Pretty Dead Girls

We’re all familiar with the new sub-genre that’s come out in recent years- YA murder mysteries starring idyllic towns and preppy rich white girls. They attempt to capitalize on the success of Pretty Little Liars, the books that really made the genre popular. Some are actually quite good, some are so bad they’re good, and some are just bad. All of them, however, feature improbable house parties, expensive cars and clothes, and extremely un-diverse characters that we love to hate.

pretty dead girls

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy is one of these. I found it on a list of 2018 YA releases, and since I’m attempting to read as many as possible, I put it on hold.

First things first, our setting. The book takes place in Cape Bonita (loosely translated as Cape Beautiful) in Northern California. Why there’s a town with a Spanish (?) name in California with no Latinas in it, I’ll never know. Our protagonist is Penelope, straight-A student, overachiever, and head of the Larks, a society at their school for the best and the brightest girls of the senior and junior classes.

(Mini-rant about the Larks- it seems very exclusionary and preferential. The senior girls choose which juniors they want to let in, and it’s stated at multiple points within the story that Penelope is only president because her older sister Peyton was the president when she attended Cape Bonita Prep.)

We’re dropped right into the story with a chapter from our anonymous killer’s point of view. We observe as they kill the first of the murder victims, Gretchen, another member of the Larks. Then, the font switches, and we’re in Penelope’s head as she traverses her school day. Everything in Cape Bonita is perfect, until news of Gretchen’s death enters the school, and with it, police officers. They’re questioning all of the students, but for whatever reason take a particular interest in Penelope.

Enter Cass Vincenti, mystery boy. Tall, dark, handsome, brooding, rumored troubled past. Everything the archetype directs, everything our darling Penny is not. Everyone advises her to stay away from him, but does she listen? Of course not. You’ll find that’s a common theme in the book.

As the story progresses, the undeniable chemistry between Penelope and Cass builds, and the body count rises. Each one a Lark. And each one pinned to Penelope.

I’m going to be honest here and say that I wasn’t crazy about this book. For one thing, the whole serial killer aspect is only using the word serial for drama. Sure, the killer seems to be targeting the Larks, but it’s a lot less methodical and exacting than, I don’t know, any other serial killer ever. The killings are messy, and follow no pattern other than Larks members and throat slitting.

Penelope was a jealous character who always seemed to be worried that people were coveting what she had- her high class scores, her mom’s fancy car, her boyfriend. She never seemed to have her own best interests at heart, which was unfortunate, because she could have saved herself a lot of trouble by listening to everyone around her. Sometimes, in a dangerous situation, you’re not as alone as you feel.

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You Bring the Distant Near

We live in a world of hundreds of cultures and ethnicities, religions and races and countries of origin. Sometimes it can be hard to find your place among people whose background is different than yours. Sometimes it can be hard to be biracial when it feels like the world is forcing you to choose a side. Everything that is unfamiliar can seem distant.

you bring the distant near

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins explores culture, tradition, and family over three generations of a family of Bengali immigrants. Each faces its own struggles, with identity, relationships, and finding a place in a world designed to confuse.

We start the story with a vignette from the perspective of Ranee Das, the matriarch of the family. She’s at a country club in Ghana with her two daughters, Tara (or Starry) and Sonia (or Sunny), at which they are the only people besides the servers who are not white. The younger of the pair, Sunny, sits in a pool float, while her older sister Starry prepares to compete in a swimming race. Halfway through the race, Ranee suddenly pulls the girls out of the pool and leaves.

We then jump to about ten years in the future. The Das family has moved from India (where they were before the start of the story) to Ghana to London, and now they are on a plane to New Jersey, where they are moving for their father’s latest job. This portion of the story chronicles Starry and Sunny’s struggles at integrating with their American-born classmates, learning the divides of race in their city, finding out what it means to be truly American, and where exactly they fit in. The rituals of their Bengali upbringing follow them through ceremony and tragedy, and while Sonia eventually chooses to eschew tradition entirely, Tara settles into the comfort and familiarity of it while still pursuing her own ideals.

