The Dark Side

By Anthony O’Neill
Reviewed by SA

Give me a fantastic Sci Fi any day, and I wont be able to move until I’ve finished reading it. With The Dark Side, I physically could not put it down, or else I would be stuck thinking about it every second until it was in my hands again. This book was gripping, thrilling, clever, and even funny, with such amazing science that I was completely engrossed from page one.

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In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.

Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.

Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.

The name Anthony O’Neill is going to soon become synonymous with impeccable world building. This author evokes a rich, complex world that follows the laws of science themselves. As a science geek, I absolutely loved how he infused the novel with the small details: like the large rain you would get in a humid hab on a rock where the gravity is so much lighter. Or the beautiful dust clouds created where the night meets day on the moon’s surface. Those beautiful, evocative details create a believable world you could almost imagine being in.

Not only that, but before each encounter with Leonardo Black, the Android walking the moon just to follow a set of programmed motivationals, the author details the life of the character who’s about to come into play. He shows us what it’s like back on earth, what it is to be a criminal in this near future. What line of thought can bring a person to live on the moon. The complexity of his background characters is astounding, and I honestly think he could write an entire book about each of them.

I myself could have read an entire book about Leonardo Black. This android was hilarious, even in his murderous rampage. His Brass code sounds like something out of the mouth of Donald Trump or Ann Rand. For example, he literally cannot spell surrender. He is motivated by a need to “Find Oz” and “become the wizard.” He’s a psycho, and yet he was my favorite character.

The main plot revolves around an Exiled cop, detective Justus, who’s trying to stop a wave of murders int he city of Purgatory. At first, I didn’t see how this storyline met  with that of Leonardo Black, but it all came together in the end in a really creative way. I loved how it felt like a noir detective novel from the 1950s, only set on the moon in a scientifically accurate future.

This book was pure FUN. I loved it. Think “The Martian” crossed over with a 1950s Noir novel. Fun for fans of thrillers and science fiction alike!

This novel comes out June 28th from Simon & Schuster.

The God Virus

by Indigo Voyager 
Reviewed by SA
It’s Self Published saturday! Today, we’ve got an awesome scifi novel from Indie Author Indigo Voyager: The God Virus. What a fascinating novel: pure science fiction at every level. I can’t think of a novel that works its way through every consequence of a premise like this one does. It’s so detailed, complex, and has fantastic characters you’ll love to follow.

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Infected by a DNA-altering virus, Derek and Alessandra develop strange and unnerving superpowers that challenge everything they thought they knew about the world ― allowing them to amass a fortune.

As they fall in love, they battle ruthless criminal mobs bent on harvesting the virus from their brains and intelligence agencies that try to enslave them.

When Derek signs up for an experimental drug treatment, he never expects to have his entire DNA changed. Soon, he’s able to experience out of body travels, and begins to develop abilities that stretch far beyond what is normal. Heck, he isn’t even human anymore…

After Allie contracts these same changes from him, the two of them are suddenly the only two people of their kind, and they’re hunted by everyone who wants to get their hands on this human enhancing ‘drug’. No one is safe: not Derek or Allie, nor their families, their friends… as the two fall in love with each other, they must fight the mob and angry governments in order to keep themselves, and everyone they love, safe from harm.

I can’t decide what I liked best about this book. As a scifi nerd, I absolutely the science behind it all. There was just so much in this book, and small, real sources and facts to back it all up. Do you remember the movie ‘Lucy’? This is how that movie could have succeeded. Humans outgrowing their humanity and becoming something more: backed by (somewhat feasible) science, and a thrilling plot that has you caring for them all the way through, urging them to succeed.

What marked me was, even as Derek and Allie stop being human, they never lose their humanity. They care so much about their families. This determination not only to care for their own, but to make the world a better place along the way, makes them incredibly likable. As they grow into their new abilities, they’re supportive of each other, and work through the hard times together. It makes them both relatable and lovable.

Surprisingly, all the ‘background’ characters have so much depth as well. From the mobster grandfather to the Hawaiian boyfriend, everyone has an intricate story to tell. When they were in trouble, you want to save them as quick as possible; while, when they were happy, you feel energized and excited for them.

The novel also deals with questions such as parallel universes and timelines; building and creating a society or civilization; making big bucks with stocks; Souls and Spirit Realms; and the Russian mob, too. As you can tell, there’s a whole lot going on!

