We’re already a month into the year but here we go –
Firmament by Simon Clark
Releasedate: 27. January 2022
Why I want to read it: The first book by Simon Clark, which is exciting. His explanations of climate change are always great and easy to follow, and I should probably get to reading this soon as motivation before my atmospherical physics and climate change exam this semester :))
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: I usually like Tahereh Mafi’s writing and would love a Persian mythology inspired fantasy story from her. So I hope this isn’t just another generic ya fantasy series, despite the title and cover.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: It’s an unusual pick for me, but I want the promised thriller showcasing the “dangerous intensity of female friendships”, murder and morally gray characters.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Releasedate: 8. March 2022
Why I want to read it: I don’t have the best track-record with getting as much into McLemore’s books as I would want to, but both the book’s premises, the magical realism and the writing of them are usually amazing. And I can’t keep away from the promises of “two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake“ in this book either.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Releasedate: 5. April 2022
Why I want to read it: a heist novel! Featuring a heist I even deem very acceptable; stealing back pieces of art and people’s belongings displayed in Western museums stolen under war and colonialism. More specifically a group of Chinese American college students (one lesbian, one queer) are stealing back Chinese sculptures and pondering the ethics of it.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Releasedate: 26. April 2022
Why I want to read it: The protagonist Kaikeyi “transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her”, which sounds like a powerful and interesting story. It’s a Ramayana retelling with an asexual protagonist. I’ve seen some reviews disagreeing to such a prominent villain being retold as anything else, but as someone unfamiliar to Hindu stories that’s hard to assess.
Genre: young adult, classic, dark academia aesthetic, historical setting
A timeless coming-of-age book set in the summer at the beginning of the second world war. The all-boys boarding school in New England becomes a rare place that has not yet lost its charm and innocence to violence. Friends and rivals is sometimes the same as we follow the protagonist Gene, a introverted intellectual, and the school’s star athlete Phineas, who also has the ability to talk himself out of any trouble. And trouble they find themselves in as Phineas is somewhat of a spontaneous risk-taker and Gene can’t seem to keep from following him, developing quite a strange bond. The events of the summer and the war eventually makes this period of time life-changing for Gene, that divide in anyone’s life where there’s a before and an after.
Rating out of five: four stars
This book gets a lot of shit because americans seems to be forced to read it too often in high school. But if you, like me, pick it up on your own, it’s quite obvious why it’s gotten its place as a classic.
Two things this book highlights exceptionally well; the setting of the external world at various times affecting or not affecting the remote world of the book, here the boarding school, as well as the unusual relationship between the two boys Gene and Phineas as they grow up side by side.
The knowledge of the outside world and the war brewing is something that constantly comes in drips through the story. That is, until the war breaks out and the cast of characters somehow intentionally try to downplay it in their heads until they finally are no longer able to ignore the reality in front of them. I read this book at the start of covid-19 becoming a pandemic, which was a somewhat ironic backdrop with its similar aspects despite the difference of how accessible news and media is today.
I was suprised by how queer the story felt, as a classic. A lot of searching after finishing the book lead me to the author being asked about and then rejecting any intentional homosexual themes. But I mean – obviously others had the same read of the situation. It’s interesting when the obsessiveness of the male and masculine goes so far to one side that it reads as queer. At points as they grow up the relationship between Gene and Phineas feels like those really destructive friendships that behave like romances, but the teens does not yet know how to pinpoint those big feelings or if they are gay. Spoken as a queer person. It could be interpreted as obsessiveness of other reasons, say jealousy, but it certainly is romantization going on in how Gene describes Finny. It fits with the (lately heavily criticized) dark academia concept because of that obsessiveness attached to the secluded group dynamic the boarding school brings.
Whether you want to call the relationship homoerotic or obsessive romantization for other reasons, it’s obvious the setting of the novel doesn’t permit such a relationship, as it gets its fitting ending.
I would look up trigger warnings before reading it! While I loved the book, I nearly had to stop because I expected a lighter type of fantasy, but even if it’s always taken up serious subjects, it suddenly got a lot darker and more in-depth. Among other things very explicit child abuse and gaslighting, also against one of the protagonists. As well as suicidality, animal abuse, etc. LIke there’s been sadists since the first graceling book, but it feels much more explicit here, probably because it’s more applicable to real-life.
