In the spirit of one of my favourite podcasts, What Should I Read Next?, I’ve decided to post monthly reading wrap ups using the podcast format of 3 books I loved, and 1 that was not for me (NFM). Each will include very mini reviews. I’ll also list what I’m currently reading at the end.
Three Books I Loved
1. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
“I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”
This book lays out six stories, each from the POVs of wives and girlfriends of superheros, some of whom are superheros themselves, but who have all, nonetheless, been fridged (a term for when female comic book characters are gruesomely tortured, maimed, and/or murdered, simply to further a male character’s heroic journey… you know, like Deadpool 2). It’s raw, it’s messy, and it’s unapologetically angry. I was so moved. It’s a true disruption to the status quo.
2. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
“Every man was a threat.”
This 1972 story follows a woman who is a mother, a wife, a photographer and a women’s lib activist. When she and her family move to Stepford and discover that most of the women there have no interests other than housework, she’s uncomfortable to say the least. But when the few women who seem to actually have fully functioning brains start to turn, one by one, into housewife drones, she has to wonder… who’s doing this to them and will she be next? Chills, chills and more chills. If you’ve seen the original movie, you have an idea of just how insidious this story is (please ignore the remake at all costs).
3. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
“In later years, I can always recognize someone else who received this shot of fear at an early age… children raised on cortisol.”
This is a different kind of YA than I’m used to. Set in England in the 90s, it follows a 14 year old girl who is living with the debilitating fear that one simple mistake she’s made will cause her family to lose the social benefits that keep them housed and fed. Determined to make it right, by 16 she drops out of school and takes up work as a music journalist. While she’s at it, she adds “lady sex adventurer” to her title. Both crass and touching, hilarious and sad, it’s an excellent exploration of the paranoia and anxiety that comes from growing up below the poverty line, feeling like a complete and utter outcast.
One Book NFM
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
“Humans only understand violence.”
I not only wanted to love this, I expected to. The concept grabbed me: a young woman sneaking off to futuristic interplanetary university, where she is the first of her race to be accepted, witnessing a horrific act of violence and having to be clever to stay alive. Unfortunately, the pace of this novella felt very off to me. I don’t think 96 pages was even almost enough space to tell such a complex story, and it irked me that the MC kept falling asleep as a device to pass time. Who naps while in mortal danger?! So, while I appreciate what Okorafor was doing here, it didn’t work as well for me as I hoped it would.
But, although I didn’t love this one, it did actually remind me (in some ways) of Octavia Butler’s Dawn, one of my all time favourite books. I highly recommend it if you did enjoy Binti — or if, like me, you just really wanted to.
What I’m Currently Reading
- Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty