Book: “Clueless: Senior Year” by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, Siobhan Keenan (Ill.)
Publishing Info: BOOM!Box, August 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:Haven’t got your hands on the newest installment of this 90’s teen phenomenon? As if!
Your favorite girls from Beverly Hills are back in an all-new adventure! It’s senior year and Cher, Dionne, and Tai find themselves in a bit of a crisis of self… Where are they meant to go, and what are they meant to DO after high school? Luckily they have all year—and each other’s help—to figure it out!
Review: One of my all time favorite movies is “Clueless”. When I first saw it in fifth grade (my mom brought it home for us to watch together), I was immediately drawn to Cher Horowitz, our well meaning but flawed protagonist. I wanted to be her, wanted to live her life and be as clever and kind as she was. As an adult I still aspire to live up to her standards, so when I saw that a new graphic novel about Cher and her friends was coming out, I really could have only one reaction.
The story picks up shortly after the movie ends. Cher, Dionne, and Tai are starting their senior year of high school, and Ms. Geist challenges them and the other students in her class to determine what their post high school goals are by the end of the year, and to figure out what they want to be in the world. After this, we follow not just Cher, but also her best friends on a journey of self discovery that was both incredibly charming and completely empowering. In spite of my excitement over this book, I was also nervous because I hold this movie so close to my heart (and “Emma” as well, the Jane Austen book that it takes inspiration from). I was worried that it was going to perhaps rehash the movie in some way, or throw in drama for drama’s sake. But I am very happy to report that Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn absolutely did justice to the film and it’s characters.
I first want to talk about the characters and the arcs themselves. I worship Cher Horowitz, but it’s important to remember that even though she gets her life together at the end of the movie, she’s still a teenager who is going to have moments of stumble along with moments of triumph. I was very worried about her relationship with Josh, the Mr. Knightley analog who is played by Paul Rudd in the movie. Cher and Josh are perfect together, but happy bliss usually means no conflict. And hey, I am aware that stories need conflict (even if that’s an easy grab for conflict). But I am happy to report that while I do wish that Josh had been around a bit more (but that’s all I will say), Benson and Kuhn took their relationship on a trajectory that felt realistic for the characters, but didn’t completely decimate the lovely romance that lives at the heart of it. And it was done in a way that we got to focus on Cher learning how to define herself without basing it all on Josh and his needs. But the thing that caught me the most off guard in the best way possible was that we got similar treatments for both Dionne and Tai, Cher’s partners in crime but sidekick status only in the film. Dionne starts to suss out what it is she wants to be outside of a good friend and girlfriend, and gets interested in civics within the high school by running for class president. And Tai has a tough decision to make when she is accepted to art school, but a family tragedy makes her second guess what her priorities should be. This enabled them to move from “The Best Friend” (Dionne) and “The Ditzy One” (Tai) and become well rounded, three dimensional characters just like Cher. The justice given to these ladies was so, so satisfying.
A number of tributes to the movie are sprinkled throughout the comic, which varied from being absolutely adorable to kind of ham fisted and distracting. The not so good were the kind of glaring references that didn’t feel like they really belonged (yes yes, Cher does wear Alaia in the movie during the robbery scene, but referencing Alaia in the way this graphic novel did was kind of awkward), or were misused completely. But smaller Easter eggs were far more entertaining (Dionne’s campaign signs saying that Murray is ‘toe-up’, for instance), and I liked seeing them. I was also a bit sad that so many classic characters from the movie were missing. Mel, Christian, Lucy, Mr. Hall, and Elton were no where to be seen, and given that I love ALL of the side characters in the movie I was sad when none of those arguably important faces could even muster a cameo.
I really liked the artwork for this book too. Not only did Siobhan Keenan really capture the styles and imagery from the movie, be it through outfits, faces, or background, she brought a fun and bubblegum pinache to the illustrations. With some potential manga influences as well just for funzies.
Bottom line is that if you like “Clueless” the movie, this graphic novel will never meet your standards of perfection. But it comes pretty close, and does a great job of carrying on the stories of these excellent teenage girls. I would say that it definitely improves upon the characters of Dionne and Tai, which is so excellent to see. Definitely check it out. If you miss it, I assure you, you’ll be totally buggin’.
Rating 8: A fun follow up to one of my very favorite movies! The nostalgia is great, and the characters are all fleshed out with a lot of positive girl power messages.
Book Description:In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…
No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.
But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…
War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.
Review: Due to happy scheduling chances, I was able to read “The Bone Witch” and “The Heart Forger” pretty much back to back. Not only is this always a fun way to read books and their sequels, but it’s especially nice with stories that have complicated world-building and non-linear storytelling. “The Bone Witch” was a beast of a book, with tons of detailed descriptions of the world, magic system, and a past/future POV character. The “Heart Forger” pretty much picks up immediately after the events of the first book, and doesn’t hesitate to expand even further on its own world, while also adding a healthy dose of increased action to the mix.
Newly-minted bone witch, Tea, has a lot on her plate at the start of this story. Her beloved mentor is still slowly perishing due to her lost heartglass, Tea’s brother’s love life has presented some political complications, her own crush on Prince Kance continues, there’s a murderous woman in the dungeons who promises great power and to reveal secrets about the elder Asha if only Tea would listen, and now a sleeping sickness is making its way through the royal family, in a direct line towards Kance himself.