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.
Ever wondered what happens after the good protagonist becomes king/queen of the kingdom and wants to turn it into a democracy? Here, a familiar history of corruption, burning of scientific knowledge and other countries’ secret exploitation of their resources creates difficulties.
You could absolutely read this book as a stand-alone, even though it’s a very late (like nine years late) fourth book in a series I loved as a kid. While the rest of the series is young adult, it seems to have grown with its audience very deliberately and the themes and actions of characters in this book is very much adult.
Some day I need to write a review of the original trilogy, but just know that I loved it with all my heart. The first book features a kick-ass character named Katsa that’s trying to get out a life being used as an assassin just because she’s skilled/graced with it. And this book is a continuation of that in two ways.
It’s the same kind of simple, yet well-done world as before. The parts of the world have expanded, and I love the intelligent foxes and telepathic sea creatures here. Mainly the fantasy aspect is certain characters being gifted with one skill (called grace), visible by different colours on each eye. The second thing that’s stayed the same is the fierceness in the protagnosists, even though Cashore has developed in what ways a character can be strong and weak. It’s no longer just survival; it’s politics, finding strength in overcoming trauma, being intelligent and compassionate. There’s power in continuing to care for people, even after other’s have failed you. This book’s plot reads very much like a mystery, with the different POVs helping to create puzzle pieces that fit so perfectly together, yet still surprises you.
I loved the kraken-like (The Keeper) creature’s POV so much and would’ve liked its part to be bigger, though I get how that would work against the essence of its character. I felt like this book had a lof of different elements to love and that’s stuck in my mind since I read it. For instance, Lovisa has to take cover far into the country-side, where she really comes to terms with what her goals are after being through so much crisis and trauma. Along with the usual action, which there is a lot of, the book highlights the more tedious, but real-life consequences of continuing living a life. Even reading Lovisa’s inner voice is painful as she’s constantly discrediting herself, but so very real.
My absolutely favourite character was the fox Adventure – I don’t get how people dislike him. I mean his constant thoughts alone brings great relatable humor;
The fox had never before experienced the level of anxiety he’d been experiencing lately. It was too much. He could not keep everyone safe all by himself! And his siblings, all of whom were present at this party, were as useless as ever.
Somehow I think this became the book where I realized there’s worth for me in following trigger warnings, because it has a very explicit scene of Lovisa as an older daughter being threatened with her younger brothers’ suffering by the hands of her parents. Somehow, that was what got me and I just sobbed the rest of the book to be honest. But I reread those parts the next day and it’s really well done, in many ways. It’s in accord with the abusive behaviour of her parents until that point, the illusion in Lovisa’s mind of them having been good to her at times is completely destroyed, making their downfall a lot more satisfying.
What I felt reading this book: Excited about the mystery-feeling of the plot, well-written characters and the added dimension of the politics. Sobbed a lot. Appreciated the relief the non-human characters brought.
Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
Tag your friends
A book about friendship
I always look for books about friendship, but somehow all the recommendations I have is heist related? That’s without including all the YA books with too-young characters having to bond because there’s no adults around, of course. Honestly I prefer found-family or platonic relationships to romantic ones in general in books.
But I think of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a story about friendship, as much as it has lonely elements as well. I guess also “The Secret History”. I need more not-gloomy-murder recommendations, is what I’m figuring out.
A translated book
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. For once I’m standing by my first language and choosing a norwegian book. I know this book that’s a mix of children’s and philosophy is really well-known, but it’s kind of strange trying to get if people know of it elsewhere in the world. I grew up with the author’s book, but I really want to reread this and see how (or if) different I would understand it now. It’s philosophy made so accessible, even for someone who is forced to take a university philosophy course right now and hating it.
A diverse romance
I’m so bad at reading pure romance books without stopping half-way through. I just finished Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and while it felt very middle-school and not young adult, it’s the queer romance between a Latino trans boy and a gay boy that I would’ve loved growing up.
