Tag: violence

Book Review: What Kind of Girl, by Alyssa Heinmel

what kind of girl
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  What Kind of Girl
AuthorAlyssa Heinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

North Bay Academy is rocked when Mike Parker’s girlfriend walks into the principal’s office and accuses him of hitting her. She has the black eye to prove it—but is she telling the truth? Mike’s the most popular guy around; would he really hit his girlfriend? And if he did, why didn’t she tell anyone the first time it happened?  Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Is it true…or is there more to the story?

This is an excellent book about a tough topic. It showcases what some girls experience:  like it’s not bad enough they go through dating violence. They also have to deal with people calling them liars, thinking they deserved it, and/or taking their abuser’s side. This is told in alternating viewpoints, but the story strands weave together seamlessly, creating a picture that has even more depth than what the reader first thinks.

Alyssa Heinmel was born in California and raised in New York. What Kind of Girl is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beartown, by Fredrik Backman

beartown
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. Image belongs to Atria Books.

Fredrik Backman is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in Sweden. Beartown is his newest novel.

Once upon a time, Beartown was a bustling town where things happened. Now it’s dying as the forest slowly creeps in closer. But the old ice rink is the center of hope for the town, as the boys’ junior hockey team makes it to the national finals. If the boys win, it will breathe new life back into the town.

Tensions run high, and a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of boys. After the semi-final game, the unthinkable happens, and a teenage girl is traumatized from the violent act. When accusations surface, and the entire town takes sides, it becomes a question of truth:  is she telling the truth, or is he?

Beartown is about hockey, but it is about so much more:  small town life, expectations, family, and gender. The culture of the town is vibrant in its smallness, but secrets will tear it apart, as well as divide families and friendships as the truth comes to life. This was not a happy book to read, but it is well-worth reading, with gripping characters that the reader truly cares about. I don’t even like hockey, and I was rooting for the Bears! (I don’t dislike hockey, either, though.)

Caveat:  This isn’t an easy book to read, either, especially if physical violence towards women is a trigger for you. This book is not “just” about hockey, but about rape and rape culture (Seen in action in the backlash the girl experiences in this book.). One brief review I saw online said, “This story is a charmer. It’s about a hockey-loving town in which residents all root for the junior team competing in the national semifinals.” NO. This story is NOT “charming.” It’s tough to read, especially the last half. And it is not just about a town rooting for its hockey team. But Beartown is a very, very good book, and I highly recommend it.

(Galley provided by Atria Books.)

 

 

The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jeffries

tpw
I do not own this image. Image belongs to Crown Publishing.

Dinah Jeffries was born in Malaysia but moved to England at age nine. Her newest novel is The Tea Planter’s Wife.

Gwen arrives in Ceylon full of anticipation and fear:  newly married after a whirlwind courtship, now she joins her husband, Laurence, on his tea plantation. Ceylon is so much more than Gwen ever imagined:  a lush, other-worldly paradise filled with racial conflict and secrets. Lots of secrets.

Like the hidden grave she finds near the house. And the trunk of old baby clothes. Laurence won’t talk about these secrets, and soon Gwen is wrapped up in her pregnancy and a secret of her own. These secrets put up a wall between Gwen and Laurence, one that leads to more secrets, lies and manipulation, and a tragedy of the worst sort.

Some books leave you speechless and emotionally reeling. This was one of those books. Ceylon is so vivid and brimming with life I could almost smell the flowers and the tea. Gwen and Laurence are flawed and frightened, but love each other so much and so deeply as their relationship grows. Their secrets haunt them both through every page of the book. This book is a phenomenal, emotional rollercoaster!

(Galley provided by Crown Publishing.)

When Fiction Mimics Reality

This morning, I finished reading one of the books for my American Women Writers class, The Coquette, by Hannah W. Foster.

the coquette
(I do not own this image.)

Have you read this book?  I had never even heard of it before seeing the reading list for this class. It was written in the very late 1700s, and is about a woman trying to choose between two men: a minister who wants to marry her, and a rake. She ends up alienating the minister, who marries someone else, and so does the rake. However, she ends up pregnant from an affair with him, and dies alone in childbirth. The tale is told in a series of letters between the characters, giving a good view of the characters true emotions.

And here’s where I had a problem with this story, because some of the letters are written from the rake’s point of view, and he’s a complete and total jerk, who refuses to take responsibility for his own actions.

He makes a concerted effort to come between Eliza and her other suitor. When that relationship goes down in flames, he marries a heiress, and says she can’t blame him for his actions, because she knew how he was. What? He pursues Eliza unmercifully, and when she eventually gives in, he blames her and loses all respect for her. The pregnancy is all her fault. When his wife finds out and leaves him, and he loses everything, still he doesn’t want to accept blame. He does seem remorseful after Eliza dies, but still doesn’t really own up to his faults.

I enjoyed the book somewhat, but this character drove me mad. Deliberately hurtful, selfish, greedy…everything was her fault, even though she repeatedly rebuffed him. When tragedy struck, he still wasn’t fully ready to accept blame. I found him entirely unlikable and criminal.

And to be honest, his attitude and behavior is quite reminiscent of some of the prevailing attitudes in society today.  That girl in the provocative clothing who was the victim of sexual harassment, abuse, and/or rape?  That was all her fault, for dressing like that.

What?

Since when are people not responsible for their own actions, including hurting other people?