Becoming Bindy Mackenzie

Bindy Mackenzie is the smartest – and kindest – girl at Ashbury High. She likes to share her knowledge of common teen anxieties and offers lunchtime advisory sessions in a relaxed setting (the locker room). But then Bindy discovers that, despite all her hard work, NOBODY LIKES HER! It’s time to banish benevolent Bindy – and release ruthless Bindy instead.

Bindy records every moment of her new rebellious life in a project – from The Philosophical Musings of Bindy Mackenzie to extracts from her essays. But her scrapbook is also the key to a bizarre mystery – with Bindy herself at the centre. Only her friends can help her now. If only she had some.

bindymackenzie

Rereading Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, by Jaclyn Moriarty, was such a good choice. I was still in high school last time I read it (5 years ago. This is always frightening to realise.), and I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t withstand the grown-up test.

I needn’t have worried. It totally does.

The thing it’s important to realise about Bindy is that she is almost unbearably annoying.

She’s also totally real. She’s that kid from school – the one who is just too… everything. Too enthusiastic, too smart, too friendly with the teachers. The kind of kid who made my sixteen-year-old self cringe. I was a painfully quiet kid and couldn’t help but ask myself why people like Bindy didn’t realise their life would be so much easier if they would just fly under the radar?  No one can be mean to you if you never open your mouth.

Important note: I don’t think this way anymore. Now my view – in the words of Amy Poehler – is as follows: Do your thing. Don’t care if they like it.

(some things get better when you’re a grown up.)

Bindy is the kid who approaches her classmates as if they are subjects in an experiment. And later, after they reject her, like a rival army. Both have the singular effect of pissing people off. A large part of Bindy Mackenzie’s becoming is the realisation that perhaps the classmates she has judged from a distance are actually a lot more complicated than she’s given them credit for.

‘And I’ve been thinking about how said you’ve tried to change and see the positive things in us, instead of being critical. So you sent us those memos giving us ‘good animals’. I guess I’m thinking that that was nice of you, and you were trying hard, but there’s not much difference between deciding what’s bad and deciding what’s good. Either way it’s judging people.’

Jaclyn Moriarty really knows how to use perspective. Throughout the book, Bindy laments her tendency to get caught up in reverie – the girl has personal stationary for her ‘philosophical musings’, after all. She wants to understand the world, but is irretrievably caught inside her own head. She thinks she has all the answers. Then one night on a school trip she leaves her computer unattended and the messages her peers type to her crack her whole world open. I love how Moriarty used the sometimes pretty silly messages Bindy’s friends typed on her computer to demonstrate that, oftentimes, the only real cure for reverie is a fresh perspective.

Then there is the murder-ey side of things. In some countries, this book is called The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. I won’t say much, because you want to go into this spoiler free, but I will say that the thriller aspect of the thing is subtly executed. Were it not for the blurb, and in some countries, the title, you might not even realise something bad is happening the Bindy until almost all the way through.

Twists happen. Almost everyone falls under suspicion.

It’s fun to connect the dots.

This is the definition of Fun Summer Read.

How To Feel Better

So last week, the UK voted to leave the EU.

Ever since, the incidences of racism have gone up massively, the Leave campaign have revealed all their so-called policies as lies (something everyone voting remain, obviously including me, already knew) and our (shitty, country ruining) prime minister quit. Also the pound is worth shit.

Basically my country has done something insane and irreversible.

Suffice to say, I do not feel good right now. And there would appear to be nothing I can do about any of it. Because it’s too late. And as Bukowski once said: there is nothing worse than too late.

So, what do you do?

Eat pizza and watch Melissa Mccarthy movies.

spy

 

A Darker Shade of Magic

Kell is one of the last travellers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. There’s Grey London, without magic and ruled by mad King George III. Red London – where magic is revered and where Kell was raised alongside the heir to the empire. White London – where people fight to control the remaining magic and magic fights back. And once there was Black London…

adarkershadeofmagic

I went into A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Shwab with expectations high. The hype for this one has been intense.

I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy. When I want to totally remove myself from the boring every day, I tend to reach for a sexy paranormal novel. While I can’t say that A Darker Shade of Magic has changed me into the avid fantasy reader so many other book bloggers are, it certainly sparked my curiosity.

The magical details were some of my favourite parts of this book. Kell has this coat which is somehow also many different coats. He can change to the style of whichever London he happens to be in simply by turning the thing inside out. Or outside in, depending on the circumstances.

I liked the brief moments in which magic had a voice. It was pure hunger and needed to consume without purpose or agenda. Its dogged and unrelenting want was intriguing to me. It made the magic – dark magic, I should say – that much more frightening; it wasn’t a person with motives you could question or a childhood worth analysing. No daddy issues could explain its need to devour all that was unlucky enough to find itself in its path. It’s frightening to face an uncomplicated evil.

The plot is sprawling and there is a lot to take in – three Londons’ worth – but Shwab navigates it in a way that is surprisingly free of info-dumping. Throughout this first in the series at least, Red London is the ‘best’ London. It has all the magic and the democracy. The complicated political situation (complete with murder-ey brother and sister king/queen team) in White London was interesting to me, as was the strange lack of magic in Grey London, both of which went largely unexplained beyond the whole it was because of Black London thing (it turned evil so they sealed it off and in doing so were also cut off from each other). Since this is the first in the series however, and there was a lot of ground to cover, my hope is that the other Londons will be explored in greater detail as the series progresses.

I liked A Darker Shade of Magic well enough, but I do wish I could have connected with the characters more. What I didn’t realise going in is that it’s written from various viewpoints, but primarily narration is shared between Kell, the magic guy, and Lila, a criminal with aspirations of piracy he accidentally pulls into his mess (and like most YA ladies, she goes along with the whole thing without asking half of the questions I would have). There was a hint of romance, but I didn’t really feel it. It manifested itself in a random kiss that to me at least, came from nowhere. The other central relationship in the book is Kell’s with his adoptive brother, Rhy.

(with all the talk concerning Rhy’s sexuality and him shoving Kell up against the wall the first scene we meet him, I will admit, I definitely misunderstood the way this relationship was going. They see each other as brothers. I was a little disappointed).

The relationship with Rhy is probably the most important in Kell’s life. Whenever there was drama involving Rhy, I felt anxiety for him and I definitely was hoping that he wouldn’t die, but overall he wasn’t in the story enough for me to really care about him. As in his relationship with Lila, Shawb told us that they cared rather than take the time to actually make me feel it.

This might not be a problem for everyone. This isn’t a short read, and as a fantasy novel it is plot, rather than character driven. It was frustrating for me, being, as I always have been, much more interested in the people catching the murderer than the way he gets caught.

Despite my reservations, I likely will continue with the series. The Neil Gaiman comparisons aren’t unfounded. Plus I really like the idea that Lila is going to become a pirate. I want to read what that looks like.

 

A Summer TBR

As the long rainy days of the English summer stretch on and around me my country is overrun by alarmingly hateful people and attitudes, I find myself in need of a distraction.

Luckily, I have books. Specifically, lists of books. To be read. Future distractions. Depending on what happens on Thursday, anyway.

(RemaIN, guys. UK people, I am literally begging you).

Anyway.

Let’s do this.

(summaries from Goodreads).

My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

my best friends exorcism

This is one of those from the title alone selections…

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

the unexpected everything

I have read endless good reviews for this one, and it sounds Sarah Dessen-esque. I am so in.

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine #1) – Jaclyn Moriarty

a corner of white

I must have read Becoming Bindy Mackenzie at least five times. I adore it. Yet for some reason, I haven’t read any other Jaclyn Moriarty books. This summer, that changes.

The first in a rousing, funny, genre-busting trilogy from bestseller Jaclyn Moriarty!

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot’s dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds — through an accidental gap that hasn’t appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called “color storms;” a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the “Butterfly Child,” whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses…

Unhooked – Lisa Maxwell

unhooked

This one had me at roguish young pirate….

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

The Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

the lies we tell ourselves

I read this list of books that should be added to YA required reading lists a while back. I plan to read my way through the whole thing. This is the first one on the list.

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

What are some of the books you’re most excited to read this summer?

Summer REreads

Sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed by the amount I consume. Music, podcasts, books, television, movies. All the things I have running twenty four-seven to ensure I don’t actually have to, you know, think about stuff too much.

This lifestyle poses multiple issues, and right now the one I’m concerned with is mental space. What I mean is the amount of me I actually give to the stories I’m reading. I want to really take them in.

Pre-blogging, I used to reread books all the time. This was partly a money thing, yeah, but it was also a healthy activity, I think. To relive the joy a certain story produced or rewrite your relationship with it altogether.

I like the way that different mes read in different ways.

So with that in mind, I present a few of the YAs that were regular companions of my teens. I think it might be time to introduce them to 23-year-old me.

summerrereads

Becoming Bindy Mackenzie – Jaclyn Moriarty

Bindy Mackenzie is the smartest – and kindest – girl at Ashbury High. She likes to share her knowledge of common teen anxieties and offers lunchtime advisory sessions in a relaxed setting (the locker room). But then Bindy discovers that, despite all her hard work, NOBODY LIKES HER! It’s time to banish benevolent Bindy – and release ruthless Bindy instead.

Bindy records every moment of her new rebellious project – from The Philosophical Musings of Bindy Mackenzie to extracts from her essays. But her scrapbook is also the key to a bizarre myserty – with Bindy herself at the centre. Only her friends can help her now. If only she had some.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in… with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minutes?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick… and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really totally dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an unchartered adventure called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and maybe out) or love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

If your free-spirited aunt left you 13 little blue envelopes:

Would you follow the directions? Would you travel around the world? Would you open the envelopes one by one?

Inside envelope 1 is money and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

Inside envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

Inside envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4 Ginny and  a playwright/theif/man-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with disastrous – though really romantic – results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes…

This Lullaby – Sarah Dessen

Remy always know when to give a guy “the speech” – right after the initial romantic rush, but before anything gets too serious. She’s had her fair share of boyfriends, and she’s learned all there is to learn from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. So why is it that Remy can’t seem to dump Dexter? It can’t be his name. It can’t be that he’s messy and disorganised. And it certainly isn’t that he’s a musician – just like Remy’s father, a man she never knew because he left before she was born. Could it be that Remy’s romantic rules to live by don’t apply anymore?

The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

A long dull summer stretches ahead of Macy while her boyfriend Jason is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of her father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen – things like the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things like meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s life upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder if it really is better to be safe than sorry.

Cringing at The Vampire Diaries

This post is coming to you several weeks after the fact. It may or not may be because tonight I was supposed to post my review for Jessa Crispin’s wonderful book, The Dead Ladies Project.

Unfortunately that review does not yet exist.

So instead, I’m going to write about The Vampire Diaries. This post contains spoilers. You were warned.

The Vampire Diaries is a ridiculous show. I know this. When I watch it, I do my very best to turn my problematizing brain off.

Mostly, I succeed.

Until it comes to Damon, that is.

Oh, Damon. You crazy controlling ass. I suppose as far as most viewers are concerned, your abs and beautiful face serve to excuse all of your crimes.

For me… not so much.

Shit Damon has done:

  • Killed Elena, the supposed love of his life’s brother, Jeremy because Elena was mean to him. Granted, Jeremy came back to life, but still. Damon didn’t know that was going to happen.
  • Turned a teenage girl into a vampire, had sex with her, and then ripped her head off when he was done (why do hundred-year-old vampires exclusively date seventeen-year-old girls? It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries)
  • Killed his brother’s best friend (and one of my all-time favourite TVD characters, Lexi), because he felt guilty over a previous occasion in which he had sex with her then tried to kill her.

Damon and Elena’s whole dynamic was based on the notion that she made him a better, less murder-ey vampire. As I mentioned earlier this week, the whole he’s-not-a-murderer-because-he-loves-me premise is one I take issue with. That gives the girl in question a whole lot of responsibility for shit that isn’t really her problem.

So on this specific occasion, the problem started with the other Salvatore brother, Stefan. Stefan decided to kidnap his ex-girlfriend, Caroline because she was in danger, but had decided not to leave the dangerous situation. Problematic. Ladies should be allowed to make their own choices.

When he told Damon what he’d done, Damon responded:

‘In my book that’s a notch above flowers and chocolates because when you love someone, sometimes you have to go to those extremes.

I hate the idea that removing a woman’s agency because He Knows What’s Best is somehow romantic. I keep hoping that one day Damon will turn around and realise how awful he is.

damon

But he never really does.

I should really stop watching this show.

The Last Star (The Fifth Wave #3)

The enemy is other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here… they’re up there… they’re nowhere. They want the Earth; they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out; they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves… or saving what makes us human.

thelaststar

I am going to try and do this with as few spoilers as possible. I’m not promising anything, however.

I will say right now that I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s rare for me to continue past the first book. The Last Star, the finale in Rick Yancey’s Fifth Wave series however, I pre-ordered.

(in my world, this is a big deal).

I have a bit of a funny relationship with these books. They are told from various perspectives, but the majority is split between Cassie (human surviving against the odds) and Evan (the human killing alien who betrayed his whole species because he fell in love with Cassie (eye roll). He doesn’t care about the human race in general, just Cassie. I don’t think we are supposed to view this as at all problematic (especially considering the whole Cassie stands for humanity thing), but in my own dating life at least, I tend to demand a degree of respect for the survival of my species, you know?) and Zombie (formerly Ben Parish, saved from death and trained to be a soldier by what turned out to be the aliens. It’s complicated) and Ringer (she and Zombie/Ben trained together).