All in all, if you need a good, complex science fiction novel, then you’re going to want to read The God Virus. It’s a fantastic, thrilling story which is incredibly memorable. Scifi fans everywhere are going to want to read more!

Purchase it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/God-Virus-Indigo-Adventures-Book-ebook/dp/B01CPM6R5M

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The House of the Scorpion

51mqbohbfol-_sx331_bo1204203200_by Nancy Farmer
Review by KM

It’s no secret that I work in a library and I’ve spent the past month knee deep in preparations for our Summer Reading Program. For those who don’t know, the United States has this team called the Collaborative Summer Library Program. This organization arranges our awesome themes and compiles a ton of resources for us librarians. While not all libraries follow it, there’s a huge percentage that do. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s really likely that your local library’s Summer Reading theme is: On Your Mark, Get Set … Read! 

Our library has kind of transformed this theme into The Reading Olympics. We’re handing out additional prize tickets to all the people who read books from around the world, whether they be by a foreign author or the setting takes place in another country.

If you live in my town or if your library is doing anything similar, The House of the Scorpion is a great choice to grab an extra ticket.

Plus, it’s awesome. I’m so happy this theme came up this year; I was majorly overdue for a reread of this novel.

Summary

Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested.
His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

Musings

I have to say, in my opinion and feel free to disagree, that House of the Scorpion is the best YA book about cloning. It takes place in this marvelously detailed futuristic world, but one where you can see how our current society changed into that. I loved the explanations, which weren’t laid out in a info-dump, but scattered through the narrative where you needed them.

As with most science fiction novels I encounter, my favorite part has to be the ethics of the entire situation. Clones aren’t meant to be people in this. They aren’t sitting on an island, living lives without the knowledge they’re clones. In this, they are not meant to ever have enough brain function to realize they’re missing out. But Matt does function. He realizes the intents and purposes of his creation. Whether that is more merciful or cruel is definitely a question.

Summer is a perfect time to pick up this book. You may be waiting each week for the next Orphan Black episode and this can certainly fill your time with more science-fiction fun.

More than that, please check out your local library to see what programs they’re running for this summer. We have awesome things for every age group and they’re all free.

Moxyland

by Lauren Beukes
Reviewed by SA

Prepare yourselves for an insane thrill ride, not for the feint of heart. This novel is everything a science fiction novel should be an more, and you’re going to fall in love with Beukes’s writing. And you’ll probably come out hating humans, but we all need a good dose of that from time to time.

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A frighteningly persuasive, high-tech fable, this novel follows the lives of four narrators living in an alternative futuristic Cape Town, South Africa. Kendra, an art-school dropout, brands herself for a nanotech marketing program; Lerato, an ambitious AIDS baby, plots to defect from her corporate employers; Tendeka, a hot-headed activist, is becoming increasingly rabid; and Toby, a roguish blogger, discovers that the video games he plays for cash are much more than they seem. On a collision course that will rewire their lives, this story crackles with bold and infectious ideas, connecting a ruthless corporate-apartheid government with video games, biotech attack dogs, slippery online identities, a township soccer school, shocking cell phones, addictive branding, and genetically modified art. Taking hedonistic trends in society to their ultimate conclusions, this tale paints anything but a forecasted utopia, satirically undermining the reified idea of progress as society’s white knight.

Moxyland is very character driven. All four characters live in South Africa, and their lives all intersect and their paths cross in interesting ways. And each of them are just so incredibly relatable: they’re all a little hot-headed, maybe entitled, self absorbed, and cynical about the world they live in. Whether they like it or not, they all have an important role to play.

We have Kendra, the artist, who’s trying to be independent: she joins a nanotech research program/marketing scheme, which will change her life forever. There’s Lerato, who’s trying to climb the corporate ladder while still hating the corporations. Ten, a activist who slowly begins to cross the line into terrorism, and Toby, a gamer and blogger who just wants to live his comfortable lifestyle. They all have different views of the world they live in, many too comfortable to do anything to change it, while others may try and do too much. it can all end in tears.

The future that Burkes imagines for South Africa is a very plausible one. Everyone is very dependent on their smart phone, as it carries their identity, their bank account, and will even be used in riot control or police arrests. Losing your phone is being tossed out of society. This, and other cool technologies I won’t spoil for you, made so much sense for the world of tomorrow.

