Review: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

For a McMahon book this was surprisingly uplifting but also contained what I consider to be her signature build up of dread. The story is told through multiple points of view and at first I wasn’t sure I liked it but as I started to see the pattern it made more sense. The points of view and experiences of each of these women matters deeply to the theme of the story – the way women viewed as different or on the outside are treated, particularly by the men whose control they chafe under or against.

I should warn you that this book may make you feel like you too could build a house – haunted or otherwise – and I hope you are quickly dissuaded of this notion. We also have more houses than people to live in them so you’d also be wasteful (end rant)

The relationships in this book were an interesting dynamic and I think they made me more stressed than the ghosts. Helen and Nate and how they were each haunted and if their marriage will survive (Nate is a skeptic to his detriment and Helen is a know it all), Olive and her father, Olive and Riley (a family full of pain and secrets), and the growth of one between Helen and Olive. Our main ghost is Hattie Breckenridge, a woman hanged as a witch, and everything is set in motion by her power and the curse of her murder. There’s just so much to tackle here and talk about thematically but I don’t want to spoil it!

This is a solid read and fans of McMahon will feel at home here, but this is definitely a novel that would appeal to readers who don’t usually read books about hauntings. The emotional core of the story is about the bonds between people and healing from loss and betrayal. It covers the way women have been treated over time and the vicious response to those who did not follow societal expectations. It’s about finding a way to communicate with the people you love. Olive experiences a strange coming of age as well but it’s easy to see yourself in her frustrations, anger, and fear. She frustrates the heck out of me but I also realize teenage girls can be totally irrational. It’s about the lines that connect mothers to daughters and the legacies passed on whether we know it or not. 

This was a 4.5 star read for me, as some of the overall structure took me out of the flow of the story even if I eventually could appreciate what it was meant to do and the stories the reader needed to see. 

Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

I did a buddy read of A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo in February, and ended up reading the whole book in one day on the 17th. Since V was born it had been a long time since I’d had the time and the inclination to do that, which if you’ve ever had an infant should tell you a lot about my enjoyment of this book. 

Female friendships are fucked up. I think almost every woman has a story of a relationship that was more complicated than they can explain – maybe there is a romantic dynamic, a weird powerful jealousy or sense of competition, an intense secret world that you build with another person and you feel threatened when someone else infringes on it. That’s this book. While most of those experiences don’t involve murder, I think we need more of these stories.

I’m going to clarify that while we need more stories with this dyamic, this is also written to be a thriller and I think a good example of a toxic friendship, as well as a very toxic romantic relationship.

Because I have to start by saying that I think everything is Margot’s fault. Girl is a big old c-word. She is incredibly controlling of her friends and Angie as her girlfriend. While I do think Jess gets a little petulant because of her feelings about Angie, most of her anger and concern are valid. The novel is also a good example of how very difficult it is to tell our friend they are in an abusive relationship – because we still struggle to accept that being excessively controlling and causing a partner to feel guilt is abuse – no physical harm necessary. Margot’s actions towards others initiated this chain of events and even though the end really surprised me, I still blame her and she’s definitely either an all caps K on the Teen Creeps scale, if not into full on Vera territory.

This book is a solid thriller with an emotional punch. Jess is a good character in that you understand her and are also frustrated by her. You definitely doubt her and find yourself believing she’s capable of murder. 

I gave this 4 stars because I wanted more and I felt like something was missing, but I would definitely recommend it. I hope Malinda Lo writes more teen thrillers because this is so well done. It’s solidly YA, versus being an adult thriller written about teenage girls. That’s an important distinction and a hard thing to shape, and shape well. 

Review: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

A psychological thriller that punches you in the heart. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (5/5)

Okay I’m skipping a few books that I read first so that I can write about Mystic River. I read Mystic River February 28-March 7, 2019 as part of a readalong hosted by @ilovethispod and @8luebird – it’s not my usual genre, but I had heard enough good things about Dennis Lehane that I wanted to give it a try. I’d also picked up Shutter Island but I know the twist to that one because I’ve seen the movie.

From GoodReads:

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever. 

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy’s daughter died covered in someone else’s blood. 

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.

