Peter Pan – A Reflection

Peter PanFirst, A Review

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is rated 2 stars because I couldn’t get past the sexism and racism rampant throughout this story.

I’m still not sure how to rate this. If this hadn’t been a classic, I absolutely would have not finished this book. Not far into the story, there are several instances of sexism that is appalling. I fully acknowledge that the era in which this was written in was an era of explicit sexism, but even taking that into consideration, these instances were awful. Then the rest of the book is really a narrative about mothers and it is drenched in the sexism of the day. I read a short story in The Emerald Circus entitled, “Lost Girls,” before I read this original story and was confused as to why there was such a strong feminist statement in it. Now, I absolutely understand. I wanted to write a story like “Lost Girls” myself after reading this story.

There is also racism throughout the book, but in particular, near the end of this book, there is a long narration that is appalling racism. It stands out as particularly awful. I am fine with tolerating off-handed racist and sexist comments throughout a book that was written at a time when that was the norm, but I balk at the idea of finding enduring a story which is entirely based on a sexist and racist narrative. I find it particularly disturbing to see such things in a children’s story that is still being read to children today.

The story itself, even overlooking these issues, is not very good. Peter Pan is an annoying, spoiled boy who simply is too selfish. There is glorified violence. There is no character growth or much point to the story. It is a boys adventure story very reministent of its era. I looked for something to enjoy about it, but found it lacking. I do not understand why it is still considered a classic.

If you are interested in reading this classic, by all means do. There is probably something redeeming about this story that I missed. But please do not read it to children until you have read it and thought critically about it yourself.

Now, A Reflection

When do we chastise a book and/ or author for things like racism and sexism when the words were written at a time when such thoughts was the norm? When do we give a book and/ or author a pass and when do we say it is unacceptable? This is a hot button issue right now, as some of you may know. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the recent controversy, the American Library Association voted unanimously to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a book award for her racist depictions of Native Americans and blacks. I won’t weigh in on this controversy as I haven’t read the books and in this reflection, I’m more concerned about the actual book and not using an author’s name for an award. I personally really struggled over this while listening to Peter Pan. I wanted to read this classic children’s story and hear Jim Dale narrate it (I’ve yet to listen to one of his audiobooks), yet barely into the story, I was so angry by the sexism, I wanted to stop listening. I ended up going through the whole story hoping that it was just going to be occassional references to sexism and racism, but it wasn’t. I personally couldn’t enjoy the story because of this, but does it make sense to give the book a low rating? Should I have skipped rating it on Goodreads? How critical can I be of a book that was written at a time when sexism and racism was the norm?

I don’t have good answers to these questions. Ultimately, I did rate the book as I truly felt about it, 2 stars, instead of an average rating or 3 stars which heavily took into account the era in which the book was written. But I don’t claim this is the ideal way to handle such situations. For me, the racism and sexism was too severe to ignore and I finally settled on the more accurate rating. However, in other instances, I have overlooked sexism or racism as indicative of the times and not hard it so heavily sway my opinion of the novel. I can’t say why exactly, but these instances were too much for me to overlook. I absolutely expect to be criticized for drawing the line here and not somewhere else. After all, I am currently reading Rebecca, which is a narrative around sexism and has one-off racism in it, and I don’t expect to be writing a scathing review of that book. But I am curious to know:

How to you rate books with racism, sexism, or the like in a classic book? Does it matter whether it’s aimed at children or adults? Does the degree of racism, sexism, etc. matter? Share your thoughts below!

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The Color Purple – A Reflection

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker is rated 4 stars because it is a moving and beautiful story which feels authentic.

First, a Review

It’s hard to review a book which is considered a modern classic and is loved by so many. It feels like most anything that could be said about the book has already been said and either you will read it or you will not. But I will attempt to say a few things about this book that will hopefully sway those that have not red it to consider reading it.

I had avoided reading this book for quite awhile because I knew it dealt with tough subjects and I am not always in a place to deal with such things in the books I’m reading. But a friend who I trust on these sorts of things said while the book did deal with tough subjects, it wasn’t done in such a way as to be emotionally challenging to deal with. Thus, I gave it a chance (I suggested we read it for my book club), and I’m very glad I did. While horrible things happen to Celie (see trigger warning for more details), because this book is written as letters, these things are mentioned as mere facts. While they impact Celie, she takes it for granted that it’s just the way things are and doesn’t say much else about them. If you are worried about this book being emotionally draining, don’t. It’s an uplifting story.

