I chopped a good five or six inches off my hair yesterday. It’s the shortest it’s ever been now, I’m pretty sure. This is what it looked like when the stylist blowdried it. It, uh, doesn’t look like that when I blowdry it. But whatchagonnado?
Two very different books this week: historical romance and contemporary YA.
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
I was really looking forward to this one — I’d already read two of the Carsington Brothers series (Lord Perfect and Miss Wonderful) and found them charming, but both of the people who’d recommended them told me I’d like Mr. Impossible best, because a) it’s basically The Mummy in prose form (without an actual mummy) and b) Rupert is a charming scoundrel.
Basically, the book is about a scholar named Daphne, who has to pretend it’s her brother who’s the genius because no one will accept a woman who’s smarter than they are. But her brother gets kidnapped as they’re studying ancient Egypt, and the only one around who can help is Rupert. She and Rupert set off together and through a series of adventures, they fall in love. He thinks her smarts are hot, she thinks his hotness is hot (and it is!), and they have lots of good sex. Hooray!
My one complaint is that it’s set up very clearly at the beginning of the book that Daphne is the brains, where Rupert is the muscle; Daphne is logical where Rupert is rash. But Daphne spends a lot of the book bursting into tears and missing the obvious, while Rupert picks up on clues and does the actual mystery-solving. While Daphne’s smarts showed through in her scholar-ing (that’s a word now), when it came to the plot itself, it was very much an applied attribute. That said, I loved her character growth as she came to terms with being smart and not being ashamed of it, and began to embrace who she is. And I loved the romance (which is, obviously, kinda key to enjoying the book). She and Rupert are delightful, and I would read a million more books about their adventures.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
I’m honestly not quite sure what to say about this one. It’s really not my genre; while I read lots and lots of YA, very little of it is contemporary and of that, basically none of it is stories about mean girls and social hierarchies, because those are not things I particularly want to read about. But I adore Courtney — her twitter is super fun to follow if you love Lady Gaga or hate werewolves (or both!) — and despite it not being my genre, I enjoyed her debut novel, Cracked Up to Be, quite a bit.
And I can’t say I didn’t enjoy SGA. I read it in one sitting, and stayed up quite a bit past my bedtime to do so. It’s compelling. But it’s definitely a story about mean girls being mean. And not in the Lindsay Lohan-movie way. The book is brutal: it kicks off with an attempted rape, and the antagonists laugh about it and use it as a way to torment the protagonist throughout.
Speaking of the protagonist, Regina: she’s not nice either. She’s not a good person who’s dealing with bad things happening to her; she’s not sympathetic. She was one of the mean girls until she got frozen out, and Summers doesn’t shy away from the fact that Regina is basically exactly the same as the people tormenting her, she’s just on the receiving end for a change. It was definitely interesting; one of the main themes of the book was that everyone revels in being a bitch sometimes.1 It would have been dishonest if Regina hadn’t been, too. But that made it hard to root for her. It felt almost arbitrary that she was the protagonist and the girl she hated most was the antagonist; without changing much of the story before the very end, only flipping the point of view, it could have been about Kara getting back at Regina for a variety of horrible things Regina had done.
So ultimately, I’m not sure what to say. A few months ago, Courtney2 posted a very interesting blog entry about mean girls and writing SGA; looking through the comments, what I wrote in response was:
I really wonder if my own completely weirdo high school existences are why I don’t read much contemporary stuff and am much more drawn to sf/f. Hmmm. There wasn’t really a lot of bullying or cliqueishness in my school (that I was aware of); I never felt bullied or that I had to find a way to belong with my equally-weird friends. So I rarely see myself reflected in contemporary stuff and I rarely identify with the characters on either side.
Aside from the fact that I evidently wrote “existences” instead of “experiences,” I think that’s the best I can do to sum up my feelings on SGA. It was a good book; it just wasn’t a book for me. But Summers’ writing3 is compelling — I read both of her books cover-to-cover without stopping. So I would absolutely recommend to people who are into mean girls-style stories.
- Including the reader: why would you, by which I mean me, or to be grammatically correct, I, speed through a book about horrible people if there wasn’t at least a little visceral enjoyment in seeing people, you know, be horrible? ↩
- I can’t decide if I should be referring to her by first or last name in this post ↩
- There I go again. ↩