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Last week of August, hmm?
What a fuckin' month it has been, my dudes.
*continues to vibrate off into the distance*
#67: ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas
Not that I think Angie Thomas should be beholden to the world of The Hate U Give or anything like that, but if she WANTED to write many more books set in Garden Heights, I for one would not complain.
On the Come Up follows Bri, a high school student who wants to be a rapper, no matter how much her mom would rather she focuses on school. As she attempts to make her dream a reality, partially to support her family's financial woes, she struggles with racist stereotypes and ongoing gang tensions, as well as conflicts with friends and family over her choices.
This isn't a sequel to THUG, but does, as stated, take place in the same universe and the same neighbourhood. The stories aren't really related, though there are a couple references to the events of THUG, and I thought it was interesting to see some of the changes in the neighbourhood.
One of the things I think Thomas balances really well are the elements of high school life, complicated family relationships, community issues, and, obviously, dealing with racism. She hits both the highs of excitement over new relationships and gaining appreciation for the things you're good at (in this case, rapping), and the lows of poverty and racism, and ties it all into a cohesive whole.
Excellent book, highly recommended.
#68: CINDERELLA IS DEAD by Kalynn Bayron
CW for abuse, implied sexual assault/rape, homophobic society
So I've been sitting here for some time trying to figure out why this book didn't exactly work for me.
It's not that the book is bad, because it's not, and it's not even that I didn't like it, because I thought it was fine. It's that I felt like there was something...missing, maybe. Perhaps it's a question of length - the book is quite short, only around 250 pages, and I feel like I would have benefitted from having more time to get to know the characters and the world.
Cinderella Is Dead is about fairytales, and about the cultural stories we tell, and what happens when you don't fit into those stories. Set 200 years after the story of Cinderella, it tells the story of Sophia, a queer woman (probably a lesbian, but I'm always hesitant to label characters who do not label themselves) who rebels against her kingdom's decree that every unmarried woman must attend the annual ball to be bid on by a (male) suitor.
The Cinderella story as fascist propaganda is an interesting angle to take, and I'm into the idea of examining fairy tales through a queer lens. I also really enjoyed some of the aspects of the original story that were worked in, like the magical tree bestowing the dress (though my Into The Woods-loving heart was unable to not sing "shiver and quiver little tree" while this was happening).
The other standout aspect of this novel was the twist on the fairy godmother character. I would have liked to have known a lot more about her, especially because some questions about her motivation end up unanswered at the end of the novel, but that almost heightens the intrigue of her character. I was into it.
I think the problem I run into is that a lot of aspects of this story feel unfinished, or lacking in depth in some ways. I buy the fascist government (unfortunately the real world examples prove their ease), but the characters (including the actual rebels) don't seem to have any real plans for rebellion until midway through the book, and though I appreciate the f/f romance, I didn't feel particularly invested in it at any point.
The biggest place where the lack of depth is felt, I think, is in the mood of various scenes. The stakes are established, but the characters don't seem to feel them - they move about without fear, despite being hunted. Scenes that could have been powerfully tense (e.g. between the main character and the main villain) have no spark, they fall flat.
This is the author's debut, and I like the ideas well enough that I'm really interested to see what she does next, but Cinderella Is Dead feels just...a little forgettable.
NEXT WEEK'S AGENDA:
#69: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
#70: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht