Title: The Girl From Everywhere Author: Heidi Heilig Genre: YA, Fantasy Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5
I’m already tired of writing this review, and I haven’t even begun. This is largely because I have very few feelings about this novel and quite a few thoughts, and I’m honestly not even sure I have energy enough––or frankly, that I give enough of a shit––to write a whole review, which is kind of a problem when you’ve read a whole novel.
Like, I liked it fine? I just have a total of zero emotions about it otherwise, which may be in part due to the stomach virus I came down with after graduation and in part due to the reading slump I’ve been in all year. Maybe the novel just hit me at a bad point, because it has many things that I would otherwise enjoy. But I read it when I read it, so these thoughts will have to suffice, and this is as fair as it’s going to get.
content warning: rape, sexual violence, sexual slavery, child neglect
This was a surprisingly easy novel to read despite its incredibly weighty topic. I’m taking an Asian American lit class this semester, and I was assigned this to read immediately following a really frustrating documentary about comfort woman, and to be quite frank, I expected to have to force myself through this, crying and moaning the whole time. And I did cry––of course I cried, I’m the girl who cried during Madagascar––but there was a sense of effervescence throughout the narrative that made it bearable. The writing was, of course, beautiful, but it wasn’t just that. There was a life to the story, a spirit.
Comfort Woman tells the parallel stories of Akiko, a Korean comfort woman, and Beccah, the daughter she eventually comes to have with the American missionary she chooses to marry in order to leave Korea. After Akiko’s death, Beccah is forced to confront the mother she thought she knew––and the woman who, she comes to realise, she didn’t know at all.
Title: The Agency Author: YS Lee Genre: Action, Historical Fiction, Mystery Rating:★★☆☆☆ || 2.0 stars
In some ways, it’s deeply unfair to rate these books as a series. In others, it’s the only way to rate it at all. As individual books, they were mostly competent, interesting reads. I’m generally a huge fan of revisionist Victorian novels (particularly if there is a mystery element) that feature intrepid girls (particularly if they are intrepid girls of colour), but I found that the more I read the books, the more frustrated and impatient I became with them.
The Agency follows Mary Quinn, formerly Mary Lang, an Irish-Chinese girl who was saved from the noose to be given a second chance at life. She takes this second chance to turn herself into a member of the Agency, a covert all-female private detective agency that utilises stereotypes about women to go undercover as maids, companions, and governesses––all in the name of the case. In each of the four books, Mary is sent on a different case––uncovering the truth behind the smuggling of Hindu artifacts into England while posing as the paid companion of a spoiled young lady, solving the death of a bricklayer at the building site of the Houses of Parliament and the clock tower in the guise of a twelve year old boy, even enjoying a stint in Buckingham Palace as a maid chasing down a string of petty thefts in the palace. This setup allows for an almost infinite amount of permutations––Lee could certainly have extended the series indefinitely if she so chose, so it’s something of a minor miracle that she chose to complete it at four. This is also part of why I found myself enjoying the novels less and less.
Can someone tell me why this has such a high rating on Goodreads? I truly would like to know, because this book was fucking awful. Like I’m sorry, did we travel back in time to 2003? Because that was the last year this book would have been acceptable to me, and even there would have been a question mark punctuating my enjoyment. And several exclamation points following. (FTR, I would have been seven or eight, and I still might have looked down my nose at this book.) It’s just sexist hogwash, is what it is.
Tithe was and remains one of my favourite books from my childhood, and I still look back on it fondly, though I can’t tell if it’s because of nostalgia, or because Kaye was one of the only explicitly Asian characters in my life back then, or because Rath Roiben Rye was so hunky or what. And I must have been about 10 when I first picked the book up from the library (cos look at that cover, who wouldn’t) and I was going into my rebellious pimply teenager phase, the kind who thought that wearing Converse with a ball gown was So Edgy and thought barbed wire was an aesthetic and thought Jersey was the best place on earth (full disclosure: still a proud Jersey girl). Which is probably why Tithe, which was the very definition of early pre-teen punk indie emo set in New Jersey, still resonates with me today. And why I still go back and reread it. (Also, come on. We’re pretty much culturally conditioned to enjoy romances between spunky, intrepid tough girls and cold, emotionally constipated men who want to love them but can’t because they’re cursed. I can’t help it if Tam Lin’s my favourite story archetype. #excuses)
Have you guys seen the recent ads for Amazon TV? Because speaking of show holes, I have a whole category of shows that I have more or less condemned to my personal show hole––that is to say a bunch of shows that have treated its leads of colour so irredeemably poorly that I never want to hear from them again, except to hear about their upcoming cancellations and varying levels of sarcastic biting commentary on them. Sleepy Hollow is one. Teen Wolf is another. And also the thankfully cancelled subject of this review, Twisted.
Twisted began with a neat premise and shaky foundations, even from the start. Years after his conviction for his aunt’s murder, Danny Desai comes back to a town whose attitude towards him has totally changed. Though he maintains he didn’t kill his aunt, no one believes him. No one wants to be near him. No one except his two former best friends, Lacey and Jo (the former more reluctantly than the latter).