It’s July! Here’s our gemstone post to make up for the fact that we missed May and June.
No, seriously, it’s Luna’s fault. She was tired and got the months mixed up. We missed May because we were busy but June we did intend to do and skipped because…well, Luna was a dummy. A tired dummy. That’s the only answer we have. Moving on!
Ruby: Name a book that aggravates you/ makes your blood boil.
I have to pick just one?
I’m not going to lie, there’s quite a few YA books that irritate me. I love the genre but sometimes it sucks. There are books that are basically self-inserts, books that get all high horse on you, ones that slut shame, encourage stereotypes, are racist, send bad messages, bad writing, weak female leads….I could go on.
However if I have to choose, I can think of a book that I hate because…well, I was expecting so much from it. It’s not even YA, for all my complaining up there about the weaknesses of my favourite genre.
I wanted to like this book. One genre I live for is the ‘Final Girl’ trope – more specifically, what happens after the ending of the horror movie and there’s one girl left alive. I was excited for this one. The cover is distinct and you can definitely tell what kind of book it is. The blurb sounded interesting enough. A girl with a perfect life, hiding a horrible, tragic secret of something that happened to her in the past? I was expecting a strong heroine, with a tragic backstory. I anticipated vibrant characters and snappy dialogue, with thrilling twists.
You know what I got? NONE OF IT. NOT A FREAKING DAMN THING. I QUIT 50 PAGES IN AND THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM, I WAS THAT MAD AT IT.
Because after 50 GODDAMN PAGES, we didn’t have a whiff of plot. Nothing scary or suspicious or Ani dealing with any ghosts from her past. It dragged…and dragged…and dragged, right up until I couldn’t take anymore. I get that you don’t want to give everything away but I do expect something by fifty pages in. Something was teased but it wasn’t enough to make me endure the slow pacing and Ani’s awful internal monologue.
Ani is the most unlikable character I’ve ever met. She decided on that title from the first page and boy, did she stick with it. She was catty and spiteful about every woman she met and quite frankly, I’m done with that in books. Never mind YA, WE NEED TO BE DONE WITH IT. I have no idea why she was like that. Maybe there was a reason for it in her backstory as to why she hated every woman she ever came into contact with. However, I didn’t care enough about Ani to bother reading far enough to see what it was. She was unlikable and not in a good, well written way. You just hated her. Not to mention I have met mozzarella with 1) better personality and 2) more guts. Ani is a wet blanket, unable to do more than think bitchy thoughts at everyone. I’ve seen reviews labeling Ani as a sociopath – I don’t think she’s even that. She’s Bella Swan. Badly written with no more character than self-serving thoughts and what she’s going to wear the next day.
TLDR: Bitch MC, cardboard characters, slow pacing, bad writing, DNF.
Most books that I find irritating I will just abandon, though I suppose if we’re talking about books that make our blood boil I could talk about ones that fill me with righteous indignation – which is something altogether different.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the very, very few books I’ve ever read that genuinely terrified me. I read it while I was still in 6th form (so about 17) and it turned my world upside down. It is the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead (which was once the USA). The story is set in near future New England after a Christian fundamentalist movement comes to power, with their interpretation of the Old Testament, which they use to strip women of their rights and enforce a new social order.
Offred, the protagonist, is given to the Commander as a concubine. The Handmaids are valued only for their fertility, and are forced to serve powerful men and their barren wives in order to provide them with children. Women are no longer allowed to read, or own property, and Offred has even had her own name stripped from her as part of the ‘conditioning’ women are put through.
I won’t go into the actual plot of the book here, because you should definitely read it, and besides I doubt I’d be able to do it justice. And that’s exactly why I chose this book: justice, or the explicit lack thereof that made my blood boil. It was all too easy for me to imagine this future – where fundamentalist religious elements use a corrupted form of faith to justify stripping women of everything they have, including their human rights. It broke my heart. The women are conditioned into serving the men, and their bodies become highly politicized and controlled. As Atwood herself says,
“There is nothing in this book that has not already happened at one time or another”.
Meanwhile, Autostraddle have chosen it for their book club read due to it’s “terrifying relevance” post-Trump’s election, and because of the timely TV adaption which has everyone talking (and possibly rocking backwards and forwards with their heads in their hands…)
Here’s also a few links that you might find interesting :
Here’s the seer herself, Atwood, talking about writing the novel whilst living in West Berlin before the fall of the wall, and what the novel means in the age of Trump.
And again here, talking about her Reddit AMA and whether she’d rather fight a horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses.
Good Lord, I wrote a lot. Imagine how bad it would be if I’d read the whole book! (No, seriously. Since I decided to not finish it, I went and read other people’s reviews on Goodreads. It doesn’t sound like I missed out on a lot.
I have not read Andy’s choice – I tried but I struggled with the writing style. I do intend to try the Netflix series though, having heard great (if terrifying) things about it.
Next month is Novel Darlings’ 1 year anniversary! So expect some amazing things for August.