The third portion of the book focuses on the third generation of the Das family, the daughters of Tara and Sonia. Anna, Tara’s daughter, has grown up in Kolkata, shy and quiet, perfectly content behind her sewing machine. Chantal, Sonia’s daughter, lives for the spotlight, though internally she’s struggling between her black side and her Bengali side, because it feels like everyone is forcing her to choose. Anna moves to New York to attend Chantal’s school, and their worlds collide as both of them learn that maybe the completion they’ve been missing is each other.

This book was magnificent and captivating. It discussed culture, family, and breaking the rules in ways that even those who have nothing in common with the main characters will identify with. The Bengali culture, too, is well explained and yet not explained at all, delivered in a way that feels like you’ve known it all along.

Something about this book really spoke to me- I’m mixed-race, and sometimes there’s a definite identity struggle for kids like me. This is commonly portrayed in the media, and the book drove home the way I’ve always felt. It’s okay not to choose a side. Sometimes just being you is enough.

Moxie

Feminism. It’s not a dirty word, it’s not anything bad at all. It’s the belief that women are people, too, the belief that seventy-nine cents to the dollar is not enough and that our bodies are our own. It expands over more than just women, too- it’s spread to encompass people of all sexualities, gender identities, races, faiths, and backgrounds. Illegal immigrants, indigenous people, transgender people, everyone can find a home under the word ‘feminism’.

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Feminism is important. It’s not the belief that woman are superior to men- that’s misandry. It’s not the belief that any one group of people is stronger, smarter, better. What it is, is the idea that every person deserves to be equal. The movement starts with women for the sheer reason that we deal with so much. ‘Boys will be boys’, hideously restrictive dress codes, body shaming, catcalling, wage gaps, and so much more, all written off.

Because we don’t want to assimilate to someone else’s (boy) standards of what is or isn’t.
Because we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak
Because I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will, change the world for real.

When being told to just cope with injustice, people throughout history have joined hands and risen up against oppression. The Stonewall Riots. The Civil Rights arches. Even things as far back as the American Revolution. Taking things sitting down is not how we roll as a species, and that shouldn’t change now.

Feminism is the next great revolution. Six months ago last Friday, millions of people- men and women and other, cisgender and transgender, heterosexual and any variety of LGBT*, black and white and brown and every other color of the rainbow- took up hands and hats and clever signs and stood up against cruelty, injustice, and hate. It brings us all together, in a way that great causes throughout history have.

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Hey, ladies! Are you tired of a certain group of male students at this school telling you to ‘shut up and make me a sandwich’ when you try to voice your opinion?

Viv is. She’s so tired of the rampant misogyny and sexism that run wild at her school. Her mother, ex-Riot Grrrl and feminist supreme, certainly wouldn’t put up with it. Civil disobedience, however, has never been Viv’s thing. She’s used to keeping her head down, not speaking up in class, and generally staying quiet. After all, at East Rockport High, there seems to be no such thing at the right sort of attention.

Are you sick and tired of these crazy dress code checks? They’re BS, and we’ve got to do something.

Unfortunately, keeping her head down just isn’t going to cut it anymore. So Viv stands up one night. Alone in her room, fueled by Bikini Kill and old Polaroids, she begins to hatch a plan. An hour later, Moxie is born.

The girls at Moxie are sick of it, too.

A ‘zine, written anonymously and distributed from a shelf in the girl’s bathrooms, Moxie is merely an idea at first. What Viv doesn’t know, however, is that they’ll be the spark that lights the fire of a tiny revolution.

Moxie girls fight back. And hunt you down. And remember your face. And take names.

Slowly, the word spreads. The following grows. Tiny, barely noticeable acts of civil disobedience ensue. Stars and hearts drawn on hands- you’re not alone. Wearing bathrobes to school to combat oppressive dress codes. Tagging lockers with feminist stickers.

Remember…Moxie is always watching.

