Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Disability representation—especially in YA—is few and far between, and even when I do find it, a lot of disability rep is still written by abled authors. (That isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it’s easy to fall into harmful tropes and misrepresent disability that way.) So when I heard about One for All, I was so excited—a feminist, historical fiction novel about a girl with a chronic illness! And beyond that—a girl with a chronic illness WHO SWORDFIGHTS. Doesn’t get much better than that, am I right? My copy finally came from the library last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, I enjoyed a lot of it!
Enjoy this week’s review!
Tania de Batz is determined for the world to see her as more than just a “sick girl.” As the daughter of a former musketeer, her passion is swordfighting, and with the help of her father, she’s become a skilled fighter. But when her father is brutally murdered, she discovers his dying request to send her to a finishing school.
But what she finds at L’Academie des Marieés is no finishing school—it’s a secretive school that trains young women as musketeers. Tania is soon swept into a world of swords and secrecy, and soon, she and her fellow students have an assassination plot to uncover. The only clue to the plot—and maybe even her father’s murder—lies in a boy named Étienne, but his charms may be Tania’s undoing.
TW/CW: ableism, blood, murder, loss of a loved one, past mention of sexual assault
Good disability representation—especially in YA—seems to only happen once in a blue moon. So I was so happy to find this book—a feminist historical fiction book written by a disabled author, no less! And while I did have a few problems with the story overall, One for All was no doubt a fantastic debut!
First things first—disability rep! While I can’t speak to the accuracy, Lillie Lainoff (the author) has the same chronic illness as Tania—Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)! Disabled representation from disabled voices always makes my heart so happy! For me, it’s even better that One for All is a historical fiction piece; most books with disabled characters only exist in contemporary/realistic fiction books, and I adamantly believe that disability rep in genres like historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction is just as important, if not more important; it’s crucial for disabled readers to know that they don’t only exist in modern realistic fiction realities—they have always existed in history, and they can exist in fantasy and sci-fi worlds as well. One for All did a fantastic job at detailing all the aspects of Tania’s POTS and how it affected her daily life, from her routine to her social interactions and childhood. So many chronically ill readers will be able to see themselves in Tania, and that, to me, is immensely impactful.
Beyond that, One for All is fiercely feminist! It’s set in France in the 1600’s, and the themes of empowerment and sisterhood ran deeply through it. Throughout most of the book, Tania struggles with her place in the world as a disabled woman in a time where both are frowned upon, but her journey for self-empowerment is one that is sure to resonate with so many readers. Although some of the other students don’t treat Tania with the respect she deserves at first, there are themes of recognizing and correcting your previous ableism. The friendship that Tania eventually shares with the rest of the fellow L’Academie des Marieés students is wonderfully tender and strong, and it makes for an incredibly empowering novel overall.
As much as I loved the aforementioned aspects, however, there were a few aspects of One for All that I didn’t like as much. For the most part, I liked the writing style well enough; Lainoff’s prose flowed well and was appropriately descriptive when the time called for it. However, Lainoff’s style tended to fall towards the over-the-top side of the spectrum. I could let it slide in most instances—it fit with the mood and tone of the book in general—but in some cases, it felt overly purple and theatrical. It had a dramatic feel to it, and while it fit the classic retelling tone at times, it felt superfluous in other cases.
Additionally, I wasn’t quite as invested in the assassination part of the plot as I was in the rest of the book. Seeing as that (after Tania’s father’s murder) was the main driving force to the plot, it didn’t come through all the way; it was overshadowed by more mundane character interactions (which I did like), and as a result, felt rushed and oversimplified. For something that was supposed to be the primary inciting incident of the second half of the book or so, it felt more like a subplot than anything. As a result, I felt my mind wandering a bit during these parts, but it didn’t take me out of the book entirely.
All in all, a feminist retelling with a disabled heroine who all readers will want to cheer on. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
One for All is a standalone and Lillie Lainoff’s debut novel.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!