This Week, I Read… (2019 #13)

45 - A Great and Terrible Beauty

#45 – A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray

  • Read: 3/22/19 – 3/25/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (15/48)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

I’m really confused about what the point of this book is.

Are these girls supposed to be defying Victorian-era norms or not? Is it wrong to reach for power (mystical or otherwise) when your society expects you to shut up and be pretty, or is it admirable?

Because none of these girls gets a happy ending, and part of me is fine with that, because they’re all unabashedly horrible people. Even meek, attention-seeking Ann does her share of underhanded things. I don’t like any of them. I wouldn’t want to be friends with any of them. I didn’t enjoy reading about any of them, either–I don’t think it’s a crime for a female character to be unlikable, personality-wise, but she has to at least be interesting. And these girls weren’t. Their pettiness and backbiting and scheming wasn’t anything fresh or original.

I loved the movie Heathers and its cadre of mean girls (I’m old enough that I haven’t actually seen Mean Girls, it’s always going to be Heathers for me) but at least that movie was funny. Nothing about this book is funny. I never once laughed.

The story is also a mess of utterly obvious racial stereotypes and fetishization, fat-shaming, mild lesbophobia, shallow treatment of self-harm, and even shallower treatment of chronic illness. One could make the argument that most or all of these things are accurate to the time period and social standing of the characters, and in most cases, I’d even agree. But since this isn’t Victorian England anymore, maybe authors could stop writing about these things as if they’re normal and acceptable? Because they shouldn’t be, and it’s a bad message for YA novels to say that they are.

It’s short, this week, since my vacation started on Wednesday. Whatever I finish while I’m away will show up in next week’s post.

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