This says nothing of the future Tea’s story, which has gone from zero to sixty from the last book to this. No longer is the older Tea content to live her life banished on a desolate beach, raising her daeva beasts from the dead. Her mission has started, and alongside her newly-raised beloved, Kalen, she sets out to conquer nations, all in a greater quest whose origins and purposes are still only vaguely hinted at.
Between all of this, the increased action is probably the most notable aspect of this sequel. If there was one fairly common complaint about the last book, it was that it was perhaps a bit too slow. I enjoyed it quite a bit, as I like reading books that focus on detail and slow character development. And given this one’s fast-paced story line, in retrospect, the time and effort that was put into place laying the foundation for this world, this conflict, and the characters who take part in it, were well worth the effort. Our characters quickly travel from one location to another, surviving and battling against multiple city-wide sieges and more slinky, sinister hidden antagonists as well. I particularly loved the increased action for Tea’s dragon-like daeva. It was all very “Dany and her dragons” esque.
The political intrigue was also ratcheted up to a new level. With the sleeping sickness spreading between the royal families, tensions are high and everyone is looking for someone to blame. And the only man who might have the answer, the titular Heart Forger, is no where to be found.
In the future, an older Tea is fully committed to her plan, whatever that is. From what we (from the bard’s POV) can tell, it looks a lot like raising armies of the dead to attack entire countries. We get further insights into Tea’s vengeance, something about secrets that the elder Asha have been hiding, and a larger plot by this world’s ever-dangerous arch enemies, the Faceless. But for all of battles, both large and small, we still know very little about Tea’s reasons as a whole. There are numerous references to her having killed some woman, but we don’t know who this was or how it happened. In the end, there were almost too many question left unanswered for my taste.
One of the things I most enjoyed was the developing romance between Kalen and Tea. At the end of the first book, we saw Tea raise him from the dead and welcome him as her beloved. But at the start of this book, the younger Tea is still fully enthralled with Prince Kance. Her slow realizations about her feelings for Kalen and their relationship’s progression were very enjoyable and probably best took advantage of the solid foundation that was built between these two in the first book. I really dislike insta-love romances, and this was a particularly good example of how to avoid that, and instead have a strongly built and developed romantic story line.
For all of these good things, I did struggle with this book a bit more than the first one. For one thing, the first book spent a lot of time with all of the details and rules of this world. But then, here, we see numerous exceptions and loopholes built into the world, all seemingly used to simply move the story the way the author needed it to go. At best this was distracting as I tried to work out how these exceptions made sense in the larger scheme of things, and at worst it felt like blatant deus ex machina moments where the author’s hand was all too visible.
Further, there were a few characters who made decisions that seemed completely nonsensical and out of character even. In particular, some of the “revelations” in the future story line really seemed at odds with the characters. People keeping secrets for no reason, and then revealing them when the story would be best served for a dramatic moment. But why then keep them in the first place? I have a hard time when suspense is built in a story at the expense of consistent and rational characters
And, while I still enjoy the juxtaposition of the future and past story lines of Tea, the devise itself is starting to feel like its hindering the story. The secrets thing that I just mentioned is largely a problem because they’re needed to prop up the suspense of the future story line. And, by the end of the book, there are still too many question that were left unanswered. The older Tea has said several thing that sure, sounded cool, but don’t particularly tie-in very well to the events taking place with past Tea. In my opinion, the story has out grown this structure and that trying to maintain it was starting to actively work against this book. I hope that in the next the two story lines quickly meet up and we move forward with a single plot.
All in all, however, I still very much enjoyed “The Heart Forger.” The increased action made it a fun read, and now that the characters have all been established, it was a joy to follow all of their individual plot lines. Further, the romance between Tea and Kalen is one the best I’ve read recently. “The Bone Witch” is required reading for this book, but if you liked that one, than you’re sure to enjoy this one as well!
Rating 7: Action packedwith a sweet romance to boot, but became a bit bogged down by its own writing device with the past/present dueling story lines.
“The Heart Forger” is a newer title, so isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it is on “Asian MG/YA 2018.”
We here at Library Ladies are honored and excited to host Hannah Carmack, author of the novella “Taste Your Medicine” (reviewed HERE last week). According to her bio on NineStar Press, Hannah “…is a writer and spends most of her time connecting reluctant readers and bookworms alike to the world of literature and science. Although living with an auto-immune disease is difficult, she finds power in using her writing as a way to convey the world that people with disabilities live in to people who may not fully comprehend it.” Today she has taken a page from us and is revisiting some childhood favorites with a healthy dose of nostalgia and a tongue planted firmly in cheek. You can find her at https://hannahcarmack.com, and look at the bottom of the post for more social media links to learn more about her! Thanks Hannah!
What can I say? The Library Ladies inspired me. Seeing some of my favorite Fear Street covers got me thinking about what I read as a kid. There were some books I swear I had read -turns out the book about an underground pizza club is not real- and some books I swear weren’t real and they actually were! Here are just some of my childhood classics revisited.