The plot itself is a little complicated to get into at first, to see how everyone fits together, but it grows until a climax that is absolutely heart stopping. Seriously, I could not put this book down. It was so exciting, and terrifying… but no, no spoilers!

The novel is also a bit of a social commentary on us (well, a lot of a social commentary), about the power of consumerism and corporations, about complacency, about giving up our freedoms for perceived comfort. It’s not exactly eye opening, but still an amazing study. It kind of makes you hate us current humans.

For fans of Snow Crash, and cyberpunk, who love classics like Brave New World. This book will leave you breathless.

A new paperback edition comes out 16 Aug 2016 from Mulholland Books.

 

The Crown’s Game

By Evelyn Skye
Reviewed by SA

I have been excited for this book for ages: I mean, magic in imperial Russia? Yes please! And I was so thrilled that it did not disappoint. I couldn’t put it down: quite literally, actually, as I sat down and read it in about two hours, and didn’t see time go by.

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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love… or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear… the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I loved the world the author created, melding a well researched imperial Russia with the promise of magic and enchantment. The descriptions of not only St Petersburg, but also the Steppe, and the islands truly made you feel transported there. I could almost feel everything around me as I was reading, which is what made it so difficult for me to pull away.

The magic itself is something beautiful. Evanescing, the enchanted way to travel, is something described in such a gorgeous way that I wished I could travel like that, too. However, I was disappointed when I realized there would not be strong magical battles (Like in A Gathering of Shadows) but that was quickly remedied when I was sucked into the beautiful creations of our two heroes. At each turn of the game, they compete to outshine each other, and the result is quite beautiful.

As for the characters themselves, well, some I loved, some I hated, and some I loved and hated through the novel.  I did relate to Vika and Nicolai, and quite enjoyed their difference in magic (one being more elemental, the other more technical) and how they complemented each other. Vika’s fiery and fierce, headstrong and independent. Nicolai was more book loving, a bit Nerdy, but a bit of an artist. While some of their decisions seemed illogical, I’ll put that down to them just being young. I make irrational decisions too.

While Pasha seemed fantastic to me, his family seemed quite two dimensional. Actually, most minor characters seemed to suffer this lack of depth, some of whom can be written up into just one word. The secondary villain (if you can call her that) actually built up great, but then just kind of fell flat and stopped being the threat we expected her to be. She fizzled.

But boy, did I like this world. I loved how the magic worked, I loved the enchanted mountain, the idea of volcanic nymphs, the beautiful descriptions. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, actually.

I think you’ll like it too!

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The Secret King: Lethao – New Goodies!

Not too long ago we reviewed this fantastic, self published novel. Now it’s time to share with you some great news:

THE BOOK IS FREE UNTIL THE 31ST!512borfpclzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The secret King Lethao is the first book book of the epic SciFi adventure. Book one takes you on an epic journey as the Aonise rush to flee their planet before it implodes. But their journey to planet Earth is far from smooth. Treachery, secrets, danger and battles all make for one exciting novel.

The Secret King is free to download for just two more days. So get your copy now. Leave Reality and step in the another world.

On mybook, Facebook.

Their website is awesome, too. Lots of amazing goodies! Plus access to the Aonise dictionary.

The Audio books are just about to launch as well, so get excited! Enjoy!

Nimona

by Noelle Stevenson
Reviewed by SA

Yes, I know, I’m breaking this blog’s trend a bit by talking about ANOTHER graphic novel (and not a recent one, or one about to come out!). But it’s for good reason. This amazing book came out last year, though I’ve only now gotten a chance to read it and review it. Because I have to say, it is epic in so many ways. So strap in – we’re going to talk about Nimona.

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Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

What first attracted me to this book was the promise of “Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism!” which are all things I love. I have a love of villains and novels thereof, and being a scientist in training, seeing them all come together with dragons is like christmas. I even bought a hardcover: I’m so glad I did, I will love this book forever.

When you start off the novel, it seems as though Nimona will only be the sidekick, a character for us to follow the story through. But as the story progresses, you can see she is much, much more than that. Her story is deeper than you would expect, and she’s more dangerous than the cheerful beginning would suggest. There is something dark to her… something that urges you to keep reading and know more. But this blog is spoiler free, so you have to pick it up to read it!

The world itself is amazing: while it appears to take place in medieval times, there is a firm knowledge of science, which is fundamental to the plot. The villain combines traits of both a knight and a scientist, which I now realize I want to be when I grow up. Lord Blackheart is awesome, smart, has an evil backstroy, but he also follows a set of morals, which is great to see in his kind of character. Magic is also seen as not so unusual in their world, so magic and science come together on a day to day basis.

