Review | Slam! Vol. 1 | Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish

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Slam! Vol. 1

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In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will have to decide if their budding friendship is stronger than the pull of a team when a win is on the line.

When life starts coming at you like a freight train, you have two options: run away screaming or lean into the hit.

From the first day of Fresh Meat Orientation for the Eastside Roller Girls, Jennifer and Maisie knew they’d be fast friends. But when they’re drafted to different teams, the pull of competition — and their increasingly messy personal lives — threaten to drive them apart. In roller derby you take your hits, get back up, and learn how to be a better jammer, a better blocker, a better lover, and a better friend. Derby can heal your heart . . . but it might break a bone or two in the process.

Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and retired Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) joins artist Veronica Fish (Archie, Silk) for a tale of friendship, heartbreak, and truly epic jams.


Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that cover art. It’s saucy, sexy, rebellious, and so much fun. Want me to read your graphic novel/book? Put a cover like that on it.

I’m officially hooked on this series. I finished Slam! in one night, and the next morning went to get Volume 2 but it wasn’t in-stock at my local Chapters. Poop. I’m still on the lookout for it and I cannot WAIT to read it!

The novel profiles two women in their early twenties (yes, I’m surprised it’s been shelved as YA too) who take up roller derby as a way of dealing with the different stressors in their lives. For Jenn, it’s her Master’s degree and for Maisie, it’s that she’s just been cheated on and subsequently dumped by her boyfriend of three years. Right away roller derby introduces them to a new way of life and they form new and stronger identities and senses of self because of it. For example, Maisie learns that she has worth; Jenn’s outcome is a bit rockier (I think we see that she’s someone who struggles to find balance in her life) but ultimately I think that her personal changes aren’t bad. The reader sees this inner struggle happen for both characters where roller derby brings out the best in both of them yet they cling to their past—or it clings to them.

I am in love with the bodily strength that is portrayed here. All of the women are big—muscular, curvy, heavy-set. The skinny characters purposefully eat gargantuan amounts to put on weight and make themselves a physical force to be reckoned with on the track. The pages are covered in what would never be considered North American society’s “ideal” female body image and it’s so gorgeous and refreshing. I also loved the racial diversity spread across the pages, but would have loved it even more if BOTH MCs were non-white. Basically, this graphic novel is presenting some wonderful things to the young adult audience: girls eating—a LOT; big, strong, round bodies; and women discovering and asserting themselves. Insert heart eyes!

Now, I am questioning why it’s considered YA. It’s pretty tame for a graphic novel, but it does cross over into territory that I would consider too mature for the YA audience. Bearing in mind that the term “YA” is generally targeted at 12-18 year olds (I’m talking marketplace here and I am very much aware that adults read YA), I was surprised that the characters were as old as they were and dealing with what they were. Maisie, specifically, had concerns about her wedding plans going to shreds when her boyfriend leaves her. She is also pretty open about her sex life, which is fine in itself and I’d love for girls to be more comfortable with their bodies and exploring their sexuality, but I don’t think anyone below the age of 15 or 16 should be reading what is in this book. I also don’t think many girls 18 and under are planning their weddings. Maybe that’s just me.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel. The artwork is droolingly gorgeous, the writing is so amazing and entertaining, and there are so many great messages contained within the pages that I can’t even. Please let me know if you added it to your to-read pile! I really want people to read this one.


Links

Goodreads     Amazon.ca     Indigo

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Review | Bad Girls Throughout History | Ann Shen

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Bad Girls Throughout History

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Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.


I’m going to start off by saying that had this book existed when I was a kid, and had they taught us about all of the women featured in here, I would have become a self-declared feminist so much earlier. Nothing about this book is uninspiring—including the fact that it is written and illustrated by another badass woman. The best way to sum up the experience of reading this book is to say that I am so proud to come from such a lineup of women throughout history and hope to, in some way or another, make them proud of me, too.