A fast-paced book
I rarely remember the pace of a book unless it was horrible one way or another?? I think the sequel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green had a fast pace in that the set-up of the first book (with strange giant robots that might be alien) needed a lot to tie up and it all managed to happen in this book, through multiple points of view and a group of friends collaborating by working on each of their part of the bigger problem.
A nonfiction (not memoir)
Naty’s Bookshelf mentioned The End of Everything by Katie Mack which I just read and very much agree with her take! It was such an experience reading, written with so much passion about astrophysics and the existential questions. In that way it does have a lot of perspective and personality from Mack and even though I am in university for physics, you don’t need any background to enjoy reading it. She goes briefly through the smaller things you need to follow the theories of how the world will end and what that means.
An underrated memoir
A truly underrated one is “A Woman in the Polar Night” by Christiane Ritter about a german upper-class (or at least comfortable) woman who in 1934 travels to the Arctic to spend a year there. It goes very quickly from “ah, a relaxing, but challenging trip” to “boredom and life & death”. Her writing is stunning as well and really delves into aspects of life that I’ve never had described to me this way, but rings as clear as the snow surrounding her for miles and miles.
A book with fewer than 10.000 ratings on Goodreads
Somehow the first I thought of was (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn, which was one of those books that was on my TBR for FIVE LONG YEARS with no idea of what it was about. It had such a powerful story of facing reality and dealing with it or continuing making the easy decision of running from it. As a story it’s also on the line between fantasy, magical realism and dystopia in a way I haven’t seen before, set in a “paradise” where no one ever get sick or seem to die. It’s currently at 2171 ratings.
A book with a LGTBQ+ protagonist
I just bought City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault in physical form as I loved it so much and wanted to reread it before reading the rest of this high fantasy series. It has several asexual characters, including the main character (who is also aromantic) and is written by an asexual and aromantic author. All the characters are queer; bisexual, demi, pan, poly, gender fluid, agender, as well as asexual and aromantic is all represented in an overall badass magical city. Really, this book should be underneath the ‘friends’ recommendation as well as I might have a big weakness for main characters who observes everything all the time as a thief or assassin, but also cares deeply for their friends. And the plot builds so naturally on the personalities and choices made by these characters, and the way their lives intertwines by living in the same city. This book just gave me a lovely, fun and exciting experience reading it with characters I squeal over, but also feel comforted by. Without sacrificing any of the heavyness or high fantasy elements usual to the genre.
A book by a trans or non-binary author
I’ve got so many books I want to read that fits here, so these are on my TBR (and hopefully I can get to them after exams):
Freshwater, Pet or basically any other book by Akwaeke Emezi. I’m really interested in how Freshwater protrays mental illness , identity and the protagonist develops separate selves within her as she moves from Nigeria to America for college. But it all in this magical realism/fantasy type of story. Pet is also magical realism/fantasy for somewhat of a younger audience centered around a black, transgender girl who meets a monster and all the adults around her are in denial of their existence.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo also has a transgender girl main character who deals with being new in high school and everything that comes with. Relationships, mental illness, conflicts around gender – it seems like a really honest book.
A book with more than 500 pages
The longest book I’ve read and enjoyed is apparently now the popular fanfic All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 with its 527k words. And while I do recommend it for all its glorious scenarios as the whole fanfic follows the Harry Potter Marauders through Hogwarts and until the end, giving you everything queer J. K. FUcking Rowling would never – don’t start reading it without having the next few days completely free. The platonic relationships and the different twist on Remus’ character and life all wrecked me.
Besides that, it’s The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which is one of my favourite fantasy books of all time and also 1283 pages long. It’s a struggle of wanting to write reviews for all my fav books, but then also having too much to say about them and never getting to it. It’s just the best, although I always recommend Mistborn by Sanderson if you’re looking for an easier way into his work and not to dive into this epic fantasy chaos of greatness as it has as much of same brilliant elements in an easier to digest format and size.
A short story collection
Both The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu are supreme. Just the paper menagerie collection has stories about “The bookmaking habit of select species”, an AI utopia that you might actually want to live in, hujing; beings who are both fox and human, chinese calligraphy and deadly fear of communism / plain racism, being chinese in america, simulacrums; illusions of people stuck in time, aliens, Guan Yu the chinese god of war visiting America (American Gods vibes from that one, it was awesome). Also immense sacrifices and a few stories that willl make you sob inclung about unit 731 and the biological warfare and experimentation in China during WW2.
