Yay!!! This was just what I wanted. This was like a cone of shaved ice on a hot day by the pool listening to a mix of one hit wonders. Yay!! I feel like I didn’t realize it, but one of my goals for vacation was to stay up till three in the morning with a fun adventure, and this was just the thing. 3 a.m. read: check!
There is such a deluge of young, energetic girl writers, writing women who struggle with their stoicism and strength and have supportive, emotional male counterparts, and I absolutely love it. It is like we hit this stride of girls saying, “Hey, sure, I could write a book and tell you how I see the world and what I want from it. Why not?!” And then publishers are publishing them! Wahoo! And, I know you are as little shocked by this as I am, but it turns out that girls do not always see ourselves as emotionally irrational, sensitive weaklings and men as muscly douchebags. And I really like the simple, somewhat symbolic way it looks at the complexity of emotional control and physical violence. I could not be more pleased. Goodbye stupid, boring old propaganda, and hello new, fun counter-propaganda!
Huh, now that I've read a couple of other reviews of this, I have to say that I'm surprised by people's criticisms. It seems like many people have taken issue with the fact that Katsa doesn't like dresses and see that as some kind of condemnation of girls who do like dresses. I have to disagree. I love seeing awesome girls like Buffy and Elle Woods, and the girls in Snooki's book, who love shopping and pink and are also smart and capable. But, I don't think it is condemning of girls to show a girl who does not love shopping. While I have to say that Katsa's take on marriage is almost word for word how I see marriage, I don't really feel like Katsa, or any female protagonist, needs to be the definitive image of what all women should be. Some women think marriage sounds awesome, and others don't, and I don't feel like Katsa being wary of marriage because of her resistance to control is a judgment on any of the women in this book or in real life who are in favor of marriage.
It kind of weirds me out to see the big reaction to that. I think it weirds me out because I do not care for shopping and marriage sounds awful to me, but most of my friends love shopping and/or are married, and I don't like to think me having a different opinion somehow undermines them. Anyway, I love seeing stories where girls are fun and strong and love shopping and marriage, and stories where they don't, because girls are not all the same about those things. It kind of bums me out to see this book criticized for ideas I feel represent my thoughts and preferences.
On the down side, this story is admittedly somewhat derivative, but not in the creepy way that Cassandra Clare is derivative, mostly in a fun way. There is a definite X-Men
feel to me about the premise of the story, I kept accidentally reading the heroine’s name as Katniss, the trip over the mountains seemed so Aliens
, and the ending is Jane Eyre. But, what awesome stories to borrow from!! Such a great mix.
Also, this book knocks the Bechdel test
out of the park. Out of the park! Katsa’s interactions with all of the women were so beautiful and humble and natural. I loved them. I had a little bit of Bechdel concern early on because of Helda, but ultimately I think she is a great character, too. It feels natural for me for Katsa to face a lot of pressure to get married and have babies, even from really wonderful friends, because let’s face it, you do. And including the character of Helda gave Katsa such a graceful opportunity to define her own life instead of listening to even someone she loved.
When I was in seventh grade, I would read books with a couple of friends of mine and say, “It was sooooooo romaaaaaaantic!” And then we would laugh for like fifteen minutes, the way you do in seventh grade. I can’t really explain it now, but we thought it was hilarious to say that. Or, I did at least. Anyway, this book definitely would have made it on my soooooo romaaaaantic train, but it still presented a really healthy model, in my evaluation, of loyalty and love without control and ownership. Definite swoon. Plus, a guy with tattoos: how can I resist?
Also, I loooooooved that Raffin was Katsa’s sassy gay friend! Because girl needed one, and he was so great at it! And he totally was her sassy gay friend; don’t tell me otherwise. But, what a subtle, wonderful way to show a loving, sweet gay couple without sort of exploiting them for PC points. I think, anyway. I mean, I know the book didn’t dive fully into what it would mean for Raffin to have to get married, and it would have been great to be more explicit about it, but I still think it showed them really sweetly.
While I have to say that I love Blood Red Road more than this, and I think this is somewhat comparable to that, I did still love this. I just think the writing in BRR is brilliant and Saba’s voice is so unique. This was more straightforward, and probably an easier read for people who struggled with the dialect in BRR. But, mostly, YAY for all of the messages about women and girls defending ourselves and not bowing to control and emotional manipulation! So smart. I think this book could be to a seventh-grade girl audience what Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is to an adult male audience in terms of messages about confronting hatred of women. And I say again, YAAAAAY!!!!
I received a free copy of this book from the library. In return I promised to pay my late fees.