Book: “Six Months To Live” by Lurlene McDaniel
This is the cover my copy had, and honestly it did not age well, holy cow can you tell those two aren’t really in the same shot or what? Either way, this is a short read about a young girl struggling with Leukemia. Super dark, but as a kid I loved these books. There are four to the whole series and I made my dad buy them ALL. At one point one of her friends refuses to continue their treatment and goes into a kind of hospice and I remember that messing me up as a kid, but in retrospect good for McDaniel. Kudos for including a realistic representation of the many ways people deal with illness.
Book: “Travel Far, Pay No Fare” by Anne Lindbergh
I was TOTALLY convinced this book wasn’t real. I remember a boy and a girl magically traveling into tons of classic books and getting all the cats from said classic books in some convoluted scheme to break their parents up (yikes!), and just saying that out loud made me think no way. that couldn’t have been a real book. But it totally was! Published 1992 (Dating myself) Travel Far, Pay No Fare is a super fun book and introduces young readers to a number of literary classics.From what I remember it was pretty short too! Def worth a revisit.
Book: “Monster Blood II” by R.L. Stine
What is this cover?! Leave it to Stine. I freaking loved this book as a kid, but couldn’t remember the name for the life of me. I just had to Google ‘scary hamster children’s book’ and what do you know. It was one of the first results. I’ll be honest, I can’t tell you anything about this plot. It’s all a blurred memory, but what I can say -again and again- is THAT COVER! He is one hungry hamster. Get him some food pellets and fresh water, please.
Do you have some classics that may or may not have been lucid dreams? I think we all do. Share yours below!
Where Did I Get This Book: I was sent an ARC from the author.
Book Description:Alice “Al” Liddell is from Echola, Alabama. She leads the life of a normal teen until the day she’s diagnosed with vasovagal syncope – a fainting disorder which causes her to lose consciousness whenever she feels emotions too strongly.
Her mother, the “Queen of Hearts,” is the best cardiothoracic surgeon this side of the Mason-Dixon Line and a bit of a local hero. Yet, even with all her skill she is unable to cure her daughter of her ailment, leading Al into the world of backwater witchcraft.
Along the way she meets a wacky cast of characters and learns to accept her new normal.
Take Your Medicine is a southern gothic retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Review: I want to extend a very special thanks to Hannah Carmack, who was kind enough to provide me with an ARC of this novella! Keep your eyes out for a guest post from Hannah that I will be posting next week!
So maybe you’re asking yourself ‘Fantasy? Isn’t that Serena’s wheelhouse?’ And yes, this is true, but I do enjoy a fantasy story every now and again! I especially like stories that make reference to “Alice in Wonderland”, as that is one of my childhood favorites. With its nonsense adventures and kooky characters, that book has had a place in my heart for a long, long time. So when Hannah Carmack asked if we would read her book “Take Your Medicine,” I kind of jumped all over it. It had been since I’d played “American McGee’s Alice” in high school that I’d encountered an adaptation of Alice that I’ve really, deeply enjoyed.
So “Take Your Medicine” was a breath of fresh air for this Alice fiend. What I liked the most about it is that while it’s not a direct adaptation of the Alice story, it takes great influence from it and peppers homages throughout the narrative. Alice ‘Al’ Liddell is not a girl from the English countryside who falls into an alternate world of Wonderland; she is a teenager living in Alabama who has been dealing with vasovagal syncope her entire life. VVS causes her to have fainting spells in moments of stress or high emotion. The ‘Wonderland’ she encounters is near her rural home, and it involves some teenage witches named Rabbit and Kat, and her own mother, a surgeon known as the Queen of Hearts. What I loved the most about Rabbit and Kat is that while they are analogs for the White Rabbit and The Cheshire Cat, Carmack was very clever in her homages. It wasn’t like Rabbit was constantly checking her watch and freaking out about time, nor was Kat grinning like a fiend all day long. Instead the similarities were more based in subtleties, like Alice being drawn to Rabbit and attracted to her, and Kat being hard to read, motivation wise. And while I was worried that Al’s Mom, being the Queen of Hearts stand in, was going to be cruel and controlling, she was definitely more loving and understanding than I expected. Her strictness and control was born of out love for her daughter, and I thought that was a poignant choice. I loved looking for the other Wonderland characters within those that Al encounters throughout the novella.
The setting is just excellent. I love a good Southern Gothic novel, with sweeping and haunting vistas in backwoods and swamps in the American South. Moving an “Alice in Wonderland” adaptation from England to the American South works so well, because the landscapes and environments are dreamy and mysterious in their own right. I could totally imagine the characters walking through the backwoods, with the heat and the sounds of birds and insects permeating my imagination. I loved the descriptions, from Rabbit and Kat’s trailer to Al’s mother’s rose garden to a backwater dance party. They always felt very surreal and whimsical, and I was completely drawn into it, as I was in Wonderland so many years ago and so many times before.
Finally, as someone who is a big believer in the importance of diversity and representation in literature, especially juvenile and young adult literature, I was VERY pleased to see the diverse cast of characters in this book. Not only is Al a POC character who is living with a chronic illness, she is also exploring her own sexuality and her attraction to Rabbit. Carmack herself lives with an auto-immune disease, and so her story and the character of Al lends a voice to other teens who are living with chronic illnesses. Within the diverse books movement the Own Voices movement is super important, so I love that this book is out there removing stigma or confusion about what it can be like to live with a chronic illness.