The matter of fact way these horrible thing are discussed makes them more powerful. The sense that this is just the way things are brings to light how bad it really is without having to say that. These things are not uncommon and that makes them all the more atrocious. Even though they are common, the books shows how different women respond to them, which is also incredibly powerful. While these women see these things as the way things are, they also do not all choose to respond to them equally and this variance is a kind of power over these forces they do not fully control. This also makes it an uplifting story.

Celie’s letters are written with spelling and grammatical errors and more like spoken speech than formal letter writing. This makes it a bit harder to get into the story as one has to navigate the unique language of the book. But it is incredibly powerful in this book as it shows so much of who Celie is. In general, I am not a fan of novels written through letters, with a few exceptions, and this is one of them. Again, it works really well for this book as it shows the core of who Celie is in a straightforward way which feels more authentic to her voice than a novelization would have felt. Overall, this is a book I highly recommend and if you, like me, have reservations about this book due to its subject matter and/ or its style, I myself felt these reservations were unwarranted.

Now, a Reflection

Note, there are spoilers in this reflection. The entire reflection is a spoiler, so there are no markers indicating parts one can read and avoid spoilers.

In my book club, we discussed Celie’s and Shug’s relationship and several of the members expressed how frustrating it was when Shug left Celie. Some also expressed confusion at why Celie was so accepting of how their relationship played out. Besides the fact that Celie was the kind of person who mostly accepted things they way they were, this relationship felt incredibly authentic to me and it is something I wished I had read when I was in high school. At that time in my life, I myself was in a similar relationship and I would have benefited greatly from seeing an example of the kind of relationship I was in. My best friend and I moved beyond friendship to lovers, yet, it was complicated by the fact that neither of us was entirely sure of our sexuality. We both at various points dating men and neither of us saw it as a violation of our relationship. We weren’t polyamorous; we didn’t know what that was. We wouldn’t have tolerated one of us dating another woman. But there was this expectation that we would date men. We didn’t discuss this in detail and all I can say is that she was supportive of me dating men. For me, I didn’t really consider the possibility of us having an exclusive relationship. I didn’t really cross my mind. In retrospect, I think this is because society expects women to date men, whether we are interested in doing so or not. Women aren’t freely given a lot of agency in their sexual relationships with men and this greatly impacts women’s ability to explore their own sexuality. In my reflection on the book, Carmilla, I discussed how my relationship with this woman was invisible to most people around us, even when we were vocal about it. I believe this played a role in both of us dating men. At no point, did we sit down and say, well, obviously we have to keep dating men; there was no discussion of it at all. One of us went on a date with a man and that was that. We discussed it as friends would, not as lovers open to additional partners or lovers being cheated on. It did not occur to us that there was any other way and I felt that this is how Celie and Shug saw their relationship. In addition, Shug, needed the external validation of men’s attraction to her for her self-esteem. I can relate to this. I spent years dating men because of what I already discussed in how I didn’t think to not date them, but also because I was raised to thrive on sexual attention from males. It took me many years to recognize that while I enjoyed that attention, I did not enjoy dating or having sex with almost all men. I had to get to a place where I was confident enough in who I was as a person to be able to say that I expect relationships with women to be exclusive and that I do not need the sexual attention of men to feel complete. That’s not an easy place to get to and it’s not a place I think Shug was ready to get to anytime soon. While unfortunately I think there are some readers who dismiss their relationship as real because of how it plays out, I saw it as more real because it mirrored my experience. I think if I had read this book back then, I would have thought more carefully about my own sexuality and what I wanted with my best friend turned lover. This type of story matters and I am incredibly grateful to have read it.

Trigger warnings (contains spoilers): sexual abuse, namely incest, detailed not graphically depicted; children born of incest; physical abuse, detailed not graphically depicted; racism and racial slurs

The Perfect Son – A Review

The Perfect SonThe Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White is rated 3 stars because while most of this book was very engaging and well done, the last few chapters of the book were too unbelievable to warrant a 4 star rating. This is a book which shows flawed and authentic characters, making a unrealistic ending more damaging to the story.

Note: I have listed trigger warnings at the end of this review. They can be considered spoilers, so I have marked them as such. I’m happy to answer any questions about the trigger warnings I’ve described below.

