Friday, September 30, 2016

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

"You see it in all animals- the female of the species is more deadly than the male..."

The Female of the Species is such a great, fantastic book. However, it is not the easiest read. I'm just going to put that out there first thing. It deals with murder, animal abuse, rape, and a little bit of poverty. There are some heavy, aching, soul-crushing moments. Through some sort of writing sorcery, there are also uplifting, sweet, and hopeful moments. I was nervous because I had been on a bright and cheery run, and this one is pretty much the opposite. I read it anyways because I love Mindy McGinnis and because it brings up a lot of important issues.

Alex is best known because her sister was murdered. Other than that, she is mostly invisible. What her classmates don't know is that she killed her sister's murderer. He wasn't convicted, so she took justice into her own hands. She doesn't feel bad about it. There is a darkness inside of her, a darkness she inherited from her father.

Then Alex is pulled out of the dark. The first person to get close to her is Peekay. Peekay, P.K. for Preacher's Kid, has a reputation as a good girl because she is the daughter of the preacher. She works hard to shed the reputation, drinking and committing general debauchery. Alex and Peekay both take a class elective at the animal shelter. They bond over a bag of dead puppies.

The second person is Jack. Jack and Alex are salutatorian and valedictorian of their class. He needs to be valedictorian so that he can get a scholarship, get into college, and get out of their small town. She doesn't care either way because she doesn't plan to go to college. Despite hooking up with his childhood friend, who is now the hottest girl in school, Jack becomes obsessed with Alex. He helps pull her car out of a ditch, and they end up in a relationship.

Unfortunately, Alex can't help her nature. When one of Jack's friends grabs her in fun, she hits him where it counts. At a party, some druggie older kids are about to rape Peekay. Thankfully, Alex is keeping an eye on her friend. She stops them, then proceeds to attack the main perpetrator. Jack doesn't quite realize how bad it is until she shows up at his house, smelling like smoke. One of Peekay's friends just found out that her uncle had been molesting her sister. Then his house was on fire...with him in it. This puts a strain on their relationship, understatement of the century.

On to the difficult's hard to come up with a good seque that leads into these things. There's a bunch of stuff dealing with animals at the shelter and at Jack's after school job where he slaughters cows (I personally have difficulty reading about animal abuse and death, so I have this mantra where I repeat "It's not real, it's not real" over and over to myself. It's effective, though I still cry a bunch). The kids attend an assembly where a police officer talks about rape. There are two attempted rapes depicted in the book. It's hard to read, but important. There's some cool parts about gender equality. At one point, Alex observes some male classmates pretending to fornicate with a ball in gym class. Nobody bats an eye. She speculates what would happen if she were to do the same, and predicts that it would not be dismissed as easily.

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eyeroll...

I always feel as though I do a poor job explaining these things, but I want to emphasize that this book has a lot of importance. It seems like another YA read about a sociopath murderer, but there is so much more to it. You can read an excellent article where the author talks about her reasons for writing the book and including so many difficult topics here.

I received my copy of The Female of the Species from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl Gretchen McNeil

"Women are not on this planet exclusively to inspire men and make them happy. We have our own dreams and needs, our own shit to get done. We run companies, countries, international organizations. We're not props, and we're certainly not here to cater to men's egos..."

I wanted to read this book because it sounded cute. Beatrice is about to start her senior year of high school. She is optimistic that everything will be better this year. People will learn her actual name instead of calling her Math Girl. Her friends, the gay comic book loving Gabe and artist Spencer, won't be bullied and beaten up by the jocks. It's also the first time that Beatrice has a boyfriend, Jesse.

Despite such high hopes, senior year starts out the same as every other year. Then she arrives. Toile is weird. She dresses in mismatchy clothes with dumb hats, says weird things, and becomes inexplicably popular. The last straw for Beatrice is when Jesse breaks up with her...and starts dating a girl named after fabric.

Beatrice has been trying to come up with a project on applied mathematics to get into M.I.T. She creates The Formula, a way for her and her friends to succeed at high school. She turns Gabe into Gabriel, a gay stereotype who wears bow ties and suspenders and spouts a catchphrase. Spencer becomes the tortured artist and gets on the radar of the most popular girl in school (Even though he obviously is in love with Beatrice).