“Take Your Medicine” was a highly enjoyable novella that did a spot on job of adapting “Alice in Wonderland”. I completely recommend that if you like the Alice stories you should go and get your hands on this novella.
Rating 8: A unique and sweet retelling of an old favorite. The fun characters and the diverse cast made for a very enjoyable read.
Book: “The First Evil ” (Fear Street Cheerleaders #1) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1992
Where Did I Get This Book: An ebook from the library!
Book Description:“Give Me a D-I-E!”
Newcomers Corky and Bobbi Corcoran want more than anything to make the cheerleading squad at Shadyside High. But as soon as the Corcoran sisters are named to the team, terrible things happen to the cheerleaders.
The horror starts with a mysterious accident near the Fear Street cemetery. Soon after, piercing screams echo through the empty school halls. And then the ghastly murders begin…
Can Corky and Bobbi stop the killer before the entire cheerleading squad is destroyed?
Had I Read It Before: No.
The Plot: Oh man guys!!! The infamous “Cheerleaders” series!!! I never read them because I was so anti girly girl things I immediately wrote these books off as dumb just because they had cheerleaders in them. How wrong I was! Now as an adult I know that cheerleader stories bring the BEST kind of drama!!!
Bobbi and Corky Corcoran are sisters/BFFs, and when we first meet them they are putting a toy rat outside their little brother Sean’s door because he’s terrified of them. They then go join their parents for breakfast, and we get some exposition right out the gate. The Corcoran Family has just moved to Fear Street, and both Bobbi and Corky are already making jokes about their house being haunted and someone being murdered in Bobbi’s room. Bobbi and Corky are not twins, but apparently they look like it with their ‘lively green eyes, creamy, pale skin, and high cheekbones like models’. Oh boy. Bobbi is older but shorter, Corky is younger and lanky, blah blah blah, and poor Sean, recently freaked out by the fake rat, joins them and is inconsequential. We find out that cheerleader tryouts are that day, as Mrs. Corcoran has VERY strong feelings that her girls should be cheerleaders because they were just the best back at their old school, practically carrying the rest of the team to finals. Bobbi and Corky don’t know if they will be allowed to try out since the team has already been picked and it’s up to the cheerleaders, but since it’s clear their mother’s affection is based on their cheer status they better hope an exception is made. Apparently their alliance due to a stage mother only have certain limits, as Bobbi plays her own trick on Corky and pretends she’s dead just for a little bit. Ah, sibling love.
Now we meet Jennifer Daly, cheer captain and all around perfect girl who is described by Stine has having ‘full, sensual lips’. Huh. Jennifer is super slim and super nice, and her best friend/assistant Captain Kimmy Bass is….. not. She’s frenetic and ‘chunky’, so I guess she’s probably going to be the mean one. Kimmy is the one who doesn’t want Bobbi and Corky to try out, as the team has been built already, but Jennifer thinks that the Corcorans are SO good that they would be an asset. Miss Green, Cheer advisor, agrees, and Bobbi and Corky are told they can try out. The Corcorans do a routine that involves the chant ‘first and ten, do it again!’ and ‘Go Tigers!’, and I don’t know what all these movies are that Stine is describing but apparently it’s awesome because they are totally on the team now! Of course, Miss Green points out, that means that they have to cut someone. Jennifer targets the Frosh, Ronnie, to be bumped down to alternate, and Kimmy is livid at the injustice of it all. Kimmy, Ronnie, and some chick named Debra all convene in the locker room and bitch about how unfair it all is. Kimmy then gets burned in the shower, which is an excuse to 1) have a cliffhanter chapter ending, 2) mention Simmons, the stoner handyman who also drives the team bus, and 3) show off Kimmy’s necklace that has a megaphone pendant. Checkov’s pendant…..
A few weeks later the team is on the bus heading to a game in a huge rain storm! Bobbi and Corky have been pretty much accepted by everyone but Kimmy and Debra, and so many peppy cheers are flung in the bus. But oh no! Corky realizes that she and Bobbi left the fire batons at home! Annoyed by their irresponsibility by blinded by dreams of State Championships, Jennifer says that they can detour to Fear Street to get them. But the storm is super bad, and for some reason Simmons seems to lean into the storm and drive fast. As they are going down Fear Street, and after he inexplicably opens the doors to the bus, Simmons loses control! Probably too much reefer. The bus crashes, leaving all the girls in a heap. Bobbi, Corky, and the others manage to get out, and realize the bus crashed right smack dab into Fear Street Cemetery. They realize Jennifer is missing, and Bobbi remembers that right before they crashed, she had flown out the side door of the bus that was mysteriously open! They find her sprawled across the tombstone that belongs to Sarah Fear, who died in the 1800s. And she’s dead. An ambulance arrives and EMTs are immediately at Jennifer’s side. They pronounce her head, but then SURPRISE! She opens her eyes and it’s some kind of miracle! They load her into the ambulance, and Kimmy makes it VERY clear that she blames Bobbi and Corky for forgetting the fire batons and causing this detour.
