ultimately give all those up for a relationship. With the psychological effects of her home, there is no doubt there was something so intoxicating about Gavin needing her but the even more intoxicating feeling of Gavin wanting her. A person who has, her whole life, never felt wanted.

What makes this book so much more real than other books about abusive relationships is how Demetrios portrays Grace’s self-awareness of her toxic situation juxtaposed with her utter ignorance and denial of Gavin’s bright red flags. The most recent book I’ve read about an abusive relationship is It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover which I thought failed to examine the nuances of a relationship like this. I get what she was trying to do but it was not enough. It is possible to love someone but know that they are toxic for you but Hoover made it black and white, that you can just leave him if you set your mind to it. It’s about resolve. But Demetrios knows it’s about more than resolving to break up with him. Grace knows she should break up with Gavin and resolves many times to do so but she always ends up making excuses for him or Gavin will end up manipulating her love for him and she would get sucked back in time and time again. This constant cycle of denial and resolve, resolve and denial is exactly the cycle that abusive relationships go in, feeding through the doubts and insecurities of both participants. The reader sees how the love and sacrifice that Gavin demonstrates for her at the beginning of the relationship is now used as a shackle to rein her in. You know precisely how Gavin is manipulating her yet you understand how Grace would be confused by this manipulation and ultimately Gavin himself thinks he is doing the best for her even when he so clearly isn’t. This reflects on the cyclical nature of abuse, further emphasized by Grace’s mother who also is in an abusive relationship that Grace herself constantly laments is abusive while she is her relationship with Gavin. How can someone who is continuing to witness the abusive relationship of a loved one be completely oblivious to the fact that she’s in one herself?

On a side note, as with most YA contemporary I’ve read, there’s always the issue of how well integrated the side characters. And although Demetrios does not go into their characters in depth, it is clear they feel lived in and not just used as plot devices for specific parts of the Grace’s journey. Grace’s two best friends provide much needed comic relief and are the supportive friends you would want yourself. Even her cruel stepfather is offered moments of humanity that don’t turn him into an evil machine for the sole purpose of making Grace’s life miserable (although I’m sure in Grace’s situation it feels like it a lot). His role extends to her mother and how that affects Grace in turn.

I am fully impressed with Demetrios’s writing and although I can see how her writing could spiral into YA contemporary cliches like in I’ll Meet You There, I think if she writes more YA contemporary realistic, I am most definitely on board. The way she writes psychological progression and nuanced feelings made concrete to a T is something I truly admired. The use of the second person, as if Grace was addressing Gavin in a letter, makes you feel the impending doom of their relationship, the mix of blunt sarcasm and irony tinged with real sadness.

I highly recommend this book for its subject matter but also the deft way it is handled with all of its nuances.

On another side note, I’m back (!) which I’ll explain more in another post but I do plan on posting at least once a week from now on.

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mini book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: YA Contemporary

Obviously I never stick to what I say cause I’m already posting before I said my hiatus was over. I’m here with a blog post yay..Who even knows my mind. I’m here to review 3 recently hyped YA contemporary books. I really need to stop giving into the hype train because none of these contemporaries lived up to my expectations but they were cute nonetheless.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (3/5)

Molly is a virgin and has never been kissed. She wonders if she is inherently unlovable. Image result for the upside of unrequitedShe wonders how someone gets 1 person to like them let alone many like her sister Cassie. But all that changes when she gets a job at at an antique store and meets Reid.. I think this book gets a lot of things right in some ways. It perfectly captures what it’s like to feel left behind relationship wise, how it feels to be totally clueless and immature when it comes to sex and relationships. Her inner thoughts throughout the book reflect this constant insecurity that is kind of narcissistic but ultimately relatable at the same time. I do think that the side characters had a lot of potential like Hipster Will, her moms, and even Cassie but they never quite reached it. Although very diverse, they lacked a sense of presence and personality other than their obligated roles. But all of this is fine except Becky Albertalli’s writing has nothing to offer itself. It is overtly simple to the point of boredom. I wish the relationship between Cassie and Molly was explored more. TUoU’s main theme is one of self-confidence and self-acceptance but Molly’s journey to self-confidence immediately resolves itself after she kisses someone. Poof fixed..  I wanted more of an exploration of her insecurities surrounding her weight, her anxiety etc. the romance was ok even if the love interest was slightly lackluster. But it was serviceable and pretty cute and I didn’t hate it so there’s that.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (2.5/5)

As you have no doubt guessed from the title, Geekerella is a Cinderella retelling following Ella who is a fangirl of the show Starfield (which is essentially Star Trek) and she has a blog talking about all things Starfield. Starfield is getting a reboot movie and the main actor just so happens to be Darien Freeman whom Ella hates for the main role.Image result for geekerella She writes a heated blog post about it and the story ensues from there. I have to be honest, I mostly wanted to read this book for the fandom aspect and you can certainly tell the author is a fangirl herself. She understands all the machinations behind conventions and blogs and online fandom. I liked that part the best even though there was less of that aspect than you would expect. I also have to be honest and say I’m not really a fan of Cinderella retellings mostly because I always feel the stepmother and stepsisters are so cartoonishly evil, it’s almost laughable. I felt the same way about the stepfamily in this one and I, in fact, think they’re not even as bad as real human beings can be (which tbh is kind of sad to think about but it’s true). They’re superficial and say mean stuff but I didn’t feel hurt when they insulted her because there was no sense of nuance or half-baked motivation for their actions. I also felt as if Ella as a main character was boring af and that’s mostly due to the fact that she was not very proactive in making her own decisions in her own life. Even the cosplay she was going to enter into Excelsicon was not really even her idea. This book also suffers from a case of instalove. They text each other and begin to fall in love because they understand Starfield references together and that’s it?? Also this is a side note but I am so sick of how convenient getting into college is for YA protagonists is. Mild spoilers but basically Ella gets accepted into UCLA because a film professor really liked her blog and basically pulled strings for her..

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (3/5)

When Dimple Met Rishi is about two Indian-American teens who end up at the same web design summer camp called Insomnia Con. Dimple does not know that her parents have Image result for when dimple met rishian arranged marriage planned for her (and if she did she would be furious, she has no time for that tradition and only wants to start designing her app) with her IIH (Ideal Indian Husband). The potential Ideal Indian Husband in question is Rishi who is perfectly aware of this arrangement and is perfectly fine with it as well. He is the traditional, reserved, and practical first son after all. Misunderstandings happen, they meet up and it goes from there. Although I wish it had gone into more detail, I did enjoy the exploration of arranged marriages, of expectations with traditional parents and that ultimate conflict of values between parents and children as they grow up. What I didn’t like as much is the instalove between Dimple Met Rishi. Their initial conversations were a little trite and ultimately did not convince me. After the initial meeting, Rishi already thought she had the best eyes in the entire world (cool story bro).  Dimple was portrayed to be this really fierce and outspokenly feminist character but Rishi ended up being the more outspoken one..weirdly enough even though he was suppose to be the more reserved one. In all honesty, Dimple was basically like most YA contemporary heroines, she’s “not like other girls” who worry about boys and doesn’t do frivolous things like her roommate Celia. Also Rishi was a little too perfect. If you read my Alex Approximately review, Rishi is the nice guy. This book is also dual perspective which was interesting reading because one thought that Dimple would have would bleed into Rishi’s thought process. I wish the relationship between Dimple and her mom was explored more. Her mom is more interested in how Dimple looks than what Dimple was actually doing in Insomnia Con. But it was solved so conveniently in the end. There was no sense of real conflict in this book, even in Dimple and Rishi’s relationship from her not “doing” relationships (I haven’t heard that before), to long distance relationships to being too “domestic”. None of these themes served as real conflicts.

Also the whole Bollywood dance thing was very trite. And also, again with the whole unrealistic getting into college part. Repeat after me: You cannot get into college just from one person’s good word!!!

