Posted in Books

Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t excuse privilege: Carve the Mark, Mosquitoland, and being a more conscious and careful reader

Happy Friday, bibliophiles! I’ve been writing out this post in my head since Tuesday night, so here goes nothing…

The other day, I was reading Aditi’s post about 20 of the most popular YA books on Goodreads. Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark was among the ranks, and she mentioned that there had been several reviews saying that it had some racist elements, and had a problematic depiction of chronic illness. I had to do a bit of a double take; I read that book at least two years ago, but I didn’t remember anything like that. My whole memory of the book was hazy, really, and even though I’d given it a four star rating back then, it was probably one of those books I just sped through because I was just thinking something along the lines of “haha sci-fi go brrrrrrrrrrr”

Carve the Mark eBook by Veronica Roth - 9780062348654 | Rakuten Kobo United  States

And so I read some reviews–some from bloggers that I follow, some from strangers, and there were indeed a lot that pointed out several problematic elements and stereotypes. I found myself being incredibly ashamed of my past self for not noticing them. I’ve been going back and forth between removing my rating, and I never got to the sequel and thought Divergent was overrated, so I doubt I’ll be picking up a Veronica Roth book in the future. But I ended up putting myself between two spaces:

First off, nobody’s perfect. As much of an intersectional feminist that I strive to be, I still make mistakes. We all do. I’m sure everybody’s had an instance like this one.

But secondly, I still must acknowledge that I have privilege, and that this privilege is part of why I didn’t spot the highly questionable elements there. And since I am privileged, I have to do my best to better myself, and read more carefully, and become better at spotting and making note of problematic elements.

Amazon.com: Mosquitoland (9780147513656): Arnold, David: Books

I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better at reading carefully since I read Carve the Mark, but this example also jumped out at me as something that’s controversial. I read Mosquitoland a few months back; I thought it was a well-written novel, but there is some highly questionable–and I mean HIGHLY questionable and offensive representation of Down syndrome, and some problematic elements regarding the depiction of Native American characters, as well as some poor handling of sexual assault. I still hold the writing highly, but I know that I have to also recognize that Mosquitoland, though powerful, is still a deeply flawed novel. No matter its impact, there is NO excusing some of the content of this novel. (if you’re interested in someone else’s thoughts on the matter, I’d highly suggest checking out The Inside Cover’s Mosquitoland, Three Years Later: A Coda.)

All this got me thinking about reviews. Part of what’s key to reading/picking your reads more carefully is reading reviews before you dive in. Of course, you have to be careful to avoid reviews that have been paid to get a 4-5 star rating (for bias); the 3-2 star range is usually the most reliable source for me, as they usually cover the good and the bad in equal amounts. (1 stars tend to dive into rants, which I fully admit to doing, but it’s better to see both the pros and cons, personally.) It’s just like checking your news sources: seeing both sides of the argument, and getting perspectives from reviewers who have lived some of these experiences. It’s what made me take The State of Us off my TBR, and a few others.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel (The Carls): Green, Hank:  9781524743444: Amazon.com: Books

And sometimes, there’s no way out of it. I went into An Absolutely Remarkable Thing expecting a read as great as everybody seemed to say it was, but I ended up being infuriated by how poorly the bisexual representation was handled. (Personal opinion, here) Hardly anyone (except for one reviewer, so shoutout to them) noted the bury-your-gays trope, as well as the killing off of most of the POC characters (all but one or two) in Four Dead Queens. There will always be times when we’re roped into something problematic, even if we’ve read a variety of reviews.

Four Dead Queens - Astrid Scholte - 9781760524418 - Allen & Unwin -  Australia

The bottom line? Don’t beat yourself up about reading a problematic book, but don’t brush the problematic parts aside like they don’t exist. If you see something uncomfortable depicted in a novel, talk about it, whether it’s in the comments of a review or in a review of your own. Let your voice be heard, but recognize that all of us have at least a little bit of privilege.

Alright, let me step off the soapbox for a minute. I also have a short announcement: I have A BUNCH of books that I’d like to review soon, so as well as my Book Review Tuesdays, I’ll be packing several books into mini-reviews, starting next week. So stay tuned…

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/9/18)-Carve the Mark

Hi there, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Book Review Tuesday!

 

I recently joined Epicreads, and I found that there was a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) amount of hype for this book. Understandably so, given the popularity of the Divergent series. (Don’t kill me, but I thought Divergent was decent, but it didn’t really live up to much of the hype.) So I checked it out at the library, and spent around 3 days snuggled up in various blankets, my nose deep in this book. And I must say, though it didn’t quite live up to all of the hype, it absolutely lived up to some of it!

Enjoy the review!

51-2c1I1a8L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

(sorry, there weren’t really any good images for the cover…oof)

Carve the Mark

In a galaxy steeped in war and magic, two teen’s live will collide in ways that they never imagined were possible.

Cyra has lived her life as nothing more than an object, a weapon for her tyrannical brother. Many planets over, Akos’ peaceful life is turned upside down when his family is slaughtered, and only he and his brother survive-only to be kidnapped by the enemy. Determined to save his brother, he crosses paths with Cyra. Tradition and politics should make them bitter rivals. But they soon discover that they have a common enemy, and that they must set aside their differences to secure the fate of the galaxy.

 

 

Alright, everybody, here we go…

First of all, I liked this better than Divergent. In fact, I’d probably rate it a full star above it.

Part of it is probably because, well, y’know, I’m a total sucker for anything set in space. But Carve the Mark was a truly phenomenal book, complete with rich storytelling, beautiful visuals and world-building, and characters with near-perfect chemistry. (For some reason, I imagined Akos looking like Evan Peters, but that’s not really the point. 😜) Even if you haven’t read or didn’t like Divergent, this is a must-read for anyone who loves a well-crafted tale in the depths of space. 8/10 on my scale.

 

Before I go, I’m sorry that I haven’t posted much other than book reviews lately. I’ve been a tad bit busy, what with transitioning into high school, but I promise that I’ll give you guys some more variety content-wise.

Well, I hope you have a great rest of your day, and stay warm!