Podcast of the Month: Adventures in Roommating

I want you to know that I originally hand wrote most of this post at work while my boss was on break.

This month I am going to talk to a podcast I’ve only actually been listening to for a couple weeks.

Yes, I have been binge-listening.

I have been watching Meghan Tonjes’ Youtube videos on and off for years. I like her music, her work concerning body positivity and the way she gives zero fucks about calling out famous Youtubers on their bullshit.

I was sort of vaguely aware that she had a podcast with her roommate, and that I would probably like it a lot, but I resisted. There are just so many podcasts in my life right now, I rationalised.

Then Meghan decided to film part of an episode of the podcast, Adventures in Roommating, and post it onto her channel, during which she are her co-host, Keith Battista, reviewed sex toys.

I was sold. I have been listening daily ever since.

It is worth noting that this podcast is NSFW. It’s also NSFP (not safe for parents. Or, most parents. I suppose it really depends on the parents. In my case, listening to this show with my mum would be super awkward).

Adventures in Roommating is the late night (sometimes, but not always) tipsy kitchen conversation you have with friends while you wait for the pizza to arrive. You know the one, where you talk about the movies you saw and the Internet Thing of the day (positive or negative) before moving on to the important stuff.

The important stuff being, of course, who we’re all sleeping with.

It’s also the answering of listener questions and provision of the sort of honest advice we all ask for but don’t actually want.

(the answer to the question of whether or not one should date a youtuber is almost always no)

In both life and the podcast, Keith is the one who will tell you you’re doing something wrong with an eye roll while Meghan swoops in to slap you across the face.

Listening to this one while I drag myself out of bed in the mornings has been a bright spot in a shitty couple weeks.

(nothing serious, don’t worry. Just adult life getting me down).

Bookstagram love

You can often find me perusing bookstagram of an evening.

It’s just so pretty.

Today I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

The Bibliotheque

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFM2UcjNtuC/?taken-by=thebibliotheque

Swept Away by Books

Myriadinklings

https://www.instagram.com/p/BF5ApN2gCnQ/?taken-by=myriadinklings

Paper Fury

Bookstagram Features

I know. PRETTY.

#Goals.

Who are your favourite bookstagram-ers?

Ten Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

I haven’t done one of these in forever.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re all considering some books that we feel differently about as time has passed. That includes books you hate, books you realised later you were perhaps too hard on or that book you’ve decided to take it to the next level with.

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

Twilightbook

I hate these books. However when I first read them when I was fifteen, I thought they were amazing. As an adult I find it problematic that such abusive and manipulative relationships are represented as the height of all romance to young girls. My hope is that the further we get from these movies and Rob and Kristen’s relationship, the less people will care that this story even exists.

Anna and The French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

anna and the french kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

My love for this book has been somewhat altered by my hatred of Isla and the Happily Ever After. It’s a shame.

Everything Is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer

illuminated

The first time I read this book I was quite young, and when I got to the end my prevailing feeling was …. Huh?  A few years later I came back to it after having my mind blown by Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and realised that it is wonderful in its weirdness.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

funystory

I only recently found out about Ned Vizzini’s suicide when I was considering revisiting this brilliant book. For now though, it makes me too sad.

The Princess Diaries series – Meg Cabot

the princess diaries xi

As I have mentioned many times, I am (very slowly) rereading this series. It’s just so good. There are a lot of jokes in there for adults that I didn’t pick up when I was fourteen. They relate to teenage life even as they satirise it.

The works of Louise Rennison

51T9B8933QL

Louise Rennison recently died. I don’t doubt that I will read and love her work again in the future, but for now, I need to just feel sad about her for a while.

Sylvia Plath

sylvia

For a long time, I had only resentment for Sylvia Plath. I had study her work in school, which is the best way to make a kid hate a writer. As I got older I realised she was simply a victim in my extended anti-poetry phase.

A Thousand Pieces of You – Claudia Gray

a thousand pieces of you

This is one of the many series that I started and felt nothing special about. The more time passes, the more I know I’m never going to read the sequel, no matter how pretty the cover looks.