In a technical sense, Lehane is amazing. The word choice, the flow of the language, the specificity of setting without being myopic, and the near poetry of the way he describes things is just incredible work. Even when I didn’t like what I was reading (re: gore, violence, other triggery things) I enjoyed the way it was written. The story unfolds over a very short period of time but so many details and events are documented that it should get boring or feel slow, but most of the time it doesn’t. If anything I wanted more of these deep dives, more of the thoughts of our three narrators as things happened.

The characters are another success of Lehane’s work in this book. The voices of the narrators are all distinct from each other while still maintaining high quality writing. Through their eyes we form not just attachments to them, but to their families, and most especially to Katie (I’ll circle back to her.) They are all strong in their own way, and all pathetic in their own way. I appreciated that the book didn’t wax poetic or hang everything on childhood friendships and get nostalgic over something. It was very clear that what happened to Dave separated them from each other, rather than uniting them. It was more like an ax hanging over their heads rather than something to cling to as a reason for care or loyalty. We see almost everything about Sean, most things about Dave, but I felt like very intentional choices were made to not to tell us about Jimmy. We know Jimmy now – we only see him through his kid eyes for a small amount of page time, and we never get any direct flashbacks to the Jimmy between then and when we first meet him as an adult. Jimmy has always been mysterious, and even when the narration is inside his mind, things are hidden. We know he loves deeply and fiercely, and we know he buried a part of himself away enough to be good on the surface.

The plot is straightforward, and anyone who likes to try and figure out the truth and is also a jaded cynic will figure it out. I had a hunch from the very beginning. I am also an investigator for a living, so maybe that’s why my brain noticed and went back to certain things. Even if you do figure it out, getting there is quite the trip and it makes the confirmation of who killed Katie no less devastating. The resolution of finding and confronting her killer is so damn dark and depressing. There is no feeling of justice, and it’s so brutally well done.

Because if you paid attention, you love Katie. The Katie you seem from her friends, her boyfriend, her dad, and even Dave. She came out the other side of her dad being in jail and losing her mom to cancer as a good, loving person. A daughter, a big sister, a girlfriend, a niece. She was loved and she was easy to love. It makes her murder and the process of finding her killer and trying to find resolution have a strong drive, and it makes the ending hurt in a variety of ways.

Our three main protagonists each get some kind of resolution at the end and like their characterization, the conclusions of their stories in this novel are both strong and pathetic. I have wishes for all of them – I wished that I could speak for them, or be the voice in their heads telling them what they aren’t seeing. The end is dark as fuck and I know that’s kind of Lehane trait. One I think he earns well with his writing.

This novel is detailed and intricate, and for someone who wants a driving plot and an emotional assault – this is definitely your read. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it and I gave this book four stars, but after writing this review and how I feel a week later – definitely a five star read. Thanks for the book B, I loved it.

Review: Weaveworld by Clive Barker

The book that got me to give Clive Barker another chance – Weaveworld (4 star)

I read Weaveworld by Clive Barker on February 4-9, 2019 as party of a readalong hosted by @the.pagemaster.19 – it was my first read and my third Barker book. This is significant because I am still kind of operating under the assumption that Barker is not for me. I read the Hellbound Heart and know that the books Barker writes in that realm are not for me – the manipulation and sexualization of pain and gore is not my thing. But then I read the Thief of Always and I loved that, so when I read a synopsis of Weaveworld I thought this might be another Barker that would work for me. I was right.

A summary from Amazon:

Here is storytelling on a grand scale — the stuff of which a classic is made. Weaveworld begins with a rug — a wondrous, magnificent rug — into which a world has been woven. It is the world of the Seerkind, a people more ancient than man, who possesses raptures — the power to make magic. In the last century they were hunted down by an unspeakable horror known as the Scourge, and, threatened with annihilation, they worked their strongest raptures to weave themselves and their culture into a rug for safekeeping. Since then, the rug has been guarded by human caretakers.

The last of the caretakers has just died.

Vying for possession of the rug is a spectrum of unforgettable characters: Suzanna, granddaughter of the last caretaker, who feels the pull of the Weaveworld long before she knows the extent of her own powers; Calhoun Mooney, a pigeon-raising clerk who finds the world he’s always dreamed of in a fleeting glimpse of the rug; Immacolata, an exiled Seerkind witch intent on destroying her race even if it means calling back the Scourge; and her sidekick, Shadwell, the Salesman, who will sell the Weaveworld to the highest bidder.

In the course of the novel the rug is unwoven, and we travel deep into the glorious raptures of the Weaveworld before we witness the final, cataclysmic struggle for its possession.

This is indeed an epic adventure, so much so that I had a bit of a hangover when I finished the book. I had to sit for awhile and process how much happened, and the variety of characters and experiences. It’s a very visceral book, but the descriptions don’t go overboard. It is quick and vivid, mirroring the way you can’t quite remember raptures and the Fugue – sharp, bright, glimpses of magic, fear, and possibilities. These things are seen well through our two main perspectives – Suzanna and Cal. Suzanna has something more that connects her to the Fugue, but makes her the person who helps the reader understand the danger and the desperation of the Weave. Cal, being a normal mortal (or “cuckoo”) is the one the reader relates to the most because he reminds us that our memory is a bit of a sieve and it is so easy for things to slip out.

Immacolata and her sisters are a highlight for me because in his fiction, Barker is basically obsessed with sex, sexual violation, and the dark things we desire, and she gets to be more than that. Immacolata has one of the more interesting character arcs in the whole novel – from this place of vengeance, to fear, to regret, and finally to peace (and I say that without spoilers.) I was kind of pleased to see this three beinged representation of women and women’s sexuality turn out to be more. I mean, the Magdalene is fucking terrifying but that’s kind of the point of her – it’s the sexual power, rather than the sexual manipulation we get with Immacolata. She is both a catalyst and a resolution – I so felt for her during her interactions with Shadwell. Shadwell was a very well-drawn near-parody of the worst kind of male identifying person, and made such a wonderful villain to hate. Even when I wanted to find a way to feel sympathy for him, I just could not. He got what he asked for, just not in the ways he expected.

Also, magical jacket! The best thing about Shadwell’s character was that jacket. Again, Barker was making us look at grief, memory, and desire in a different light – and look at it as part of what shapes our souls.

That is the heart of this book – what shapes our souls. The people and places we love, the things we remember that keep what is gone fresh or alive in our minds, the things we will do for the people that matter, and ultimately whether we will protect those who are more vulnerable than we are. Would you protect something because it was different? Would you protect something even if it resented you for your ability to do so? That last question is why I love Suzanna – the reasons she pushes forward with trying to protect the Fugue are so layered and complicated, and incredibly difficult. If I were her, when the story ended, I’d take the longest, hopefully a dreamless, nap.

The last character I want to talk about is Hobart. He speaks to the very worst of our fears about law enforcement, and yet he is the villain I feel sympathy for. He watched a country be decimated by terrorist attacks, he felt that the Law could save them all. Doing what he did then is what shaped, or you could say warped, his soul. He was an addict, and once he lost his source he would do anything to find a new one. He is chasing something he doesn’t understand and warping himself further and further until all that is left is the tiny part of his humanity that knows he has destroyed himself. I loved the metaphors of knights and dragons that went along with his story and found his sections some of the most compelling.

The book definitely drags here and there, and in the current publishing world this would have been easily broken down into a duo or a trilogy to account for some of the lulls. The story was really three giant events and the things in between – easily broken down into smaller pieces.

I saw they are currently trying to adapt Weaveworld into a TV show – it could work, but I think a lot of that depends on the casting.

Weaveworld is a 4 star read for me – it wasn’t perfect, but it had moments that are going to stick with me and it’s making me give Barker more chances. I definitely recommend this for anyone that likes epic stories, the classic adventure, but set in a new world and seen from a very different perspective.

 

 

Commentary: IT by Stephen King

This is not a review because how do you review something so epic? This is an expanded version of my thoughts and comments on one of my all-time favorite novels. Beyond top 5, this is top 3.

I re-read IT for the second time during January 2019 as part of a readalong hosted on instagram by Luke (luke.at.what.im.reading) and I decided to annotate my copy. Currently, that consists of a few hundred tabs. Eventually, it will also be notes in the margins. I have my pristine hardback, and I’ll have my well-loved and destroyed paperback to remind myself what I loved.

