Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (12/1/20)–Six Angry Girls

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy December! I’m so glad that 2020’s almost over…and it definitely feels like December where I am! There’s been snow falling for a good hour or so, and it looks fittingly wintry outside my window.

Arrested development coffin GIF on GIFER - by Painsinger

And I won this year’s NaNoWriMo yesterday! 35,051 of my goal of 35,000! [pats self on the back]

Well, now then, I guess I should get to the review now, right?

This one is another 2020 release (August 18), and I forget exactly how it came on my radar, but I decided to put it on hold because I wanted a nice feminist book in my life. And…well, the good intentions were all there and the representation’s great, but much of the book ended up being a mess, unfortunately.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner

Six Angry Girls–Adrienne Kisner

Raina and Millie have rarely spoken to each other, but they both have one thing in common–a promising senior year that got derailed. For Raina, it’s her boyfriend not only dumping her, but cheating on her, and being ousted as co-president of the Drama Club. For Millie, it’s her being voted out of the all-boys Mock Trial team, and her controlling father growing worse by the day.

After she writes to a romance advice columnist, Raina finds new solace in a knitting circle who specializes in political activism, and soon, she, Millie, and four other girls united to dismantle the patriarchy of their school, piece by piece.

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My expectations were average for Six Angry Girls, what with being in the midst of a reading slump that I’ve just now managed to emerge from, but I’m sad to say that this novel only stretched the slump out longer.

Let’s start with what I liked, because I should be at least a little positive here. And there were a few things I did like about this book. The cast of Six Angry Girls is a lot more diverse than most contemporary feminist YA I’ve come across–in the main cast of six, we have several sapphic characters (including Millie), a sapphic asexual character, two POC characters, and a trans character who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns. So props to Kisner for including lots of authentic and casual representation! (Plus, I don’t think I’ve seen any characters–if any at all–who use multiple pronouns, like Izzy does, so that’s always a win!) Kisner also handled the subject of Millie’s abusive father well; those parts were certainly hard to read, but they were handled with aplomb and felt (disturbingly) authentic.

Unfortunately, it all went downhill from here…

First off, let’s talk about the writing. My main issue is that none of the teenagers read like authentic teenagers, and it mainly came down to the dialogue. Other than “I’m” and “I’ve,” there were almost no contractions to be found. Anywhere. As a result, the dialogue felt clunky and inauthentic. Additionally, many of the plot points that were built up for most of the books were rushed, and events that had been alluded to for a good chunk of the book were resolved in two pages or left, so I often found myself lost and thinking “wait, that already happened? That quickly?”

There’s also the issue of a main cast of six. Normally, I’m all for casts of this size–IF every single character is used equally. Millie and Raina were the only characters who narrated, but other than Grace, most of the characters were just…there. Izzy, Veronica, and Nikita didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose, other than diversity and positions in the mock trials. We had zero character development for any of them, and we have only the faintest idea of their personalities. Grace has slightly more of a purpose, at least, but I think that’s in part because she was in a relationship with Millie by the 75% mark.

But my main criticism of Six Angry Girls comes down to the depiction of feminism. I LOVE how Kisner tried to portray all of the feminism, patriarchy-smashing, and nonviolent protesting, but it all seemed…somewhat shallow. There were a variety of issues covered (sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.), but neither of them were discussed beyond the surface level, giving it an almost shallow appearance. The mock trial and knitting plots felt loosely tied together, and almost entirely unrelated, and I found myself wondering why the two plots existed. Raina’s and Millie’s stories could have frankly worked as two separate books, and that would have made for a lot less confusion.

And the motives behind most everything seemed to be revenge, which I really didn’t like as it related to feminism. For me, feminism is about seeing injustices and inequality within a community, and fighting back against it. Sure, some of it is about getting back at the oppressor, but ultimately, it’s about creating an equal playing field. In Six Angry Girls, most of the motivations behind all of the plot points were centered around revenge–against Brandon (Raina’s cheating ex), against the Drama Club, and against the Mock Trial team. I’m sure Kisner’s intentions were good, but having the feminist aspects of the book being portrayed as more of a revenge plot than anything else didn’t sit well with me.

All in all, a light and diverse feminist YA that suffered from stilted dialogue, characters without purposes, and a depiction of feminism that was full of holes. 2.5 stars.

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Six Angry Girls is a standalone, but Adrienne Kisner is also the author of two other novels, Dear Rachel Maddow and The Confusion of Laurel Graham.

Today’s song:

GAAAH…I’ve been listening to this one since I finished the season finale of Fargo last night…when I tell you that this scene made me SOB…(YOU CAN GUARANTEE A REVIEW ON MY END OF THIS SEASON OF FARGO THIS WEEK!)

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/8/20)–Cinderella is Dead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

It’s been a bit of a chaotic day for me–I couldn’t get into one of my zoom meetings for one of my classes, and it’s snowing. The latter is deeeeefinitely kind of worrying–here in Colorado, it usually doesn’t start to snow until mid to late October, and persists until late May.

IT’S THE SECOND WEEK OF SEPTEMBER. Yep, friendly reminder that climate change isn’t just global warming, but unpredictable weather patterns like this. Climate change is still very real, folks.

Anyway, I’ll step off that soapbox for a minute…only to get right back onto another one.

Ever since I found out about it in May, Cinderella is Dead was one of my most anticipated releases of this summer. A Black, sapphic protagonist, a multiracial wlw relationship, and a dystopian society based on the tale of Cinderella? I was FASCINATED. And while this novel did deliver in the aforementioned aspects, it was dragged down by the poor execution of nearly everything else.

Prepare for a rant review, folks…

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cinderella Is Dead (9781547603879): Bayron, Kalynn: Books

Cinderella is Dead–Kalynn Bayron

Everybody knows the tale of Cinderella, the dismissed orphan who was visited by a fairy godmother and lived happily ever after with the dashing Prince Charming. But do you know what happened 200 years later?

In Sophia Grimmins’ world, the tale of Cinderella is now the backbone of every tradition in town. Every year, all of the eligible girls must attend the Annual Ball, to be picked and chosen by the men. But for as long as she can remember, Sophia has never wanted a man–she’s wanted a woman. She flees the ball with her life, only to find herself in the tomb of Cinderella herself. There, she finds Constance, the last surviving descendant of Cinderella, who seeks to help bring down the patriarchal kingdom. Sophia and Constance join forces, and sparks soon fly between them–but the truths they thought about Cinderella are far from true…

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My range of emotions through the course of this book

Let me be perfectly honest: it truly pains me to give this book such a low rating. It’s such a joy to see #OwnVoices books outside contemporary and historical fiction with POC/LGBTQ+ leads, and we certainly need more of those out in the world. But even though Cinderella is Dead boasted great representation all around, it failed to meet my expectations in almost every other aspect.

I’ll start off with the good before the bad: representation! This dystopian fantasy is absolutely an #OwnVoices book, with a Black, lesbian protagonist, a lesbian love interest, and a gay side character who has a semi-prominent role. Throughout the book, there’s themes of contradicting patriarchal tradition, abuse, and misogyny, and it’s always wonderful to see a sapphic couple kicking sexist butt, so that’s always a win. But even then…Sophia wasn’t a very distinct character. I struggle to find any traits that would make her much of an individual, other than the desire to smash the patriarchy. (Don’t we all, though? Can’t go wrong with that.) I liked Constance a little bit better, but their relationship felt very rushed and glossed over. And the themes I just talked about it? They felt very forced, relying more on telling than showing. There wasn’t very much subtlety or creativity in the ways that they were tackled, making the commentary…almost not worth it. I appreciate Bayron’s attempt to discuss these issues, but there are so many ways that they could have been handled better.

All of the Cinderella mythos had SO MUCH potential, from the punchy title to the concept itself. It was still reasonably spine-chilling in execution, but other than the fact that the tale has been weaved into the world’s operating system, the worldbuilding was…wait a minute…[picks up a telescope] wait a minute, where’d it go? A little help here?

…okay, that was probably harsh, but it was RIDDLED with holes.

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Me @ the worldbuilding

[spreads out a sheet of paper] Okay, let’s see. We’ve got a country ruled by a monarchy, with some forests around it, presumably. It’s hinted that it’s a bit more antiquated technology-wise, but we don’t get any sense of where society has gone as far as technology, transportation, all of that. There’s a little bit of evidence to suggest that magic exists, but the only wielder we know of is the Fairy Godmother. (So is there some sort of ban on magic? Has nobody else been able to find it? Who knows…) The character’s names range from ones that were popular in the 19th century to those in the 21st century, but most of them fall into the latter. (ex. Liv, Isla, Sophia) So…wait, what? It’s been a good two and a half weeks since I’ve read Cinderella is Dead, and I STILL have no idea what’s going on there. I NEED ANSWERS. PLEASE. THIS IS A MESS.

Confused Screaming | Filthy Frank | Know Your Meme

The worldbuilding is my main criticism, but other than that, my issues are a little more nit-picky. Things like Sophia having very few defining traits (if any) and the telling method of tackling the issues, the villains had very lackluster, overdone motives and no redeemable qualities to speak of. The dialogue also had a tendency to be overly stiff, and nobody had a distinct voice.

Again, I feel so bad for giving this book such a low rating. #OwnVoices books are so pertinent and important in this day and age, but…there are so many better ones that you could be reading than this one. I could chalk this rating up to my high expectations, but other than the representation and concept, Cinderella is Dead was such a mess. Amazing concept, terrible execution. 2.5 stars, but the half star is likely just for seeing a multiracial wlw couple smashing the patriarchy. [sad harmonica noises]

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Cinderella is Dead is Kalynn Bayron’s YA debut, but she has several other adult and nonfiction works. Cinderella is Dead is likely a standalone, but I’ve heard a rumor about spin-offs set in the same universe, but I haven’t been able to confirm their validity.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! I promise that the next reviews I write will be more positive. Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!