Showing posts with label abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abuse. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: January 31st 2017
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250095251

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read CARAVAL?

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Recommendation: Nice Girls Endure - Chris Struyk-Bonn: Fat Rep, Anxiety, and Body Positivity


In NICE GIRLS ENDURE, everyone is telling Chelsea to start losing weight. When vicious bullies get violent, Chelsea has to make a choice: Endure or stand up to them.

What intrigued me: Beautiful cover and also fat representation, I love body positive books.

Lovely Characters

NICE GIRLS ENDURE is a very quiet, yet fascinating read. The writing and voice suck you in immediately and I was absolutely invested. I almost finished this in one sitting. 

Protagonist Chelsea is an incredibly lovable sweetheart that you can't help but fall a little in love with while reading. Her struggles are heartbreaking to read, but all the much more worth reading, because these things do happen in real life. It's such an important book that I will keep on recommending to people.

I suffered with Chelsea, I smiled about the friendship with the dorky and eccentric Melody, who wears strange homemade costumes and loves Chelsea so much. Their relationship is the heart of this book. I just wish I could be friends with her in real life. 

In general, Struyk-Bonn writes such fantastic character relationships. This is in my opinion the biggest strength of this fantastic book - the fact that her characters do seem extremely realistic and more importantly lovable. Chelsea's father, who always supports her is this fantastic role model, he's fat like her and absolutely unbothered by it and always tries to cheer her up. My heart aches just thinking about their wonderful loving relationship because it's such a moving highlight whenever they interact. 

Heartbreaking and Empowering

Because NICE GIRLS ENDURE is about fat representation and body positivity it also tackles difficult topics like abuse and bullying. Chelsea is never really uncomfortable in her body, there is this really great quote that I'll just paraphrase quickly. "She wasn't bothered by her weight, but by how much it bothered other people." 

This is essentially what you'll find in this book. A really strong protagonist that struggles with how much other people butt in on what she does with her body. It's heartbreaking. There is one pretty graphic scene (during the school dance) that I recommend you skip if you're triggered by rape scenarios and physical abuse. 

NICE GIRLS ENDURE doesn't kid around. It shows how ugly people can be on the inside. It's an incredibly powerful and empowering story that I love dearly and will keep on thinking about for weeks to come. An absolutely clear recommendation. 




Rating:

★★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Yes. You need this book in your life. Read it.



Additional Info

Published: August 1st 2016
Pages: 256
Publisher: Switch Press
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781630790455

Synopsis:
"Chelsea Duvay is so many things. 

She's an avid musical lover, she's a gifted singer, and she has the most perfect, beautiful feet. But no one ever notices that. All they notice is Chelsea s weight. Daily, Chelsea endures endless comments about her appearance from well-meaning adults and cruel classmates. So she keeps to herself and just tries to make it through. 

Don't make waves. Don't draw attention. That's how life is for Chelsea until a special class project pushes the energetic and incessantly social Melody into Chelsea's world. As their unlikely friendship grows, Chelsea emerges from her isolated existence, and she begins to find the confidence to enjoy life. 

But bullies are bullies, and they remain as vicious as ever. One terrible encounter threatens to destroy everything Chelsea has worked so hard to achieve. Readers will be captivated by Chelsea s journey as she discovers the courage to declare her own beauty and self-worth, no matter what others might think."(Source: Goodreads)


Can you recommend some body positive reads?

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

[Review] Dreaming of Antigone - Robin Bridges: Greek Plays, Drugs, and Manic Pixie Dream Boys





In DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, Andria's twin sister Iris died of a heroin overdose. Andria has been suffering life-threatening seizures all her life and is counting down to getting declared seizure-free for six months by her doctor, so she can get her driver's license.

What intrigued me: The absolutely stunning cover.

A little over the top

DREAMING OF ANTIGONE is one of those typical coming-of-age novels that try to hook you with a side of romance and a deep topic of choice - in this case poetry. The whole novel has sprinkled in parts of poems that Andria and a mystery person in her school scribble on their desks. The premise isn't necessarily new, I've read books about similar scenarios before. The boy she's communicating with is of course her late twin sister's ex-boyfriend, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy Deluxe. And of course they fall in love.

I just didn't connect to the characters at all, which is probably also because they don't seem like real people. Bridges tried to spice the story up by splattering in bits of highly sensitive topics. From heroin addiction to child abuse to suicide - you'll find everything in this. And frankly, it's just too much. Things like this don't happen in high school and even if they did, you'd think that the parents would at least comment once on it. Or that the children would be more aware of it. Despite Andria's twin sister recently having died, there is virtually no grief in this. Frequent clumsily written, cryptic dreams, but not actual grief. I just didn't buy it.

Lack of plot

I think DREAMING OF ANTIGONE would have been better off if it had been written with a different audience in mind, maybe as a work of Literary Fiction. Like this, it just reads like Bridges tries too hard to hide the fact that there is nothing to the novel, there is absolutely no story, and the little we get is very, very predictable. I do like the chronically ill main character, but something just didn't sit right with me, Andria's narration reads very detached, very devoid of emotion. Again, she doesn't feel real, none of the characters do.

The little nods to the Greek Play were more exhausting than a nice addition. Bridges didn't manage to show Andria's fascination with Antigone, and all the similarities to her own life just feel forced. I caught myself skimming halfway through all passages summarizing Antigone, and I just didn't feel like it's necessary.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

DREAMING OF ANTIGONE just wasn't for me. If you like coming-of-age stories and don't mind the occasional poetry excerpt, maybe you'll feel differently.



Additional Info

Published: March 29th 2016
Pages: 304
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703545

Synopsis:
"Every star has its own path… 

“I can’t ever be the blazing star that Iris was. I’m still just a cold, dark satellite orbiting a star that went super nova.”

Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like stories inspired by Greek plays?

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