A book you want everyone to read
In general, the books that had the most impact on me heavily depends on the situation and context in which I read it. Not to mention my on-going struggle of finding a general recommendations list for people in my real life who ask. Because it’s always so much better to tailor them to their interest and like level of understanding of any given genre. For example the already mentioned A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter I find myself automatically recommending, but I get that it will be a slow-paced and quite boring book if it doesn’t match with the person.
So I think the best answer is the poetry collection BRANCHES and the new release Grocery List Poems (when it comes out in june, I’ve yet to read it) by Rhiannon McGavin! The writing is easy to follow for those who “aren’t (yet) into poetry”, but I also think McGavin always brings really interesting takes and beautiful writing. She started out as a spoken word poet so a lot of her work is on youtube. I’ve followed her for years, but in general I find that among the younger poets those who already stands out in how clearly they follow their own, more unique path is the ones that grows the most. Of course, easiest way to get into poetry is to start out with someone that speaks about things you are interested in, which sounds obvious, but sometimes needs a reminder.
Yesika Salgado (with the collections Corazón, Tesoro and Hermosa) is another great recommendation for a poet to ‘start with’, but also in general really fantastic. I’ve been rereading the poetry collections and wanted to do a short post on them, but it’s taken a while because each is so powerful and filled with messages connected to its theme that I need to like take a breath in between them. I think my favourite is Tesoro as it’s about family, the women in Salgado’s life and survival.
I bought and started to read The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus until I realized I was truly not in the right head-space to read about the philosophy behind taking your own life right before Christmas, which I think is fair.
Sweetdark by Savannah Brown!!! It’s so good!!! If you’re looking for a poetry collection, this is it. Review will be out sometime soon.
I might have read the whole, very popular hp marauders fanfic All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 and then added it as a book to my goodreads because it’s … 520k words. It is breath-takingly amazing, the writing only gets better as the years pass for the marauders. Remus and Sirius are both queer, but not in a forced way. Everything in the story just makes sense and gives hp fans everything they deserve, I am just late to the party here. All praise to MsKingBean89, must you have a wonderful christmas and a wonderful life. Someone yell it from the sky at me if they publishes writing of their own.
I read Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett the night I was awake before my train home for christmas, then the whole train-ride home. It was amazing fantasy.
Added to TBR:
Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett (fantasy, lgbt; f/f romance, found-family trope, heist book). The first book of the series Foundryside was not perfect, but it was really good.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (nonfiction; science, physics, illustrated). Made by the same author as the great & nerdy webcomic xkcd, also a former physicist and NASA robotics employee, so this book got to be good.
Three things on my mind:
I have never needed a good amount of time to not do anything, with nearly-free-conscience, this much before. Exams went to hell, not because I did bad, but because I didn’t do them at all. (You can’t fail me if I do not participate and all that). It’s very on-brand in that I have a tendency to do something completely or not at all, which is the mind-set I truly had pre-university. Abandoned it at uni this far for a reason. Sometimes things start out as irony and develop into a part of yourself, as with that one. Anyway, exams failed because of bad health and chronic illness flare-up. Surprisingly, when you go home from the hospital after doctors haven’t found out what the fuck is wrong with you this time, you can’t suddenly expect to get better the next day, or week, or month? I really pushed myself through all those medical things (and there were many), went home to my mom for a break, failed to study for exams, failed to go back to my university city at scheduled time because I was feeling too unwell for the train-ride. Then finally got back to the city a week later, failed to study even more and then did more medical things while being on the brink of exhaustion. That last medical procedure felt like torture, just because my body was so done with it all, while it might be the easiest of them all overall. In many ways, I did get the whole exam period stress and then the relief-from-completion experience, only with a lot more shittier steps to it. 2/10 won’t recommend, with the plus point for having been worse before.