With some fabulous best friends, a swoon-worthy boyfriend, and a mom whose rebel days aren’t quite as in the past as they may seem, Viv and the spirit of Moxie are ready to fight against oppression- one girl at a time.

So, are you with us?

This book was absolutely incredible. It was timely, well-written, and believable. The characters were beautifully done, and if you take a hard look around, you’ll find them around you. You’ll know Seth and Claudia, Lucy and Emma, Marisela and Keira. Hopefully, you’ll even be able to find a little bit of Viv in yourself. I think everyone will.

Moxie makes its official debut this September. If you consider yourself a feminist (as everyone should) then you’ll be jazzed about this book already. If not, if you’ve never really paid attention to the cause before or just plain never understood, give Moxie a read. Maybe it’ll inspire you.

No matter what, I think it’ll change the way you look at the world. After all, feminism starts with us- one girl, one woman, one beautiful person at a time.

This e-ARC was provided for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Historical fiction is always such a blast. I know I talk about it a lot, but it’s one of my favorite genres. I love the sweeping, romantic worlds of the Victorian era, love the cigarette-scented, twilight moments of the Roaring ’20s. I love the side of history so far away it’s sepia-toned, the side of history that my grandparents saw, and the side that we’re making right here and now.

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Henry Montague, better known as Monty, has made a complete mess of his entire life. Over his past eighteen years, there has been far too much drinking, gambling, seduction, and general gadding about for his father- or anyone- to approve of. For his final act of utter carelessness, he and his best friend and unrequited love Percy will be taking a one-year tour of the Continent, unsupervised and with plenty of time for scandalous hijinks.

Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned from the very start. Monty’s little sister, Felicity, is going to accompany them, along with Mr. Lockwood, a gentleman employed by Lord Montague to ensure that there is no scandal, no misbehavior, and positively no hijinks. Giving him the slip seems easier said than done, especially when he follows them everywhere.

At a party hosted by the Duke of Bourbon, Monty comes to blows with their host, steals a trinket box, and takes an unplanned streak through the garden. Though it seems inconsequential enough (except for his just having severed his family’s ties with half of France’s nobility, of course), when their carriage is accosted by rather stereotypical highwaymen searching for the very object Monty stole, their Tour becomes a madcap chase and their purpose becomes far more dire.

In a swashbuckling, fantastical caper featuring pirates, alchemy, and a side of dastardly scheming, Monty, Percy, and Felicity travel through Europe on a quest, though for what, exactly, they aren’t quite sure. Monty must battle slightly angry pirate crews, an insane alchemist, and his own feelings for Percy in order for them all to survive.

Mackenzi Lee’s wonderful novel had me on the edge of my seat from page one. This was one of the most anticipated YA books of 2017, and I am not disappointed in the slightest. Every elegant detail was so well-written that I could perfectly envision it in my head. The characters were wonderful, flawed, and realistic, and all of them seemed like real people who could have really existed, once upon a time.

Diplomatic Immunity

I love realistic fiction just as much as the next girl- as long as there’s not too much romance. I like reading about teens with real problems, and with sometimes even the same problems as myself. I mean, sure, just because you have bronchitis and feel like you’ll never breathe again doesn’t make you the same as Hazel Grace, but it is nice to have a level of relativity.

diplomatic-immunity

My read this time was a book by Brodi Ashton, one of the coauthors of My Lady Jane, a fantastic book that I reviewed earlier on the site. This book retains all of the hilarity and biting wit of Jane, if less of an ingenious plot. Its female lead wasn’t quite as amazingly likeable as Miss Jane Grey, but then again, who could possibly beat a historical figure with magical powers?

Piper Baird’s family is struggling big-time, living the simple life in Washington, D.C. Surprising everyone in the middle of October, a scholarship arrives for Piper to D.C.’s most prestigious academy, Chiswick- notorious for hosting the children of foreign dignitaries from around the world. Normally, Piper wouldn’t be so excited about going to some snooty school, but this one is special. Chiswick Academy offers the scholarship of her dreams. For previously editor-in-chief Piper, the Bennington should be easy to scoop. All she needs? The perfect story.

The perfect story, in this case, presents itself on nearly her first day. After an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction leads to a meeting with the Spanish diplomat’s son, and they journey mistakenly into a forbidden corridor (unfortunately lacking in three-headed dogs), she gets detention while he slips out of trouble. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s the first of many similar occurrences in her new world.

Piper decides that this, the study of diplomatic immunity, will be her perfect article. She decides to go full-on Nellie Bly and immerse herself in the culture of the immune and the elite. Soon, she discovers that getting out of detention is the most mundane of the troubles that these privileged teens can get out of. Evading the law, sneaking into restricted areas, and driving twice the speed limit are just a few of the escapades that these entitled kids manage to pull off.

After a month or two, Piper has everything she needs to write the scathing exposé that will earn her the Bennington prize- but in her time at the school, she’s gotten attached to some of her subjects. What will the consequences be of spreading this story?

The overall plot of the story was somewhat predictable. I wasn’t a giant fan of the fact that the love story took the wheel halfway through, sending the infiltration-in-the-name-of-journalism thing to rest on the back burner before a snap return to the heat. What I did love, however, was the best friend character, Charlotte. She was loyal and honest to our protagonist throughout the entire book. There was never a moment of ‘I refuse to speak to you’, never a breach in being there for Piper.

Another thing I appreciated was the realistic portrayal of people on the autism spectrum. Both Piper’s little brother and the brother of a character (who shall remain nameless for the integrity of the story) have autism, and while it does not feature heavily in the plot, when it does, it is absolutely spot on.

In short: This is an entertaining read that you could take down in two hours or so of free time. The kids in this book may have diplomatic immunity, but you certainly won’t be immune to the charms of this book.

Illuminae, and, Spontaneous

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of apocalyptic fiction- maybe because I need to know what I’m looking forward to in the coming year, or maybe because I’m secretly a little sadistic (aren’t we all?). Mostly, I think it was an accident.

illuminae

I first saw Illuminae at my local Barnes & Noble. I love stories told in this format- books with files and articles and transcripts of conversation. They amuse me, and they’re usually quick reads. I picked this one up, tempted- but alas, I spend too much money on Sarah J. Maas to buy anything I haven’t read yet. That’s what libraries are for.
This is one daunting-looking novel, clocking in at 599 pages plus acknowledgements. I expected it to go very quickly, as stories in this format often do. I was quite wrong.

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Illuminae is the story of the end of a world, told in a wild multimedia format. It’s clever and wild and every page leaves you praying that your favorite characters will survive- but in outer space, is anyone really safe? With their home planets blown to shreds, many people flee to starships Hypatia and Alexander. A strain of a particularly deadly and terrifying plague called the Phobos virus has been released on one ship, however, quite possibly dooming the inhabitants.

The story begins as a set of interviews with Ezra Mason and Kady Grant. They seem to be telling two sides to a story that has already been set in motion- a tactic both clever and confusing. The first fifty pages of the book are like jumping onto a moving train and trying wildly to figure out what’s going on.
The whole story is both heart-poundingly fast and painfully slow. Every page had me dying to turn to the next one, but at the same time I couldn’t whip through it as fast as I hoped. It was a novel to pay strict attention to- there are plenty of threads to follow, not all as easy as you might think.

The characters in Illuminae are vivid, funny, and relatable. Kady Grant is a gutsy hacker with wildly pink hair and a big spirit. She’s got courage, and she doesn’t buckle under pressure. She has almost too much drive and courage, but all in all, she’s a good strong heroine who doesn’t get mushy around her guy.
And then there’s her guy. Ezra Mason, who doesn’t get much of a physical description. I was forced to make up my own, which, while very attractive, won’t help you any. He begins as an average teenage boy, making jokes and swearing a lot (all censored). As the book progresses, however, he is revealed as a deeper character. He isn’t self-sacrificing by any definition of the word, but he’s clever and witty and dedicated- and serves a purpose besides being a love interest. He’s a fighter pilot!