This book ended up being different from what I expected and it was a book I enjoyed more because of that. It is told from three points of view, Ella (the mom), Felix (the dad), and Harry (the son), but it heavily focuses on Felix’s point of view. I had expected to mostly read from Ella’s perspective, but hers with the least frequently used. While I expected this to be a story about Ella’s struggle to come to terms with her failing health and her inability to care for her son, this story is not really about her at all. In fact, she is much more of a side character used to further the story along. This is a story about a father struggling to accept who his son is while overcoming his own flaws. It is an incredibly powerful story and the depth of Felix’s character greatly adds to the impact.

The story was interesting and there was a lot of character growth, but some of it falls flat and doesn’t ring true. Felix is the most flushed out and most of his growth feels real, though at the very end, he makes a significant leap that feels a bit unrealistic. Ella grows the least and her growth is probably realistic, but there’s so little of her perspective, it’s hard to know. Harry is the least realistic character and his growth is a bit simplistic and not fully flushed out. The problem is that there’s not much depth to his thoughts or much internal conflict. Overall, he was way too happy and way too accepting of everything and while there are people with such optimism, even they must have some internal struggle which is just not depicted in Harry. There was a lot of potential there, but it wasn’t flushed out as well as it could be. Harry’s character probably would have felt more real if it wasn’t in such stark contrast to Felix’s character. Felix felt incredibly real and it was obvious the author understood his perspective well. But that made it more obvious she didn’t understand Harry’s perspective very well.

This book was a refreshing divergence from the standard family drama. In The Perfect Son, the drama is driven by clear health conditions, making it feel less like rubbernecking at a serious car accident. This family faces real, concrete problems and they put in substantial work to navigate and adapt to these problems. I loved this about the book. There were sections that were definitely 4 stars because of the depth and authenticity of every aspect of the particular situation and characters. Unfortunately, that made it all the more obvious where the book failed to do this. It’s particularly unforunate that this book was told from multiple perspectives since two out of three of those perspectives were of only partially developed characters.

That ending! That’s the part of the book that dropped this solidly to 3 stars. I would love to go on a rant her about how ridiculous the ending was, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. What I will say is that the ending felt rushed and did not stay true to the characters or the style of the book. It’s jarring to have most of the book struggle and work to overcome various problems and then at the very end have a major event which is perfectly resolved and presents no future problems. It is really unfortunate that the ending was so bad otherwise this could have been an incredible book which shows diverse perspectives of a child with Tourette’s syndrome and a father with perfectionist issues.

Overall, the book was engaging and interesting and it was refreshing to see flawed characters. This probably would have been a 3.5 star read if not for the ending, which was too neatly wrapped in a bow, except for the one significant piece of the storyline which was not addressed or resolved. The neat bow in the last chapter set 5 years later would have been less annoying had the previous chapters (starting with a trip) not been so over the top perfectly played out. For a story which presented flawed and real characters, it was disappointing to have it all end in a not so realistic way. If the book sounds interesting to you, I recommend it, but do note that it is closer to a beach read than literary fiction since one has to suspend a bit of reality to enjoy the ending.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and it was well done. I do recommend this narration if you are considering the audiobook. It’s the narration more than anything else that has really stayed with me after finishing this book. If you enjoy audiobooks, that is definitely the way to go.

Trigger warnings: [SPOILER ALERT] child abuse, graphically depicted; domestic violence, implied; mental illness (OCPD), graphically shown and described; fight scene with physical confrontation; bullying, minimally depicted [/SPOILER ALERT]

Note: part of this review was originally posted on Goodreads. New original sections were added to this blog post.

Carmilla – A Reflection

CarmillaCarmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is rated 4 stars, though probably more like 3.5 stars because it was a bit predictable, but otherwise well done and engaging. Though, I say a bit predictable as is if there was a genre for this kind of work before this book, so 4 stars is the more accurate rating, time period considered and all.

NOTE: This review and reflections have all sorts of spoilers, but also, I haven’t seen a summary of this work that doesn’t essentially spoil the big reveal, so take this spoiler alert for what it is. The review mostly reveals the same spoiler Goodreads does, but I do mention my interpretation of something that could be considered a spoiler. I will list that specifically as a spoiler, in case you want to read the rest.