Let me know if the hype train got to you and you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them =)

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Image result for always and forever lara jean Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Author: Jenny Han

Pages: 336

Series? Yes (Final book in a trilogy)

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: 4/5

Mild Spoilers for first two books but spoiler free for the last one.

 


I started reading this book at 5pm on Saturday and kept reading until 1 in the morning with only an hourish break for dinner. In that 8 hour time span, my dear reader, I felt unbearable warmth, happiness and most of all nostalgia. And at the end, even though I knew it was the end, I still felt like there was so much more story left to these characters, that these characters have blossomed into people that I knew.

As with any last book in the series, I felt that preanxiety that comes with having such high expectations of a final novel. The story of this book’s inception is heartwarming in its own way. In an interview, Jenny Han spoke about how she was working on her new project but couldn’t because she kept thinking about what Lara Jean and Peter were up to.

Last winter, I was working on a new book, and I just couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. My mind kept drifting to Lara Jean and Peter, I kept thinking wistful thoughts, like, I wonder what those two are up to now. When I finished P.S. I Still Love You, I truly was done with the series. Always, it had been meant to be just the two. But I suppose time and space had made me nostalgic, because they were all I could think about. One night I called up my best friend and sometimes co-author Siobhan Vivian and asked her, would it be crazy if I wrote just one more book? She said not at all. She told me to try and see. So that same night, I started writing, and I couldn’t stop. I wrote until the sun came up.

-Jenny Han from EW article

There is something so natural about this story that I’ve never been able to find in other YA contemporaries. In this one, Lara Jean and Peter are in their final year of high school. They have graduation coming up and all the other things high school seniors look forward to: the senior trip, prom and of course the anxiety of college admissions. Lara Jean has plans for her future but they all start to unravel and she starts to question what is truly the right path for her.

I swear some scenes in this book took me back to some exact moments of my high school career. Not gonna lie, I kind of teared up a little when Lara Jean is anxiously opening up her email that determines whether she got accepted or rejected to UVA. Moments like these are what I’ve always loved about this series. Most YA contemporaries kind of skip this part or shove it in near the end as a sort of cherry on top of the icing at the end of the book and more often than not, they just get accepted into their dream school nbd. I just completely love the detail that Jenny Han puts into this series from the food (yaas to all the chocolate chip cookie baking in this one) to Lara Jean’s clothes (Lara Jean’s prom dress) and even to Peter’s lacrosse experience. Jenny Han even did research, people, research to make the college admissions part as true to life as possible. She even spoke to the Dean of Admissions and the lacrosse department at UVA.

Image result for uva campus
University of Virginia campus

It just encapsulates a high school experience that feels so authentic, like this is truly what a YA contemporary should be about. I understand that YA contemporary is not suppose to be 100% realistic, otherwise where the hell is my Peter Kavinsky but just adding these tiny details that you only subconsciously absorb brought me more into the story, this more visceral experience. And I love it. Some scenes just brought me back to my final days of high school, my final class of high school which I probably just spent signing yearbooks, my final day of walking the grass behind my school for AP Government. and having this sense of finality and this feeling of an end but also this anticipation that things are just starting for you.

I also love seeing that reflected in Lara Jean. Throughout this series, she has always been content with where she is but she’s realizing that she can open herself up to new possibilities that she never thought were right for her.

And on top of that, Lara Jean learns more about her relationship with Peter. I feel like this book was the perfect combination of the fluffiness and cuteness of book 1 and the angst and them dealing with real problems from Book 2. I just love how you can see how much they love and care about each other. They have to think about what every high school couple thinks about, if they’re even going to survive being apart and the delicate state of a high school relationship.  Peter’s arc also has a wonderful sense of growth. His dad makes a reappearance in this one and he has to decide whether to let him into his life or not. I really like how Peter’s insecurities are put to the forefront. Peter has always been one of my favorites in this series because he is not necessarily this arrogant boy with a heart of gold or this nerdy guy who will understand all of your Star Wars references or even this sickly sweet nice love interest who can do no wrong. Let’s face it, most of your favorite YA contemporary male heroes will fall into one of these 3 categories. I’m really satisfied with the way Han wrote this relationship that feels as though it’s always evolving and not this you-are-my-soulmate-that-I-found-at-the-age-of-18-and-we-live-happily-ever-after type of relationship. I love them so much.