What are the top three elements of this book? 1. The illustrations. As someone who is very much into comic books right now, having this great balance of unique and thoughtful illustration alongside the prose was a great reading experience. 2. The balance of diversity. Yesterday I went to pick up Women in Sports—which has a very similar feel to Bad Girls—but most of the examples are American. Bad Girls had women from all across the world, which opened my eyes so much to names I’d never even heard before. 3. The fun prose. Ann Shen has taken her research on each woman and condensed it into one page or less, giving you only the most interesting or significant anecdotes about each woman. It makes reading exciting and not at all boring—which is the danger of reading some biographies or non-fiction titles.

Bad Girls Throughout History is a must-own for anyone who calls themselves a woman. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m surprised Emma Watson hasn’t selected this as one of her feminist titles to-read. It’s so empowering and awe-inspiring—I continue to be blown away even days after finishing it. Ann Shen—well done.

ROOK by Sharon Cameron

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5 out of 5

[For the sake of time, I will temporarily be omitting the synopses on my book reviews, as I am trying to balance school with book reviewing and, considering the wealth of places where book synopses can be found online, do not think it worthwhile at this point in time. If anyone has any objection to this, please let me know, and I will try my best to give brief plot overviews.]

First of all, this book is so elegantly written. The various perspectives are interestingly handled, with each character only getting what page time is absolutely necessary to tell their part of the story, which I appreciated. I love that we are taken back to the time of the French Revolution, but it’s a dystopic version of it. That is incredibly unique, and the references to our current culture as “ancient” are fascinating. The action was also incredible, and this book is a true page-turner.

My only disappointment came with the love story. In and of itself, it was great. However, I was severely disappointed with the lack of a love scene. (See my post on sex in YA.) It led right up to it, but cut off right before anything happened, and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not their love was consummated or not. It was annoying, to say the least, and I felt it to be a waste of time.

Even still, Rook is currently tied with Legacy of Kings for my favourite historical fantasy novel of the year, though Legacy may be edging it out just slightly. In both novels, the landscape is absolutely spectacular, and I could get lost in Rook’s world over and over again.

-Ember Book Reviews

Check out this book on Goodreads.

Strong Female Protagonists

I thought I’d do a quick post today about books with strong female protagonists for any age group. All too often lately, especially in YA, I find that a “strong” female character is defined as being sarcastic, witty (though this is always the author’s definition of witty and I rarely agree with them), and ready to run head-on into dangerous situations. While sometimes this works, there are other ways for a female protagonist to be strong and a good role model, so I’m going to give some examples.

Warning: some spoilers ahead.

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Katniss Everdeen

Katniss is the first example to pop into my head because yeah, while she volunteers for the Hunger Games, I wouldn’t call it “running head-on into danger” because she’s only doing it to save her sister. I also really loved how she didn’t fall into the classic YA trope of falling for Peeta, but instead she used him and manipulated his feelings to her advantage in order to get them both out alive. What I loved about this was that the author understood that it wouldn’t really make sense for Katniss to fall head-over-heels for Peeta in a situation like this, and also that characters’ feelings are much more complicated than “girl meets cute boy, girl falls in love.”

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Hermione Granger

Hermione is amazing. She’s smart, she’s the only girl in a group of three with two other guys, she’s headstrong, she holds true to her beliefs, and she makes tough decisions even if it means almost losing the person she loves the most in the world. I love Hermione for a load of reasons, but what I really loved was that, throughout the Harry Potter series but especially in the last book, there were more important things at stake than her feelings for Ron. There were more important things at stake in general, and she even wiped her parents’ memories to protect them while sacrificing her relationship with them. Hermione is, in my opinion, the definition of selfless and I admire her so much.

Also, does anyone remember her movement to help the House Elves? They never had it in the movies, but it was GREAT.

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Rory Deveaux

Rory is from Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series, and she is seriously kick-ass. The dialogue throughout the entire book is intelligent and interesting without being annoyingly sarcastic or trying too hard at being witty, and it’s not just her that is able to maintain these features. There’s a love interest, but she’s kind of just fooling around—she has more important things on her mind than the feelings of some boy. While this turns a little bit with book 3, Rory’s feelings are always kind of off to the side with the main issue at hand being the evil ghosts and what is going to happen with the world. There are more important things for Rory to focus on, and while she’s sad and misses the person she loves, she has perspective and knows what needs to come first.

