Bitch Magazine Removes Books From ‘100 Feminist Books for the YA Reader’ List

This is really disappointing. Bitch Magazine made what was an awesome list of feminist YA books. But after a couple of people complained in the comments, they swiftly removed and replaced three books: Tender Morsels, Sisters Red, and Living Dead Girl. Why? One because it was deemed to be too triggering (despite that you could say the same for nearly all the other books on the list) and the other two because of scenes regarding rape.

The only one of these books that I’ve read is Sisters Red, which I think is an excellent feminist novel. (You can read my review here.) Yes, there is a scene in which one of the characters is victim-blaming. But is it wrong to include that in a novel that’s partly about sexuality and rape? Because the scene in question is from Scarlett’s point of view, I don’t think we’re meant to agree with her. Scarlett is a survivor, and if we look at Fenris attacks as symbolic of rapes, I think she’s struggling to prove that she didn’t “deserve” it. Scarlett is angry and irrational and blames herself for everything. I don’t think it’s un-feminist to include a scene where, as part of her struggle, she tries to blame other women. I think it’s something we should discuss, but I don’t think it makes this book un-feminist.

Oh, and you can bet your ass I’m going to go read the other two books now.

You can read wonderful comments on this topic from Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Diana Peterfreund, and Scott Westerfeld, all of whom have books featured on the list, all of which could be considered triggering or which have been challenged from a feminist viewpoint. I love that these authors are so willing to stand behind their work and their colleagues’ work, and I suggest you go read what they have to say.

XVI

I was really excited to read XVI, since the premise was so edgy and challenging. A dystopian novel in a future where girls’ bodies become fair game at age sixteen, and where lower-class teens aspire to join the Female Liason Specialists (read: high class hookers) as a way of moving up the social ranks. I thought this book had the potential to say something interesting about female sexuality and the virgin/whore paradox, but unfortunately I think Julia Karr failed here. She sets up a really intriguing world, but doesn’t dig deep enough into the foundations of that society or how it applies to ours.

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The Lost Gate

The Lost Gate is the first book in a potentially great new fantasy series called The Mithermages. Unfortunately, I probably won’t read the other books in the series because I was so offended by this one. But I’ll get back to that later in the review.

Our story begins with Danny North, a thirteen-year-old boy who lives on his family’s compound in Virginia. The North family is a family of mages, all descended from the Odin and Thor of Norse mythology – except for Danny. Danny has showed no sign of any magical ability, even though he’s well past the age when most kids start to exhibit skills. This means that Danny can’t hope to have much of a future with his family; he’ll have to learn to live like the drowthers (regular, non-magical folk). Except! Then Danny finds out, entirely by accident, that he is a Gatemage. Gatemages can create gates through space and transport themselves or others anywhere. The famed Loki was a Gatemage, and because of the last Loki’s sins, any Gatemages who are discovered are killed on the spot. So when Danny fears he’s been found out, he runs away from home and begins his quest to find out more about his power and why it’s so feared among mages.

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Smells like a bad analogy

I am so sick of the “love interest smells like something totally implausible” trope in books. I’m reading The Unidentified by Rae Mariz — which is pretty good, and which I am enjoying — but sometimes the writing is just clunky and bad.

His shirt smelled like cotton and cinnamon, and something else. Like welded metal or outer space.

Is his shirt made of cotton? How would his shirt ever smell like cinnamon? Did he spill tea on himself? Couldn’t you just say that his breath smelled like cinnamon, or that his shirt smelled like it had just come out of the dryer (which makes sense and calls to mind a smell that all your readers will recognize)? Don’t even get me started on welded metal or outer space, things which mean nothing because the reader could not possibly have any idea what they smell like. Neither could the narrator in this book, for that matter. So why put it in?

He laughed. His laugh sounded like rain clouds clearing.

Really? “He laughed, and I thought of rain clouds clearing” might make sense. I get what the author is going for here: his laugh is like sunshine! Because the narrator loves him! But come on, his laugh does not sound like rain clouds clearing.

I actually like this book, I swear, but every now and then I read a sentence like the ones above (which occurred on the same page) and it’s just so bad that I’m completely distracted from the story.