As is probably obvious by now, I have never cared about Cassie and Evan. Their story struck me as one pandering to an audience much younger than me. It’s the sort of instalove that just makes me cringe. To add my pedantic self into the mix, the whole trope of the alien/vampire/whatever choosing not to kill to the girl because he’s into her is a little… uncomfortable. Say that love goes away. What happens then?

The girls never really seem to ask themselves that question.

Anyway. Zombie and Ringer, on the other hand, have intrigued me from the start. Their salvation appeared to arrive when they were saved from almost certain death and trained as soldiers, but then they realised that they were fighting for the side that was killing their kind. So rather than stick with what appeared to be the winning team, they went renegade and began fighting a war they knew they would lose. Ignorance isn’t bliss when your secretly alien bosses have a kill switch embedded in your neck you’ve been told is just a harmless tracker. It’s much better to dig the thing out with a knife and try your luck out on your own.

The centre of these books however, is the question of humanity. What is humanity, when all of the people are dead? What destroys a community faster: disease, flood, or breeding such intense distrust that a person is more likely to shoot a stranger than greet them? (What are you supposed to do when you don’t know who’s an alien and who isn’t?) What does the word childhood even mean when at 6-year-old knows how to build a bomb and has shot a woman right through the middle?

Are you still a human if some aliens stuck technology inside you without your consent, technology that has altered almost everything about you?

What is a human, anyway? What’s an alien? Throughout the novel the distinction becomes ever more clouded. By the end it’s almost impossible to know.

Top Ten Things I Love About… Sarah Dessen

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Sarah Dessen books always remind me of the life changing potential of summer. Colie learns to see herself as greater than the identity her bullies have assigned her. Auden gets to be something other than lonely. Macy emerges from her grief-cave and falls in love with a sexy artist.

These book covers. They are just so pretty!

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The places! The Last Chance Cafe, the pizza parlor, the 24 hour laundrette, WRUS Community radio station! These are the places where communities form. I am always trying to wish them into existence.

The interconnectivity of her universes! While all of her novels are standalones, Sarah inserts scenes with characters from previous books appearing in passing. It always makes me so happy to see her characters in a moment after the novel dedicated to them ended. Like when Annabel and Owen from Just Listen end up having a drink with Remy and Dexter from This Lullaby.

The boys. Obviously. I have fallen in love with every. Single. One.

The families. Family is a vital aspect of all of Sarah Dessen’s work. They are the comforters and the torturers of her protagonists. I have fallen in love with difficult siblings (Whitney!) and wanted to punch parents (Auden’s dad! I hated him so much I regularly had to stop reading and go and rant to whoever was nearest). Families in Sarah Dessen’s work are authentic. I adore reading them.

The idea that music sounds better inside a car wash. To this day I have never tried it, but when I own a car I like to think that cranking my stereo, easing back my seat and rolling into the car wash is the first thing I’m going to do.

Female coming of age stories. So, I just had the slightly horrifying realisation that my obsession with Sarah Dessen started getting on for ten years ago.  I’M OLD. Anyway, before Sarah, stories of girls overcoming difficulties, whether those were related to family or school that I could relate to, weren’t something I had much of. Seeing tricky family situations and friendships that I could actually recognise – and seeing the characters I related to so deeply overcome them, was (and honestly, continues to be) important to me.

thislullaby

The friendships. In Sarah Dessen’s world friendship means growing together. It means pulling each other out of the darkness, and when that’s not possible, squinting at the map together. Sarah Dessen never wrote a character I wasn’t desperate to be friends with. These books are BEAUTIFUL, guys!!!!

Sarah herself. Sarah Dessen has always been totally honest about the hardships she faces when writing. She has talked openly about having to start books over, and the tears she has shed over plots that just weren’t coming together the way she needed them to. Just Listen, one of my favourite books of hers and of books in general, apparently nearly killed her. As someone who is always struggling to write with the insight and beauty Sarah freaking OOZES, it comforts me to know that it doesn’t come easy.

 

May Wrap-Up

I am going to be honest, I did not read a whole lot this month.

My excuse for this is that a couple of the books I read were really long, and another I wanted to take my time with just cause*.