The tabs: hot pink was general quotes I liked, usually those from the narrator not a specific character; orange was Bev moments/quotes (of course); yellow was Bill moments/quotes; green was Ben moments/quotes; blue was Mike moments/quotes; light purple was things about IT and the other entities as well as the plot moments that paid off later; and dark purple was anything the other characters did. Looking back if I had another color I probably would have done one for Richie too – I’ll explain why later.

The Losers…the first time you read this book I think it’s the love triangle of Bev, Bill, and Ben that stays in your mind. Bill is an overwhelming character and this is mostly his story so when you step away that’s what you remember. The second time around I assigned a specific color to Mike because of the role he played, not because I remembered the Interludes or how much of the voice of the story belongs to him. Mike gets so under-utilized in the adaptations and it made me feel brand new disappointment with the new one. They stole his story and I’m just going to say that I think there was a racial element to that decision, unconscious or otherwise. Why would they take this amazing representation of a young black male in the 60’s who had a strong, supportive nuclear family and make him an orphan being raised by a toxic family member? That just makes my skin crawl. Mike’s story deserved better, and I am hoping the second movie does better by him.

Richie is also so much more than I remembered. He was the funny guy, the mouth, but I forgot how much heart he has too. The adventures that are just Richie and Bill, and how much Richie loves him, are lovely. Richie also plays a lot bigger role in the defeat of IT than he gets credit for in the 60s, and he basically saves all their butts in the 80s. Of all the Losers, I think Richie is one of the most self-aware. He knows who he is and that he struggles to control parts of himself – but also knows those parts will develop into something more. And damn does he love his friends.

One of the things I was seeing during the readalong was people’s discomfort with the racism and violence toward gay men, specifically, and discussing whether or not those scenes and how they were written was necessary. Horror, and most especially Stephen King, hold up a mirror to the monsters we really are. The racial and homophobic violence are written to be taking place 60 and 30 years ago – but how familiar did those scenarios sound? The violence, vitriol, and hatred experienced by Mike and his family, experienced by Adrian, are things that still happen to this day. Are you uncomfortable with those scenes? GOOD. It means you are experiencing cognitive dissonance that the world is not different, and that we are uncomfortable because these things are still happening. This kind of violence is still in King’s recent books because we haven’t fixed anything. My discomfort with those scenes came from a place of fear and pain because it reminds me the world is not much better, and that there’s still work I can be doing to improve it.

It’s also why I love the tiny glimpses we get into Victor Criss. We want to believe we’d be Bill and stand up, but a lot of times – we’re Victor. Something feels wrong and we know things might have gone too far, but we don’t know how to break out of our pattern and confront the Henry Bowers that we meet in our lives. We don’t know how to confront, change, or break away from toxic people. If only he had, eh?

Since the first time I read this book, I have become a lot more informed, maybe even an expert, at issues related to socio-sexual power dynamics, abuse, trauma, and relationship violence. All of that information changed the way I saw Bev’s journey in IT and The Scene.

Listen, it is weird. I can also have the conversation about whether or not it was necessary as a way to reconnect the Losers. It definitely makes me uncomfortable and it’s not because of cognitive dissonance, it’s because we have to think about what sex means, and what sex means to an uninformed young person running on fear and instinct.

Bev’s journey is about the way we prematurely sexualize young girls – the second their body develops, even though their brain has not, they stop being a child and become an object. Bev is treated like a sexual being and doesn’t even realize that’s what’s happening – people make assumptions about her actions and emotions based on her body. Think about the way Bev loved Bill – it was innocent, it wasn’t physical – and the ability of the group to be friends with each other without complications. There was an awareness that Bev was a girl, and different, and a potential object for EMOTIONAL affection – but none of them thought about sex because that’s not where the brains of children go. They go to a totally different kind of love.

Controlling the sexuality of a young girl was also clearly there when it comes to the way Bev’s father treats her. He exerted fairly total control over his family, and there is always something about a maturing girl that is a little bit wild. I like to believe it’s because we are suddenly filled with the potential for creation (which is not necessarily sexual) and it scares people who are obsessed with power and control. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that he also exercised power and control over his wife – I think she could see what was coming for Bev and was going to try and do what she could to protect her, or stop it before too much happened. Bev is raw power and potential, growing into something beautiful. It’s so easy to knock that down, and when you look at the rest of her life’s journey – they succeeded. She dated and married men who only wanted to suffocate her because that was what she knew.

