Books Books

Girls of Paper and Fire

Like the vast majority of my book purchases, I came across Girls of Paper and Fire in QBD when I was randomly looking through the YA section for anything that might happen to take my fancy. The title and the cover drew me in, then I was sold when I read the blurb. Due to some enthusiasm on my part, as well as understanding, this review does contain a couple of minor spoilers. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, I recommend you read the book first.

Is it just me or is the whole “Royal Male Figure” gets what’s basically a harem a popular genre at the moment? Okay, it might just be me. But then, there’s The Selection series, which has the Prince in what’s essentially a The Bachelor situation, picking from a… well, a selection of pretty girls. Then there was Grace and Fury, a fantastic book that came in one of my OwlCrates (before I had to give it up ;_;) where the ruler, or in this case his heir, had a similar selection from a bunch of girls preened and polished to take on the role, to select three women for his wives/consorts. Then Girls of Paper and Fire… Okay, yeah, sure, it’s no Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Evernight, House of Night, Cirque Du Freak, etc. Vampire craze, but maybe I’m not crazy in seeing a pattern here.

Beyond the blurb, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Girls of Paper and Fire when I first opened it up. Until I read the Author’s Note at the beginning. That Author’s Note made me desperately want to find Natasha Ngan and give her the biggest hug I could (if she wanted one).

I am so thankful for the existence of this book, and that it was apparently in one of the latest OwlCrate editions. (Sad I missed out on it through them, though it’s even more evidence that the OwlCrate people and I have a shared excellent taste!)

Ngan wrote this book because she knows that everyone deserves to have their story told. That’s how a gay Malaysian girl who had to deal with rape and abuse came to have her story told. (I am talking about Lei. I have no idea if Ngan is gay and has had to deal with rape and abuse, though all the more reason to hug her if she has.)

Lei was a wonderful character who I found myself feeling deeply for very quickly. Smart and strong, I found my heart breaking at her situation, even more so when we got to further know Wren, and Wren’s situation.

The world was immersive. I found myself vividly picturing the Moon and Steel caste walking around. From bird demons to wolf demons, and the bull Demon King, I could easily envision them as a part of the world, looking down on mere humans for not having the same abilities as them.

The story was absolutely stunning. I was cheering for Lei as she stood up against oppression every chance she got, and found myself saddened when she was kicked back down by those who are on top. The love story had me cheering (in so many ways. I cannot stress enough how much seeing a gay love story happen without very clear signposting on the book makes me happy.)

The characters were truly wonderful. From Lei, who stood up when she could, to the spoiled Bull King who played with his toys. Of course there’s Wren, strong, determined Wren. But mostly I found myself loving Ngan’s depiction of Aoki, if for no other reason than the truthful depiction of how not everyone who’s abused sees it that way. They can often overlook the bad times and think of the good. That, and her being the youngest of the girls being the one to see the King as kind makes the most sense, as when we’re younger we’re more eager to look for love in the wrong places, and see the tiniest things as signs of something better.

I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. It enraptured me, and as a lover of diversity in YA I want to throw it at as many people as possible to make them read it. That being said, it does deal with some very heavy topics, particularly rape and abuse, and I can understand that not everyone can handle such things. If you are one of those who can handle it, I highly recommend Girls of Paper and Fire, and I hope you find yourself as drawn in to Ngan’s world as I was.

I will most certainly be reading this again at some stage. Likely before the next one comes out. (If there’s not going to be a next one, I will protest quite vigorously!)

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We Can’t Be Friends

Today I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, and oh boy was it amazing. I had goosebumps. The casting was absolutely spot on—couldn’t possibly be more perfect. There were moments I had to laugh—when Mike Myers’ character was saying how no one would crank up the movie’s namesake song and sing along with it. Especially given the first time I remember hearing the song was when I watched the movie Wayne’s World. As amazing as the movie was, it’s not what I particularly want to talk about in this blog. Instead, let me talk about one of the advertisements that came on before the movie.

A family were sitting in a car. Two boys, their father, and a little girl. The oldest boy had just received detention, for flicking a girl’s skirt up. The father said that was such a small thing to get detention for. His brother said that it’s silly, cos boys will be boys. The young girl explained how she was already well aware of how she was basically an object, and how she was expecting to be harassed like that for the rest of her life. Needless to say, I fell in love with this ad. For such a simple thing, it captured one of the most problematic things about our society’s view of men and women so perfectly.

While I’d love to continue about the “boys will be boys” problem, it has been done to death on the internet—and for good reason. Today, instead, I’d like to share my views with you about another issue our society faces. One which I don’t see as much discourse about online. What I’d like to discuss today, is the myth that adult men and women can’t just be friends.

This is the big myth, of which so many others stem. The myth of the friend zone, for example, comes from this. Well, I say myth of the friend zone. It’s not entirely a myth. It does exist. Though for the most part it’s for good reason. Personally, I would like to blame a hetero-normative society for the beginning and continued propagation of this myth.

It annoys me, for example, when it becomes obvious when reading a book who the love interest will be, simply because they’re the person the main character is closest to of the opposite gender. Or, worse than that, those books (movies, TV shows, media of any sort) where there’s a schism between friends, or a relationship, because of a girl or a boy. For example, Twilight. Yeah, I’m not a fan, I’m just using it as an example because it’s popular and was for some reason the first thing that jumped into my head.

Bella was friends with Jacob, but he was in love with her, even though she was in love with Edward. Obviously the whole thing gets awkward, and gross, but… let’s ignore that. Instead, I’ll look at Vampire Academy (a far better teenage vampire series, in my opinion). In the first two novels, Rose is friends with Mason, who was in love with her. It’s one of the reasons why I love books that break this tradition. And books where you can honestly find yourself uncertain as to who the main character is going to end up with at the end.

There are book series which I love, and still have the same or similar problems. For example, The Darkness Rising trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, Maya’s best friend, who seems to be firmly her best friend throughout the series, ends up being the love interest. Not that I’m complaining, I loved the series, and Dan was a beautiful person, but it still has that sense of “boys and girls can’t just be good friends” to me.

Even in Harry Potter, I remember everyone shipping Harry and Hermione, before the last book. Everyone was certain they were going to end up together. Then there’s Ron being the one to end up with Hermione (not to mention his moment destroying Slytherin’s locket where he’s worried Hermione and Harry might have ended up together).

It’s so annoying to me when people are jealous of anyone talking to their partner. A girl wouldn’t be worried that her partner was going to leave her for another boy. Even if the boy is bi (I imagine I’ll discuss bi-erasure on another blog one day. Perhaps. Not today’s topic, at least) she won’t be nearly as jealous of a boy talking to him than she would of a girl.

This is just a big pet peeve of mine. In any case, I shall leave you to contemplate the subject, and maybe reevaluate any friendships you may have. Blogs and reviews will likely be rather short from me for the moment, as unfortunately I am almost entirely drained. Certainly, uni is finished for now. I just wish my anxiety might listen to that fact, and calm down.