All in all, this was a good book. It lacked a little in humor, and was mildly confusing at times, but the format was clever and the characters endearing.

The second book that I read this week in an apocalyptic theme was found (by me) in a B-Fest magazine. It looked wickedly interesting at first glance- even the cover was entrancing.

spontaneous

When I checked this book out of the library, I didn’t expect the storyline I found inside. I thought it would be about a girl rebelling and crossing things off of ye olde bucket list, with her wisecracking best friend and possibly an adorable love interest. Instead, I got an uproariously funny ride through Crazytown.

Halfway through Mara’s senior year, everything kind of goes kablooey (the technical term for crazy-freakin’-nuts). Literally- Katelyn Ogden blows up in pre-calc. One minute she’s there, and the next, gone  but for the debris. No one expects this to be the trigger that starts a chain of spontaneous combustion all over town. Mysteriously, it’s only present in high school seniors and only in their town.

One occurance is a fluke. Two is a coincidence. Three is a concern, and four? Houston, we have a problem. The news is sweeping the nation, and everyone wants out of Covington, NJ. The high school closes down, and all of the seniors are put under quarantine. Mara, Tess, Dylan, and the rest of the Covington teens have to make the most of their senior years, to blow up the world before it can do the same to them.

This story is profanely hilarious, done well and clever. It makes you fear for your favorite characters, and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book. It begins with an explosion and ends with an explosion. It features ice cream trucks, Bon Jovi songs, and Special Agent Carla Rosetti here to kick butt and take names.

The characters in this book are wild, uproarious, and real. They’re the kind of kids you could find at any public high school. Walk into PS 47 Manhattan or Amelia Earhart High School, and you’ll find kids just like these. There will be a Jenna and a Joe, a Jane and a Laura and a Brian, a Malik and a Tess and a Mara. That, I think, is what makes this story so special. It’s about real kids, or real enough, kids that you could find in your neighborhood. There’s someone in here that’s like your older brother, or your best friend, or your sister, or you.

Moral of today’s story? Be careful what you read. What you see in the pages can be just like looking in a mirror.

 

Iron Cast

iron-cast

This week, for me, was an exhausting one. I’m a theatre nerd, and this was show week, so I spent a lot of time backstage. We all needed to entertain ourselves quietly, and so my weapon of choice was a number of library books. This week’s weapon, so to speak, was Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast.

The story takes place in the dimly-lit, at once thrilling and terrifying backdrop of speakeasies and mob headquarters that is the fictionalized Roaring Twenties. The atmosphere is electrically charged and just a little frisson-inducing. We are here in the underworld of Boston, where shadowed corners and illicit activity abound if you know where to look.

One thing that sets this story apart from the other flappers-and-fanfare ’20s tales is the nature of suspicious activity. In this world, people with a so-called ‘affliction of the blood’ have talents of illusion and art. A violin player can make you feel passionate emotion. Someone gifted at reciting poetry can sweep you away into a beautiful illusion. A boy with artistic talent makes portals out of paintings.

The speakeasies in this world, the year before Prohibition passed, serve debatably legal alcohol, but that’s not why people come from miles around. Everyone comes to hear the hemopaths play and sing. They come to lose their ghosts in song, to forget their troubles in a beautiful memory of their past.

The protagonists of this story were interesting, if not quite relatable. Corrine, the devil-may-care heiress by day and poet-reading hemopath by night, is far too outrageous to get away with everything she does. Ada, daughter of immigrants and singer of magical songs, is very protective, to a ridiculous point. Altogether, though, they were enjoyable.

The first hundred or so pages were a drag, but the story picked up after that- right at the point where most people are on to the next one. I frantically read the rest in about an hour and a half. The last thirty pages, however, tried to pack in too much action too quickly.

All in all, the story was a good one, recommended for those who enjoy exciting historical fiction but have a good head for confusing details. It begins with an arrest and ends with a kiss, and there are capers and gunfights and elephants. Three and a half stars.