And of course, without a doubt, these books always come back to family. It’s bittersweet and ever changing. There is so much change happening around Lara Jean that she doesn’t really even notice. How Margot is now slowly living her own life in Scotland, how her Dad is marrying Ms. Rothschild, and how Kitty is growing up. And although Lara Jean is consistently changing and figuring out more things about herself, she will always fall back on her family and their support. Her mother is still an ever present force in her life and she’s always thinking about how her mom would approach a situation even as she is learning to find her own way.

I will always love these books, for their authenticity but also just for their feel-goodness and how they always bring a smile to my face. I know I will be swooning over Lara Jean’s mundane adventures for many more rereads.

Let me know if I should read Jenny Han’s Summer I Turned Pretty series. I’m not sure how it compares to this one so any advice is welcomed! And of course, let’s discuss this book in the comments because I need to vent.

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mini book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: Hyped YA books

Sometimes I read/watch reviews of highly anticipated books and it just makes me want to read them so much even when I know that it probably won’t be as good as reviews make it out to be considering my tastes. I guess that’s kind of the point of glowing reviews. This is the story of how I got sucked into hype once again…do they live up to that hype? Or will they falter??

Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett (3/5)

YA Contemporary | Goodreads 

Tis the season for contemporary. And the contemporary buzz book of the season is Alex, Approximately. And let me tell you, the buzz around this book was insane around the booktube community. The hype train always gets me even when I say it doesn’t. And I Image result for alex approximatelywas in the mood for contemporary so why not. And this is a reminder that I should take the hype train with a grain of salt. This is a You’ve Got Mail retelling (which I haven’t seen but really need to). At the beginning of the book, Bailey moves from DC to California to live with her dad. She’s a film buff, so much so that she is a member of an online forum for the film community where she’s been talking back and forth with fellow film buff and Californian, Alex, who she may or may not have feelings for. In fact, moving to California will give her the perfect opportunity to meet Alex in real life. Meanwhile, she lands a summer job at a museum where she meets Porter and it’s hate at first sight until it’s not….

First of all, this book feels like it was written by someone who does not live in SoCal because it feels so stereotypical. It’s basically like the California you see on the Hannah Montana set except with the inclusion of churro carts (I need that in my life) and poke (because we eat poke a lot too apparently) and of course, the surfers.

Image result for hannah montana beach scene

But I guess Jenn Bennett must be doing something right because after reading it, I just felt like going to the beach and having a bonfire. And there was something exciting and fun about having adventures in an underground museum. In terms of the romance, what you see is basically what you get. Porter was basically spat out from the formulaic YA boyfriend machine–he’s kind of a nerd but he’s just so cocky and omg if I hear that word one more time, I will sue–but he kind of missed the step where they give him a unique personality and any kind of flaws really. I did like that Bailey got to grow throughout. She’s someone who tends to avoid confrontation and being put on the spot but she learns to be comfortable with herself (even though the character development felt random and sudden; I get the gist). They both have tragic pasts that are discussed throughout and it felt off but maybe that’s just me.

The thing I hate about YA contemporary is that the 1st 10% of the book is spent developing the side characters like the parents and the friends and the backstory and the next 80% of the book is spent developing the relationship and then the last 10% suddenly the author remembers she has other characters so they suddenly have more page time but it feels like too little too late. This happened to Grace who works with Bailey at the museum. She feels kind of like the token diverse best friend considering that the author describes her father’s voice as having an “African sway”. What does that even mean?? There’s also Davy who is Porter’s ex-bestie and is basically there to make Porter look better. Also, he turned out to be a lot worse than I anticipated so the storyline turned out to be really melodramatic (complete with guns and drugs). The dad is there to instill wisdom and curfew times although I did like all the Settlers of Catan references. They all just felt token and bland.

