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.



calling maggie may4 out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: June 23, 2015. Imprint: Simon Pulse. Release information: Paperback, $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN; Hardcover, $17.99 US/$22.99 CAN.]

Too much responsibility. That’s what she feels pressing down on her day after day. Her parents’ expectations are too much, and for once she just wants to do something that she wants to do. When will her choices start to matter?

Then she meets Ada. Ada is exotic. When she discovers that Ada is a prostitute, she’s somewhat surprised, but after Ada sets her up on a date that leads to her losing her virginity, that surprise is quickly replaced with excitement. Sex is fun. Finally, she’s found something that she wants to do, and that she can make money off doing.

As she falls deeper and deeper into the life of prostitution, she realizes that perhaps life with her parents wasn’t so bad after all…

Calling Maggie May is quite different from what I normally read. Dark and very atmospheric, this book made me incredibly uncomfortable and yet it was like watching a car crash: I couldn’t look away even though I wanted to. This book was so shocking and absorbing that I couldn’t put it down.

The book is written in diary form and as such, the main character goes unnamed throughout the book (hence the repeated use of “she” in my synopsis). The book was also therefore written to seem like non-fiction but after doing a bit of research into similar titles, such as Go Ask Alice, I’m not so sure that it is. That being said, something felt off about the novel that I can’t quite put my finger on, and perhaps it was this fiction-disguised-as-non-fiction ruse. The writing of the journal (the locations it’s written in, the occasional switching from past to present tense as things happen while the MC is writing) seemed strange, maybe even unrealistic. In addition, the MC was incredibly naïve, even after being further and further exposed to the world of prostitution, which also seemed unrealistic to me and was a bit frustrating.

One of my main points of concern is that the journal leaves off in one place and the editor’s note at the end begins in a completely different one. It’s difficult to explain what I mean without giving away any spoilers, but the thing is that the ending and the editor’s note do not correlate at all. There’s such a huge gap between the two in terms of information and plot that it’s almost unbelievable. This also supports my theory that this book is in fact fictional.

Overall, it has been difficult to write this review from a non-emotional standpoint. I really strongly disliked the MC. She came from a middle-class background with parents who were tough on her but only wanted what was best for her, and simply chose to be a prostitute as a way of rebellion. Throughout the book, the other characters (who come from darker backgrounds) are constantly suggesting to her that perhaps she should just go home to her family. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and scream this into her face. Honestly, this girl needed to snap out of it. I kind of hoped something even more terrible would happen to her just so she’d wake up a little bit and face the real world.

I still think that readers who enjoy something a little darker, a little more thrilling, will get quite a kick out of this book, and I did enjoy my time reading it. There’s something about reading about a life so absolutely different from your own that is captivating, and I definitely felt that way with Calling Maggie May. I just wish the MC had been a little more likeable, or at least relatable, and that she hadn’t been bumbling around with the wool pulled over her eyes so much. I do recommend this book, and hope that you will enjoy it. Let me know what you think!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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