Amateurs

I started reading Pretty Little Liars on a whim last summer. Well, that’s an exaggeration. There was nothing else available on OverDrive and so I checked out the audiobook one late night. As it was a sixteen-book series, I expected a vapid plot about rich white girls and their rich white girl problems.

Boy, was I surprised. The story picked up at a brilliant pace, and I hungrily finished the book in two days. Moving onto the next one, I found myself starting to care about the characters. The plot twists surprised me. I may or may not have been guilty of screaming at the end of book six and demanding the next one from the library. I binge-read and finished the whole series in two weeks. (That’s my personal dirty little secret- that I read and enjoyed them)

Recently, I picked up an advance preview of Sara Shepard’s newest book The Amateurs at my local B-Fest (Barnes and Noble teen book festival). It was a three-chapter booklet, printed with the enticing cover that now graces the hardcover edition.

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I devoured the booklet and placed the book on hold three months in advance. It came to me yesterday, and I was not disappointed. Sara Shepard strikes again, with an enjoyable, suspense-packed read.

I need some answers about my sister. Help…

Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.

So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.

Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold.

Thanks, Goodreads. Anyway, the characters of The Amateurs are vibrant and seem to come to life on the page. Seneca, Maddy, Aerin, Brett and the rest are colorful and diverse, and they all have different personalities. They are all human and eager to prove themselves. They make mistakes and have faults, and are clever and goofy and real.

Sara Shepard is no amateur at writing, and this story is thrilling and makes you want to triple-check the lock on your front door. Not recommended to read at night- will cause feelings of intense paranoia. However, if you dare to crack its spine after dark, make sure you’ve got a blanket and a snack. Brew a cup of tea and do what you’ll need to first- you won’t be getting up until this book is done.

The Hammer of Thor, and, Miss Marvel

In case you couldn’t tell from my previous posts, I love books with magic and adventure in them just as much as I love realistic fiction. I can tear through many teen fiction books in a single day- and it’s not because they’re short, or mindless in any way. In fact, they’re far from it, something I’m planning to discuss today.
Something many stories are lacking is diversity. Sure, we may see the occasional token person of some ethnicity, but they’re often ill-portrayed- until now. 2016 has been a new era for stories, and I couldn’t be happier.

Meet the heroes and heroines of today. They’re strong, brave, clever, and kind- and they’re not all white people. We’ve got Latina girls finding magic in Brooklyn, Muslim superheroes tearing up the streets of New York, and LGBTQA+ kids finding love, well, everywhere. In this new era of YA, anyone can pick up a sword and fight for right. Anyone can be blessed with the gift of magic.

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Take Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor as your example. Magnus, our lead character, is a self-proclaimed atheist, which you don’t usually see spotlighted in stories. He finds it hard to think of the Norse gods as, well, gods, despite their power and omnipotence. He’s also a pretty accepting character- as he discovers more secrets about his friends and all of the things he took for granted, he just kind of rolls with it.

His best friend and Valkyrie, Samirah al-Abbas, is a devout Muslim girl. She wears her hijab every day (handily doubling as a robe of transformation), and carries a prayer rug around in her backpack. Possibly my favorite scene in the entire book is when, in the midst of battle, Sam stops, rolls out her rug, asks Magnus to guard her, and does her noonday prayers. Then, she jumps back up, pulls out her sword, and gets into the thick of things again.

We also meet Alex Fierro, my new favorite literary hero. She is fiercely independent and incredibly comfortable in his own skin. That’s right- Alex is transgender and genderfluid, and will mess you up if you mess up her pronouns. He’s a mixed girl with green hair and a fantastic bad attitude.

I just love superheroes, don’t you? Their stories may be a little hard to believe, but there’s nothing like the brightly colored and action-packed pages of a comic book to empower you. Superman and Batman, Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk are classics, but there’s a new girl on the block who’s turning Marvel on its head.

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Kamala Khan is a teenage Pakistani girl living in New Jersey. She tries her hardest in school, gets tempted by things like bacon sandwiches, and lives her life as part of a devout Muslim family. Saving the day and still making curfew on time, Kamala is honest and polite. She’s a real girl as well as a superheroine.

