What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume
Maisie Martin never thought she’d enter a beauty pageant. Everything this summer is going to shit—from her dad staying home while she and her mom head to the beach to her best friend hooking up with the boy Maisie’s loved her entire life to annoying as fuck Beamer to her sister being horrible and amazing to her having to write everything down in a stupid journal all summer. But now she’s in a beauty pageant, and somehow she’s going to have to rock a swimsuit.
I am SCREAMING! It’s basically Australian Dumplin but read this damn book! Read it! Read it! Read it!
I saw this quote on Instagram one time, this thing about how nobody can really love you until you love yourself. But how can you love yourself when even the people who are supposed to love you no matter what can’t accept what you are?
Maisie’s voice immediately jumped off the page for me. She was snarky, teenaged and whip-smart, which hid a wealth of insecurities and just…teenness that had me rolling on the floor and/or crying in sympathy.
Forget a minimum drinking age, there needs to be a maximum drinking age. People over the age of thirty-five should have more dignity. It’s embarrassing to us all.
Lol, it’s so true. I loved Maisie’s parents, who acted like real parents of teens today instead of the stand-ins for the author’s parents (which happens in so many YA books that it’s not even funny), and especially Maisie’s mom’s friend Lauren, who was The Best.
At the base of Maisie’s insecurities is her body. She is fat, and has hid herself from the world because she’s been faced with nothing but hatred about her body and her body’s existence her entire life. From her mother to her sister to her best friend to everyone else, her size has been an issue. And seeing her sister’s new girlfriend sends her on even more of a nosedive, since her perfect, fat-shaming sister is dating a girl who is fat.
Maisie has accepted her roll as the ugly friend, especially since her BFF is conventionally pretty. But Anna is recovering from a bad breakup, which leads Maisie to invite her along to her family’s beach house, where Anna meets Maisie’s long-time super secret crush and summer friend, Sebastian.
Sebastian, being hot, and Anna, also being hot, immediately hit it off and start snogging all over the place…after Anna guilts Maisie into letting her hook up with the boy she knows Maisie has adored her entire life.
This leaves Maisie stuck with Sebastian’s best friend Beamer, AKA the reason Maisie isn’t as close as she once was with Sebastian, AKA The Worst, AKA he eats his own boogers. And Beamer literally won’t let up on Maisie.
Then of course there’s the beauty pageant, which really doesn’t feature as strongly as the blurb might lead you to believe. This is less about beauty pageants and more about friendship and family. And I suppose realizing that relationships can be right under your nose the entire time, but honestly the book was less romance for me than coming of age/Maisie learning to love herself.
So with all this teenaged nonsense why did I enjoy this book so much?
One, Maisie’s voice is incredibly funny (and that ending, omg).
And two, this is a love letter to teenagers and growing up. Of evolving relationships and healing and forgiveness…or not. Of learning what is okay and what is not, and how friendships can change over the years. Sometimes breaking up with a friend can be harder than with a sexual partner, and sometimes friendships change so much they no longer resemble what they once were.
And three, this is a book about learning to love yourself, in whatever shape you come in. And realizing that it’s not brave to just exist—that’s setting the bar pretty damn low.
But me, just existing in my body? Wearing things that perform a function? Nah, I don’t think that’s brave.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
What I Like About Me released April 1, 2020, from Peachtree Publishing.
The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton
Trigger Warning: drug abuse, emotional abuse
Kit Sweetly is a Wench who wants to be a Knight—if only the patriarchal hegemony ruling The Castle Corporation would give her a chance to succeed. When a chance opportunity to take over for her brother leads to her revealing herself as The Girl Knight and a video of her “I am no man!” speech goes viral, Kit seizes the opportunity to allow herself—and a group of non cis male knight wannabes—her chance in the tournament grounds once and for all.
This was a solid debut novel that tries to smash the patriarchy with lances and swords.
Did it succeed? Sure?
Was it entertaining? Hell yes.
Kit has a lot going on in her life, with college hopes and A Plan that will lead her family out of poverty once and for all. Her mother and brother have both been working two jobs to make ends meet after their feckless father ran off with their college savings and emergency funds, leaving them all broke and stuck paying the mortgage for their house.
Kit tries to help with her job as a wench at The Castle, a medieval dinner-faire where attendees eat anachronistic medieval food and watch men in armor bash each other with swords, but her heart is on the ground wielding a sword herself.
Not hiding how poor she is to her best friends Jett and Layla.
Not worrying about getting into college or paying for college.
Not trying to figure out how to keep the lights on.
Not agonizing over what their mother has done to cause them to be three months behind in their mortgage payments.
I particularly liked the representation in this book. It’s filled with queer characters and characters of color and queer characters of color—and they also make up Kit’s Knights—without seeming like check-in-the-box representation.
And I liked their friendship and how they banded together to take a chance to become Knights and prove that it wasn’t just men—that gender equality could extend to corporate organizations like The Castle too.
The plot moves quickly—I was able to finish this in an afternoon—but I was left feeling a little unsatisfied with the ending. I’m not sure why, though.
I really didn’t like Len, Kit’s uncle who was a skeez and asshole, despite being marginally better than his feckless brother. I did like how Kit gains the courage to tell off her father, who is a complete narcissistic asshole, and how family was an important theme in the book. Family being—the family who sticks by you and the ones you would lay down your life for, not necessarily the family you were born into.
Overall, this is definitely good and enjoyable. And there are a lot of references to A Knight’s Tale, if you want to get weepy and sentimental.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly releases May 5, 2020 from Page Street Kids