Tuesday, April 23, 2019

JUST ONE OF THE BOYS by Leah and Kate Rooper

Rating: A sheet of ice that's serviceable but could stand seeing a zamboni

Highlight of note: A classic Shakespearean-type twin-swap but with hockey!

Will you read more by these authors? I already own the next book in the series, so yeah.

I picked this up because I needed something light and cuddly after having a negative experience with Fan Girl triggering my anxiety disorder. (Or possibly some sort of PTSD-like response.) So I wasn't wanting something deep or complex. That's good, because this is neither deep nor complicated.

The basic principle is one the authors tell us is from Korean dramas but which I know from Shakespeare: once upon a time there were twins who looked exactly alike despite being different genders and people couldn't tell which was which and hijinks ensued.

At the start of the book, twins Alice and Alexander try out for a junior league hockey team, the Falcons. Alice is much better at hockey than her brother, so it's not surprising that she makes the team and he doesn't. But, whoa! The coach realizes "Al Bell" is a *gasp* girl and quickly insists he meant the other Bell, even though the league rules don't prohibit women. Al is rightful pissed, although she ignored this later in the story.

Before Xander gets a chance to meet the team at his first practice, he breaks his leg. So no hockey for Xander, who kinda sucks at it anyway. But in sweeps Alice! She'll save his career by playing as him this season!

Yes, it is as silly as it sounds. With help from a team medical volunteer who knows Xander from theater, Alice binds her boobies, pretends to be allergic to soap to excuse herself from showers, and goes around talking in a voice that the other narrator describes as ridiculous. So, yeah... Not really the most believable tale, but a fun one.

Al shares first person narration duties with Hayden. He's the star of the Falcons, and the brother of the captain of the local NHL franchise. Is he as good as his brother? Everyone wants to know, and as one might expect this pressure causes problems, mostly with his attitude. He missed the ending of the last season due to misconduct and finds himself in the penalty box as often as he finds himself scoring.

The pair learn to play together, then become friends. And eventually realize they love each other. I fully approve of stories where the couple prove themselves as friends first, so I mark that in this story's favor.

Unfortunately, for character complications, the authors relied on the shortcuts of past traumas. Hayden's parents died a few years ago and Al's dad abandoned the family when she and her twin were in preschool. All of their issues can really be traced back to these events.

Al has a lot of conflict with her mother, who I never fully understood. Both the mother and Xander are constantly accusing Al of being selfish, but she honestly doesn't seem any worse than they are and it somewhat annoyed me that she eventually decides she needs to do better but they show no signs of improvement. I would have expected to feel more sympathy for Al's mother because she seemed to want to be more connected to her kids than she was, but she was so stubbornly insistent that they connect on her terms that it was hard to really feel bad for her.

Hayden's brother was actually very well done, I thought. He seemed both real and smarter than anyone else in the book. I'm a little sad that the story wasn't about him hooking up with his wife.

Overall, this was a cute book that I don't regret reading, but there were two things that I think would have vastly improved it. They're the sort of thing that really makes me wish I was friends with the writers and had been able to give this as beta feedback. I'll talk about them after a cut since they're most certainly spoilers.


Spoilers follow


Okay... My biggest problem? No one ever catches on Al's an Alice until they're told at the end.

I was really hoping the coach had the sense to figure it out as soon as he saw her play, since he'd also seen her brother, but let the charade continue because she was good. He could have had a whole arc where he comes to accept that he should have let her join as a female from the get-go. There could have been a lovely scene where he admitted he knew she was a girl, but tells her that what's important is that she's a damned good hockey player. And maybe he said that when she told him. That happens after the book ends, so we'll never know. But what if the news that she was a she broke before the last game and he got to give a while speech to the boys about, "Don't be idiots. She's part of the team and you WILL respect her as such."

I would have also loved to see at least one of the teammates catch on. Maybe the playboy character, who could have called her on it but said he'd happily keep her secret if she kept on scoring. Or, hey, maybe he doesn't realize she's playing a con and just figures he's talking to a transboy. Perhaps he tells her about his cousin, because his cousin is trans and the family is having mixed reactions. Maybe then she could feel some complex emotions in regards to how for some people body dysmorphia is a real thing and she could wonder if she's lessening their experience with her playacting.

Also... Hayden thinks of Al as a friend up until he finds out she's a female and suddenly he's in love with her. How much better would the story have been if he'd spent a long time questioning if he's really as straight as he thinks he is and eventually decides that he loves Al, and if Al's a guy then that means he can love another guy? Why is it only romantic love when he realizes she has girly-bits? To me, that makes it seem both more shallow and more sudden than the gradually evolving affection Al developed for him.

So, I wanted Coach to figure out what was going on and I wanted Hayden to decide he loved Al regardless of Al's gender. And I wanted some acknowledgement that while Al isn't trans, there are people who are. I think that those things would have taken this book from acceptable fluff and made it something actively good.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.



12% Ok, I knew this book was going to be silly. But she bought hair extensions to avoid her mom knowing she cut her hair? Does the author have any idea how long hair extensions take to put in? This plan requires a wig. Yes, it would be an expensive wig, but that many extensions are also expensive.

15% Um... If Alice is telling people she's Al, what are they going that think when Xander comes back? I mean, technically he is Alexander, but he doesn't answer to Al.

16% "Do you know who I am?" "Yeah. You're someone who lost the puck." ROFL. This is going to be fun. I just hope Hayden doesn't get all homophobic when he starts listing after this upstart rookie.

17% Ha! Coach says it's better not to have a Captain at all than to name Hayden. That oughta be a wake-up call when Hayden stops being pissy. (For the record, I agree with the coach even though he's a sexist twit.) ... Except Hayden's not pissy. He's depressed. That's not as motivating.

21% Coach needs to put Hayden on a different line from Al if he isn't going to pass to her. ... Actually, now that I think about it, I don't understand how this team does lines. They don't really seem to have them.

22% I'm not sure why Al skating in the figure skating event is such a big deal. It doesn't sound like she's done any competing in figure skating, so who knows who she is? How's she rate the closing number? Chicago actually has a figure skating scene.

29% Xander has a secret he wouldn't want the league to know. My money's on him being gay.

33% Um... Al was supposed to go on a date with the cheating guy who's blackmailing her brother. Did she do that? Or did she make up an excuse not to go? Because no mention is made of this.

33% Hey! Hayden refered to Al being on his line! Lines do exist on this team!

61% Hayden is upset thinking Al is with Madison even though he still thinks Al's a dude. Does he just figure he should have been told before catching them together or has he admitted to himself he has feelings for Al and hasn't acted because the gay thing is new to him?

66% His hands are all in her hair and he doesn't notice the extensions? How drunk is he?

77% The reveal went about as well as one would expect.

The End

Would have liked for Coach not to be too stupid to figure out what had happened. Would also have liked Hayden to do more examination of his sexuality. He didn't realize he loves Al until after finding out she was Alice. What if he'd realized it and faced a realization he might be bisexual?

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Rating: A rare figurine of a galactic superheroine and a lanyard full of con badges.

Highlight of note: The LGBTQ geek rep in this book is both abundant and highly positive.

Will you read more by this author? Absolutely!

The cover of this book says it's a Geekerella Fairy Tale whereas Goodreads lists is as Once Upon a Con book two. This leaves me unsure what the series title is but certain it's a fun universe worth reading. In Geekerella, we were treated to a loose retelling of Cinderella with elements of Little Shop on the Corner. Now we get the Prince and Pauper as a hollywood starlet finds a double amongst the fandom of her new sci-fi film. Honestly, the reasons for switching seemed a little dubious to me. Something need investigating, but the starlet never does anything the fangirl couldn't have done for her if fangirl hadn't been busy pretending to be a movie star. (Other than fall in love with her opposite's friend...) Nevertheless, the tale was funny and cute and uplifting, so it's easy to forgive a questionable premise, shrug, and maintain that even if it was a silly thing to do, it was what they thought of doing.

Like Geekerella, this book is told by alternating first person narration. However as the two narrators are not love-interests in this novel and the books are of comparable length, each romantic arc receives less pagetime. I think this made it more difficult for me to feel as invested in them as I wanted. It was nice to see both arcs, one a boy-girl pairing and the other girl-girl, be treated in exactly the same manner though. Both girls found their love interests attractive, both had good conversations, and both felt sparks. It truly lives up the "love is love" motto that I fully believe in.

The narrators' characters are both well defined and vibrant. The male love interest was a little more filled-out than the female one due to him having pagetime with both narrators, but the female love interest showed some hints of complexity. The fangirl is the more likable narrator, at least if one assumes the target audience is those of us who embrace being geeks. The starlit spends a lot of time being dismissively confused by people's passions for their fandoms and the con, and I certainly found it hard to root too hard for someone who feels loving sci-fi and fantasy franchises is silly. She does come around, but I think a lot of people would be fed up with her by the time she did.

I continue to be sad Starfield isn't a real show. Maybe one day we'll get lucky and Poston will write a novel in that universe.

Overall, I didn't love The Princess and the Fangirl as much as Geekerella, but I still enjoyed it and look forward to other books from Poston. I can think of at least one co-star who could easily be the focus of their own book.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.


13% I am officially jealous that this convention has a venue that allows unaffiliated food venders. That stains my suspension of disbelief far more than random girl passing as a famous actress.

14% Why is she so uncurious about the envelope? Even if it's contracts (and not the script as the cover material has me assuming), shouldn't she want to see what the studio is trying to get her to do?

15% What Jess wants in a make is incredibly different from what I want... Also, I can't help but compare her to Dare, who is SO much more likable. We saw him briefly and it made me want more of him.

21% Why did Jess just refer to her chai as coffee? I've never heard of chai coffee before. The spices don't seem like they'd go well. (Note: someone responded to a beta read for me by saying "Isn't he allergic to coffee?" when a character ordered a chai latte and I realized not everyone knows a chai latte is tea. So I guess I shouldn't be amazed this got it wrong, but that's at minimum an author and an editor who lack this basic piece of information that my son could have provided by age six.)

28% "She really does detest him." And yet it's pretty obvious they'll be smooching by the end of the book. I'm assuming Jess will hookup with the boothmate, although I guess it could be the ex. Or possibly nobody if the cover material was misleading.

30% Imogen just said contacts are like condoms for her eyeballs. I had rather pegged her as someone inexperienced with condoms...

32% At this point, I'm surprised Jess can identify a sailor scout uniform.

35% "Clearly Ethan is cosplaying as a douche with a giant stick up his butt." The line is funny primarily because that's exactly what he's doing: cosplaying a professional assistant. I'm wondering what will tip Imogen off that this isn't the real him.

36% I question whether Dare is being nice because he's Jess's friend. He is. But I think he's caught on that this is the same imposter from before.

37% I'm actually wondering if the director is the leak. The last page of the script introduced the bad guy but didn't say who he was. At the same time he's being revealed at a panel. That seems a big coincidence.

38% Yeah, Dare knew she wasn't Jess.

40% Imogen's impressed Ethan caught a Hamilton reference. Her bar for being impressed is pretty low.

42% Pretzel Man is wise. He totally abides! (He just informed Jess she's too young to be comfortable enough with herself to truly love a scifi franchise.)

43% I'm hazy on the timeline, but it looks like the director was in the area the last leaked tweet came from. So he's either the leak or a deliberate red herring. Runner up in my mind for likely culprit is the actress who originally played Amara, who is also in the right place.

44% Okay, Jess telling people she's cosplaying Jessica Stone on Vacation was cute.

48% Yep, Jess is totally bi and into the boothmate chick.

49% Oh, no, Imogen. Do not go out with the skeezy actor. That will not go well. Ethan will wind up having to punch him like a Nazi or something. (And, really, she noticed how Ethan was looking at her but thought he forgot she wasn't Jess? How clueless can a girl be?)

55% Actor guy didn't call. Or called Jess maybe. Either way, Imogen dodged a bullet there, I'm thinking.

67% Another script leak during a panel. It's really suspicious timing. But now the lead is dying? That's... An odd direction for a series to take.

67% And director guy is late for the panel, so he wasn't in sight when the leak posted.  So, yeah, it's either him or we're supposed to think it's him.

73% And now Imogen's going out with skeezy actor. Who also missed the panel where the last leak was, but who wasn't mentioned as being near the scene of the one by the dress. Also not there was the guy who plays their version of Spock, who is also an asshole and who would be petty if people were getting copies of the script and he wasn't one of them. But my money is still on Director Guy.

77% Yep, skeezy actor turned out to be a skeeze.

86% Wise Old Pretzel Man is the guy who originally played Dare's character! I did NOT predict that.

88% And the leak is... The director. Do I win a prize?

90% That speech was a lovely end to Jess's redemptive arc.

90% Imogen just asked if "that old guy from Star Wars" sounds like the Joker to anyone else. I really hope that was tongue in cheek and she recognizes that Mark Hammil voiced the Joker. Otherwise she just lost a lot of geek cred.

92% Taking a megaphobe to the top of a food truck to blare your apology to your love interest is an excellent grand gesture.

97% And the stair thing was cute. Kinda predictable, but cute.

98% And Jess will be there for filming the next movie, which will now be directed by the woman who originally played her role! Happy ending!

The End

Friday, April 12, 2019

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell


Thing of Note: Needs a trigger warning for anxiety. 

The main character's social anxiety is described accurately enough for me to have a panic attack in response to it. This is also the reason I'm marking the book Did Not Finish and moving on in the third chapter. The book isn't bad, but I can't handle this level of triggering right now.

I didn't read enough of this book to feel that I should give it things like ratings. It's probably a good book; a lot of people think it is anyway. And it's the book Simon Snow was born in and I quite liked his book, Carry On. But this girl is me.

To be fair, Cath's not reacting as poorly as the me who's reading about this is. (I'm crying as I type this, but think it's important to get out. Both for my mental health and to help others understand.) But she's doing things I did in my high school dorm. The only reason I survived there with my anxiety was that I had a room to myself after the first month. (That month was HARD. I was with my sister, who doesn't actually trigger my anxiety, but she had a constant stream of friends, many of whom were there to play games on my computer since this was before most students had one. I spent a lot of time huddled in the corner of my bed hiding in a book as I struggled not to sob until I was alone. My fellow dormies weren't bad, scary people. They weren't toxic or anything. If anything, they were unusually nice people in general. But even when I had my own room, my anxiety was a constant. More than once I'd cower next to my door desperately needing to pee but waiting until I couldn't hear anyone in the hall to sprint to the bathroom.)

The spot I broke off in features Cath sitting at her computer. She wants to write but can't because there are Other People moving around behind her. She's starving, but can't eat. Why? Because she hasn't managed to force her way to the cafeteria yet (I spent two years not eating meals because I couldn't handle mine) and she doesn't want to break out her jar of peanut butter in front of the roommate and the roommate's boyfriend.

Maybe Cath pulls out of this, although if she does it for any reason other than obtaining a proper diagnosis, suitable medication, and an excellent therapist, I'd call it abilist bullshit. As she doesn't even seem to recognize she has an anxiety disorder, I'm not optimistic. It's also possible she winds up in a hospital, but my money is on she makes some friends and suddenly everything is better because that's the sort of inane thing people have advised me to do. It's the exact same crap as telling someone with depression that they'd be better if they watched more comedies.

The cover material describes Cath as "outside of her comfort zone" which I feel was a significant understatement. If it had been more honest about the degree of "discomfort" I probably would have avoided it, or at least not tried to read it while I was going through a period of increased anxiety.

I'm not going to bother adding my notes because I've shared most of what was in them anyway. I related to Cath. Then I related too much. Then I couldn't breathe or see the screen through my tears. Then I was meditating in the dark trying to calm down enough to possibly go to sleep.

This morning, I told someone, "I think I have to abandon the book I'm reading. It's triggering my anxiety." She stopped me there and said, "Do it. You're crying just saying that much and no one is forcing you to read this thing."

So... Yeah. I'm going to post this, cry a little, and start a cheesy hockey romance novel I bought a while back because everything in my library reading queue is too serious and dark for today.

And maybe tomorrow I'll review the book I read before starting this one. I renjoyed it and it didn't make me cry at all.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry

Rating: An enormous heart-shaped box of gourmet chocolates suitable for the goddess of love Herself.

Highlight of note: The two mortal love stories in this novel are expertly narrated by Aphrodite as she testifies before her husband, with occasional sections where the narrative is taken over by another deity. Aphrodite is an omniscient narrator who blatantly interferes with events from time to time as part of her mission to spread romance through the mortal world.

Will you read more by this author? I absolutely intend to.

Favorite Quote: "Marriage was simpler, he realizes, when the game plan was 'catch her in a net.'"

The Canaanite goddess Astarte, often seen as a predecessor of Aphrodite, was a goddess not only of love but also of war. So it's not really news that romance and war are often linked, nor that love stories in times of war have poignancy and power.

This tale starts in a hotel in New York during World War II, where Hephaestus catches his wife, Aphrodite, with his brother Aries, the god of war. Apollo and Hades are both brought in as witnesses. As the goddess begins to explain herself, Aphrodite delves into the stories of two mortal couples who met during the last year of the first World War. The deities provide a chorus-like commentary throughout the novel, but also have their own story. Aphrodite is the principal narrator for the mortal tale, but the duty of storytelling shifts in some sections to Apollo, Hades, and Ares, who take turns when things delve more into their realms.

The four members of the two mortal couples are all interesting and vibrant characters. James and Hazel are young and English. They'd hoped the war would be over before they were old enough to deal with it, but it wasn't. They meet just before James ships off to France and, with some meddling by the goddess of love, embark on a romance that stretches through his time in service. The other pair are Collette, a survivor of the German invasion of Belgium that slaughtered most of her hometown, and Aubrey, an African-American jazz musician who fights not only the Germans but the appalling racism of his era. They realize fairly quickly that they belong together, but the reality was that an interracial relationship in 1918 was something that could be met with a life-threatening level of intolerance. For a good part of the book I was worried not that the Germans would kill Aubrey but that a white American would.

The deities are all characters I was highly familiar with and I feel they're portrayed excellently. At one point Hephaestus is described as not knowing whether to laugh or smash a window, which is exactly what I imagine being married to Aphrodite is like. In another spot, Aries puts on a shirt to recognize the solemnity of the occasion, but doesn't button it because he doesn't want to deny the world the sight of his abs.

I can't say enough about how effective Berry's writing is. I laughed, yes, but I also cried on multiple occasions. Usually, I don't particularly care for books making me cry, but with this one, the tears just seemed part of the art.

The voice of this book is something I can't really describe but absolutely adored. It's serious and full of beauty, but also contains large amounts of whimsy and clever turns of phrase. I'm definitely eager to read more from Berry.

In short, I adored this novel.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.


6% We open with Aphrodite being caught in a hotel room with Aries by Hephaestus. She declares that she can neither love not be loved. She is now going to explain by telling two stories. This is a truly fascinating start. I love the deities and the concept but also the voice.

8% Okay, I am absolutely loving the way Aphrodite is telling this story as an omniscient witness. And I love that some humans can see her.

12% These few paragraphs that focus on Hephaestus are interesting. He compares Aphrodite's work to his craft and seems to really be respecting it.

20% Oh, man. Called in early to the war without having kissed the girl because he was supposed to do that the morning he was supposed to leave. My heart hurts. This is really well told.

24% Ares puts on a shirt because "a court appearance demands decorum." He doesn't button it though.

35% I'm liking the Aubrey / Collette romance. And adoring Aubrey in general.

40% I'm rather worried the racist southern asshats are going to kill Aubrey before the Germans get a chance...

50% Oh. Wow. Aubrey's declarations to Collette really reasonate emotionally. This is remarkably effective writing.

51% Ah, shit. Did they just kill Joey?

53% Dangit. Joey's afterlife scene made me cry.

57% This book keeps making me cry! This time it's the scene in the church were they light candles for the Germans James shot.

67% I am literally sick to my stomach with worry about Operation Michael. I remember it being ultimately unsuccessful but that more Alliea died than Germans.

68% It's unfortunate that decades after these events someone would make a sci-fi film where the bad guys, who wear silly face-covering helmets and can't hit a target to save their Empire, are called storm troopers because it makes what was very tense and terrifying sound a little silly to someone of my generation or younger because the narrative keeps going on about the storm troops swarming the lines.

70% Poor broken James... But he seems to have survived. That's something.

77% I feel that maybe I should be upset at James for  refusing to see Hazel, but I hurt for him. I wonder what the sister is going to do. There's no way she's following her mum's order not to interfere.

78% I love Aphrodite and her meddling.

86% Aphrodite says we can end here, with both our couples happy. I kind of want to, especially as it's Ares who wants the stories continued.

87% Holy shit. Exploding train. I'd somewhat foolishly figured the girls were safe.

89% Saved by Aphrodite's pleas to Hades. Literally a deus ex machina. And I'm okay with it.

91% The gods are crying. Even Area took a handkerchief. Can't say I blame them.

92% What a beautiful ever after story for Hazel and James. <3

93% So sad about Jim Europe. Note to self: research if he was real. The bit about being the first black man to have a funeral from the City of New York makes me think he was.

94% Not as much a happy story for our other pair. Thank you, American racism. But I'm happy they had each other even if they were having to deal with hate and ridiculousness from others.

95% Aphrodite using her boon to ask Hades to protect the children of our couples in the new war made me cry again.

96% Aphrodite cracks me up. I knew the frame story was also a romance, so I should have realized she was behind the entire set up.

"He doesn't know whether to laugh or smash a window." ROFL. Yeah, that sounds like what being married to Aphrodite would be like.

"Marriage was simpler, he realizes, when the game plan was 'catch her in a net.'"

An amazingly sweet ending. Aphrodite and Hephaestus are going to meet up some morning for coffee and lemon cake, just like Hazel and James. And I'm very happy for them.

Jim Europe was, in fact, real. He's credited for starting France's love of jazz, whiich means he's indirectly responsible for the fact that one of the few things I know how to say in French is "I listen to Jazz records."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Rating: A campfire that keeps going out and needing to be rekindled.

Highlight of note: It's a sapphic romance with Latinx flavorings.

Will you read the next book in this series? Possibly. If I notice when it comes out and still remember this book. (There's no release yet, but I'm assuming sometime in 2020.) 

I was really excited when I read the prologue for this book and found out the society I was going to be reading about imitated a god who had two wives. Was this a polyamorous YA novel? If so, it would only be the second one I'd come across. Sadly, it was not. Although the families at the upper end of the society all feature men with two wives, he's only sexually involved with one of them and the women aren't expected to be more than friends. It's actually really insulting as one wife, the Primera, is expected to be intelligent while the other, the Segunda, is expected to be sexy. Because according to these people, women can't (or shouldn't?) be both.

The polygamy is set up to be one of the broken things about the governing class of the island. It's better to be lower class and love one person. The notion that there could be triads out there where they all love each other is never floated, despite the fact that the parents-in-law in this novel are presented as having a well functioning marriage. Part of this is the upper class people not marrying for love trope, but since the polygamy is limited to the upper classes, it comes across as undesirable and something people shouldn't be cool with. And, honestly, the way they do it is messed up to me.

The story focuses on a teen named Dani. We meet her just before she is married to a young man who may be destined to be the next leader of their nation. The husband never shows any sign of redeeming qualities, being a shallow spoiled brat sort of villian. The other woman in their marriage is Carmen, who has been bullying Dani the entire five years they were at wife school. (Yes, wife school. They called it something else. I forget what. But it was wife school.) She is the love interest.

I was actually a little surprised and happy Carmen wound up as the love interest. I had thought it was going to be the male revolutionary who showed up just before the wedding to provide Dani with fake identification papers and enlist her in the rebel cause. And they could still end up as a triad, although I doubt it as the author really doesn't seem to like the triad idea very much. If she did, she would have arranged the school differently. The girls go through taking separate classes for Primeras and Segundas, and having little to do with each other except in passing. Someone who thought a three-way marriage was something that could be achieved happily would probably have set the school up so that the girls were paired earlier and allowed to bond with each other before meeting their husband. As it is, the only reason I can see for them being at the same school was to allow Dani and Carmen to have a history of hurt and antagonism.

I thought while I was reading it that I liked the book, but now that I'm writing about it I'm starting to think that maybe I didn't. I wasn't really very invested in Dani, so waiting over a week to write the review means I've forgotten some of what kept me going and am just remembering the things that bugged me. They're bugging me more now that there's no story to distract me from them. Looking over my notes, it seems I was more caught up in the romance than I remember being, so I suppose it worked well enough but lacked something that would make it truly memorable.

This is really a fairly standard dystopian YA. The teens are outraged about injustice and unfairness, and have valid reasons to be because the government is incredibly bad. Whole sections of the population are walled off to starve while the rich insult them for existing, the girls are trapped in a relationship with an arrogant and potentially violent creep, and the leaders of the resistance are all under twenty.

The vilains make little sense. The only reason the Garcia family indicates for choosing Dani to marry their son is that they think it will give them political pull to have him married to someone low class. (She's worse than they know. They think she's from near the wall, and thus undesirable. She's actually from over the wall, and thus not legally able to be near them at all.) It's never indicated that this really matters. While the leader of the government is called a president, it's pretty obvious that he's not the sort that makes it into office by popular vote. None of them have any depth, being caricatures of nasty elitist snobs.