*You know when you read an idea and you just sort of want to absorb it and then let it settle? It was like that.

maywrapup

This month I reviewed:

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Feelings: I LOVED this and it pulled me out of something of a reading slump.

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Feelings: This book is good, but maybe not as good as the hype would have you believe.

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Feelings: This one, on the other hand, is even more than the hype would suggest. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

The Dark Days Club – Alison Goodman

Feelings: Nineteenth century, demons, hot guys and feminism. This one has everything.

I also wrote about…

How to alienate a bookworm 

A day in the (not so) fictional nineteenth century.

Everything I loved about season 5 of Girls.

Ten books I feel differently about after time has passed.

Bookstagram love.

This month’s podcast was… Adventures in Roommating

I hope you all had a lovely May 🙂

The Dark Days Club

London, April 1812

Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to step into Regency Society and find a husband. But this step will take her from glittering ballrooms and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of demonic creatures and deadly power.

Drawing her into this underworld is Lord Carlston, a man of dubious reputation and infuriating manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred duty to protect humanity. Not the usual aspirations of a young lady in her first London Season.

A delightfully dangerous journey of self-discovery and dark choices, set against a backdrop of whispered secrets, soirees and high society.

darkdays

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman was such fun reading. It contains so much of what I love: a nineteenth century setting, feminism, mystery and a gentleman of the sexy-but-dangerous variety.

I found this to be a refreshing take on the whole girl-finds-out-she’s-a-demon hunter story. This was mostly because Goodman sets up her restraints early – nineteenth century ladies can’t exactly pop out to slay a demon without their guardians noticing and pronouncing them ‘ruined’ (translation: unmarriageable) – and then plays within them.

Let’s break down what I mean by this.

To start, the pace of this book is super slow, which I know might be kind of turn off for some readers. I, on the other hand, savoured each revelation as it came. Rather than just being told that Lady Helen’s normality had been pulled out from under her – as so many books do – we instead were invited to study each piece as it was dismantled.

The pace of the plot was largely set by the limitations that define Lady Helen’s life. As in most books in this particular genre, Lady Helen is introduced to her demon hunter heritage by designated eye-candy (who is also her second cousin but I’m thinking we’re not supposed to mind because nineteenth century?  Mostly I just tried to keep that aspect of it at the very back of my mind) Lord Carlston. This is not easy for him to do because 1. No decent single Regency lady would be allowed to hang out with a man unaccompanied (gasp) and 2. Helen’s family have basically disowned him because there’s this rumour that he murdered his wife which is, I will admit, bizarrely pushed under the rug (like I wish the cousin thing would be) throughout the book. I guess we’re coming back to it later in the series. All of this means that he can’t mentor her like, say, Four mentored Tris because they can only speak to each other when they are invited to the same balls.

This made for pretty frustrating reading, I won’t lie. There would be times when Helen would arrange to meet Carlston and then her uncle (who is probably even more of a villain in this book than the horde of demons Helen has to confront) would arbitrarily decide she wasn’t allowed out that day, or her aunt would announce that Helen desperately needed to be fitted for a new riding habit or something. I really appreciated these details, however, as they made Helen’s experience something of a believable one. I don’t even live in the nineteenth century, but if I was called to be a demon hunter that would cause some serious problems in my life (I’m guessing no one would pay me? I work during the day. What if there was a demon? I can’t just leave! See? Issues). I like to see that stuff reflected in fiction.

Generally speaking, Goodman’s restraint is what I admired most about this novel. It surprised me, as a twenty-first century lady, that Helen wasn’t prepared to just let go of her life as it was before she joined the Dark Days Club and became a demon hunter. Before them, the only option in front of her was to go out and find a hopefully nice, hopefully attractive (although her uncle wasn’t especially bothered about either feature) guy to marry and hopefully be sort-of passably happy with. Even though she wasn’t enthusiastic about that prospect, and had in fact actively searched for ways out of it, including going to her brother for financial help, when first presented with an alternative future, Helen holds on to the proscribed path as hard as she can. I thought this was an interesting approach to societal pressure and internalised misogyny. Even after developing super powers Helen still understands that in the eyes of society – and a little, I think, of herself – her value can only be measured in terms of who she marries. She is afraid to step outside of the box she has been living in her whole life. She is afraid to leave everybody she knows inside it.

But ultimately, she doesn’t have much choice.

There is no question – I am absolutely reading the sequel to this one.

BONUS POINTS for mentioning real events and characters like the Ratcliffe Highway murders and Beau Brummel.

Additional BONUS POINTS for turning abruptly and awkwardly sexual about halfway through. I was into it.