Virginia Woolf

9780241956793

I had to read Mrs Dalloway for a class in my first year of university. It was my first experience of having slightly lukewarm feelings toward a book until I studied it and really learned what it was doing. I really love how she crafted her writing style to counteract what she perceived to be the failings of realist fiction. She’s wrote an essay about it that you can read here. I really recommend it.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

bossypants

I got the audiobook of this for free when I was seventeen. It was probably the first book I read that explicitly described itself as feminist. Memoirs are funny to re-read over the years because you find yourself meeting the author at different life stages. Reading about Tina’s horrible job at the YMCA means something very different to me now than it did when I was in school.

 

 

Everything I loved about season 5 of Girls

As with most shows, every time a new season of Girls airs, there is a parade of people waiting in the wings to dissect all the reasons why the preceding seasons were better.

I disagree with all such people.

I don’t know if it has to do with the show itself or my own circumstances, but so far I have found myself enjoying every new season a little bit more.

Writing this was hard. When I actually thought about it ‘everything I loved’ about this season, it turned out to be pretty much… everything.

Shoshanna in Japan

shosh in japan

I was so happy when Shoshanna ditched her boring boyfriend at the end of season 4 and moved to Japan for her job. Her whole experience there, from her rise to her redundancy totally spoke to the experience of growing up.

There are peaks and troughs, people.

What you see in Shoshanna’s experience – a theme they build on every season, I think – is the temporariness of any stage of life. Whether it’s her virginity, her employability or even her sense of home, all things in Shoshanna’s life – and all our lives – are temporary. This sounds like it should be totally depressing – and at times it is. When she yelled “WHY AM I HERE?!” at no one in particular on her return to New York my heart totally broke for her. But it’s also… kind of not. Sometimes life consists of digging oneself out of a series of holes, and as Shoshanna’s experience indicates, that’s actually okay.

Elijah getting his heart broken

If watching this didn’t wreck you, then you have no soul.

Adam and Jessa

It’s been obvious for a while now that these two were eventually going to fuck.

I wanted it and dreaded it in equal measure because we all knew how it was going to end… with Adam ripping his way, psychopath-style through a bathroom door.

adam

Even before they got together, Jessa said that they would destroy each other was their inevitable conclusion. And honestly, watching the fast decline of their relationship felt a little… performative, as if to an extent they were just acting according to their preconceived ideas of themselves as ‘destructive people’. They had already decided that their relationship would end in ruin, and played it out to an unnecessarily dramatic extent.

They might be perfect for each other. Or they might kill each other. I’m not sure.

In Adam and Jessa we see two people with an inability to change. Which makes way for…

Hannah not going crazy

While Jessa and Adam simply act according to the ways they’ve always acted in the past, Hannah, on finding out that her best friend and her most significant ex are now in love, contemplates going the opposite way.

Hannah’s analysis of how she could have reacted, and how she knew everyone expected her to react – with some serious crazy – was quite unexpected from a character who usually barrels through the world so blindly.

In a move in total opposition to Adam and Jessa and their inevitable conclusion, Hannah decides to wish them well and get on with her own life, for the first time without a significant other as a placeholder for something bigger. There is just her alone, facing the future.

Watching Hannah choose the not crazy option felt a little like growing up.

I have to end this with my favourite episode of the season (of the entire 5 seasons, actually), The Panic in Central Park.

marnie and charlie

This episode was perfection. It didn’t even feel like an episode. It felt like a movie.

The writing of Marnie, and Alison Williams’ portrayal of her has always been my favourite. Don’t get me wrong – I seriously dislike Marnie the vast majority of the time, but in a way that means I also enjoy her immensely. Her self-conscious posturing is so real and vulnerable that it makes me physically cringe. She’s just as lost as Hannah but desperately pretending not to be by throwing herself into relationship after ill-fitting relationship. She only got married to give herself a false sense of direction.

I loved how this episode dealt with the concept of identity. In the sudden reappearance of Charlie, we see a guy changed from the sweet puppy whose heart Marnie used to treat like a football (until he turned around and repaid the favour), to a drug dealer who hangs out on street corners with guys who yell at women as they pass by.

Marnie falls headfirst into his world for a night. It was intriguing to watch two people come together after so many years and renegotiate their relationship under the shadow of their past and present identities: Marnie, married and Charlie basically a mystery.

Knowing so little about each other, it’s easy for them to pretend, at least for a little while, that they might be the solution to each other’s problems.

