Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #11

In Her Skin
cw: domestic abuse, self-harm

The only people who talk about dead like it’s something pretty and fanciful are people who haven’t seen it up close.

I’ll admit that although I found the premise somewhat interesting, most of the reason I picked up this one was because it took place in Boston. That aspect was really fun, since I recognized most of the places mentioned and could really imagine myself there. The writing itself was interesting, too. It was a mixture of first and second person and worked really well for the story. Kim Savage ended up keeping me on my toes and I absolutely inhaled the last half or so in one sitting. My only complaint was that it felt kind of queerbait-y and I ended up pretty frustrated by that.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Unrequited 
cw: graphic sex, power imbalances, sexual assault, infidelity, suicide, off-page drunk driving, stalking, and probably much more

They’re a perfect match. I think anybody who’s in love with anyone is a perfect match. I don’t believe in crap like There’s somebody better for you out there. I don’t want better. I want the guy I’m in love with.

I picked this up on a whim after seeing Melanie’s glowing review and it was absolutely worth it. While the morals throughout are highly questionable, the writing is great and the author knows how to do steamy scenes well. I rarely read straight-up romance novels, but in this instance my rating is based more on personal enjoyment than objective quality. I’ve been going through a rough time and this was exactly the kind of read I needed to distract me from that. If you’re looking for a fun romance that’s a little on the kinkier side, this should hit the spot for you.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sex at Dawn

I’ve read some of the criticisms of this book, and also recognize that it was published almost a decade ago and may be a bit outdated. Regardless, it’s nice to read a book that validates your sexuality and makes you feel more “normal” than society at large might have you believe. As a queer, polyamorous woman I thought this was a really good starting point to learn about human sexuality. I’ll certainly be picking up some other works and doing further research, but I found this book to be well-written, humorous, and just what I needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Ghost Wall [review]

Ghost Wall book photo

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
To be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on January 8, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
4.01 (as of 2019-01-04)
cw: domestic abuse
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs–particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Without a house, it occurred to me, it is much harder to restrict a person’s movement. Harder for a man to restrain a woman.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
I enjoyed how distinctly different all the characters were. Much like The Stepford Wives, the women seemed much more well-developed than the men, who had a more singular purpose. I thought Sylvie and her thoughts were well-written, and I really appreciated the relationship between her and Molly. I also loved that Sylvie was queer-coded, although that wasn’t the focus of the story at all.

The Writing
Sarah Moss is able to slowly build up such an intense feeling of dread that it’s impressive. While the story begins in a rather innocuous manner, it’s revealed bit by bit that something just isn’t quite right. This is done in a rather impressive manner and eventually leads to an emotional climax the likes of which I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I’ll admit it, I may have shed a tear or two at the last line.

Cold water wavered over my legs, stroked some of the soreness from my skin. I imagined the shame carried away like blood in the water, visible first in weedy streams, curling and flickering like smoke and then dissolving, fading, until although you know it would always be there you couldn’t see it anymore.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Beginning
The flip side to this subtle build is that the story is a bit of a slow burn. While short, the beginning pieces felt a bit boring to me and I had just a little difficulty getting invested. Luckily this doesn’t last for long and it is absolutely worth it to stick with it on this one.

The Style
This is one of those books that has foregone quotation marks in dialogue, which can occasionally make it a bit tricky to pick apart who is saying what. It took me a bit to get adjusted to this, which probably also contributed to my difficulty getting invested, but once I did the story flew by much more quickly.

Here I am, then. So kill me.

→ TL;DR:

  • Wonderful characterization
  • Slow emotional build, but the payoff is worth it
  • Writing style takes just a bit of adjusting to

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The Stepford Wives [review]

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Published by HarperCollins on April 26, 2011 (originally 1972)
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.74 (as of 2019-01-03)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.


An odd medicinal smell soured the air — coming on the breeze at her back. It almost reminded her of something in her childhood, but fell short.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
This is a rare instance in which the female characters seem to be more developed than the male characters, and I loved it. They had so much individuality (aside from the Stepford wives of course), whereas the men were defined more by their jobs than anything else. One of the women was even implied to be asexual!

The Writing
While simplistic in style, the way the story was written was just fantastic. It started off relatively innocuous (even knowing what the ending would be), but built to an incredible climax full of anxiety. He pulls off a similar climb in Rosemary’s Baby, which I also really enjoyed.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Foreword
To be fair, this was added later to the book and was not written by Ira Levin. The fact remains, however, that Peter Straub’s introduction was painfully condescending. He went on and on about how the average reader wouldn’t be able to properly appreciate Levin’s writing and how subtle and literary it is. I can appreciate him wanting to explain the nuances of this simplistic writing style, but the way he did it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

The Ending
While I understand to a certain extent why the ending felt so abrupt, I wish it hadn’t. I felt pretty unsatisfied by it, even though I “get” it. Maybe Peter Straub was right and I just can’t properly appreciate it. 😉

→ TL;DR:

  • Well-developed female characters
  • Great pacing
  • Pretentious foreword (not written by the author)
  • Abrupt ending

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Believe Me [review]

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Believe Me by JP Delaney
Published by Quercus on July 24, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.69 (as of 2018-11-16)
cw: slut shaming, gore, CSA, self-harm, abuse
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation.

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

But then, this isn’t lying. This is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Which, as you will discover, is very different.

→ What I Liked:

The Twists
While I’m not one of those people who can guess the ending to every mystery, I can sometimes be hard to please with twists. I like them to be somewhat believable, meaning that there needs to have been an indication somewhere that this was a possibility. Not necessarily anything glaring, just something to point back to as a foundation. This was actually one of my biggest issues with Dangerous Girls. While the very last bit of the book is so full of twists it’s messy, JP Delaney masterfully puts together most of the pieces in such a way that the reader can’t help but be impressed. I really thought I knew where this book was going at the beginning, but I was very wrong.

The Characters
Claire, our narrator, is a British actor living in NYC. It’s clear from the start that although she’s down on her luck, she’s just brimming with talent. She’s easy to sympathize with, but far from perfect. Although she has somewhat of a stereotypical background, in my opinion she was quite an original character. Patrick, the man accused of murdering his wife, felt really well-done as well. While at first the reader thinks they have him pinned down, that soon comes undone. Seeing him through Claire’s eyes, we find out just how difficult it is to discern who someone truly is.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Ending
I tore through the entirety of this book, loving the build-up, but felt entirely dissatisfied by the ending. The author threw in so many red herrings I could barely see straight. Everything began shifting wildly and rather than astounding me, it caused me to lose any suspension of disbelief I had. It felt cheesy and cheap and I’m positive JP Delaney had the talent to create something better than this.

→ TL;DR:

  • Great twists
  • Page-turner
  • Believable characters
  • A terrible ending
  • Would recommend

 

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Haunting of Hill House [book review]

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on October 3, 2013 (originally 1959)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.89 (as of 2018-11-07)
content warnings: gaslighting, suicide

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Nothing is ever really wasted, she believed sensibly, even one’s childhood, and then each year, one summer morning, the warm wind would come down the city street where she walked and she would be touched with the little cold thought: I have let more time go by.

Hi all!! I’m trying a new review layout that I feel really helps me organize my thoughts better. Let me know how you like it. 🙂

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters

Our main character, Nell, gave me a lot of mixed feelings. At times I adored her and at times I found her unbelievably annoying. The rest of the characters I disliked even more. I didn’t understand the motivations of most of them, and I found their sudden changes in mood and demeanor off-putting. I can see the purpose of this: to wonder whether it was all in Nell’s head, whether it was caused by the house, and/or whether these people were truly acting like this. The problem was, I found it so distracting and confusing that it detracted from the atmosphere of the novel for me. I was, quite frankly, annoyed by most of the characters.

→ What I Liked:

The Writing
While I had issues along the way, the fact remains that Shirley Jackson is an incredible author. She is just fantastic at atmospheric writing (although as noted above, the characters ruined some of that for me) and knows how to add in twists that you won’t expect, even if her books aren’t outright scary. In fact, the ending saved this book entirely for me. It was a solid 3-star read until the last bit, which had me on the edge of my seat. That ending cemented Nell as a solid character in my mind and I really felt what she was feeling.

→ Additional Thoughts:

I was quickly convinced that this book was a huge inspiration for House of Leaves, one of my favorite books. From the general aura of the house, to the scientific exploration of the unnatural, to the strange dimensions, this had an HoL vibe through and through. In fact, I’m sure in the months to come, I’ll be noting a lot of books and movies that are influenced by Jackson, as she has clearly made a mark on literature with her writing.

→ TL;DR:

  • I found the characters somewhat annoying
  • Spooky vibes, but not really scary
  • Shirley Jackson is a god-tier writer
  • The ending is SO GOOD
  • Definitely helped inspire House of Leaves
  • Recommend!

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

We Have Always Lived in the Castle [review]

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Books on June 5, 1984 (originally 1962)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.03 (as of 2018-10-25)
content warnings: Familial death, domestic abuse, agoraphobia
(I forgot to make notes on these so they’re from memory, alas)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

In this village the men stayed young and did the gossiping and the women aged with grey evil weariness and stood silently waiting for the men to get up and come home.

This was my first Shirley Jackson novel and it far exceeded any expectations I could have set for it. After reading The Woman in Black, I knew that gothic horror was a genre I could get into and I found myself eyeing some of Jackson’s works. Fate worked in my favor: my friend Jackie lent me her copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle around the same time Destiny and I decided to buddy read it. Destiny and I split the book up into three parts to read over three days, but I truly believe I could have devoured this all in one sitting if I hadn’t been so busy during when I started it.