So the bad news is that Jennifer has been paralyzed and can’t walk anymore. This means that the squad needs a new captain, and Kimmy is convinced that she has it in the bag since she was assistant captain. Miss Green is holding a huge pep rally to make the announcement. Jennifer makes a speech about how grateful she is, and then Miss Green takes the stage and says that she’s so proud of the fighting spirit her cheerleaders have, and that she’s made her decision on who will replace Jennifer as captain, with Jennifer’s input. Kimmy is thrilled….. until Miss Green names Bobbi Corcoran!! So, okay, we are supposed to probably think that Kimmy is a poor sport in all of this, but I’m super empathetic to her. I’ve MULTIPLE times been in a situation where I have worked my butt off, paid my dues, been pretty damn good at something, and then instead of being rewarded (be it promotion or a starring role in a school play), a brand new person with not as much experience and work done but perhaps a tiny bit more pizzaz has been rewarded instead. I’ve been there. It FUCKING sucks. So I gotta be me, which means I gotta be Team Kimmy here, even if Bobbi is one of our main characters. Kimmy, abjectly humiliated, breaks from the celebration routine and runs out of the gym sobbing.
Bobbi is the new belle of the Shadyside High Social Hierarchy Ball, and is having many congratulations thrust upon her. Not only are a bunch of plebs she doesn’t know fawning over her, she is approached by CHIP CHASNER, quarterback for the Shadyside Tigers football team!!! If that doesn’t sound like royalty waiting to happen, I don’t know what does! They flirt a little bit, and he asks if she’s seeing anyone. She says no, and tosses the question back, and he gets a LITTLE skittish but says that he isn’t seeing anyone anymore, and suggests they go out for pizza after practice. Bobbi says yes, and it walking on cloud nine when she meets up with Jennifer at Jennifer’s home in North Hills. Apparently they were BFFs now, and I again feel for Kimmy because she and Jennifer were besties before now. Jennifer tells Bobbi she talked to Kimmy, and Kimmy will stay on the team, but she’s not happy about it. Bobbi, obtuse to the weird politics at play here, is relieved that Kimmy is coming back even though Kimmy hates her now, and Jennifer says that she better get used to it. Changing the subject, Bobbi tells Jennifer that Chip asked hr out on a date. And then Jennifer notifies her that until VERY recently, Chip was Kimmy’s boyfriend. Fucking Bobbi.
At cheer practice awhile later, Bobbi is having a hard time with her new captainly duties. The girls are out of step, Kimmy is still shooting daggers at her, and their routine of “Steam Heat” is a serious dud. Side bar: “Steam Heat” is from “The Pajama Game” and I remember watching that movie over and over and OVER as a kid. Doris Day for the win, bitches. Bobbi dismisses them for a dinner break before the game, and is bummed that only Corky is trying hard. Bobbi tells Corky she’ll meet her at home because she has to get her stuff. But while she’s in the hallway, suddenly all the lockers start opening and slamming shut. As she runs through a sea of lockers, a girl’s scream starts up too. Bobbi runs back to the front hallway of the school, it all stops. When she gets home and tells Corky, Corky thinks it must be the stress making her nuts. At the game things are going pretty okay, but then Chip has a weird episode where he totally freezes instead of throwing a ball, and gets creamed by the other team. He doesn’t return for the second half, and Bobbi is so distracted the cheers are lackluster and the Tigers lose. She meets him after game and asks what happened, and Chip confides that he doesn’t really know. He says that it felt like he was dead, and he didnt’ really have control of his faculties and doesn’t know why he didn’t throw the ball. They kiss, but he’s pretty shaken up.
At school, Kimmy confronts Bobbi about Chip. Kimmy makes it sound like she still thinks that she and Chip are dating, and Bobbi mocks that HE asked HER out.
A catfight ensues. Miss Green breaks it up and reminds them that they have a new routine they have to work on together. Kimmy reattaches her necklace (foreshadowing?), and refuses to apologize. When Miss Green threatens them with team suspension, they change their tune. Bobbi then starts to explain part of the routine, or has Corky do it since she technically created it. It’s long and complicated and the only thing relevant to this review is that it involves Kimmy dropping and Bobbi catching her. So when they go to run through it, all is well….. until suddenly Bobbi can’t move, just like Chip! And then Kimmy thuds to the floor and smacks her face on the wood, as well as her arm. The other girls say that Bobbi didn’t even TRY to catch Kimmy, and Bobbi runs away. Chip catches her in the hallway, and she tells him the same thing that happened to him happened to her. He’s skeptical, though, as HIS is a muscle thing, or so his doctors say. What a dingus.
That night Bobbi is talking to Jennifer at Jennifer’s house, telling her about what happened at practice. Jennifer tells her that she heard Kimmy’s wrist is broken, but will heal. They talk and Jennifer doesn’t do much to assuage Bobbi’s guilt. As Bobbi is leaving, she looks back through the curtains, and sees the shape of someone walking around the house. But Jennifer is the only one home! Is Jennifer walking?! She walks back up to the house and opens the door, but Jennifer is indeed in her wheelchair. Bobbi is convinced that she is cracking up, but goes home and talks to Corky about it, who is skeptical. Bobbi calls her a traitor, and they fight with Corky thinking about how much she hates Bobbi. And we are informed that this is the last night that Corky will ever spend with her sister. Aw shit.