Beatrice decides to beat Toile at her own game. She changes her hair and clothes, always wearing two different shoes because that is her "thing." Now she goes by Trixie, and she studies a bunch of movies to learn how to act. Basically, she says loopy things and never acts embarrassed. There is a definite reaction to her new look and attitude. Trixie makes more friends than Beatrice ever did, and they actually know her name. Jesse also pays attention, dropping Toile for Trixie as fast as he dropped Beatrice for Toile.

Despite my hopes, I wasn't all that into this book. Beatrice was kind of slow to realize so many things. She barely talked to anyone else, but complained that they didn't talk to her. She didn't know that Spencer was in love with her even though Gabe kept singing, "Why can't I find a woman like that?" right in front of her. Finally, she didn't know that Jesse was a jerk who was looking for someone to focus on him instead of an actual relationship, and I didn't care for how much Beatrice blamed Toile for her problems when Jesse was the one she should be mad at, and he was so not worth making yourself over for. Toile and Trixie's manic pixie routines were legitimately funny, though, and I would have liked more of that.

I received my copy of I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It will be available October 18th.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

iZOMBIE 1-4 by Chris Roberson

I am a HUGE fan of the iZombie television show. Before the show premiered, I read an article (Though I cannot remember what it was) that listed the differences between the show and the graphic novels of the same name. Even so, I wanted to read the series myself.

It turns out that the show didn't take much from the graphic novels, aside from a title and the concept of a zombie who eats brains and gains the memories from the brains' owner. There are far more differences, such as:
  • The main character's name: Gwendolyn Price/Gwen Dylan in the comic, Olivia "Liv" Moore in the show
  • Gwen works and lives at a graveyard, obtaining brains from the corpses. My concern had been that the formaldehyde used in preservation would make the brains inedible, but it's actually an organic cemetery that doesn't preserve bodies, which seems odd. Is that an actual thing? She paints the memories she gains. Liv works at the coroner's office and obtains brains there. When Liv eats a brain, she gains talents and personality traits as well as memories.   
  • The universe of the comics contains many supernatural creatures besides zombies, such as vampires, werecreatures, ghosts, mummies, etc. The TV show wisely focuses solely on zombies, though part of me would appreciate the chaos of multiple monsters. 
  • In the comics, Gwen is friends with a ghost named Ellie and a wereterrier named Scott. They were both wisely omitted from the show. Liv's friends from the show: Peyton, ex fiance Major, and coworkers Ravi and Clive are not featured in the comics, but for a reason.
  •  The reason is that Gwen doesn't retain many memories from being alive. Her family and friends believe she is dead, and she doesn't remember them anyways. Liv remembers everything from her former life, and none of her friends and family (Save her boss Ravi...this was written a while ago because now a lot more people know as of the completed second season) know that she died and became a zombie. 
The first book, Dead to the World, introduced the characters. Gwen, Scott, and Ellie were trick-or-treating when they encountered a mysterious man.
You have to appreciate Gwen's Shaun of the Dead

Gwen eats a brain later and discovers that the mysterious man murdered the brain's owner in some sort of ceremony. The man turns out to be a mummy named John Amon who teaches Gwen the nature of zombies. See, there's this whole oversoul and undersoul thing.  Oversoul is the brain: "thoughts, memories, and personality." Undersoul is the heart: "appetites, emotions, and fears." Ghosts are bodiless oversouls. A bodiless undersoul is a poltergeist. Vampires have an oversoul, but drink blood because they lack an undersoul. The opposite, having the undersoul but seeking the memories of the oversoul is the zombie.

Meanwhile, a pair of hunters comes to town and starts to take out the local vampire population. One of them, Horatio, asks out Gwen. This is somewhat distressing to Scott, the wereterrier friend who has a crush on Gwen. I'm going to admit that I don't remember everything that happened and in which book. At some point, Gwen remembers her younger brother. Scott the wereterrier meets him and falls in love with him. The brother makes a pact with a comic book writer to be possessed with the spirit of his character, who is actually real and kind of homophobic, which messes up their relationship (That old cliche again!) Ellie the ghost makes friends with a Frankenstein monster and they end up falling in love. The mummy guy turns out to be kind of evil and a zombie. Also, his former friend has been working on a plan to summon a big bad entity that will destroy the world.

Out of the two, I definitely prefer the TV show. It's more streamlined and funny, though I would probably be super stoked if Rob Thomas brought on a wereterrier. The novels were not completely without their own charms. However, the lack of Ravi was unforgivable.