Neither Dani nor Carmen really engaged me all that much, although I can't say why really. Yeah, Dani tries too hard to be an ice queen; she was trained to be one. But the problem there is the society, not Dani. I suppose that's the heart of my problem with the novel: it's less about overcoming oneself and more about destroying an evil society/government. A society/government that will, I'm sure, eventually be brought down by teenagers deciding to care. Maybe I'm just getting too jaded and old to believe in that sort of tale anymore.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.


3% Romantic triad in the prologue!

4% Whoa. So the MC's society expects everyone to be in a triad. This will either make me very happy or very annoyed. I'm already concerned about the society. It's not openly polyamorous. It's just that men all have two wives. So what happens to the other half of men? And what about a woman who wants two wives? How would a man with three wives be treated? Or one with a single wife for that matter? 

(Note from later: apparently only ruling class men get two wives. Lower classes enter two person unions, but I suspect they're bitter about it because they'll have fewer available women than if rich guys didn't get two.)

(Note from even later: apparently the Primera's aren't sexual with anyone? Not the husbands, not the Segundas, not random gardeners... That's messed up, because I'm pretty sure they aren't all asexual and a lot of them would like to have sex lives.)

8% An attractive rebel. His name is Sota, but I'm going to call him Love Interest.

11% So, what are the odds on this obnoxious Carmen person being the Segunda in Dani's marriage? It seems that should have been mentioned, but her counterpart hasn't been mentioned at all. Does she not know who it is? In which case it's almost definitely Carmen.

13% The marriage ceremonies are pretty sweet if you ignore that they're all arranged by people who aren't the participants.

13% Yep, her Segunda is Carmen.

20% Carmen is intriguing me. She's clearly smarter than a Segunda is supposed to be. And the line about the protesters will stop when they're not hungry anymore shows sympathy, or at least awareness of problems people unlike herself have. (Or are they unlike herself? She's supposed to be from a wealthy background, but she was on Dani's bus to school. I'm sure it went to other neighborhoods, but I doubt it went too far up the mountain.) Almost wondering if Carmen is the Love Interest rather than Soto. Or if they're supposed to be one of these "high class" triads that don't exist on the other side of the wall.

23% Yeah, I'm with Dani that it's freaky how Mateo is looking at Carmen. It's also a little weird that a Primera doesn't have to have sex. I wonder if some of them do or if that's looked down on. Also, it sucks that the Segunda is supposed to serve meals like she's a servant. Is that regular or just this messed up family?

28% Nice tearing of a new asshole, Dani! Soto is clearly too used to being able to get girls to do what he wants them to.

29% Carmen saw Soto leave. Somehow I'm not surprised. I am surprised she was out collecting caterpillars.

42% After knowing her for over five years, Dani still knows nothing of Carmen's background. That supports my theory that Carmen isn't what she pretends to be 

43% Um, yeah, so Dani definitely seems to be attracted to undressed Carmen...

51% Mateo just becomes less and less likable. He started out spoiled and insincere but is in danger of being a caricature of a bad guy at this point. I'd like to see him have a bit of personality beyond being odious.

53% And, yes, Carmen was on the bus way back when because she was from near the wall too. I really don't understand how the otherwise intelligent Dani never figured that out. It does make one wonder though; why did the Garcias, who are the worst of elitists, pick the two girls from the wall? The Primera choosing Dani for political appearances almost makes sense, but Mama Garcia is openly hateful about salty blood, so why pick a girl from the wall to bear her grandchildren?

Also... Yeah, Carmen is most definitely a love interest.

54% Mama Garcia knows someone's been in contact with someone. My bet is she has something on Carmen, not Dani. I'm thinking both the marriages were designed as traps.

55% Hmm... Why does Mama Garcia smell funny? Something floral over something metallic... perfume to cover up illness? Or poison?

58% This date the girls are on is adorable.

61% I like the transformation in Dani's grit.

63% I somehow doubt Carmen is buying the pretense behind this trip. But even if she is, this seems like the sort of like it's easy to get caught in. What happens when the family tries to send flowers to someone who isn't in the hospital and never was?

76% The scene with Carmen and Dani assuring each other their feelings are real was intense and touching. Very well done.

85% Mama Garcia's having an affair with the driver??? I did NOT see that coming.

87% Yeah, I have a lot of questions about Alex knowing Carmen. Because she really seems to.Was I right about her being a spy?

The lovers separate. Dani's mission goes on. Carmen is with the resistance. Sucks to be Dani right now.