Here we are again. More reading has been done and reviews written in — fairly — quick succession. I say that, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read at least two point five more books since finishing these three, so I’m probably, definitely still behind. But anyway. Fabulous books? Turns out I’ve been reading them. I loved all of these quite a bit and, quite coincidentally, they actually go from a three start review to a four, followed by a five. The best until last (even though, duh, I loved them all, I already said that). Again, unintentional, I promise. Read them all. They’re all pretty special in their own ways and I’ll get onto exactly why right… now!
‘Wilde Like Me’ by Louise Pentland
(Published by Bonnier Zaffre, ★★★)
Robin Wilde is many things. She is a single mother of one (her five-year-old Lyla Blue), a talented Make-Up Artist Assistant, a beautifully independent, intelligent woman, a cracking friend and, like most of us, a little bit lost and a little bit lonely. Her journey navigating the Posh School Mum’s is done with hilarious flair and the tender topics of The Emptiness are done with such a careful, insightful touch that offers up such a key perspective you or someone in your life will have experienced.
I really loved this book and the character of Robin Wilde. It was a light-hearted, cosy read, but it really hit with some core themes that I would love Louise to explore more in the sequel/rest of the series. As a stand alone, it’s funny, heartwarming writing and, whilst not perfect, really focuses in on the struggles of single parenting. There are sad, low moments for Robin, but it also really highlights the empowerment that can be found in kicking arse and being a team of just you and your child — separation doesn’t have to be synonymous with ‘failure’ or ‘broken home’ as long as there’s still a lot of love in the important places.
There’s been a lot of discussion, and perhaps criticism, around Louise doing a self insert with Robin Wilde, but I think it’s simply a case of writing what you know. Some authors create abstract worlds with layers upon layers, and some are a little more stripped back than that. Yes, Louise is/has been a single mother and I’m sure experienced much of the hardships Robin deals with in the book, but that doesn’t take away from how great this book is in terms of representing those real life arcs in people’s lives. I’ve read a lot of women’s fiction of women not knowing what to do with their lives, or, on the flip side, having meet-cutes straight out of a Nicholas Spark movie, and I think give credit where credit is due for something with a little more grit. ‘Wilde Like Me’ has real raw moments, wrapped up in quick wit writing.
‘If Bird Fly Back’ by Carlie Sorosiak (Thank you to My Kinda Book via NetGalley!*)
(Published by Macmillan, ★★★★)
A story of lost and found, Linny and Sebastian are both trying to find someone. Over a series of weeks in summer working in an elderly people’s home, watching over the recently returned, infamous director Álvaro Herrera, they might just find what they’ve been looking for in each other, or, at the least, a way to cope with the gaping holes left when those they loved vanished. Told through a captivating screenplay and a string of scientific theories, a black and white world might just start to get a bit of its colour back.
This book was… really something. I didn’t have many preconceptions as to what this was about and, admittedly, I wasn’t full of anticipation to read it — maybe because of the fact, yeah, I had no clue what the plot even was or anything about the themes. And perhaps having a lack of any indication about the book made it that much more enjoyable when I realised just how good it was. Perhaps we should go into all books blind. Perrrrhaps. But, if you hadn’t already gathered, I liked this book a lot. My favourite part was Linny’s screenplay. It was so completely abstract and stylistic and told with just the smidgen of detail needed to envision exactly the way it would play out on stage. (Spoiler alert: This would be a really damn good play and Carlie should consider playwriting on the side, tbh.)
The characters of Linny and Seb and the nature of their relationship was really well done, too. I honestly couldn’t have called how they would develop and how their lives would become so intertwined, but it felt really honest and gradual in such a tender way that wasn’t dramatic. It was so subtly done and although they were obviously completely adorable, it didn’t take away from their abandonment and the subsequent fallout from that in terms of themes of family and health. There were some real complex elements at play, and yet it was so smoothly executed and is one of those books I genuinely struggle to put exactly into words, because it kind of takes your breath away from how little you expected it.
‘Moxie’ by Jennifer Mathieu
(Published by Hodder & Stoughton, ★★★★★)
Set in East Rockport, a small town in Texas, Viv is inspired by her mom’s ‘My Misspent Youth’ box filled with punk rock tinted memories and Riot Grrrrl’s hitting back. After a series of sexist events take place in the heart of her school, Viv puts together the first issue of her feminist zine ‘Moxie’. Slowly but surely, it begins to take off and the female student body’s voices start to get louder and louder. Before Viv knows it, she’s started a full-on girl revolution.
This book has easily found its way into my favourite books of this year — probably one of my favourites period, tbh. Anything that incorporates feminism will be an instant winner, especially because I personally found it to be incredibly inclusive and also touch on something that is particularly important to me and that, on a level, does concern me. I loved Seth. I loved him the moment he drew hearts and stars on his hands and fought right alongside the rest of the Moxie girls. But he’s a boy. A nice boy, yes. But a boy nonetheless. He doesn’t always grasp it, he gets things wrong and is defensive. To have that represented was so key in the feminist conversation. As a boy, you can support feminism and benefit from breaking down the patriarchal traditions and images thrust upon traditional ‘men’ and ‘women’. But you will simply never get it — you won’t understand how important being listened to as a woman is, or how we have to go about living our lives simply because we aren’t respected. Seth struggles with that and, in turn, Viv struggles in their relationship, because she really likes this guy, but she also can’t abandon her fight and her sense of empowerment to please him and take off the inevitable strain his inability to fully understand a woman’s oppression has on them as a couple. They ultimately navigated it in a really healthy way and, most important of all, Viv didn’t lose the fire in her fight for the sake of a boy with a potentially bruised ego.
I’m aware I’m waffling and this isn’t a particularly eloquent or concise review, but god almighty ‘Moxie’ is brilliant. It’s made me think deeper and in different ways about feminism and how much a part of me it is. Along with Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club, this is another YA book that really intelligently captures feminism and how strong and incredible young girls are when they feel empowered. And I think girls across the world deserve that representation. We are resilient. We will fight back.