So when we go back to her childhood and her confusion over her father’s obsession with something that is not even on her mind, it makes Bev contemplate physical love and it’s ties to emotional love. When the Scene happens, it is Bev taking absolute control of her body and her power. In that moment, the only person influencing her decision was her. To her, the physical act was only an act of love and connection, not this dark, furtive thing it would become. The person with the power was Bev, and she made the choice to use it. It’s still extremely weird, but it’s ultimately empowering. It was an act of love.

Still unnecessary, but from a narrative standpoint it is in line with the rest of her journey.

This second time around also reminded me of one of the best quotes, and my friend Brad was nice enough to make an image of it for me.

Chances are that “people who build their houses in your heart” is going to end up tattooed on my body.

Anyway, IT is always a 5 star read for me, and this second time around it blew me away all over again how staggeringly good it is. I was an emotional wreck. I can barely even think of IT as a horror novel. People who are focused on Pennywise the Clown without understanding what the clown is, or that the story is SO MUCH BIGGER than that drive me crazy. It’s about love and friendship, and the things that make the world worth surviving in. I’ll probably wait a few years before I read it again, so I’ll have forgotten just enough for the journey to feel fresh again.

Review: The Curses by Laure Eve

Continuing the story of the intriguing, mysterious Grace family…4/5

I eagerly read the sequel to the Graces on January 25-31, 2019 and my waiting was rewarded. The Curses was released in the beginning of this year and I waited for it to be my last read of the month sort of to pleasurably torture myself. And because I know the clock resets to waiting for the next book.

From GoodReads:

Picking up the pieces after the chilling events of the previous year isn’t easy, but the Graces are determined to do it. Wolf is back after a mysterious disappearance, and everyone’s eager to return to normal. Except for Summer, the youngest Grace. Summer has a knack for discovering the truth—and something is troubling her. After a trail of clues leads her to what could be the key to both her family’s mysterious past and the secret of Wolf, she’s determined to vanquish yet another curse. But exposing secrets is a dangerous game, and it’s not one Summer can win alone.

At Summer’s behest, the coven comes back together, reluctantly drawing their erstwhile friend River back into the fold. But Wolf’s behavior becomes unpredictable even as Fenrin’s strength fades, and Summer must ask herself whether the friend she so loves is also planning her family’s ultimate, cursed demise.

This riveting sequel to The Graces is saturated with magic, the destructive cost of power, the complications of family, and the nature of forgiveness.

I loved being in Summer’s head. As much as I enjoyed River in the first book she was seeing everything from a place of disbelief and the unknown. Summer has just as much of the unknown to face, but the unknown isn’t magic – it’s herself and other people. In the first book I never entirely understood why the Graces were drawn to River, and it seemed that River needed them so much more than they needed her. It can feel like that when you’re in a friendship that is deep and powerful – that you’re the needy one. It was interesting to see the same friendship from Summer’s side and find that she felt the same about River. What you don’t see about Summer in the first book is that she is so damn lonely. Some of it is her age and position within her family, and some of it is the nature of her power isolating her from others. By the end of the book the relationship between Summer and River isn’t repaired, but it’s starting to be fixed.

The theme of this book is definitely desire, and the things desire can drive us to do both for good and for bad. I like that it doesn’t treat desire as a negative thing, because so much does. Desire is a motivation to focus intention, and tracing desire revealed how the magic within the Graces universe works. While some of the language on that gets a little gray and confusing, it’s in line with the fact that despite how confident they seem to outsiders, the Graces are still just barely getting a grip on magic themselves. This book was definitely a reminder that they are still kids – full of dreams, imagination, immaturity, and without restraint when it comes to some of their emotions. When you’re a frustrated, confused teenager and then you add powerful magic to the mix there’s no way things will always go right.

The ending of the book was tense, heartbreaking, and super dark. The first book was dark and broody but the Curses crossed even further into that territory. Magic has a dark side more than a light one in this universe, and it is so easy for that power to corrupt people. It’s also a sign that parents need to be open with their children because that definitely led to some of the drama in this book. There was one point during the height of the tension when I actually said, “noooo” out loud because part of me wanted the happy ending. You don’t really get a happy ending to the Curses, but you get a much less miserable one than the end of the Graces.