First a Review

Carmilla is a beautiful, atmospheric story of a vampire written before Dracula. It shows a vampire that is neither evil nor good; she simply is a human immortal. I greatly enjoyed this complex rendering of such a creature. I am personally not a fan of vampire stories, but I was interested in reading this one due to the YouTube series Carmilla. [SPOILER ALERT] That series takes seriously the lesbian elements in the story and I very much read the story that way, though I can understand how other readers would see the relationship as mearly platonic. I was happy to see this story have elements of romantic love between two women as it is rare a classic or old story has such elements. [/SPOILER ALERT]

I find it challenging to review classics as it feels as though everything one could say about it has already been said. I don’t have much more to add than my personal account above. I do recommend this book to anyone interested in reading one of the first, if not the first, novels to write about a vampire, or a story alongs the lines of a gothic mystery.

Next a Reflection

Reminder: There are spoilers, or least spoilerly interpretations ahead. 

Platonic friendship or romantic relationship? This is a question up for debate in books like Carmilla where there is enough intimacy, it could be interpreted as a romantic intimacy. Who gets to decide what kind of relationship it is? Should we assume it’s platonic unless otherwise specified? Where is the line? Why is the line often so much more clear when two men are involved than when two women are?

I definitely do not have fully articulated arguments for all of these questions, let alone clear thoughts. The thing that was clear for me when I read Carmilla is that it. is. so. incredibly common to dimiss lesbian relationships as close friendships and I don’t think we should. I don’t think we should dimiss lesbian relationships as friendships because that only feeds into homophobia and lesbian and bi erasure and it. is. so. incredibly hurtful and harmful. I myself have experienced erasure and it deeply hurt me. It damaged my heart and soul in a way that I have not been fully able to heal. Telling women, particularly young girls, that a deeply meaningful, soul-mate love level relationship is just a misunderstood friendship is devasting to the core. It shakes their ability to determine what they are actually feeling and who they are sexually. Maybe it seems like it should be a minor thing to dismiss a sexual relationship as a friendship, but in a society in which women are routinely dismissed all. the. time. it is crucial we don’t dimiss them and who they are, even when we are not sure what we are seeing. I would rather people assume I am dating my female platonic friend than assume I am not dating my girlfriend, my partner. It is painful to feel invisible, even when that invisibility affords some privilege. Some female same sex relationships pass as friendships and that helps keep them safe from violent homophobes. Some female same sex relationships pass as friendships and they are allowed additional sexual opportunities straight couples would not have. My high school girlfriend and I were able to stay over at each other’s houses because neither of our parents believed us when we told them we were dating. We were even allowed to go on a vacation together, with her parents, and have our own hotel room for an entire week. We had much more freedom sexually than I did at the time with any male I was dating. Yet, none of this made it any less painful that very few people ever saw the love and commitment we had for each other nor did they believe us when we told them. This kind of dismissal is not reserved for the young. My same sex relationships as an adult have been dismissed as friendships, even when we’ve engaged in public displays of affection. My point is that J. Sheridan Le Fanu could have wrote in Carmilla the words, “these two women were sexual lovers and considered each other to be fulfilling romantic partners on the deepest of levels” and people would still argue they are just friends. Whenever possible, please think carefully about whether your interpretation of a bookish relationship feeds into bi and lesbian erasure or if it tries hard to avoid doing just that.

Lastly, a Bookish Freak-Out

Have you seen Carmilla the YouTube Series by KindaTV? The YouTube series is how I first heard about Carmilla, though I didn’t realize it was a book until a fellow book lover was reading it daily through the Serial Reader app (isn’t Goodreads an amazing way to find great reads???). Carmilla the YouTube Series was a pretty big deal when it first came out in the lesbian community, or at least, the lesbian Tumblr community I was plugged into at the time. I really enjoyed watching the series and definitely followed it up until the movie came out. I was a bit disappointed that it had such an exclusive opening and only after the exclusive opening could anyone else rent it. It was what it was, but I just ended up moving on to other things. Vampires have never exactly been a concept that particularly interested me and I haven’t ever quite gotten into a YouTube series the way I have of TV series. My interest wanned and I never finished the series, but now that I have read the book, I definitely plan on finishing it! If you’ve watched it, what did you think?

What are your thoughts???

Note: Most of this review posted first in June 2018 on Goodreads. The reflection and freak-out are new content not found on any other site.

