Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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So, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was so, so good. Its critique of society was subtle, but apparent, its heroine was super likable. Man, I love when a book is this enjoyable.

I think my favorite part was how Frankie grew and learned while the novel progressed. I also think it was great how she clearly struggled with wanting to be a part of something and wanting to create her own path and do her own thing.

Anyway.

This book is the story of Frankie Landau-Banks who, at the outset of the novel, confesses to conceiving of a series of pranks/vandalism that took place at her elite boarding school and were carried out by The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, a secret society at said institution. From there, they go back to the beginning and lay out exactly what happened to bring her to this confession. The pranks are fun and the way she goes about getting them accomplished is pretty genius. Or, if not genius, is pretty clever.

I enjoyed this so much, and if you like reading about high school shenanigans and social commentary, I think you’ll like this one, too.

Review: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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I did not expect to binge read Dream Thieves on Thanksgiving. But, I did and now I have to slow my roll down because the fourth book doesn’t come out until Spring. The Raven Cycle is about a group of teens who are looking for a medieval Welsh King rumored to be sleeping somewhere in America. If you wake him, he will grant you a wish.

From here there are spoilers for The Raven Boys.

This novel picks up where Raven Boys left off. Ronan can pull things from his dreams and make them real. Adam woke the ley line and is now its hands and eyes. Noah is still dead and Gansey is still Gansey. Blue is still a not-psychic in a family of psychics. Adam and Blue are kind of together, as together as you can be when your kiss can kill. There is a lot of pain in this novel. Adam doesn’t get why Blue keeps him at arm’s length. Blue can’t help that she’s falling for Gansey. Ronan is still broken from losing his father. None of them understand why Adam went off on his own and, as he grows into what the ley line needs him to be he feels isolated. Gansey is beat up over feeling like he’s losing Adam and he’s at a loss for what to do with Ronan at times. Oh, and Noah keeps reliving his death.

And, now some spoilers for this novel.

In addition to all the growing pains, we learn more about Blue’s family. Persephone has a connection to Adam, we find out. We also meet the Gray man who is there as a bounty hunter to collect whatever allows Ronan to steal things from dreams. I really enjoyed the subplot with the Gray man and Maura and I hope that he continues to be part of the next book. We also learn a little more about Gansey’s and Ronan’s families.

A lot of this novel really focused on Ronan, his ability and its connection to the ley line. I liked Ronan a lot as a character in the first book but he was a little one dimensional. He was Gansey body guard and enforcer. So it was interesting to get some Ronan point of view in this novel. He’s got a lot of anger and also a lot of questions surrounding his father’s life and death. Unraveling the mystery of Niall Lynch not only pushes the narrative forward but also gives Ronan some much needed character development.

We also get a lot of point of view from Adam. We learned about his family in the first novel and we got to see a lot of fall out related to that in this one. We also got to see why this quest and the ley line mean so much to him. Some of the scenes where we see Adam and Gansey together actually lead to some much needed character development for Gansey as well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I needed to know what happened next. But, I have to say that Adam repeatedly broke my heart. That kid, man. He deserves better.

I am really looking forward to the next novel, Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Beauty Queens and Music Videos

I’ve found myself thinking about Libbi Bray’s Beauty Queens a lot in the past few days. (That link is to Beth’s awesome review of the book.) As Beth mentions in the review, Bray does a good job of capturing certain expectations about women. (spoilers ahead). In the book, there is a subplot about the Corporation, a mega-company bent on continuing to push into illegal markets and trades, and the beauty queens throw a wrench in the works by crash landing in the middle of the operation. From the moment of the crash landing, the queens are completely underestimated. As Beth said, “They are just girls so they are not that important. They won’t survive long. Right?” This part of the book captures how old ideas about gender still cling on even though advancements have been made. But, Bray did a good portraying another dynamic as well and this is what I want to talk about today. Changing norms have made some space at the top of many fields for women to succeed, but it hasn’t really leveled the playing field. Some women have an advantage over other women because of other ways our societies are unfair. This plays out in the book through the interactions of two non-white characters Nicole, an African American woman, and Shanti, an Indian immigrant. In the book, they know that there is only room in the top ten for one non-white contestant and that makes them leery of each other. They also know that their faults will be scrutinized more than their white counterparts, a subplot seen through the eyes of Nicole as she remembers the last time an African American contestant had a sex scandal and it ruined her chances of success (even though the consequences for white contestants wouldn’t be as severe).

This has been on my mind because some of those dynamics have been in the news recently. If you are at all interested in pop culture, you may have heard that the 2015 MTV VMA award nominations are out and that Nicki Minaj is not happy with them. After the release of the nominations she took to twitter and stated that she felt that her videos for Anaconda and Feeling Myself were slighted because of the type of artist she is and that other artists doing what she does in her videos are rewarded. She also stated that because she wasn’t celebrating particular types of bodies, she wasn’t getting as much love from the awards committee. I don’t watch a lot of music videos, any really, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of the videos nominated (although, I have seen Anaconda). Then, Taylor Swift took Minaj’s comments personally. I would like to suggest that part of the reason why Swift might take Minaj’s comments personally is that she knows that there is a limited amount of space for women at the top of her field and she works hard and is unwilling to give up that space. Minaj’s twitter criticisms are valid: as a society we do value certain bodies higher than other bodies and this is not only seen in how we reward people but also in how treat people in general.

Beauty Queen was an interesting book because it brought intersectionalism, the idea that people may be operating in a space under more than one type of oppression, into the conversation meant for teen audiences about how women are treated. And, while I found the book to be funny and moving, this broadening of the conversation of what feminism is and who it best serves might be the most important part of the book.