Until morning, that is.

It seemed strangely inevitable when Marnie found the used needles in Charlie’s apartment and realised that he wasn’t only dealing drugs, but using them as well. When she realised that much of her magical night was just Charlie under the influence, any illusions she’d created about running away with him were instantly destroyed. But her determination to leave her marriage remained. Her determination to define herself remained – however temporarily – in terms of herself, rather than her relationship.

It’s beautiful, guys. It’s worth watching all the previous seasons just so you can properly appreciate for perfection of it.

Wild

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humour, Wild powerfully captures to terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

wild
Shout out to second hand books!

I went to see the movie adaptation of Wild by myself one morning when I was still a student who had time for that sort of thing. The movie starts with Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) lowering herself to sit on the edge of a mountain, peeling off her shoes and socks and ripping out a bloody and blackened toe nail. I reacted with a noise along to lines of AAAARRRGGGUUUGH. My fellow cinema-goers looked at me with disgust.

I looked forward to this scene in the book with a strange, excited sort of anticipation. What I didn’t know from the movie is that Cheryl Strayed left the PCT with less than half of her toe nails remaining.

But she kept on going anyway. This may be the least of what is awesome about Cheryl Strayed.

(which is impressive)

Guys, this book did things to me.

I like to think that some part of me only put off reading it the two years following my infatuation with the movie because I knew there would come a time when I, like… needed it.

If you’re one of those people who spends a lot of their life hoping that something is going to happen – but remain unsure of what that something should be, and are, as a result left feeling generally speaking too paralyzed by confusion to go looking for it (hoping that’s not just me?) – then this book is for you.

Don’t get me wrong. It does not make for easy reading. Before her hike, Cheryl’s life has turned into a black hole of grief, heartbreak and drug use. After her mother’s sudden and devastating death from an impossibly fast spreading cancer, her family falls to pieces. Her siblings scatter and the stepfather she has always adored slowly fades from her life. All of this leaves Cheryl with an uncontrollable desire to burn what remains of her life to the ground. She got married very young – a couple of years before her mother’s death – and by a couple of years after, she and her now ex are signing their divorce papers and getting tattoos to remember each other by.

Cheryl weaves the narrative of her life in and out of the present challenges of her days trekking the PCT. Every scene Cheryl describes – from the PCT to her tragic history – totally captivated me. The stories from her past are devastating and ever-present, yet somewhat overwhelmed by the daily challenges that arise for a person who decides to hike a thousand miles without having a clue what they’re actually doing. There was one time she nearly ran out of water and died because of a bit of bad planning.

While there was much about Cheryl’s life that I couldn’t relate to – I’m lucky, family-wise and way too anxious about death to experiment with heroin – the essence of the book, the feeling of being lost and constantly overwhelmed by that feeling, is one I think most of us have experienced at some point.*

*Brief side note – have most of us experienced this? The other day I had a conversation with a co-worker where I told her that pretty much every day I wake up with a panicked voice in my head screaming WHATNEXT?AMIWASTINGMYLIFE?AGAGAGAGAGHHH! at me. I kind of assumed this was the norm, so was pretty surprised when she gave me the side eye and told me that had never happened to her.

Anyway.

Ultimately it seemed like what Cheryl discovered on the trail was a life where she couldn’t deny the present. The seemingly endless path in front of her and the excruciating pain in her feet were impossible to ignore. Even when it feels like the walls are built of the past and the road the future, neither of them are where we actually live.

Cheryl puts it better:

‘It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands any more. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.

How wild it was, to let it be.’

A day in the (not so) fictional nineteenth century

On landing in the nineteenth century, the first person I seek out is Jane Austen’s Emma, of course. Of all my favourite nineteenth century ladies, I feel like she would accept my whole from the future situation quickly and with minimal fainting.

I’m right. She sorts me out, fashion-wise and corrects the most alarming aspects of my modern manners. Getting out my phone (although she doesn’t know it’s a phone, obviously. She just refers to it as ‘the devil gadget’), is apparently not acceptable behaviour.

As much as I love her, Emma doesn’t get the concept of having an Instagram account to maintain.