My point is, this is YA contemporary and it doesn’t bring anything original to the genre but it’s fun and cute and actually kind of the perfect beach read literally.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (3.5/5)

YA Fantasy | Goodreads

I think after this series Laini Taylor and I might need to part ways. I enjoyed this book when I was reading it. It is magical and mysterious and as surreal as Laini Taylor’s previous works with mythic worldbuilding. Years ago, the city of Weep was erased from the minds of all the people in this world. Now it is only the stuff of legends, a good story but not real. However, Lazlo remembers Weep, in fact, he’s obsessed with it. He’s a librarian whose head is always in the clouds (“Strange the Dreamer”) and spends his free Image result for strange the dreamertime researching Weep dreaming about the day when he will be able to see Weep for himself. I have to applaud Taylor’s ephemeral writing; as over written and dramatic as it is, it does make you feel as if you were living a legend, a hero epic. There’s no other way to describe her worldbuilding except that it is epic like the libraries of Zosma. It’s completely sweeping and otherworldly, larger than life but is still grounded in what the reader knows which only makes the reader imagine it better.  I loved Lazlo’s dream landscapes of Weep, so imaginative like the fever dream of a child who has only read books about unicorns and rainbows.

But I realize after reading it why I can’t fully love this book. It’s because the payoff to all this buildup is just not satisfying. Lazlo has spent 7 years researching about Weep and it feels to the reader like an unattainable goal but then suddenly the answer comes right in front of him like all that buildup was for nothing. When they arrived at Weep, again the problem seemed insurmountable, but then when the solution arrived it didn’t feel satisfying? There’s also this instalove that annoyed me. It was almost like Laini Taylor was trying too hard to make me believe in their love by coating their instalove with frosting, with copious amounts of descriptions of how beautiful Sarai’s skin is and how mysterious Lazlo’s nose is. Are there really that many ways to describe someone’s crooked nose?? And omg this is the first time, someone has seen me!! The first time someone said I wasn’t disgusting!! Cue the blushing.  I think my eyes rolled straight out of my head. At points, it seemed like Sarai was a manic pixie dream girl and the ending didn’t help that theory either. The other side characters had a lot more potential to be intriguing characters such as Eril-Fane who was involved in the war that occurred before the events of Strange the Dreamer. I liked the concepts and themes that Laini Taylor introduces, about grief after war and guilt over the part you played in a war, how to figure out how to live with yourself after all the devastation. I wish there was more of that instead of the woe-is-me, melodramatic romance. If you liked Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, you will adore this, it’s actually quite eerie how similar the two are if you think about it.  The premise of Taylor’s books always hook me but the execution somehow always falls flat for me though.

Let me know if you’ve read these two books or if you’re planning to (they’re actually quite perfect for spring/summer) and what your thoughts are!

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Uncategorized

Book Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

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Goodreads

After being extremely disappointed in The Female of the Species, I wanted to read another book that examines rape culture and everyday misogyny and I found this at my library. And guess what? Asking For It was everything I wanted from The Female of the Species and most importantly, it delivered. It is a fresh and utterly heartbreaking examination of the way we treat our girls vs our boys. and you know how people say this book or that should be on every high school curriculum. I have never felt so passionate that this book should be in the hands of every teen everywhere.

Set in contemporary Ireland, this story revolves around Emma O’Donovan, a high school teen. This book is split into two parts, “Last year” following Emma before she was raped and then “This year” following how she is coming to terms with it.