I bought myself a couple jewellery items as a gift from my mom this christmas, which is very rare for me, but I got so excited over them and have been for months. We were all feeling bad because of getting to the christmas shopping too late in the middle of this chaos and no one really knew what to do. Ended up with getting her more gifts than usual in fear of nothing making it before christmas, my favorite of them all being the very useful hairbrush, but with Frozen Elsa motive because what else do they sell online here? Nothing else, I can assure you. (When Amazon rarely/expensively sends to your country). As I write this, I haven’t gotten the jewellery yet but loooook –
IT’S THE DAGGER EAR THING OF MY DREAMS. I might just go ahead and use the rest of my gifted money on actually getting piercings this new year, when corona hopefully sometimes calms down, that would be cool.
I should have said this already, but I hope you are having as good of a christmas or holiday season as you can! I am so sorry if your area is hit badly with COVID-19 right now. As someone who is in the risk group; I am so deeply tired, I understand and I feel so much sympathy. From the tone of this post, it might not be a surprise to find out my christmas has been rocky. Here’s some of my things I’m really grateful for this season, that I do not take for granted; I am with my mom & brother, who means the world to me. I am on a never-ending quest to text the people I care about, who I might not have stayed in touch with as much this past year, and wish them well. Photos of people getting the corona vaccine are making me happy every time I see them. My 17 year old brother have not out-grown or gotten too embarrassed to dance to old Nicki Minaj songs on Just Dance on our very old, but newly found Wii console. I have to learn how to make christmas dinner, because we do not have access to our family of chefs this year, even though they’re literally across the street. I am grateful that no one of the affected by COVID that is close to me have been at particular at risk or hit hard by it.
Soooo merry christmas, happy holidays and let’s all stay safe, also over new years?
What truly is burning a hole in my soul right now is that, as students, people were so shocked and heartwarming about me having been admitted to the hospital. But in real life I’m so much expected to take care of myself without help, especially as everyone is busier with exam season close by, and it’s truly hard to keep up this semester with making food for myself, let alone study enough.
It’s not my fellow students’ fault – chronic illness is something truly difficult to understand how affects a person (and how much it varies) unless you’ve seen it up close, but I’ve found the STEM (mainly physics) crowd I spend most time with have few people that truly understand. I’m used to that, but it also tears at me, because I have to stop mirroring the people I’m surrounded with and realize I’m at a disadvantage. It does not mean I can never aspire to my ambitions, I do study physics for fuck’s sake, but that certain things will be different; more difficult for the most part.
Disabled is a term it took me a long time to be comfortable with using about myself for various reasons. Now I have to make the people around me comfortable with it as well, because even the ones who mean well have not yet faced the fact that I won’t become – and then stay (which is the most difficult part) – not sick. How energetic I am will constantly change, how much I can participate in parties or movie nights, or anything in between, will change. I can work on not instantly becoming social anxious when I’m more ill, because suddenly I can’t read the whole room like I usually can and I know I miss more social cues – these are examples of things I’ve realized overwhelmes me only recently.
The hardest parts of being chronically ill for me hasn’t been the pain, although that is a major problem when it truly gets bad; it has been to get people – doctors, friends, former friends, family, teachers, school administrators – to understand. Although I’ve lost a lot being chronically ill since I was a child, I’ve also gained qualities, among them a high level of empathy. It makes sense; it has been cruicial to my survival in a particular way, as well as something I’ve been raised to be very aware of. But I think going forward I’m going to have to mold what empathy means to me and kind of extract the parts of it that hinders me from asking people for something if I think they’re going to reject me. At this point I would rather go through that painful process and hopefully end up with a core group I know that care, even if I’m not in shape to go to a certain party with them. Or worse – somehow see me studying less or being awake at strange times, and directly connects it to laziness and me not being up for this. Whatever this is.
I’ve seen the signs of that happening recently with a truly close friend – I’ve gone through that type of friend-breakup before after all – along with some comments I’ve been getting from them. And I got so frustrated until I realized more than anything we’re in an university enviroment where you’re constantly afraid people will suddenly just leave. We as a student body are dependent for each other for more than we realize in our daily life, especially during covid-times, where we have nowhere else to turn to to fill our days (hopefully with some work), get us out of bed on a schedule or cheer us up.