The truly incredible thing, to me, is how Jackson is able to write the most mundane things in such an eerie way. Nearly every scene is drenched with tension and I felt a sense of dread that continued to build as the book went on. Even at the start, our main character Merricat is going about her regular routine, running errands in the village. It’s an ordinary task, but it’s all just off enough to give the reader a sense of unease. I found myself absolutely terrified of the townspeople without even knowing why. And on it continues, every scene off-kilter enough that you can’t retain any sense of balance. The building anticipation makes it impossible to put down. I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next, and how the story would climax.

On top of the fantastic atmosphere that really drives the plot, I thought the characterization was great as well. Merricat is such a strange yet fun character to follow and everything is colored through her peculiar point of view. Constance, her sister, is intriguing and you can’t help but wanting to know more about her, even as you feel wary of her. Uncle Julian is certainly an unreliable character — it’s hard to piece together everything he’s saying, and you’re not quite sure what is true — and I liked him as well. The fourth human character (because we can’t forget Merricat’s pet cat Jonas, who I adored) is cousin Charles. I thought Jackson did a really lovely job of portraying the single mindedness of a child who truly believes someone is evil, and made Charles quite terrifying.

Overall, I honestly I don’t know if there’s a thing I would change about this book. I had unanswered questions, but it almost feels like they should remain that way. I genuinely think this story is a true masterpiece and I can’t wait to start in on Hill House, which I’m picking up from the library very soon!

I was chilled.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #10

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The Woman in Black
cw: child death

At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.

This was my first Susan Hill read and I can say that I’m now very excited to explore some of her other works. I don’t read a lot of gothic horror, but this definitely worked for me and I’d like to wade a little further into the genre. The writing conveyed such a strong atmosphere and I found myself really swept up in everything. It was definitely spooky, but didn’t outright scare me, which is a nice happy medium. I thought the characters were well-done, although we only spend time with a few of them. My only complaint was that the ending felt rushed and a little abrupt.

Buddy read with Sarah!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)

I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t really do anything for me. The characters were good, but the story felt rushed and I didn’t get very invested in it.

Rating:⭐⭐.5

Sadie_FINAL cover image

Sadie
cw: pedophilia, CSA, abuse, drug addiction
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Every little thing about you can be a weapon, if you’re clever enough.

It seems like nearly everyone has been talking about Sadie lately. Intriguingly, pieces of it felt like they tied pretty closely to The Female of the Species, which I read directly beforehand. The formatting is what was most interesting about it. Half of the book is a podcast — where I’d imagine the audiobook version would have come in very handy — and the other half is from Sadie’s perspective directly. In this way, things that we could never necessarily know from one perspective are revealed to us through the other. While this method could be flawed in the wrong hands, Courtney Summers is able to carefully craft a chilling masterpiece, slowly (but not too slowly) revealing the full story to her readers.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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The Female of the Species [review]

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The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20, 2016 
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.24 (as of 2018-10-10)
content warnings: animal death, animal abuse, rape, pedophilia

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives. 

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

The Female of the Species had been on my radar for a while now, and apparently I’m going through a spell of reading YA books about sexual assault because this is one of three I’ve read in the last few weeks. Luckily they were all well-crafted in their own ways and I didn’t have to worry about killing them with comparison.

Fuzzy faces peering through bars can be unbearable for many.

Change the face to a human one and the reaction changes.

This switches between three characters’ points of view: Alex, Peekay, and Jack. At first I found these changes somewhat jarring, but either the book or I eventually settled into a rhythm where they became more natural. I ended up adoring each character for different reasons, although I struggled with Jack towards the beginning. I liked the dynamics between them, although occasionally I was confused about their motives behind certain actions.

The plot itself was interesting, and differed a lot from most contemporary YA novels. While it does follow the typical “high school kids falling in love and learning more about themselves as they contemplate their futures” path, it also deals with something a lot deeper: the subjectivity of morality. The reader finds themself siding with a vigilante murderer — or at least I did — thus showing that things aren’t quite as black-and-white as they seem.

Her eyes are on mine and it’s like there’s no such thing as casual flirting with this girl. Every word she speaks is intense as hell and thoroughly investigated before she lets it out of her mouth.

While I ended up enjoying the book a lot, there were a few things that didn’t work for me. As I noted above, the perspective switches were a bit disconcerting for me to begin with. I also didn’t know how to feel about Jack’s “secret” regarding Alex’s sister. It’s revealed pretty early on, but I won’t spoil it. All I’ll say is that I don’t really understand its purpose. Perhaps it was meant to create some sort of tension between the two at the outset, but it never gets brought up or used in any meaningful way and I truly just forgot about it several times.