One of the many, many things I loved about this book is the way our main character is written. Usually, authors will write the rape victim as a sort of quiet outsider who is naturally and instantaneously sympathetic. However Emma, our protagonist, embodies a lot of qualities that you usually don’t associate with YA protagonists. She’s beautiful and she knows it, flaunting it at every turn; she is selfish and superficial and she is a shitty friend. She is by all accounts a mean girl. I just really liked that this character existed in this type of story because many of us cannot instantly connect with her. She is everything a victim blamer accuses when a girl is raped. She was wearing something too low cut. She took drugs. She shouldn’t have been out alone. So because of all these, she deserved to be raped. Even in the aftermath, her friends tell her about all the shitty things she’s done telling her that she deserved it. But O’Neill shows you how ridiculous that statement is. How can someone ask for rape? And it’s absolutely heartbreaking seeing her so confident to self-doubting herself and feeling like her body doesn’t even belong to her in the second half of the book. What’s interesting about the characters in general is that they are just so real and they are less a product of this culture so much that they are perpetrators of this insidious culture. There is no audience character stand in to fight for rights. For example, her brother tells her not to wear skimpy clothing which is the exact moment Emma stares pointedly at the picture of the bikini model on his wall.

‘What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

‘I don’t know, Em.’..’It’s a bit slutty, isn’t it’

I stare pointedly at the FHM poster tacked onto the wall opposite the bed, of some topless model, one finger in her mouth, the other hand reaching into her knickers.

‘That’s different.’

And yet her brother is the one that stands up for her wholeheartedly after she was raped even when her mom and dad wouldn’t.

In most other books about rape, the line for rape is clearly defined but not so in this one where consent is dubious. Of course, yes means yes, and no means no but in a real situation, it’s not so simple. O’Neill sees where these perceptions of victim blaming and rape culture come from but seeing Emma afterwards blaming herself and believing these harmful societal “truths”, she asks us to reevaluate these perceptions that have become so deeply entrenched in our society, how they stamp girls like Emma worthless burying her worth under judgemental stereotypes and making the other characters feel as though her worth can be reduced to a “punishment”, but more devastatingly a “deserved punishment”.

The aftermath is especially heartbreaking because parts of it reminded me of the Stanford cause where the perpetrator himself was supported and people empathized with him because his career was ruined and they blamed her. Never mind the trauma that she has to face for the rest of her life. Through claustrophobic writing and the aching deterioration of Emma’s health, you understand why women don’t come out and convict the rapist. You understand the exhausting ordeal of bringing the case to trial that takes up to 2 years to resolve.

Of course, none of this would be half as well conveyed if it weren’t for O’Neill’s brilliant writing. First off, I can’t attest to this one but a lot of people have said how very accurate the depiction of what it’s like to be an Irish teen. The first half is very dialogue-heavy which works so well with Asking For It because the way she writes dialogue is so uncanny. It is so realistic and true that I feel as if I know exactly which person in my life has said what line in this book. O’Neill has this writing style when it comes to parentheses. The flashbacks aren’t pages and pages of Emma’s past in between the present. Instead a character will allude to something that we don’t know about and Emma will quickly flashback to how she felt about that event in parentheses. Or Emma will say something but think something completely different.

She pulls down the sun visor and watches me in the mirror to see my reaction. I laugh too. (Fucking bitch)

It does take some time to get use to but it’s really effective once you get the hang of it.

The ending is “bleakly ambiguous” as the author points out in her afterword. There’s no heroics, no “girl power” moments, no wish-fulfillment, no epic showdown, no resolution for Emma. And as depressing as it was, it made so much more of an impact on me and brings the concept that this isn’t about winning or losing or even getting justice. It’s about changing the perceptions we have about rape, its sexist origins, its perpetrators, and its victims. The theme should be nothing new and yet time and time again, the news (most recently in India) shows how we trivialize sexual assault. Therein lies the odd and tiring contradiction: As boys grow older, they are pressured into having sex and with lots of partners. And as girls grow older, they are pressured not to or not to have many partners, not to wear anything revealing, not to drink, not to walk alone, not to get attention. Where, I ask you, is the compromise?

I don’t even know if this review is coherent but there are just no words to describe how cutting this book is. Please read it.

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

to-ashley

I decided to give this book a shot after hearing it was such an insightful deconstruction of rape culture and everyday misogyny. Instead what I got was that odd feeling of reading a different book than everyone else and a lot of wasted potential.