At practice the next day, its official that Bobbi has no control over the squad anymore, as they all refuse to practice until Miss Green shows up. When Miss Green does, she asks to see Bobbi in her office, and then asks her to step down from the squad after the accident the day before. She’s lost the confidence of the team, and that just won’t do. Bobbi, devastated, goes to the showers to try and calm down. As she’s showering, though, the water suddenly gets VERY hot, and it won’t drain! The steam and the hot water are too much, and Bobbi is suddenly overcome. When Corky arrives, fashionably late, she finds Kimmy’s pendant necklace on the floor of the locker room, but no one else is to be found. She goes into the shower room and finds her sister, dead on the floor.
Some time later, Corky is walking through Fear Street Cemetery, reminiscing. She ends up at the grave of Sarah Fear, and a number of other Fears who died the same year as she did. She thinks about the bus crash, and her sister, and the funeral, and it’s all very sad. She talks to Bobbi’s grave, telling her that Kimmy made captain and everyone expected her to freak out, but she doesn’t care about anything anymore now that Bobbi is dead. The police said that Bobbi died of a seizure or something, but Corky doesn’t buy it. And in that moment, she realizes that she has Kimmy’s pendant, and that KIMMY had every reason to want Bobbi dead. She runs to Kimmy’s house and confronts her and the other cheerleaders about finding the pendant, putting her at the scene of the crime. Kimmy tells her that she hasn’t had her pendant in weeks, and in fact she had given it to Jennifer before Bobbi died! Debra confirms this, and Kimmy says that while she resented Bobbi, she wouldn’t kill her, and that Jennifer couldn’t have either. But Corky points out that Jennifer NEVER changed in the locker rooms anymore, so how did the necklace get there? She goes to confront Jennifer.
Corky gets to Jennifer’s house and it looks like no one is home. She stakes out the place, and sees Jennifer drive up in her car. She decides to follow her, and follows her all the way to the cemetery. She watches as Jennifer STEPS OUT OF THE CAR and WALKS into the cemetery. Corky continues to follow, and watches her dance through the headstones like Linda in “Evil Dead 2”. Corky confronts her by Sarah Fear’s grave, asking what the hell is going on, and Jennifer tells her that she is NOT Jennifer, and makes a dirt tornado from the grave that surrounds them both in a suck zone like HELL. She says that Jennifer is dead, and that she died WEEKS ago when she landed on Sarah Fear’s grave. This evil spirit inhabited Sarah Fear’s body, and was waiting for a new one to inhabit, and now Jennifer’s enemies will pay the price! Corky looks into the grave and see’s Sarah Fear’s body all wormy and bug ridden and the spirit says that Corky is going to end up in there too. The spirit shoves her in (as the other cheerleaders are coming to help), but Corky is a CHEERLEADER, and does a bunch of cheer moves to save herself and pull herself out of the grave as the dirt tornado starts to settle back into the pit. Corky and the spirit struggle, and the spirit starts to blow nasty air in Corky’s face, but as Corky turns it around it starts to vacate Jennifer’s body and falls back into the grave, the coffin lid shutting and trapping it inside. They all look at Jennifer’s corpse, and it has deteriorated as it would have when she originally died.
When Corky gets home, feeling good in the fact she vanquished the spirit that killed her sister, she suddenly realizes that there’s a pennant that wasn’t there before. And it says Jennifer’s name on it. And Corky starts to scream. The end.
Body Count: 2. I liked the curveball of killing one of the POV characters!
Romance Rating: 2. There wasn’t really much in this one, except that creep Chip dumping Kimmy for Bobbi and then not even really mourning Bobbi’s death. Punk.
Bonkers Rating: 8. Mean cheerleaders, possession, a the very CONCEPT of Jennifer’s body going from ‘alive’ to WORM FEAST the moment the First Evil left her, oh MAN was this stellar on the crazy scale!
Fear Street Relevance: 10! This gets a perfect 10! Bobbi and Corky live on Fear Street, the bus crashes into the cemetery, and the ghost that had also possessed Sarah FRIGGIN’ Fear is the villain!
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
” ‘Let’s give them something to stare at,’ Bobbi replied, grinning. ‘Break a leg,’ Corky said.”
…. Well, that’s not even a cliffhanger. That’s just a sister wishing the other sister good luck!! You’re losing your touch, Stine!!
That’s So Dated! Moments: One of the characters is told that she looks like ‘movie star Julia Roberts’, and I suppose in 1992 that would have been an age appropriate comparison. Also the stoner bus driver ALWAYS has his Walkman tape player attached to his ears.
” ‘Fear Street,’ one of the policemen had said grimly, shaking his head. ‘Fear Street…..'”
If that isn’t a “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” moment, I don’t know what is.
Conclusion: “The First Evil” was bonkers and bananas and the cheerleader drama gave me all the things I needed!! I can’t wait to move on to “The Second Evil”!
Book: “Batman: Nightwalker” (DC Icons #2) by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: Random House Books for Young Readers, January 2018
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.
One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.
Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.
Review: Now it is very true that both Serena and I are big Superman fans here, willing to stand for him and stand up to anyone who would wish him ill or call him anything less than great. And we were solidly Team Superman in the most recent DC movies that involved him. But I do have to admit that even though I want to smack Batman upside the head a lot of the time, especially in his most recent iterations and interpretations, there is a very special place in my heart for him. I will openly concede that I love him, darkness and all. What can I say? I am a true, true sucker for the emotionally unstable messed up problematic loner guy in my fiction. Bruce, take your place alongside J.D. from “Heathers”, Kylo Ren, and Bobby Briggs.