Once I’m presentable, we go fetch Jane Austen herself and, after she and Emma share their Stranger than Fiction I-am-Harold-Crick moment, proceed to London as fast as our carriage will carry us because I have limited time and an extensive game plan. During the journey I bask in the witty, political and occasionally mean banter of my new lady friends. I’ll explain Shine Theory to them while they laugh and shake their heads at my 21st century manners. One of my goals for the day is to contribute to the feminist conversation of the nineteenth century. When she seems comfortable, I briefly explain to Jane that I am from the future and she’s surprisingly cool about the whole thing. The nineteenth century, she tells me, is like a new world. Time travel is a possibility she always suspected.

When we arrive in London we head immediately for New Gravel Lane, to The Kings Arms pub. Emma and Jane express a degree of trepidation, but I shut them down. There is a notorious murderer to be apprehended.

The Ratcliffe Highway murders took place in December of 1811. The first attack was at number 29, a linen drapery. Within an hour someone had broken into the building and massacred the Marr family. Only twelve days later, similarly brutal killings were discovered at The Kings Arms pub. The official story, I tell Jane and Emma, concerns one John Williams, a sailor of indeterminate heritage (though most likely Scottish or Irish) who had a vaguely gossiped about grudge against the Marr family. The evidence that he hacked to death both the families was largely circumstantial and Williams hanged himself in his cell before a verdict was reached (they were definitely going to find him guilty).

I would like to find a solution more concrete to this horrifying mystery, and I know that Jane Austen, Emma Woodhouse and I are the perfect team to do it. It’s a shame that, being the nineteenth century (when women were’t exactly allowed to participate in murder investigations), the contribution we made to any cracks in this case will have been totally under-reported.

After a long day of hunting for murderers, I leave Emma and Jane to get dinner together, and head over to the Institute for Psychical Research. I have a date with renowned medium Daniel Douglas Home. People in the 19th century were crazy for the supernatural. The institute tested mediums and magicians as a means to test their legitimacy and despite extensive testing never found a satisfactory explanation for Home’s tricks.

(I plan to ask for a magic class later).

Home sits me down for a candlelit dinner. In his sexy Scottish brogue he describes to me his sickly childhood. Diagnosed with tuberculosis aged nine, he spent the hours many other children would play, sitting alone and communicating with the dead, who he believed surrounded him. Eventually, due to the unwanted undead, his aunt threw him out of the house he grew up in, and he was forced to make it on his own in the world as a medium of extraordinary natural talent.

He went on the show me a few of his party tricks. These included summoning spectral hands which patted me in a way I found creepy, but ultimately friendly. He shrunk his body to half its natural size.

Then he began to levitate. He took my hands as he floated toward the ceiling.

It was all very impressive, but hardly conducive for conversation.

When I told Jane and Emma over drinks about it after, they both rolled their eyes knowingly.

Emma promised to find me someone much more suitable.

The Lie Tree

‘The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. This was his greatest secret, his treasure and his undoing. The Tree of Lies. Now it was hers, and the journey he had never finished stretched out before her.’

When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. Searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. A tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets.

But, as Faith’s untruths spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter.

lietree

The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge, won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2015. Despite being named after a coffee shop chain of average quality (although one I am always very happy to see in a motorway service station), I get the impression that this is a big deal. It was the first young adult book to be presented the award. I have been meaning to read it ever since.

The Lie Tree is a nineteenth century murder mystery set against a backdrop of scandal in the scientific community. Faith’s father, the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, is a famous scientist. He’s also cold, unaffectionate and secretive. So much so that Faith’s whole family are being forced to move from England to the remote island of Vane without having much clue as to why.

Well, Faith has a little clue. There are whispers of her father becoming caught up in controversy, but neither he or her mother Myrtle will reveal the nature of it.

I love books set in the nineteenth century. I spent a good chunk of my degree studying them. It’s an era that fascinates me. The Lie Tree pulls together some of the most interesting elements of the time to inform Faith’s story. As I said, Faith’s family are involved in the scientific community, which in the mid-to-late nineteenth century was rocked by the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. For the first time people were confronting the possibility that the history presented by the bible wasn’t the truth. Some of them – including Faith’s father, it turns out – weren’t dealing too well with this new reality.