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Hazel Grace Lancaster

I’ve been harping pretty heavily on the love stories in these books, so I want to make it clear that I’m all for a good love story if the girl or boy isn’t stupid about it. Hazel is a great character, in my opinion, because she’s flawed, and not in the ways that are so commonly written (such as an overuse of sarcasm or misunderstood wit). She’s a little bit self-centered (for example, thinking that her parents would sit around doing nothing after she died), which I really like because it’s so realistic. Nobody’s perfect, and Hazel is written that way EXTERNAL to her illness. I also loved that Gus obviously thinks she’s gorgeous and is all over her, but not every guy she comes across trips over his feet in her presence. This isn’t a Bella Swan situation where she thinks she’s ugly but every guy within a five mile radius wants to get in her pants. I also really liked that she pushed Gus away for a little while before finally giving in to her feelings. It shows a lot about her strength as a person, I think, especially in comparison to other YA females who give in easily to their feelings for the hot guy. Also, the way she handled Gus’s death was heartbreaking but so wonderfully mature.

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Jamie Kelly

The Dear Dumb Diary series is a series that I’m not ashamed to say I read until I was eighteen years old. These books are hilarious, and Jamie is the epitome of what I hope my child will be someday. She’s smart, funny, is keenly observational, but is also heavily, heavily flawed. She is, after all, just a kid. But I love that, as a girl, she still does what some would call “gross” things and she has a crazy best friend (Isabelle). Basically, she’s just a regular girl, not what society wants to define as a “girl.” She’s not really “lady-like,” she has an equal amount of guy friends to girl friends (though her best friends are girls), and her biggest concerns are not getting punched by Isabelle and finishing her homework on time. I love it.

Who do you think makes a strong female protagonist?

-Ember Book Reviews

ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers

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5 out of 5

Romy’s life is divided. There’s the before and the after; the dead girl and the girl who took her place. There’s red and there’s…darkness. Romy isn’t living on one side or the other, but floating in the spaces in between, barely treading water, desperate to hold on to something good.

Nobody believes that she was raped. They all think she’s lying to get attention. Maybe it’s because her father was a drunk that they think that, but maybe it’s just because she’s a girl—a girl who liked a boy. They think that’s enough. They think that because she wanted him at one point, it was permission for him to do what he did to her. She wanted it. It’s what they all say. But she didn’t. She didn’t want it at all.

All the Rage is a breathtaking, earth-shattering novel about rape culture and what it means to be a girl. Courtney Summers has hit the nail on the head with this one, providing interesting and shockingly honest commentary on topics that people seem afraid to talk about so openly today. A darker novel with heavy themes, it was surprisingly easy to read because it is written so incredibly well.

This book is, by far, the best contemporary I’ve read this year. Every single person living should read this book. In fact, this book should be a compulsory read in all high schools everywhere. The narrative is just so raw, the writing so unique and elegant. Romy has a voice all her own, and it almost seemed like stream-of-consciousness writing that made the novel feel very personal. I felt at times like I knew Romy, like I was Romy, like I could be her. It really made me think. There are times in my real life when I have been her, and terrifying times when I could have been. And it’s true, everything Summers is saying about girls and rape culture and sexual assault. Boys don’t have it the same way and it’s horrible. Obviously, I’m not saying boys should suffer equally as much. But it’s shocking to me how often girls of any age are victims of sexual assault or unwanted attention. I have been, my friends have been. In All the Rage, Romy gives voice to those issues in a thrilling and deeply, deeply personal novel that truly raises the bar for contemporary novels and challenges how society talks about rape, sexual assault, and feminism.

My single complaint is that it ended. I wish we’d been given more of the “After” and that we knew what happened between her and Leon, but this is a very minor thing. Maybe one day we’ll have a sequel? I hope so, because I’m not ready to let go of Romy quite yet.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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Purchase this book on Amazon, or check out your local library or indie bookstore.