I’VE GOT A RANT FOR YALL, BUCKLE IN
Header credit: @xenatine
Rating: 4/5 stars
Picture yourself a slice of white bread. Then dip that piece of bread into a bucket of bleach. Let it dry. Then add some white-out ink on top. THAT’S HOW WHITE AND UN-DIVERSE THIS WORLD IS. Cass and publishers; you fail at the modern demands and expectations of 21st YA culture. It wasn’t that this book is overtly saying “Anglo-centrism or die” (though the undertones of the ‘darker, less creative’ nation really do emulate a LOT of eugenics ideology from the early 20th C), it’s that it was so… frustratingly… offensively… so one-dimensional. In every single aspect. The characterisation, the relationships, the world, the descriptions. They do not explore a single thing. It felt lazy. It felt harmful. Everybody is Anglo, everybody is hetro-normative, everybody is very conservative. The only ‘adverse’ character is Hollis, and that’s through her own rebelling to choose her own life. It has nothing to do with the production of this text.
What made this book worth 4 stars:
Rant out of the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from 60% onwards. The first 60% are just a refined, less painful version of the Selection. From 60%, the romances amp up, betrayal is cut-throat, and there is so much gore I actually cried on the bus from how horrific it was.
Something that makes this book unique/interesting:
This book has something so unique, I do want to promote its single redeeming feature: girl-power. Women in this story are the heart of our MC’s eyes. It begins with her stupid love triangle, but soon you realise— much more of this story is monitoring and exploring how each woman is interacting in this novel. We have the villains, the ‘more than meets the eye’, the suffering, the love, the trust, we have it all. The women in this book are the most multi-dimensional feature of this book. It improved dramatically once Hollis was out of the castle, and interacting with grown women. It felt empowering to read.
Something I’d have like to have seen go differently/improve on:
F*cking hell. Cass, publishing team, ANYONE. I don’t have a track record of reading even ONE lgbt story per month. I don’t go out of my way for marathons on say, a race/nationality readathon. But I’m also not somebody who is looking for white, Anglo-centric, Christian, metro, cis, rich cultures to be represented in every story. In fact, I detest it. We (readers, writers, and the industry) are so far beyond that. We were beyond it before The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. THEY for Gods sake have fictional allusions to the deeper issues in our society, such as colourism, racism, and poverty. This book and everybody involved should be ashamed of how poor effort this book was. It’s down-right oppressive in a very hidden manner. You should all know better, especially when you’re sending subliminal message to the YA audience.
If anyone is wondering what these covert meanings could be, have a look at who are the heroes and victims of this story; name one character’s life struggle that DOESN’T have to do with personal issues regarding wealth or legacy; tell me which characters find happiness and desire in their romantic relationships., and who suffers?
These are the messages they are telling young adult readers. If you are not Hollis, or Delia-Grace, aka white girls from the nobility, who conform to their romantic’s expectations, then you are the ones who will suffer. Who will not get your true love. And even so drastically so, not be significant or valid enough to have representation in a well-funded publication.
It’s infuriating to say the least. But I gave it a higher score because I thoroughly enjoyed the loops and twists by the end, to the point I was sitting on the edge of my seat. It was a comfort read for me, as a white girl from Anglo culture. I can only imagine this will be troubling for anyone else.
PS — I think the major plot twist for next book will be that the people who died in the fire aren’t really dead. We didn’t see their bodies, there’s no sure answer!!!