Ms. Marvel Volumes 1-4 – A Review

On Tuesday, I finished reading Ms. Marvel Vol. 4. Instead of reviewing that single volume here without having posted reviews of the proceeding volumes, I decided to post all the reviews here in one blog post. I tend to write short reviews of graphic novels making this a great way to review them in a blog post. This graphic novel series is incredibly important to the genre of super hero comics since it features a Muslim teenager as the inhuman super hero. This series accurately depicts her culture in various scenes and makes no apologies for her character’s decision to respect that culture. In addition, it strives to be feminist, diverse, tolerant, and modern. Even as someone who doesn’t read the super hero comic genre, I can see how vitally important this series is to that genre and I think it is worth the time to review the volumes I’ve read here.

Ms Marvel Vol 1Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson is rated 5 stars because it is incredibly well done and shows a perspective and culture rarely depicted in literature. Volume 1 collects single issues #1-5.

I don’t read superhero comics. I barely read graphic novels of any kind. I rarely give 5 star ratings. Yet, I just gave a 5 star rating to a superhero comic. That in and of itself speaks volumes and I’m not sure how much I can add to it, but I will try.

This volume contains the individual issues around Ms. Marvel’s backstory. Kalama’s struggle to understand who she is before she becomes a superhero is an interesting enough storyline on its own; adding the element of her also becoming a superhero gives it even more dimension. It is a fully flushed out aspect of her character and it gives her substantial depth – deeper than some novels are able to achieve.

Also, I LOVED the illustrations. The background images are incredible. Like the sticker on the fire extinguisher which reads “Die Fire Die.” I want tons of those in every issue! They are fantastic and made me laugh over and over again!

As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy violence, even when PG-level depicted, I was happy to find little of it in this volume. One of the only other superhero graphic novels I’ve read, Strong Female Protagonist, had more violence in it than strictly made me happy, so I was thrilled that this one kept violence to a minimum.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who has yet to pick it up; not just because it is a great leap forward in terms of representation, but because it says incredibly important things (see vol. 2 in particular). This is the future of socially revelant media and I’m so glad it is becoming more of the norm.

Ms Marvel Vol 2Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson is rated 5 stars because the social commentary is incredible! Volume 2 collects issues #6-11

While I LOVED Ms. Marvel vol. 1, I didn’t expect to continue to like the series. I have found that I have a hard time sticking with series in any format, mostly because they always disappoint me at some point. It’s hard to keep hitting the high mark and eventually when it consistently falls short, I lose interest. So far, Ms. Marvel is no where hitting below the high mark; in fact, this volume might have raised it a bit. The social commentary in this volume is incredible. I won’t say more, but you should definitely check it out.

There was a guest illustrator for the first two issues in this volume and that was disappointing, particularly because I was not a fan of the new illustrator’s style. Importantly, the subtlies of the background that I love disappeared and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stick with a series that lost that much depth. But, it went back to the same high caliber of illustrations. So, if like me, you are a bit hesitant after the first issue in this volume, just give it a minute.

This is a phenomenal series and I definitely recommend people give it a read.

Ms Marvel Vol 3 Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson is rated 3.5 stars because it moved much more towards the super hero good guy versus bad guy trope and that’s not my thind. Volume 3 collects issues #12-15.

There are some great moments in this volume, like when Bruno gets all annoyed by the term “friendzone” and articulates well how there’s no such thing. And it’s still refreshing to see a non-white American culture accurately portrayed. But, unfortunately, this comic is headed down the road that is expected of it – to become a regular good guy vs. bad guy fight it out comic. That sort of thing does not hold my interest. But I will stick with it through another volume. It’s still an incredibly well done comic series; it just isn’t my kind of series.

Ms Marvel Vol 4Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson is rated 2.5 stars because I was particularly disappointed with this volume, which had som much potential to do great things, but ended up instead moving away from its feminist roots. Volume 4 collects issues #16-19.

I was disappointed with this volume for several reasons. I’m not a fan of cliffhangers or vague story lines. The sheer number of cross-overs is getting annoying, especially since I’m not a typical comic book fan and have little knowledge of these characters. With these cross-overs, Kamala goes back to being a fan girl with little agency, which I find incredibly annoying. But the thing I was the most disappointed with was the conversation Kamala and Bruno had as they were looking at the end of the world. I simply need Kamala to have more agency and more tenacity than she does. Honestly, that conversation feeds into sexism and I came to the series to see that removed from the typical comic book genre. I’m honestly not sure I will be picking up the next volume. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought about it so I can decide whether to read it.

Note: The reviews for volumes 1 through 4 originally posted on Goodreads.

Another Note: for some reason, when I linked to my Goodreads review of Strong Female Protagonist, that review was posted on this blog post inadvertently. I have since fixed that issue, but it may still show on some social media posts. I apologize for that oversight.

What have you thought of this series so far?

 

Sparrow Migrations – A Review

Sparrow MigrationsSparrow Migrations by Cari Noga is rated 2.5 stars, rounded up because there was decent character development and I was engaged, but the story wasn’t particularly memorable or interesting

When I read the summary for this book, I thought it was going to be a sad book and thus it spent a long time on my Kindle shelf. But this year, I’ve committed to tackle Mount TBR and have a quarter to half of the books I read be ones I already own. Plus, I enjoy listening to easy reads when I’m doing things around the house, so this one ended up being a book I finally got to. Thankfully it wasn’t an emotional story. Yes, it starts with the Miracle on the Hudson landing, but it quickly moves beyond that to look at the lives of three families who were impacted by this event. In addition, only one of those families was on the plane; the other two were on ferries which aided in the rescue. This is not a book about tragedy but rather a book about finding oneself.

The stories of each family vary quite a bit from each other, which makes their stories more interesting. It does make it a bit easier to keep their stories straight; however, in the beginning while the reader is still learning their stories, it is really difficult to keep track of all the characters. This is because the story does not follow the point of view of one character from each family, but rather nearly all family members. This constant change in perspective is frustrating and it only minimally adds to the story. There’s even a time when the point of view is from a minor character who is not one of the family members. It is simply too many perspectives, especially since all essentially told in the same voice. While I understand why the author did this, it simply did not add the depth to the story to the extent she thought it did. There were moments when these other perspectives were helpful in understanding the characters and their development; however, it would have been better to limit this to a few brief moments when the point of view was from the non-main family character. For example, Robby was the main character of his family and I would have greatly preferred to have his family’s story told from his point of view entirely, but it was useful to see his dad’s perspective at one particular point in the novel. Yet, it was less useful to see his point of view nearly as often as Robbie’s. This constant switching is particularly challenging in the beginning and I suspect some readers will bail early in the book simply because of this issue.

The best thing about this book was its character development, though it could have been better had the story stuck to one perspective per family. Mostly, the characters are developed enough that they feel like real people facing real challenges and this made it easy to finish the book. Unfortunately, the characters do not grow as much as one would expect in a book about how an event impacts one’s life. For example, Deborah does not really grow much as a person. There are some changes, but mostly those are external events that naturally cause a person’s life to change, not necessarily the person. Maybe Deborah did change internally because of these external events, but the reader doesn’t read about those internal conflicts. Again, this is because there are simply too many perspectives in this book. Unless this book was going to be 100 or 200 more pages, it’s simply not possible to develop this many characters and then have the reader inside each one of their heads to truly understand and see the full complexity of how external events are impact them. There is one family where their story is told nearly entirely through the perspective of the mom and she has the most growth of all the characters. This supports my conclusion that there were simply too many perspectives.

I was a bit disappointed that the storylines overlapped, but that was too be expected. It was a bit much that nearly each day covered in the novel was covered from the perspective of multiple families. I understand that it might have been easier to write this way, but I would have preferred to see each families timelines to progress in their own chapters instead of side by side in the same chapter about one particular day. It took me awhile to get used to this style and because of the sheer number of perspectives, it made it even harder to follow the book early on. I can see a decent number of readers bailing because it is just so much to keep track of.

There are two characters whose story did not always feel realistic: Robby and Brett. Robby is autistic and while there are moments when it appears to be an accurate depiction of an autistic person, there were moments when it was less clear. As someone who is neurotypical, I have no basis for determining whether this was an accurate portrayal, so do take my concern with a grain of salt. There were just a few times when it felt more like a neurotypical person writing about her perceived perspectives of a neurodivergent person than truly from the perspective of a neurodivergent person. This is also true with Brett. As she comes to terms with her sexuality, there are moments where her perspective feels more like it is the perspective of a person who has not seriously struggled with her sexual identity than an accurate portrayal. As a woman who has spent much of her life reflecting on and trying to understand her sexuality, her portrayal did feel inauthentic at points; however, I respect that my experience is not the only experience and there may be more truth to this portrayal than I felt there was. But ultimately, it did not feel like there was enough internal conflict to drive her changes.

