Tag Archive | strong protagonist

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Series: Dumplin’ #1

dumplin -julie murphySelf-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.


4 Drink Me Potions


[The song] is catchy and everyone knows the words, but to me, it’s this reminder that no matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.


Dumplin’ is that book about an atypical heroine you may think of based on the synopsis, but with way more heart and less cheese-y fluffiness than I had pegged it to be.

This book – and my thoughts on it – can be summarized in a few points.

1) Will’s voice as the protagonist was the perfect balance that didn’t overly make me want to sympathize with her yet also showed her vulnerabilities.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading stories about girls who are fat does neither of those things. They either lose weight and “get better” and we get to feel “happy” for them or they embrace themselves in such a way that I’m not sure is fully realistic either. This wasn’t the case here and that was surprising. I cheered her on when she was happy with her body and who she was, and was sad with her when she let her doubts get in the way of everything she could aspire to be.

2) The romance wasn’t the highlight.

Wait, what? That can’t be right. I’m saying I didn’t want the romance to be heavily laid on?
You betcha. I frankly didn’t really love Bo. He’s your average good looking guy who was a jerk (to someone else in the past) but now is all romantic and sweet ’cause he’s fallen hard – somehow, and no, we’re not given a reason why – for Will. He seemed too 2-dimensional for such a 3-dimensional girl. SO yeah, I’m quite happy that it wasn’t the focus, especially for the latter half of the book. (I’m sorry, romance fans!)

But don’t get me wrong. It was still sweet. For all of you who really look forward to this.

There’s some kind of peace that comes with knowing that for every person who is waiting to be found, there’s someone out there searching.


3) The ending was abrupt – but in a good way.

I know, how is that a good thing? Well, to me it left things a bit more ambiguous. Like how life is generally. It isn’t always tied up in a nice bow where all the family drama is solved immediately with a deep heart-to-heart talk or couples throwing themselves at each other in happiness after resolving the romantic tensions between them. (Yes, you can see that I’m feeling rather jaded at the moment towards love). I liked that it ended on a good note but without tying up all the loose threads completely.

4) Heartfelt messages for the win! Or life lessons, if that’s what you wanna call them

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”


Losing her aunt Lucy was a major theme in this book as Will always felt closer to her due to their similar body size. But this isn’t one of those books where the death of a loved one is driving our protagonist crazy with grief or other kinds of pain. Yes, it’s present and it flares up on some days but it’s not just a plot device. It felt real with the lessons Will was able to draw from all the things she remembered and learned anew about her even after death.

5) Girl power!

This story is all about friendships. Will’s ups and downs with her bestie Ellen took a big chunk of this book. If you know what it feels to have someone you’ve just known and gone through so much crap with, this is how it should be portrayed. But aside from lifelong friends, the new ones Will gains in her journey to the pageant was great. I kinda wish there was less of Bo in these pages and more of these girls. They were atypical secondary characters. Not necessarily your characteristic beauties or smarties or sporties. Just…people who want to fit in but others have deemed them OTHER. I loved them, and I love Julie Murphy for creating a story where girls can support each other, even if it’s a bit unwilling at first.

Aside from these things, my only complaint was the slow pacing of the story in the beginning. You know she’s gonna enter a pageant and show everyone that just ’cause she’s fat doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to do this. I adore Will for this. But yeah, it was slow going at first, for at least the first half. I wouldn’t say I breezed through this book at all. Other than that, Dumplin’ holds a lot of good messages that warms my heart at the end of the day.

Overall Recommendation:
Dumplin’ features a cast of atypical girls at the heart of the story, and it’s like no other book I’ve read with fat girls in a starring role. While tugging at our heartstrings in sympathy, it doesn’t just stop there. This is a story of embracing who you are – no matter what size, shape or form – and the courage to be your true self and truly be comfortable with it. The girl friendships gained along the way were empowering. The romance was doable although I could’ve gone without it. Overall, a more remarkable book than I had initially boxed it in. And boy, am I glad for that.

Advertisements

Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

more than we can tell -brigid kemmererRev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.


4 Drink Me Potions


Heart-rendering in a way that pulls all my heartstrings, More Than We Can Tell is a poignant follow-up to its companion novel that centred on a unique character whose heart has won over many readers even before picking up this book.

Rev Fletcher was an interesting protagonist to see the world through. Many awful things had happened to him yet it didn’t turn him into a bad person with a jaded view on life and society. Instead, it gave him his heart of compassion and loyalty. But that didn’t mean the demons from his past experiences weren’t following him, and I was so very eager to see how (and who) would help him face these demons head-on.

Our love interest for Rev, Emma, was just as intriguing. Awkward yet lovable, this gamer girl who wanted to stay strong and true to herself was just right for Rev. With her own slew of problems that were no less as painful to go through, this book really focused on strength in the midst of a storm. And while it’s not as light of a contemporary read as others, I found myself particularly resonating with such tormented hearts. Life wasn’t easy and had given them each obstacles to overcome. What they each learned from them, and the process that led them there, was simple yet heartfelt. From the depths of familial love to the deep bonds of sacrificial friendship and trust, there were a lot of encouraging messages that resonated deeply.

While this was an enjoyable read, there was just…something missing from it for me. Maybe it was more that I saw Rev and Emma’s relationship as less romantic and more of a deep friendship? Maybe it’s just the emotional state I was in while reading this novel but I particularly loved seeing how their tentative trust in each other built as fate kept bringing them back in one another’s lives. I mean, wouldn’t you want to find someone like that? I’d love a Rev, honestly. Not so much for his jujitsu techniques and physique (although that’s a plus!), but his forthrightness, his integrity and solid trust in God and a greater meaning to his life.