Or discuss big philosophical ideas with, while hating on the one obligatory philosophy course we have, of course. In the end, my core friendgroup is weird, not in the way of ~we’re so quirky~, but in the way of “we’re STEM students all with different degrees of lack of social abilities, we joke about that constantly, but it’s true and sometimes the areas we lack makes people more hurt than intended in certain situations”. Sometimes it makes it impossible to see that you’ve hurt someone, or is making it more difficult for them. I think another change I will have to do is be conscious of telling them when it happens, softly of course*. Because I do believe they don’t dislike me as a person, even if I’ve gotten the reputation of being a bit chaotic and not as smart recently. And for the last one, at least, I know I can prove them wrong, if only my health would pick up the pace getting better.
I’ll continue looking elsewhere for support when it comes to my chronic illness. I think the temporary conclusion I’ve come to is that I’ve always found myself having friends for different purposes; I do different things with them and have a different level of openness/vulnerability. And that a person doesn’t have to understand what I’m going through as long as they show that they do care, even in their mistakes. It’s a strange space to be in right now; I both do not have the energy to deal with it, and it has risen as a bigger issue because of that.
The next day
I’m wary about sharing anything too personal on the internet, so I’m nervous about this one. But I want to add that I went from writing this post as a very much uninterrupted stream of consciousness to walking out into my living room and seeing the people I live with and three additional friends, who’d just gotten here from a chill night drinking someplace else. And they cheered for me being “alive!” and home. And then threw a whole lot of questions at me, which included how I’d forgotten to tell one of the people I live with & talk to mostly every day about being in the hospital at all, which I mentioned in this bi-weekly update (my excuse is that I was truly drugged on painkillers).
After some hopefully-faux hurt souls, we were back to a strange place, but a more comfortable one than we had been for a long while. I didn’t feel like such an outsider, they could at least recognize something big had happened and that I was not that okay. That it wasn’t me that had voluntarily distanced myself from them, but shit had hit the fan health-wise and led to this.
And then as the evening progressed and we watched a movie, these obviously drunk people of mine continued to make fun of each other, and me, with some very poignant hospital/health jokes, which I laughed at genuinely because they were clever ones. But they did always add a concerned look, a comment that they were glad I was there and rounding the night of with a genuine discussion of “how bad/okay are you right now?” If anything it only reinforced the existing ideas I had about this whole situation the last months; they mean well, but sometime lack the ability to communicate it or are too hung up in their own things/views. But they also have generated this environment which has truly become home for me and for that I will work with all of it. ❤
* Or maybe not so softly. I might’ve already started this new strategy of mine off; it was the second time the same person commented on how I shouldn’t have kids because of my chronic illnesses and my reply might’ve been a longer version of “I understand what you mean because I know you, and you know I don’t currently want kids, but what you’re arguing for is pure eugenics.” They took it well, I will give them that.
For those wondering my diagnoses (so far) is the autoimmune illness Crohn’s disease, the gallbladder disorder Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction and a lung condition.
I’ve gotten so into horror after reading this book, which I did for hours during the night as I couldn’t sleep. I was visiting my boyfriend and he absolutely thought I was a bit more strange trying to explain this book and how well it balanced between fantasy and horror in a unique way. Most of this unique feeling I think came from the perspective, it all being about and told by teen girls. Anyway, I’ll get back to that.
Genre: young adult (don’t agree), horror: disease & body horror, lgbt (queer girls, slight f/f relationship, but a lot of yearning), some mystery vibes, set in a boarding school on an island. quarantined (which will be a genre i guess).
Warning: it has a lot of trigger warnings, pls search them up before reading
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Rating out of five: five stars
here’s me arguing it’s not YA
This book has amazing cover art, but I think it did the book a diservice, along the fact that it’s branded as young adult. I feel like this is a larger conversation that I keep having, but not everything with teenage characters (especially female) is YA! It doesn’t have a great rating at goodreads (3.58) and I think it’s because people isn’t expecting what they get unless they’re like me that added this to their TBR as it was released a year ago and then now saw one book blogger (don’t remember who oops) saying it was more horror like, which got my interest again.
the friend-group & characters
SO! An all-girl high school on an island where most of the teachers die off on the beginning of the the two year quarantine, where everything starts up pretty simple and then reveals so much more complex moral, practical, society & science-related questions. It’s reveal after reveal and a constant search for who is the good & bad guys, which gives the mystery vibes. There’s a strong queer friend-group & chosen family trope, but not with likable characters. Think about it – unlikable female characters, violent at that. Most reviews I’ve read lists that as a main issue they had, but I feel like a lot of this book is the experimentation of fierce, reckless, dangerous girl characters, who also have other sides to them. Some of it can be excused to this disease they’ve all got and are dying from, the Tox, mutating their bodies in graphic, unique and eerie ways. But they’re also shaped by living in a two-year life & death situation, along with maybe not being the perfect complacent & normal main characters in the first place.