So you KNOW that I was all about reading “Batman: Nightwalker” by Marie Lu, the second book in the “DC Icons” young adult series. These books tend to take the teenage selves of these superheroes/heroines and give them something of an origin story, or at the very least an early foray into their ultimate heroic destines. I read “Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo last fall, and was very excited to see what the next in the series had to offer. Marie Lu herself has become a bigger and bigger name in YA, with her previous book “Warcross” getting a lot of buzz for its sci-fi and techno thriller premise. So giving her Batman was a natural choice, with his love for tech.
The Bruce Wayne that we meet in “Nightwalker” is not Batman yet. He’s still a teenager, recently turned eighteen and trying to keep going in spite of the loss of his parents, a trauma that still haunts him. Lu’s Wayne feels more like the teenage self of Michael Keaton’s version of Wayne. He is damaged and sad, but he still wants to see the best in those he cares about and wants them to be safe. There isn’t any disproportional arrogance here; he’s reflective and cautious, and has genuine connections and affections for the important people in his life. He also is fully aware of his own privilege in this world, and Lu takes many opportunities to address that his wealth and skin color has given him all the advantages that other people in similar situations just would not have (more on that later). It’s a characterization that I found refreshing, and one that has been sorely missed ever since Bale took the cowl over and Affleck went from there. Lu does a very good job with Bruce, and with most of the other characters she writes, both familiar and original ones. Alfred is a properly dry but loving guardian to Bruce (and yes, he’s still a bit too permissive, but then Alfred would kind of have to be for Bruce to turn into Batman later in life). Lucius Fox is a gadget fanatic but has some other background and abilities, mentoring Bruce in his love for all things tech. And my favorite was the appearance of Harvey Dent, who is one of Bruce’s best friends. I don’t know what it is about so many newer stories framing Harvey as a good person who’s turn to villainy as Two Face is steeped in tragedy (probably because of “The Long Halloween”), but I am HERE for it and I have to say that Lu has written the best one yet. There is no hint of what’s coming for him in the future, there is only a moral person and a wonderful friend who cares deeply for Bruce. Whenever Harvey was a perfect cinnamon roll of an individual (so pretty much ALL THE TIME) I just whimpered and clutched the book to my chest.
The original characters, however, did not fare as well for me. Okay, let me rephrase that. Most of them did. I liked Detective Draccon, who puts Bruce on the Arkham community service beat, though she wasn’t really doing much beyond being Gordon before Gordon was around. I REALLY liked Bruce and Harvey’s bestie Dianne, a smart and empathetic brain who is fiercely loyal to her two main dudes. I had a harder time believing Madeline, the antagonistic (or IS SHE?) criminal genius who may or may not be connected to The Nightwalkers, who are targeting and killing the rich in Gotham. While I liked that she was super intelligent and super morally ambiguous, I felt that the forced star crossed lovers sort of vibe that she and Bruce gave off was unnecessary. I didn’t really need their empathy and understanding towards each other to turn into a romance that couldn’t be, I think that it would have been just fine if it was left platonic. I felt that by making her pine for Bruce undermined her own agency and self-actualization. Also, their constant “do I trust you or should I not because there’s this sexy charge between us but you are on the other side of this big long conflict” dynamic was WAY TOO Batman/Catwoman, and that just will not do. There can be only one Selina Kyle. The Nightwalker concept itself did feel very Batman villain-y, and also brought in some interesting questions about capitalism and wealth distribution in this country. I greatly enjoyed that entire aspect and how Bruce approaches it, and explores it just beyond the black and white morality and fully into the greys of capitalism’s winners and losers.
Overall, I found “Batman: Nightwalker” to be a pretty fun book. I would absolutely recommend it to any fan of Batman, especially those who may need Batman with a little more hope.
Rating 7: A fun early Batman adventure with some familiar faces and a likable Bruce Wayne. I didn’t approve of the need for a love interest, but it was a fast and fun read.
Publishing Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January 2018
Where Did I Get this Book: bought it!
Book Description: Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Warning: This review contains a lot of ranting, and because it’s so popular on Goodreads and other places, I know this will be an unpopular opinion. But it’s mine. It doesn’t have to be yours and, while I think that even those who like this book deserve better, especially as far as the romantic interests go, everyone’s tastes run differently! And that’s ok! That’s why we have libraries packed full of options for everyone! But if it’s hard for you to read negative opinions on things you love (which I totally understand), it’s probably best to just pass on this review now.
Review: This was one of the few books that I broke down and bought without having read it before. Sadly, it is also further reinforcement for why I have that general policy to begin with. But I was beguiled by the beautiful cover and a book description that was right up my alley. Perhaps also the hype, which really should have been my warning sign, as I’ve found that very few books that are super hyped in the fantasy YA community these last couple of years actually turn out to be my cup of tea. Alas.
As I said, there is a lot to love in this book description. I’ve always loved stories about Faerie courts. I also love stories about sisterhood. And, of course, political intrigue. What should have been my warning was the concept of the cruel prince himself, Cardan. My bookclub comrade, Alicia, was also reading this book when I was and asked what I thought about this book when I was only 50 pages in or so. At the time, I said that I was enjoying it but that the main character had better not get together with the titular “cruel prince.” And Alicia just looked at me and laughed. Well…yeah…touche, I guess!