I’m left with a lot of questions and I’ll be interested to see how they evolve as more of the Graces story is told. Are the Graces actually cursed? Can people be cured from magic?  Are Thalia and Marcus going to be a thing again? What kinds of love trigger the curse? WHEN WILL I GET ANOTHER BOOK!?

This was 4/5 stars from me – I loved the continuation of these characters and I think it was even stronger than the first. The first was a mystery, the second was an emotional flaying that tested the bonds of these characters and gave them space to grow.

Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

Back in the Buffyverse – 4/5 stars!

I read Slayer by Kiersten White on January 20-24, 2019. The year is already turning into a KW heavy year and I am totally fine with that.

Slayer is complicated to talk about, considering it’s place in a much wider universe. While I’ve watched all of the series, I have not kept up with the expanded universe of graphic novels and comics. The good news is that you don’t have to – the question is if this satisfies your further Buffy needs.

From GoodReads:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.” [emphasis mine]

This was a fun dip into the world of the Watchers. They are somehow stuffy, endearing, infuriating, and fascinating. Their numbers were destroyed, so a handful of people of a variety of ages are all that remains of a society that lasted millennia. They are keepers of knowledge and some of it’s totally useless now. Magic is gone, but the evil remains. They are a people without a purpose now that Slayers have rejected their oversight. The novel does a fascinating and thorough job of interrogating the power dynamic between Watchers and Slayers. Slayers are imbued with immense power, but they were also young women basically sacrificed to save the world in a decision made by a bunch of dudes. The idea that Slayers only get out of their job by dying is repeated. The Watchers’ power is knowledge and magic – but when those things are mostly irrelevant…who are they?

Oh Nina and Artemis. Ultimately, Artemis is the kind of character who drives me insane – she’s strong and powerful and dead effing silent. If you put the whole world on your shoulders, and refuse to give it up even though it hurts and others try and take on some of the burden but you won’t let them, well I don’t have a lot of sympathy for you. I am excited to see how she turns out for the rest of the series, because currently I want to grab her and shake her. She’s being bad to herself, and ultimately bad to everyone around her.

Nina. Athena. Precious little Watcher-Slayer. It was enjoyable to see her get more confident and powerful as the book went on. Being inside her head provided perspective to the reader – she was so much more than she could see. Nina was so negative about herself not just because that’s being a teenage girl, but because until shit started hitting the fan no one took a moment to tell her she had value just being herself. It’s the lesson she starts to learn in the events of the novel, and it was so poignant.

Now, one of the most important themes in the Buffyverse is friendship. Slayer definitely tackles the subject and honestly, there’s a moment between Cillian and Nina where he is just a great friend, and knows exactly what to say to Nina even though he has no idea that’s what he’s doing. I loved it so much. It was fun in those moments to see how themes and work I associate specifically with Kiersten also fit into a pre-existing universe. It was moments like that which showed me how well-chosen Kiersten was to write this series. A lot of the things that matter in Buffy are things I know already matter to her, and can be woven sincerely into the work. It’s not an effort, she’s not told to add those things, it’s things she would write about anyway.

There’s also some really interesting things going on about motherhood in Slayer as well. There’s a trinity of moms that on the surface appear very different from one another – Helen Jamison-Smythe (the girls’ mom), Wanda Wyndam-Price (Honora and Wesley’s mom), and Eve Silvera (Leo’s mom. We aren’t even going to talk about Leo.) Helen comes off as cold, Wanda comes off as a helicopter, and Eve comes off as the perfect parent. All of them are different than they appear on the surface, and all of them have different expectations for their kids. And frankly, different expectations of themselves as parents. Having just become a parent myself it was interesting to see how what they wanted for their kids overshadowed what the kids wanted for themselves, and the myriad ways in which that dynamic damaged all of them.

From reading other reviews I think this book is getting the short end, probably because there’s too much comparison. And a lot of people are forgetting that the characters are TEENAGERS. So let’s keep that in perspective.

Personally, I really enjoyed this book. It was life or death for a teenage brain and literally life or death for the Watchers. I can’t want to see Nina continue to embrace her identities and become who she’s meant to be. With lots of chaos and heartbreak along the way. It was 4/5 stars for me!