But overall, this is definitely a worthwhile read. I found the moral questions it unearthed very interesting while also just enjoying it as a work of fiction. I’d definitely recommend you pick this one up if it seems like your thing.

The books didn’t help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own.

I am vengeance.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Dangerous Girls [review]

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Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Published by Simon Pulse on May 6, 2014 (originally 2013)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2018-09-26)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Spring break. Aruba. Swimming, sunshine, and drinks. Lots of drinks.

It’s supposed to be the best time of Anna’s life. Perfect.

But then Anna’s best friend is found brutally murdered.

And as the local police begin to investigate the gruesome crime, suspicion and evidence unfathomably point to one person—Anna.

Now trapped in a country not her own, Anna must fight for her freedom and prove her innocence. But as she awaits the judge’s decision, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but dangerous.

Very dangerous.

And when the truth finally comes out, it’s more shocking than anyone could have ever imagined…

Oh, do I have some conflicted feelings about this book. Spoilers abound. I read this as the last book in the postal book club I joined last year. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going into it. It seemed like a typical YA thriller and I thought it could be a fun read. On the plus side, I was correct about the latter part. I blew through this fairly quickly, and the story is super easy to get pulled into. The dialogue was a little awkward and left something to be desired, but otherwise there wasn’t much wrong with the writing itself.

The premise of the book is pretty simple: a bunch of high school kids are on vacation and one of them is brutally murdered. There’s a lot of jumping around between timepoints, which I found to be a little confusing and not super well-done. We go between the history of the MC and the murdered girl, the vacation itself, and the aftermath. But it’s confusing because it jumps around different parts of the aftermath as well, so sometimes it’s hard to know where exactly you are.

Parts of the story really got to me. It’s implied that there’s some sort of sexual tension between the girls and it makes me feel really uncomfortable for reasons I’m having trouble fully describing. I was absolutely livid at the plot twist. This is not how you write an unreliable narrator. We are given absolutely no reason not to believe everything the MC is thinking and saying. That’s the problem. We’re inside her head and she seems completely normal and then at the end — surprise! We find out she’s a sociopath and has been lying the whole time. I hate plot twists and characterizations with no support, and this is the epitome of that. A twist just doesn’t feel satisfying if the book hasn’t actually been building up to it.

Okay, that rant may make it sound like I completely hated the book, but I didn’t. Like I said, it was a fun read and I honestly couldn’t put it down. I just really wish the ending had gone differently or had been supported by the rest of the book. I think this would be good for someone who wants a mindless YA thriller, but I wouldn’t recommend expecting a lot out of it.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Girl Made of Stars [review]

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-09-18)
cw:rape, molestation, pedophilia, biphobia, homophobia, victim blaming, depictions of anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

As I said in the brief, one-sentence review I managed to spin out immediately after finishing Girl Made of Stars: This is one of the most painful, difficult reads I’ve ever experienced, and it still managed to end on an empowering, hopeful note. It’s been on my radar for a while now and I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was actually picking up another book from the library for a buddy read that I’m doing when it caught my eye. I spontaneously snatched it up and I’m so, so glad I did. I think it was truly the perfect time for me to read this book.

I wish I could take a picture of myself right now, so I can remember this fiery girl, hold on to her.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with a review like this. First and foremost: take care of yourselves, loves. This is about the nitty gritty of rape culture, the many ways in which women can be both assaulted and undermined. It’s about the guilt, and the uncertainty, and the grey areas of being a survivor, as well as the difficulty of learning that someone you trust isn’t as safe as you thought they were. I managed to finish it in one evening, but I had to put it down a couple times to just take a spin around the apartment to get my head out of the story. Ashley Herring Blake writes a world that feels so real and is so easy to live in, that it grips you in a deeply emotional way.

It’s changed me forever, but changed doesn’t mean broken.

Everything is handled so beautifully in this book. In addition to focusing on rape culture and survivors, the main character also deals with sometimes crippling anxiety and PTSD. She’s also bisexual, which is mentioned explicitly on-page (as a bi woman, I was extremely excited about this), and her best friend/ex is genderqueer (this is the only rep I can’t speak to personally, but I’d be happy to share ownvoices reviews if y’all have any). There are also some great scenes where actively asking for consent is demonstrated and emphasized, which I’m always a huge fan of seeing (particularly in YA).

For all the girls whose names I’ll never know.
For me.
Girls made of flesh and bone.

I can’t even get into everything this book manages to explore, but somehow it does it all without feeling like the author is trying to pack too much in. I went through the full gamut of emotions while reading this. I spent the last half an hour of reading just sobbing in bed, but that was in part because I felt so validated and loved and understood. If you can manage the content, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was truly a beautiful, if difficult, experience and deserving of so much support and recognition.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)