While the novel follows the usual super villain tropes, it does so to perfection, both to poke fun and to add to the genre. It makes this book an incredibly fun read. I found myself laughing at some point, and then gripping the novel in anticipation as it threw me a curveball. I did not see that ending coming, and was swept off my feet.

So if you’re a fan of science, magic, knights, dragons, and super villains, you will love love love this graphic novel. Enjoy!

Seven Ways We Lie

by Riley Redgate
Reviewed by SA

I was very excited to read this book, having heard nothing but good things about it so far. I was blown away by it: first of all, by how well the author juggled seven different perspectives, but also by the sense of realism and character depth Not only are there seven points of view, but the voices are unique and relatable. This takes immense skill and I found myself loving the read.

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The juniors at Paloma High School all have their secrets, whether it’s the thespian who hides her trust issues onstage, the closeted pansexual who only cares about his drug-dealing profits, or the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal. But it’s Juniper Kipling who has the furthest to fall. No one would argue that Juniper—obedient daughter, salutatorian, natural beauty, and loyal friend—is anything but perfect. Everyone knows she’s a saint, not a sinner; but when love is involved, who is Juniper to resist temptation? When she begins to crave more and more of the one person she can’t have, her charmed life starts to unravel.

Then rumors of a student–teacher affair hit the fan. After Juniper accidentally exposes her secret at a party, her fate falls into the hands of the other six sinners, bringing them into one another’s orbits. All seven are guilty of something. Together, they could save one another from their temptations—or be ruined by them.

I feel like the blurb doesn’t really capture the story. Let’s just say this: Seven different, flawed people, are brought together by one secret and the knowledge of a scandal that could ruin lives. But their lives aren’t so perfect either. How does that sound?

When it comes to YA, a lot of times the author who writes it makes assumptions about how high school life has changed since they were teenagers, which takes away a lot of realism. Not so in this case. Here, the students really feel like my peers.

When you look at the cover, you can see the seven deadly sins, but I’m having trouble putting a face to each one. It’s more subtle than that: just like how a person isn’t just made up of one trait, each character had so much more to them than their one problem. The depth makes it all the more real.

Each of the characters struggles with lies and secrets, with family issues and/or friend problems, as they move through Junior year of high school. They are all connected some way or another, by blood or through crushes, and there is a certain depth added to the narrative when we see each person through another’s eyes. Personally, I really liked that, especially when we see Claire’s world view, and her incessant judgement. Juniper’s parts are always in verse, which adds so much to her character.

The plot deals with a lot of issues: illicit relationships, divorce, pansexuality, asexuality, sex, drugs… the list goes on. This means it kind of gets, well, messy. Each could fill their own novel (and have) but dealing with them all at once is a real juggling game. I feel like a bit of depth was zapped from each issue (though I think Olivia’s ‘rant’ at one point really covers a whole lot) since there was only so much time for each of them.

It’s just so compelling to follow these people, even if they can really be unlikable at times (Claire, come on! Grow up!). There are a few one liners that really hit me, and I’m sure they’re going to be quoted in quite a lot of reviews. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bored with any one character, as I tend to get with multiple POV books. Though admittedly, I did have my favorites (Olivia FTW) and some of them I wanted to shout at, I wasn’t ever bored by their story. It was just that good.

The thing about this book was that it was just such an enjoyable read. I could not put it down, and devoured it in a two hour sitting. I got really caught up in these people’s lives, and thoroughly enjoyed the resolution. In other words – OHMYGOSH THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD, READ IT ASAP.

Not If I See You First

by Eric Lindstrom

Reviewed by SA

There’s something fantastic in reading a book that opens your eyes (no pun intended). It’s something different from your everyday reading, and for me, the reason I read books in the first place. Not If I See You First is a fascinating novel, that relies more on character growth than plot to tell a story. It was a story with true depth and dimension which I was glad to have a chance to read.

Summary22701879

Everyone has secrets. Everyone is a secret.
Parker Grant is a junior in high school who loves to run, has great friends, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind–especially when it comes to how stupid some people can be around a blind person like her. The only topic to avoid is how Parker feels about the boy who broke her heart in eighth grade… who has just transferred to her school. And as long as she can keep giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago, she’ll be just fine. Right?