And that is the other thing. I couldn’t wrap my head around whether or not Brigid saw religion and faith as a negative or a positive thing in Rev’s life. Maybe a bit of both. I don’t think it can be construed as offensive to anyone as the awful religious aspects were considered abnormal, but at the same time, I just don’t know.

Either way, it was interesting to see this kind of portrayal in YA contemporary and I felt like I could connect with Rev more because of it. Fast-paced and a great follow-up to an amazing book, More Than We Can Tell holds a lot for fans of Brigid Kemmerer’s past works.

Overall Recommendation:
More Than We Can Tell delivered a heavy message that was ultimately uplifting while also heartbreaking. Both Rev and Emma’s voices rang true with their individual struggles and as their stories crossed, Kemmerer continues to show how well she can weave a story of the hardships that shape us into the better people that we are. Call me a true fan now as I don’t think she can do wrong when it comes to her contemporaries!

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

thunderhead -neal shustermanRowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?


4 Drink Me Potions


Explore this new facet of yourself with my blessing, he would imagine the Thunderhead telling him. It’s fine as long as you remember who you truly are and don’t lose yourself.
But what if this is who I truly am?


Thunderhead leaves me oddly impressed with the progression of the series. With unexpected twists and new characters thrown into the story, the problems Citra and Rowan now face are crazier than before as they each embark on a journey of self-identity in the new circumstances they now face.

While its predecessor, Scythe, made me think more as I wrapped my head around the different concepts of the futuristic world Shusterman has created here, this sequel was more about the intensity of what’s happening with our favourite characters as the worldbuilding seamlessly continues and fits like a second skin as I re-immerse myself into it.

This book was split more into individual storylines as each character faced a different challenge that occasionally merged together with another, but rarely as each could hold its own. It’s tricky with these kinds of stories as some plotlines I find are more intense whereas the others lack behind and feel so very bothersome to read in between, like filler for the exciting scenes. However, I never found myself feeling that, which is a very strong compliment for Shusterman’s writing skills as he can so easily craft separate stories that can (and eventually will) tie into each other that makes each part of the whole more understandable in the grand scheme of things.

Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, is in mortal danger. I know, that’s weird, right? She’s a scythe, for goodness sakes! Yet someone, or some GROUP, is out trying to kill her and Scythe Curie for good for who knows what reasons. The ramifications of how she chose to glean and her secret popularity among young scythes makes her a possible target for numerous enemies. Meanwhile, Rowan’s off hunting bad scythes, hiding from the rest of the scythedom only to appear to Citra occasionally (aww, how romantic! which means a lot because you know there’s really not much “romance” in this book). Although his storyline sounds less structured, a great amount of action and surprises were through his POV that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t tell you what, but I liked these new developments as it made the story juicier.

There’s also a new guy who’s been added to the roster of main POVs. Greyson Tolliver. He’s your average guy who had a conscience and wanted to do the right thing. When his life crossed with Citra’s, nothing stays the same. Out of the 3 teens we get to follow, I felt the most for him. Life took unfair turns (for interesting reasons that you’ll find out!) and he was left to deal with all its messes. But he also had the most amount of growth/re-growth/change. His character really spiced up the story and I think there’s more potential in where his role comes in with regards to the scythedom as the series continues.

As for the ending, we don’t exactly get truly ridiculous cliffhanger moment, but all 3 characters find themselves in some dire or strange circumstances. Neal Shusterman really knows how to amp up his game as this makes me so much more excited for the next book to come out! His worldbuilding is superb and it’s like you could live in this world after reading 2 books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scythe walking down the street in MidMerica. We get more layered understanding of how the scythedom works and its hierarchy of authority.

But most importantly of all, we get more of the Thunderhead. As the title may suggest. Where Scythe provided snippets from certain scythes’ journals, we get to see how the Thunderhead thinks. What it sees. What it wishes it could do. What it feels – if a system could express true feelings. I liked the change-up, but it is also a timely move that I think prepares us for how things may be different in book 3. Does anyone else feel like the Thunderhead may be benevolent towards humans, but it could go all bad AI at any moment if it could justify its actions? Hmm? Anyone?

So. Having read all that, you probably realized that I didn’t really say much of anything about the book. That’s ’cause there’s just so much beauty in how it was laid out and the surprises that came along the way that I think it’s best to leave most of it unsaid here. It was well-balanced between action, suspense, and continual worldbuilding. The only thing missing was a tad bit more romance between Rowan and Citra. Hey, I know it’s technically “wrong” for scythes to be together, but they could try being a bit rebellious, right? Here’s to hoping there’s more of those 2 together next time. Then maybe it’ll move to 5 stars.

Overall Recommendation:
Thunderhead continued seamlessly from where Scythe left off after months since the dramatic events of book 1 has passed. With individual storylines that are still full of action and surprises, Rowan and Citra – along with a new guy named Greyson – are faced with tough circumstances that make them question their actions, decisions, and just who they truly are after everything’s said and done. Although there’s still a lack of romance in this book (why, Shusterman??), the little teases of romantic chemistry whenever Citra and Rowan are together suffice as unexpected events take up precedent. With crazy things happening one after another towards the cliffhanger ending, I’d say this book wonderfully connected our introduction to scythes in book 1 to the ultimate conclusion to these characters’ fates in book 3, which marks it a true sequel.