I WAS SHOCKED at having seen one girl of the friendgroup having been described by the main character Hetty in one adoring (almost worshipping) way the whole time. And then we got the other girl’s narrative and she was so different, with clear sociopathic/violent tendencies. But still it was revealed during a situation where you as a reader wanted to feel bad for her, which is when I truly cheered for this duality this book accomplished.
the island setting & writing
Every description was done so well and fit the mystery and horror aspect as the island they’re on takes as much part as any character. It makes so much sense with the quarantine aspect, the fact that one of the characters has a dad she hasn’t seen in a year living in those woods. The woods are alive and overgrown, as is the mutated animals, which is a threat. I’m just surprised by how much the author got into one book tbh. It’s also a lot of fun to read, surprisingly!
This book has the mystery, murder, dark humor and boarding-school vibes of Maureen Johnson’s ‘Truly Devious’ mixed in with any dystopian bad-government, mutated animals, body horror you can think of, all with a good dash of forest aesthetic and eerie, descriptive writing. It’s one of my new favourite books and I would totally recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be YA or to like most of the characters.
Before reading this book I have a confession to make.
I’ve been really missing two friends that I’m having to stop myself talking about way too much in front of my family now. I’m more attached to them than they’re to me, not that I would ever admit it to them. Only that I did to one of them, the last day before I left the city because of corona, saying that sometimes I made dinner just because he was cooking. (okay we might also be flatmates, let’s be sure no one from real life ever finds this blog, shall we?) Only one of us had been drinking and it was not me, so I wonder where that courage came from. I’ve been actually searching for what my fucking problem is. Dodie Clark (a singer/youtuber) recently made a post with a caption about how she’d been obsessed with Shannon Barry as this better version of her, before they met and actually became friends. Like a friend-crush, but also jealous of. It reminded me of my situation, but both the friends are guys, so it’s not like I’m jealous and comparing myself. Well, only a little. They’re so damn smart. Anyway, enough of my troubles and let’s read this book and hopefully get some clarity or relatability.
After reading this book.
It’s like an adult kids book! This book is filled with interesting and cute, simplistic illustrations, the writing is so precise and everything just describes and/or states for future generations how friendships and friend-crushes are these days, where half or more of the relationship happens online. It also describes my situation nearly perfectly. How many times has I been so excited that the other person also struggles to fall asleep and is willing to discuss cults or strange books we read way too young.
It’s just the perfect little graphic novel. I’m shrugging in real life right now, because I don’t know what more to say. Here’s an example;
I really liked the open end, and hope from the bottom of my heart that these cuties will be best friends forever. I might also have had a online movie night with the two friends, and one of them (the one that seems most detached and independent normally) drunkenly said that this was the best moment of his week. So I’m taking that as a sign that even if we are bad at communicating all three of us, like the nerds we are, I’m not solely imagining this friendship to be bigger and stronger than it is. I might not go in for hugs anytime soon though, because last time I tried two of us was leaving for France and the last friend looked like I’d hit him, he was so confused. Totally worth being the dumb, attached one sometimes for seeing a glimse of the genuine shock on his face.
In summary, read this book if you can get your hands on it, absolutely worth it. It’s short and something I would totally buy in actual book form just to have around as a thing that warms my heart.
Also, a thing that I’ve been doing way more recently is texting friends (or telling them face to face when that was a thing) if I’m thinking about them or think they’re particularly cute that day. Like actually showing affection. I’m reserving that for everyone but these two friends though. They get scared easily, and there’s always a risk they’ll tear up if you bake cake for their birthdays. Fuck, I miss them.