I like to try and say positive things about all books I review on here, and this book in particular seems to be getting a lot of raving reviews, so I know there must be things here that many people are liking. But honestly, I just don’t see it. The writing was technically good, I guess, and the Faerie court was appropriately capricious and beautiful, but that’s about all I have.
Though even with these aspects, Black wasn’t introducing anything we haven’t seen a million times before with fantasy like this! Yeah, yeah, beautiful food that is actually rotten. Faerie folk who have animal aspects like hooves and wings. Dancing. Mermaids. And this speaks to one of my first problems: the world-building and storytelling. If an author is going to write a Faerie court book, the fact that there a million others out there should serve as a motivation to put extra effort into plotting and characters. You already know you’re playing in a very full sandbox as far as the world itself, so you need to challenge norms in other areas. Unfortunately, Black does not. Instead we get a long checklist of YA tropes being ticked off one by one.
This book is a case study in “telling, not showing” writing. We are simply informed of most of the plot points with very little build up, no clear arc, and characters who behave and say things simply because they must, but without any written character support for their choices. We’re told that Jude wants to be a Fae Knight, and there is some hand service to her wanting to gain power, but none of this is set in any concrete character position that we are consistently shown throughout the story. At one point early in the book, we get to this grand tournament, an event she’s been training for her entire life and where she can exhibit her skills…and I’m pretty sure we get this exact line: “I fought harder than I ever had before.” End scene. Great. She’s a fighter whose been telling us for pages how important this all is and how much she’s trained (again, we’ve seen none of that) and then the moment comes! And we’re just told she fought hard. How intriguing! I’m definitely invested now! It’s sheer laziness of writing and the kind of things that drives me crazy.
And this bland writing is paralleled in bland characterization. Throughout the entire book, I never understood Jude. What’s really important to her? Why did she do one thing here and another there? How is she growing, learning, and reacting to pretty big events happening around her? There was just nothing consistent going on with her character that readers could latch on to.
What’s more, most of her story is directly contrary to the message that I thought this book was going for, and the one thing that could have really given Jude depth as a character. She saw her parents murdered before her eyes and then was raised by the man who killed them and in a land where she and her sister are systematically abused and terrorized by those around them. This is the set up for a strong story of resilience and of reclaiming one’s own power. At its most basic level, you could get a pretty good revenge story out of this.
But no. Jude is every YA heroine we’ve ever read. We’re told she’s bad ass, despite never seeing it. She makes horrible decisions with apparently no sense of self-preservation, and worse, no sense of the fact that her choices also result in harm to others. We’re told she’s terrified by those around her, but she still wants to be one of them. She’s thoughtless and impulsive, with no foundation to speak of that would explain why she does what she does when she does it. Her thoughts on Faerie and its people are completely dependent on what the story needs her to do, or feel, next.
With all of this, Jude’s own Stockholm-syndrome-esque behavior and her sister’s passive victim hood, I thought the book was building up towards some sort of commentary on the effects of bullying, terror, and abuse. But nope. There’s nothing there: like the Faerie food, it looks beautiful and complex, but at its core, it’s nothing. It’s honestly confusing. Was this just a coincidence, that the author set up all of these factors around abuse and victim hood? Did she do it on accident while trying to write a fairly typical YA fantasy story? Because, as it stands, its as if she honestly didn’t realize that that’s what she had written for all of the attention its given.
And, worst of all, we have yet another YA love interest who is the epitome of abuse and bullying. And I am absolutely sick of this persistent and pernicious trope of authors creating a character who does despicable things, giving him “a past,” and then hand-waving away his own behavior (especially if he’s done it because secretly he’s kind of into the heroine). This is not a message we should be sending to young women. Yes, people can survive terrible things, and often those who commit them had darkness in their past. But they are still responsible for the terrible things they do, and while you can pity the circumstances that brought them to that point, they ARE NOT love interest material. They need help. Professional, practical, and ongoing help.
I’m completely fed up with this, and it is disheartening to see it continue in YA fantasy books and have those books receive rave reviews. In a year full of #metoo and terrible stories about women being subjected to horrendous behavior by men in power, the fact that we are still reading about YA heroes who outright abuse the heroine but are then presented as potential love interests just makes me sick. This is not ok. Even the final twist of the book doesn’t save this from what’s been set-up: multiple love triangles between victims and their bullies.
Ultimately, this goes down as my first major disappointment of the year. I’m not sure why this book is as hyped as it is or how it is receiving all of the positive reviews it is. At best, it’s presenting a pretty familiar story with all the elements we’ve come to expect: a story that is told to us, not shown; a heroine who has no clear characterization and whose decisions are nonsensical at best and outright stupid at worst; and a love interest who has no right being a love interest at all. I don’t recommend this book. Instead, if you want to read an amazing Faerie court book that’s come out recently, check out “An Enchantment of Ravens.”
Rating 2: A major disappointment. I expect more of YA fantasy. And, at this point, we have a responsibility to those who suffer from real life abuse and bullying to put away this notion that cruelty in any form, for any reason, can be “sexy” or “charming.”