Friday, February 10, 2017

Mini Reviews: Girl Mans Up; Blood Red, Snow White, and Same Difference

I haven't been blogging much.  But I have been reading, and while I haven't been writing up full reviews, I did jot down my thoughts on several books over on Goodreads.  I'm sharing them here as well now, in batches.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Okay, first, I don't know if I've ever hated a character as much as I hate Colby, Pen's neighbor and "friend." He's almost comically evil, but we've all known guys like him, sadly enough.

Pen is adorable, although I think she'd be pissed at me for saying so. She is a girl who looks like a boy and who likes girls, but she's still a girl too. Her Portuguese immigrant parents are super freaked out by this, and spend a lot of time trying to heap guilt and shame on her. Her gamer friends are starting to get weird about her role in their lives. Her crush might not be as straight as she'd originally assumed, and one of her "friend's" cast-offs seems like she might actually become Pen's first female friend. Things are changing rapidly, and her big brother doesn't seem to be in her corner any more.

There's a lot of "seems" in that brief synopsis. Pen is an inadvertently unreliable narrator. She's not lying, but there's a lot she doesn't get. Girard is adept at making Pen's confusion and obtuseness seem entirely believable while still giving the readers enough info to read between the lines. Pen is trying so hard to just live her life, and I was rooting for her from page one. Watching her grown into herself is terrific, if painfully slow at times, and the people around her also start to "man up" in various ways. 

(Unrelated question: why can't any of the teens drive in this book? I actually looked up the driving age in Canada to see if it was set higher than 16, but it's not. So either these are a bunch of 14 year old seniors, or I'm being super American to assume that even teens who don't own their own car have access to one.)

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
I picked this book up because I've been wanting to read more Sedgwick, and because the title reminded me of my favorite fairy tale, Snow White and Rose Red. I didn't know it was loosely fictionalized history of author Arthur Ransome's years as a journalist and sort-of spy in revolutionary era Russa. 

At the start, it's very fairy tale-ish, but having studied Russian history in college, all these many years ago, I started figuring out the allegories--who these men with their tidy beards were, why the bear slept twelve years. And then...

it switched into much more traditional narrative style. I spent a few confused moments working out that Arthur Ransome is not Arthur Rackham, and then that Ransome was a real person too. (Very American of me to never have read Swallows and Amazons, I'm sure.) 

Each section of the book was slightly less appealing to me. I really liked the dreamy fairy tale first bit. The middle section, in which Ransome is shown thinking back on his time in Russia while nervously getting ready for some sort of spy gig, was not as fun, but still quite interesting. In the final section, told in first person, the convoluted politics started to make my head spin. 

And the only reason I can see for this being considered YA is that the author is known for his YA work. Although again, Midwinterblood didn't seem particularly YA to me either. Who decides these things, anyway? Both books are quite a bit more subtle and intelligent than, say The Help.   (The book I read had a different cover than the one pictured here, but I prefer this one.  I probably wouldn't have been as surprised to find myself reading a novel about the Russian Revolution if the book told me so right on the cover like that.  Plus, the St. Basil's skyline is always so cool.)

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
Is this New Adult? I think it might be. I've had trouble pinning down what that categorization might be, but this is about a couple of people in their early twenties mulling over how they've changed since their teens, so...pretty new adult-ish. I liked Nancy and Simon a lot. Simon is super self obsessed, as Nancy points out, but he's getting there. Nancy is a bunch of fun, and the situation she gets herself into as an adult balances out the situation Simon got himself into in high school. Both of their embarrassments are resolved with dignity.

Of these three, I loved Girl Mans Up, really liked Same Difference, and had mixed emotions about Blood Red, Snow White, but I suspect I'll remember it longer than I do Same Difference.


  1. Nice reviews! I’ve heard of all of these, but I haven’t read any of them. I’ve finished 4 Sedgwick books now and have another one sitting on my shelf. They do vary a lot in quality. Some are “meh,” others are amazing. I’m determined to get through all of them, though.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Yeah, even after having just read two of his books, I think he's worth taking a chance on.

  2. Sometimes genres and age groups are really hard to pin down. I agree that Same Difference sounds like NA, though.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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