Parker Grant has a few rules you must never break around her: Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me; Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter; and the most important one of all, Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public. Break the rules, and you will never regain her trust.

Now Scott, the only boy to ever deceive her, is back in her life after their two high schools have merged. As if Parker’s life isn’t difficult enough to begin with, what with her family moving into her home after her father’s death, and the fact that wants to join the track team, which means she’s going to need to find a running partner. And what if she wants to start dating, too?

The great thing I love about Parker is that she’s flawed. She can be a complete a**hole sometimes, if you pardon my language. The fact she can’t see people flinch means she’s usually more direct with what she says, and never sugarcoats anything, with means she can come off as being incredibly bitchy. But she’s also smart, insightful, and cares deeply about her friends.

The weird thing about this novel was I felt like it had no real plot or direction until I reached the end. Everything revolved around her character growth,  around her realizing that just because she hears everything doesn’t mean she actually listens. And that’s key: because when she learns to actually listen to the people around her, she discovers she can be really blind about somethings, that have nothing to do with the loss of her sight.

It was cool to be int he head of a blind person for a while. To have description of all the senses except sight. To know how things feel and how people sound. What it’s like to run when you can’t see where you’re going. I was wondering why I still made a physical image in my head of how everything looked, when no description was given. Heck, Parker doesn’t know her friends skin color, what they wear, or anything else physical about them:  so why did I fill in the blanks?

What hit me was just how relatable Parker was even under the layers of harsh exterior. She’s the kind of person you don’t see often in modern YA: she’s not afraid to admit she loves her friends, she’s intense and flawed and has difficulty relating to others.She’s too quick to jump to conclusions and that gets her in trouble. She’s no special snowflake, she’s a girl like us going through high school.

This unique and hard hitting novel is something that has me still thinking about it well after the last page was turned. I want to know what happens next, and yet, I’m happy with where the author left us, the small window he’s letting us see into Parker’s life. Well worth the read.

Not If I See You First comes out today, December 1st, from Little Brown Books.

 

Dumplin’

by Julie Murphy

Reviewed by SA

Dumplin‘ has been a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Friends have been recommending it to me since before it even came out. I finally caved and bought myself a copy – taking a risk (if you can call it that!) and getting a nice, lovely hardcover copy. I think I kind of had a designer crush on the cover. After finishing the book, there are a few things I can be certain of:

  1. This was not at all what I expected;
  2. It was way better, amazing, and unforgettable;
  3. I am so glad I have a gorgeous hardcover!

Summary

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

I’m always slightly wary of books that deal with body image: they can sway one way, and end up telling you that as soon as you start feeling better for yourself, you’ll start loosing weight and turning ‘hot’, or they can swing to the other side of the spectrum, and bring on a landslide of skinny shaming. Dumplin’ does none of those things. While at first, Willowdean points out the imperfections in those around her, she grows over the course of the novel.  Will stops herself from skinny shaming others, loves her body even if she is insecure in it sometimes. I found it to be the perfect book dealing with teenagers and body image issues.

What really impressed me was how secondary the pageant seemed. What took center stage was Willowdean’s own life, her own crushes and friendships, her worries and loves, her own life. And her life is so much more than the pageant, even if we only get this small glimpse into it. Yes, there is a love triangle, and yes, there is some friendship drama: but all of these seem to be part of the fabric which makes up her life, instead of being barriers. They give depth and dimension to the story, and to her character, which made me really get pulled into the book.

Will is a fantastic protagonist. And I mean fantastic. She’s flawed, she’s self conscious, but she’s also brave and outspoken and incredibly insightful. There were some quotes of hers that I want to write on my wall so I can never stop thinking about them. She’s someone you can really relate to, that you can really understand.

But my favorite aspect of this novel was the relationships. The friendship between Will and Ellen is the real story, in my opinion. The pageant just offers framework. It’s a love story, in a way. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure of it. It’s the love between two best friends who hit a rough patch and have to deal with growing up and growing apart. It’s so rare to see friends actually tell each other that they do love each other, and really mean it. I loved their story.

If you haven’t read Dumplin’ yet, then I strongly suggest you do. It’s a book I 100% recommend with all my heart. It’s got everything you want in a book – including some Dolly Parton adoration – and I want to lend it to everyone I know.

Fair warning – I’ve had Jolene stuck in my head for days now!