This book was better than I expected, but was not as good as it could have been because of all the various points of view. If you are interested in reading this book, know that the beginning with be a bit slow going simply because of the number of perspectives. For readers who have difficulties tracking many viewpoints or simply do not like reading many viewpoints, this book is not for you. This book is best for readers who like developed characters and find many viewpoints interesting, even if it means a bit less depth for each character.

Ash – Review: Library

Ash coverAsh by Malinda Lo – 3.5/ 5 stars

I wanted to LOVE Ash by Malinda Lo. I wanted this to be my next favorite book. A lesbian retelling of Cinderella, probably the fairy tale I relate to the most, was destined to be a favorite. So, I looked, and I looked, and I looked for reasons to absolutely love this book, but ultimately, it ended up being a pretty average book.

What started off with a lot of potential, and a lot of initial goodwill on my part, ended up not amounting too much. I, mistakenly, assumed that the prince would instead be a princess, but that’s not the twist. Instead, the king’s hunter is a female huntress and she’s the one Cinderella (Ash) notices. Okay, so, not what I expected, but the unexpected can be good or even great, so this was not a major problem. Instead, there were several other serious problems with the book.

This is a YA book, so it easily could have been a coming out/ coming of age YA book. I would have been fine with that. Except, that’s not exactly what this is. Instead, for a long time, Ash does not question what she is feeling and then when she does, it’s more about the love triangle than it is about her sexuality. For me, it was not clear whether Ash is a lesbian or bi/pansexual, though I suspect it is the latter. This is one of the things I struggled with in the book. I wanted Ash to either embrace her sexuality or grapple with it, but she didn’t do either and instead, seemed to just let the moment decide for her. Now, there is nothing wrong with a character shirking labels; I myself did that for much of my sexual identity. But that’s not what is going on here. Instead, it is almost as if Ash is too young to understand or have sexual thoughts. She comes across more curious about her love interests than attracted to them, which felt more like asexuality than anything else. Again, I would have no problem with an asexual Ash, but I gather that’s not what she is supposed to be. It’s as if Lo was not sure how to portray Ash’s sexuality and thus we end up with this unclear sense of it.

In addition to the sexuality piece being written in an unclear manner, there is an unclear love triangle which is partly murking the waters on Ash’s sexuality. In this retelling, Ash does not have a fairy godmother; instead, her fairy is a dark and dangerous male fairy. He is the other love interest, but it is not quite clear whether she is attracted to him sexually or simply pulled in by this supernatural power he exudes. Maybe it is clearer than I imagine and I simply could not come to terms with the idea that her fairy “savior” is abusing his power to get her to run off with him. It was disturbing, especially since Ash sometimes seems to think that she is attracted to him. It was a close portrayal of how abuse victims end up thinking that they are the one at fault. But, it is all too vague to state emphatically that this is what Lo intended, so it may just be a poorly fleshed out love triangle. Regardless, I was not a fan of the triangle nor of the idea of Ash falling for her fairy godfather.

But, for me, the biggest problem with Ash is that the love interest is an incredibly slow burn. It is often so slow, one is simply reading tedious plot that does not go anywhere or develop anything. In fact, I would have been happy with more character development or more clearly fleshed out plot lines. But instead, there are irrelevant scenes of Ash waiting for something to happen. I grew so bored, this was nearly a DNF. Eventually, it gets better and more things happen, but still they do not happen between Ash and the huntress, who spend long sections of the book having no contact with each other. By the end, I do not understand why either of them are interested in each other. To be fair, I strongly prefer slowly built relationships, but this one was so sparse, it barely made sense.

There was so much potential in this story that I want to rewrite it myself and flesh out a deeper, more beautiful story. The premise is solid and there is much to work with, but it did not end up satisfying me in the end. But, there were parts I enjoyed and I am glad I read it. I am not certain I will read more by Lo, though I want to do so. I worry that these concerns will linger in her other books based on snippets of reviews I’ve seen, leaving her lower on the list of authors I hope to revisit someday. Which is a shame as I think there was real potential for me to fall in love with Lo’s body of work.