Three years ago, Alex Craft’s sister was raped and murdered and now Alex spends her time getting violent revenge on those those who have wronged women. We follow two other perspectives: one is from Jack who is the school’s golden boy who’s really interested in Alex and Peekay, the preacher’s kid who befriends Alex. She is dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with her boyfriend and seeing him with someone else. Both Jack and Peekay form friendships with Alex throughout the book. It fits mostly into the coming of age of YA contemporary.

What could have been an amazing look at victim blaming and slutshaming in our culture right now especially in high school turned into such a generic story. Where did it all go wrong? First of all, one that thing that stood out to me was the overcliched romance. Popular jock (Jack) is in love with Alex, the outcast girl. Can it get any more cliche just from the setup alone? Jack’s perspective was all about how interested he was in Alex and what a special snowflake he thought she was

Other girls push the dress code, showing a solid few inches of cleavage or leggings that hug so tight you don’t need an imagination…But Alex is different, remarkable because her clothes are utterly nondescript.

But Jack’s perspective is apparently about more than just the generic romance. A lot of reviews I’ve seen have said that Jack stands for the male gaze and the ingrained problematic views that comes with that privilege. If that’s the case, then Jack’s point of view is completely useless because there is no sense of development or even reassertion of these so called problems. The quote mentioned above is a problem of sexism, of girls having to reject their femininity in order to be considered worthy, but Jack never changes this perspective throughout the book consistently commenting on how Alex is different. And simply stating a problem is not going to cut it if you want to start a conversation about this important topic. It’s like my friend telling me her house got robbed and not telling me how she felt about it. Aside from that, I never thought I really got to know Jack (what does he even like??) or for that matter any of the other characters including Peekay and even the main character herself.

Peekay spends the novel dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with her boyfriend. She gets the most development out of all the perspectives. Peekay is sort of a stand in for girl on girl hate. She consistently slut shames her ex’s current girlfriend  Branley (the hot IT girl at school). I liked her story the most as she comes to realize that Branley is just a human being who likes sex. I liked these aspects but they always felt only surface level to me, never reaching the kind of character depth that I was craving.

Alex, our main character, dishes out nuggets of wisdom on misogyny but it always feels out of place like the author put these thoughts here without any proper context. Plot events happen so that these nuggets could be placed. Like aha! this is an example of victim blaming wink wink. In fact, I wish the author just made a list of all the everyday sexism that exists and it wouldn’t have made a difference. As with the other main characters, I never felt I knew Alex. The fact that she gets revenge on her sister’s killer by murdering him (not a spoiler, it happens in the first two pages) doesn’t have any sense of weight let alone repercussion until the very end. That could be excused because Alex is a sort of wish fulfillment character, a character that acts on what some women feel or want to do about the injustices put on them but the whole reason she did this was because of her sister and I never even got to know about her sister. She is a vague presence in the novel and if the author spent even a little bit of time developing her, I would understand Alex’s motivations, her attitudes, and it would have made the story’s themes that much stronger.

Characters aside, the plot was again so much wasted potential. The “shady” characters devolve into stereotypical “back alleyway” stereotypes of rapists portrayed in the media. The book also ends in a “showdown” of sorts which completely reduces Branley to the jealous girlfriend type that is so common in korean dramas and completely degrading to her as a character. This book is suppose to be about sending messages as to how slut shaming and victim blaming and not judging someone by how many sexual partners a girl has and Branley was the target of a lot of those but in the end, her character was given no justice, reduced to another trope when the whole novel hints that she was someone other than what Peekay made her out to be, the deconstruction of the stereotypical “bitch”. The ending takes away from all that progress that the author was trying to tell us. There is no sense of growth, of realization, of irony or deconstruction of the social commentary that the author was trying to point out this entire novel! Instead, what I got was a sort of martyred wish fulfillment ending that feels false and doesn’t solve anything. These problems haven’t been solved yet so it’s fine that the book can’t solve it but it doesn’t raise any thought provoking questions either.