Ms. Marvel’s new image has had a lot of impact outside of the comic book world as well. Last year in San Francisco, Islamophobic ads were posted on the sides of buses. Soon, these ads were covered in images of the new Ms. Marvel, accompanied by slogans such as ‘Calling All Bigotry Busters’. This story has been more groundbreaking than it should have, but it’s the perfect one for right now.

My Lady Jane

I have a thing for historical fiction. I love the sweeping romance of the Renaissance, the electricity of change in the 18th century. I love the dark glamour of the Roaring Twenties and the fantastical propriety and espionage of our own Steampunk Victorian era. The elaborate clothing, the beautiful worlds, and the inkling that this may have been a part of your history are all enough to give you shivers.

What I like the best, in all honesty, are the ones that are true stories. The stories of people who truly existed, who had such a fascinating life that they make a good novel with only a few minor details changed. Those are the most interesting to me, the fact that history was truly so detailed and eventful that even one person’s story can make for a wild ride.

That being said, I also like the historical fictions that challenge everything we know as fact. The ones that are less about what did happen so much as what could have happened. Those are the ones that add stories of the supernatural, eerie bits of magic that are still within the realm of possibility.

Then, there are the ones that completely throw history out the window. They rewrite the worlds they use as they see fit, keeping to the barest bones of real facts and events. They invent characters who didn’t exist, places that have never before even been mentioned, and throw in strange and unusual magic as the icing on the cake. Those are the fun ones.

I now present to you, lords and ladies, My Lady Jane.

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This story is a wickedly satirical rewrite of history from beginning to end. Take even the dedication page as your example.

“For everyone who knows there was enough room for Leonardo DiCaprio on that door.

And for England. We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your history.”

This book is four hundred and ninety-one pages long, and trust me- it’s a worthy investment. I was doubting my decision for the first thirty pages or so. I wasn’t bored, per se, so much as just not entirely enthralled. And then the story picked up and there was a horse.

Edward, the sixteen-year-old King of England, is dying. He’s always ill, coughing and dizzy and more than a little generally unwell. He’s almost always shut away in his room, and he has very few true friends. These friends are a dog named Petunia (not his dog, mind you) and his cousin Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane (just Jane, thank you very much) is best friends with only Edward and her books. She’s unmarried, and frankly, she likes it that way. When her cousin arranges a marriage for her, that very Saturday, no less, it must be said that she is not happy.

Gifford (call him G) is an Eðian (ee-thy-un, for the uninitiated). He can become an animal at will, or at least, he’s supposed to. We’re still working on that whole ‘at will’ part. Every sunrise, he turns into a beautiful horse, and stays that way until sunset, when he can return to his duties as a man. What those duties are varies in the minds of everyone he meets. He’s thrust into an arranged married for this weekend, he’s less than excited. He’ll have to explain about his horsey little problem to a lady he’s never met.

Well, one thing leads to another, and Jane doesn’t find out about the equine issue until G turns into a horse before her eyes and then consumes the bridal bouquet. Suffice it to say, Jane is thoroughly annoyed, and not a little surprised. Eðians, yes, she’s used to those. Her new husband (ugh, how she despises that word) eating her roses? Not so much.

Our wacky coterie of characters is swept into a whirlwind after a royal assassination attempt, and things escalate even higher- Jane has been named Edward’s successor, there’s a wickedly clever pun-intended Eðian on the loose, and the shapes of everyone we thought we could trust are changing faster than you can say ‘Henry VIII’.

This story is a hilarious tour de force of magic, wit, and utter charm. Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows are all masters of fantasy, and their collaboration has filled a much-needed gap in the YA community. The story bridges genres- fantasy and historical- and is the perfect balance of many ingredients in a story.
My Lady Jane is snarky without being rude, an amusing commentary on England’s history, and sprinkled with references to The Princess BrideMonty Python, and many more classics of fantasy and humor.