A note on Faith’s father – he’s the worst. Seriously. Faith spends a lot of the book worshipping at his feet while it’s plain for the reader to see that he is an uncaring, selfish and detached individual. There is nothing redeeming about this guy. Also, even though the blurb tells us that he dies, it doesn’t happen until at least 100 pages in. I’m just warning you, because I was waiting for it to happen every time I turned a page.

Faith is a clever and engaged girl. In the nineteenth century, this was not considered a good thing. People thought that too much knowledge was bad for a young lady’s health. As a result, Faith leads a life of boredom and frustration that she can only ease by sneaking around building a body of scientific knowledge to rival her father’s – while nobody is looking, of course. She is constantly mentally chastising herself for failing to be the kind of lady that she’s supposed to be – the meek, uninquisitive side piece who is content to sit and drink tea on the side lines while the men dig pieces of history out of the ground.

The frustrating and small lives women were forced to live forms the central theme of the book. The lives of Faith and her six-year-old brother Howard provide a great contrast. While Faith is made to feel shame for her curiosity, in Howard it is praised and encouraged. Faith and her mother, too, appear to be opposites. Faith wants nothing more than to break out of her ascribed role and watches with horror as her mother protects her family using all those traditionally feminine traits that Faith cannot express herself. Her desperate search for a new husband after the death of the Reverend disgusts Faith, until she is forced to realise that her mother is simply trying to play the only game the world will let her. I would have liked to see Faith’s relationship with her mother developed more than it was. I felt she went from hating her to a sort of grudging understanding far more quickly than would have been ideal.

There were a lot of elements in this book that I really enjoyed. However, I did feel at times that the actual plot was a bit weak. Considering the book is named after it, I couldn’t actually see the point of the Lie Tree itself. It gave Faith small insights into the mystery of her father’s death, but mostly it just showed her nonsense. Ultimately, I didn’t think it was that remarkable of a thing, and that did undermine the plot somewhat.

I also wish that the mystery could have unfolded more slowly. I would have liked more hints to have been dropped throughout to indicate the identity of the murderer. Not because I wanted to guess – but because I wanted it to make sense. As it was their identity came out of nowhere. It didn’t give me the sense of closure that I was hoping for.

Overall though, the book is a good look at the struggles encountered by a group of women in the nineteenth century. It made the feminist in me very happy, if not the murder mystery lover.

How To Alienate a Bookworm

You sit down opposite them in the break room. The bookworm doesn’t flinch. They figure you just sat there because you didn’t want to sit with the girls from the make-up counters. They understand that. They don’t want to sit there either. Those girls are scary.

The bookworm doesn’t look up. They’re reading, and you don’t know each other, after all.

“Is that a good book?” you ask.

“Yeah,” the bookworm smiles so you don’t know that inside their heart just sank to somewhere in the region of their socks. They had this thirty minutes to read before returning downstairs to sell handbags to people who consider politeness as disposable as income. But, they figure, it’s kind of nice to talk about books with strangers. It’s much better than the last person who sat down opposite to tell them about a regrettable one night stand.

“What’s it about?” you ask.

They put the book down, their finger still keeping track of the page they reached. There is still hope that this conversation might end soon.

“It’s a murder story,” the bookworm says, smiling conspiratorially. “Set in the nineteenth century. This girl’s mean scientist dad died under mysterious circumstances. She’s trying to track down the killer. It’s very feminist.”

“Oh,” you say, conveying zero interest in your inflection.

“It’s really great,” they say, with enough enthusiasm for the both of you.

“I don’t really read,” you say, and shrug. Then you change the subject to something else entirely.

The bookworm watches their half an hour drip away into nothing.

 

You did it. You alienated a bookworm.

The bookworm wonders if you know this. They assume probably not.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

I was nominated to do this one by the lovely Sammie @ Bookshelves & Biros.

Here we go:

sunshine

What is your happiest memory?

Last summer I went to Edinburgh by myself and got a job at the International Book Festival. Every morning when I would get the bus from the Air B&B I was staying in to the city centre for work, I would feel so proud that for once in my life I actually made an adventure happen for myself.

Which OTP makes you the happiest?

I wrote a post about this recently. A couple I missed out that I’m super into right now is FitzSimmons on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I am, as ever, terrified that one of them is going to die.

In terms of books, it has to be Emmy and Oliver.

I’m a total sucker for the whole lifelong friends turned something else.

