Now, it's not that I didn't read at all over break. But there were blogs to catch up on and movies to see, and I did actually spend several days catching up with family and friends and even my high school theater teacher. So today, I only have reviews of two books for you. Sigh. But I think I may just suck it up and carry hardbacks on the subway this week, because I remembered how good Leviathan was.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You know what they say about books and covers and not judging? Yeah. That. I know a lot of people loved this cover, but it just never grabbed me. I did, however, love Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty series, and also her response to the Soundalike Book Award Debacle this fall, so when I saw a signed copy of Beauty Queens at Books of Wonder, I decided it was worth adding to my collection. And then I sat down at the store and started reading it, and discovered that it was absolutely the funniest thing I've read in ages, and also makes a lot of really important, spot-on points about what we expect from girls and women. There are some stylistic choices that feel more like adult literary fiction than YA, which I think are great--footnotes and interjections from The Corporation--and if you're not used to that or into it, this book might take some getting used to. That kind of stuff isn't always my favorite, but Libba Bray just has the best, most twisted sense of humor and she made me love it. I can't really categorize this--there's sharp satire and social commentary, there's action-adventure, there's some steamy scenes, and there's a ton of glitter. What's not to love?
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note: This is a re-read, but I wanted to review all three books in the trilogy.
I think, in our discussions of gender and strong women and female characters with agency, we forget Deryn/Dylan Sharp, and it's a darn shame. The fact is, I think, that since Deryn is trying so hard to be boy, Westerfeld leaves out some of the girl traps that plague other writers. Deryn/Dylan is first and foremost concerned with her work, then with her platonic and collegial relationships. She notices, eventually, that Alek makes her feel a different way than the other folks around her, but really doesn't have the time to worry about it what with trying to save a great hulking ship-creature from impending explosions. And she's got swagger, that apparently essentially male something-or-other. I actually really like the way Westerfeld develops Deryn and Alek's relationship, with Alek constantly wishing he could be the kind of guy Deryn is (except, of course, that Deryn is just an awesome girl.) I really hope the rest of the series keeps this up.
There are other things I like too, of course--Westerfeld is one of my favorite world-creators, and he is a master of fabricating slang and dialect. Language plays a big role in the story and I think it's finely tuned. The divide between Darwinists and Clankers is a fascinating one that plays with ideas from our world without being preachy about either side. I knew I liked the book going into this re-read, and I'm definitely pleased that the second book is close at hand this time around.