I get the author’s intent and I admire it; she talks about the subtle ways that society treats women compared to men. I also especially love this quote.

Tonight they used words they know, words that don’t bother people anymore. They said bitch. They told another girl they would put their dicks in her mouth. No one protested because this is our language now.

This is such a great concept to explore; it has multiple facets and ideas hidden in it. But it was just sort of thrown in there. Unfortunately, the generic story and generic characters and lack of any sort of development and nuance to both characters and plot just kill (pun not intended) any sense of an insightful look inside any of these issues she sought to criticize

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Book Recommendations · Misc · Uncategorized

Fictional Summer Lookbook

I’m feeling really summery right now probably because I just finished The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson aka Ms. Queen of Summer Contemporary. Sigh dogs, cute guys, quirky diners, and 4 awesome friends. What more could you want in a YA contemporary? What more could you want in a summer? Actually no, it would have been better if one of the dogs was a corgi because corgis are my favorite.

It is my least favorite Matson so far although I still have Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour left to read but still really enjoyable. Anyways, I was inspired to create some summer outfits for some fictional characters. I’m actually a really big fan of fashion so why not combine books and fashion?

So of course, first of all The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. This outfit was actually inspired by one of the outfits the main character, Andie, wore for one of her dates.

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I’m actually not a fan of denim but it’s seriously made such a comeback in the past year. But it’s definitely very versatile and I feel like this outfit works so well for whatever Andie is planning to do. Whether it be going to the diner with friends, walking dogs, going on casual dates, or doing a scavenger hunt, or you know going on last-minute bookstore trips (that scene was so cute)

Caelena in Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas is such a badass (even though her assassin skills are in question tbh) that if she existed in our contemporary world, I always imagine her in some kind of leather jacket (and then consequently beating up gangsters in the dark or something). So I gave it to her.

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The thing about Caelena is that she can rock battle clothing but she feels very comfortable in a dress as well (which is really refreshing in a heroine) so I just added a really flirty top and some pink heel boots that are both feminine and edgy which I think is basically Caelena. Also I think it’s an awesome summer outfit for nighttime adventures. I can just imagine her going out on her motorcycle to watch the stars..

On the other end of the spectrum, I designed an outfit for Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I feel like Lara Jean has such a distinct style, very cutesy and sophisticated.

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I remember when she was dressing up once, that she liked to dress in vintage clothing? If I’m wrong, this is embarassing, but the collared top really has a vintage feel to it while being modern at the same time. I paired with the skater skirt because it’s fun but relatively conservative. I also adore the messenger bag mostly because of the buckles, it’s really sophisticated. Anyways I can totally see Lara Jean wearing this to bake something with Kitty or going on a casual Starbucks date with Peter.

What’s summer without going to the beach? The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler takes place in a beach town.

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It’s been a while since I’ve read the book but I do remember the main character going to beach parties to..dance..I think. I used a lot of ocean type of jewelry because why not, they’re so cute. I would totally get that starfish ring. But I tried to pick flowy, nonconstricting types of clothing that you’d wear to the beach. The wedges are practical for the beach but I don’t care because I’m wedge-obsessed right now and this was the best outfit it worked with hehe.

One of my favorite scenes in Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, is the one where Sloane and Emily try to go in a club with fake IDs (even though they didn’t actually end up going in) but I had a fun time imagining what they’d wear.

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Ever since I bought red lipstick, I’ve been dying for a chance to wear it. Surprisingly, works really well for me. But yeah, I was going for sexy..

If Simon had a concert outside on a hot summer day with his band, it’s my headcanon that Isabella would wear something like this.

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I honestly don’t know why chokers are so popular all of a sudden but I’m starting to warm up to them. I’m also all about the dark pink lipstick. I feel like this outfit would also work really well for sightseeing somewhere so maybe Anna from Anna and the French Kiss?

Which outfit is your favorite, if any at all? Favorite summer outfits? Favorite summer reads?

Disclaimer: All pictures of individual clothes are not mine. Creation of photosets was helped by the website polyvore.com.

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