How do you like to relax and unwind?

Last night I had the house to myself for the first time in forever. I wrapped myself in many blankets (even once the weather has warmed up my house takes about a month to follow suit) and watched The Vampire Diaries* while eating a giant pot of honey yoghurt.

*Does anyone else sort of think that Matt should have been killed off like four seasons ago? Am I just mean?

What do you find most satisfying about blogging?

The writing.

What’s your spirit animal?

dog

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Have a drink and go and dance, idiot. No one cares if you look stupid.

Tell us about one fictional character who makes you smile?

Mia Thermopolis. Everyone who read The Princess Diaries in their teens should totally be rereading them in their twenties. Trust me on this.

If you could go back in time and live in any era, what would it be?

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. I would go and spearhead the feminist movement. And have tea with Jane Austen. And hang out with one of those creepy photographers who pose dead people. And go to The Institute for Psychical Research.

I would have so much fun.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

dog

Do you have any secret talents or party tricks?

None whatsoever.

Well, my thumbs don’t match. One is way shorter than the other.

Give me a quote that makes you happy?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

I am reading Wild right now.

Wolf By Wolf

Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

Germany, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war.

Seventeen-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.

But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.

wolfbywolf

I wasn’t exactly looking for a novel to restore my faith in the potential of YA, but if I had been (and lately my faith and enthusiasm have been seriously tested), then Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin, would have done the job.

I haven’t felt like this at the end of a book since Six of Crows. I need the sequel, and whether I want to or not, I know I will spend the next few months speculating on where Yael’s future lies.

Yael is a complex and carefully written protagonist. She escaped from a concentration camp as a child, was later found by the resistance and has been with them ever since. What the resistance don’t know right away is that she escaped by changing her face. She was experimented on in the camp. A doctor infected her with bacteria and injected her with chemicals until she turned into something new – a skinshifter.

Yael is driven by loss – she literally wears it on her skin. Her tattoos signify those she has lost to Hitler and his regime. Her ever changing face symbolises the self she lost when she entered the camp and numbers were inked onto her arm in place of a name.

She’s known since she was very young that she would be the one to kill Hitler. She’s just been waiting for the opportunity.

Yael is the perfect mix of cold motivation, aching loss and curious longing.

I loved reading her. The chapters of the book are split into sections of Then and Now. Now being current events of course, and Then descriptions of her life in the concentration camp, and the resistance after it. Each section serves as a building block to Yael’s personality. Nothing that she did or felt didn’t make sense to me, nothing felt too quick. At least in my own reading lately, that’s been pretty rare.

Graudin is really great at setting the pace of relationships. In the Then sections of the book, in the brief time we spent with those we already knew Yael was going to lose, we got a complete sense of their character. Their loss is still felt, even though it was inevitable. On the other hand in the Now, the relationships Yael builds while using someone else’s face – people the girl whose face she wears knows already – are slower to connect. She is so preoccupied with pretending to know them and thinking that the brief sketches of their lives provided for her by the resistance are enough, that it takes the actual them a while to break through.  And when it happens, Yael – and me, honestly – finds that she has started to care without even realising.

Which is how most relationships actually work. People get under your skin. It’s usually a slow process, rather than the instant attraction that we see in a lot of novels. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships.

I also think it was really clever how Graudin used Wolf by Wolf as a means to explore different conceptions of identity. The initial purpose of the experiments on Yael were to make her appear Aryan. As a result, Yael’s existence undermines the belief system Hitler has built. If Aryan is something that can be faked, what does it mean? Nothing, obviously. Yael’s ability to skinshift, as Graudin puts it ‘highlights the absurdity of racial superiority.’

It also asks the question: are we defined by our outside?

I really enjoyed the way that Graudin extended this conversation to the Hitler youth. Walking in to the situation, Yael believed that the young blondes of the Hitler Youth were fully signed up Nazis, but on getting to know them found them to be more than the uniforms they wore. Small acts of defiance like smoking built an emerging sense of disrespect for the regime. A desire to bite off the hand that force fed them, I guess.

There is so much in this book.

In addition to everything I’ve already talked about, it is a story of bravery and adventure and will have you turning the pages long after you were supposed to go to bed because you have to get up for work in the morning, supposed grown up.

Just read it. I would love to talk about it with you.