24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Abby Reads: Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls (Volume I) by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Image Comics, 2016, 144 pages
Graphic Novel

Paper Girls, written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang, got incredibly lucky — not only was the execution fantastic, but it emerged in a year in which Netflix’s Stranger Things took off, providing fans of the show with more fantastic science fiction Eighties nostalgia revolving around kids who display maturity that adults often forget they had as kids. When Erin joins a group in the early morning hours of November 1 to deliver newspapers, she finds empowerment in being part of the first group of girls to serve as paperboys. Although twelve years old, Erin already has a solid grip on the world around her — until everything is turned upside down with two different sets of invaders in her neighborhood who seem to be at war with each other. Are they aliens? Are they from the future? Are they here to harm the people of Erin’s town? Already, the adults have lost their minds and the paper girls are on their own.

Erin’s love of scientists, evidenced by a woman scientist (I’ll keep it a surprise as to who) appearing in her dream, draws the reader in right away. While the girls in Paper Girls are girls, you won’t find any stereotypes here. Each character lives in their own flaws, toughness, capability, and sensitivity, a luxury rarely afforded to female characters particularly in this specific genre (by which I mean a sort of action-adventure about kids in the Eighties, in which you generally either have one token girl amongst a group of boys who, still, is either “girly” or a tomboy with no spectrum between the two, and neither is ever truly viewed favorably).

Instead, though each are different in nuanced ways that make them individuals you might recognize from your own childhood, Mac, Erin, Tiffany, and KJ are not terribly influenced by their gender beyond the pride of being the first of the paper girls in a town of only paperboys. Vaughan’s ability to write real girls sets Paper Girls apart from so many other stories about girls and women. This is especially impressive given that, in reality, the graphic novel is in many ways about what it is to be a girl. Vaughan creates a fascinating and apparent paradox, writing girls who are seemingly genderless by society’s and fiction’s standards while maintaining characters that are more true to girlhood than characters of other narratives that specifically highlight facets of girlhood.

Meanwhile, Vaughan refuses to ignore other important conversations on privilege. Mac, for example, is the embodiment of privileged America. Her dialogue and beliefs can be highly offensive, even within the “historical” context of the Eighties, yet without being too obvious about it, Vaughan nods to the moral issues there. Though Mac’s first utterance of a gay slur was shocking, something beneath the surface of the narrative suggests Mac is in fact being set up for major character development, which is massively exciting — it has been so rare, in my experience, to see true and meaningful character development for adolescent girls in fiction that goes beyond the role of women in relation to men. How refreshing it is to see it unfolding in Paper Girls.

The concept in plot is equally riveting. It’s difficult to say much without giving it away, but I was impressed by the complexity that develops throughout the graphic novel and felt it brought up some great questions and dilemmas, causing the reader to look both inward and outward at themselves, society now, and society in the future. The premise is loaded with relevant allegories, but is supposed heavily by a great story that promises to get even better.

Finally, a word on the art — I often, as I’ve mentioned before, struggle with art in graphic novels. Though I recognize it’s an inherent and important part of graphic novels, I typically find it distracting and overwhelming. Chiang’s illustrations for Paper Girls, however, are mind-blowing. The simplicity of colors and outlines with a jaw-dropping and buzzing palette made me want to get large prints of several of the panes to decorate my walls with. I loved this art, from the style to the execution to the concept, and I can’t overstate how engaging it made the material as a whole.

Paper Girls does have moments of confusion. As a first volume, I expect some of that is intentional as we learn more about what is actually going on and about the world in which the story takes place. I’ll be watching my libraries for Volume II, to find out what happens next and get another eyeful of that spectacular art. If you’re a fan of Eighties nostalgia revival, complex girl characters, and science fiction (or even if you’re not a fan of any of those things but trust me just a little bit), I hope you’ll join me.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Flicker and Mist by Mary Thompson

A while back, I started reviewing as a volunteer for School Library Journal and Library Journal. My contract with them is such that I can share the reviews I’ve published with them six months after they appear in the journal. The first review I wrote for School Library Journal was for Flicker and Mist by Mary Thompson. If your library catalog includes published reviews for materials as does the Arlington Public Library, you can see my name alongside reviews I’ve written for a handful of books so far. Check out what I had to say about Flicker and Mist below!

Gr 9 Up—Thompson serves up important questions in this dystopian fantasy about an unusual love triangle and a heroine pushed to the edge. In New Heart City, which values those without magical abilities over those with them, Myra must deny an inherited part of herself in order to stay safe. After the Flickerkin, who can become invisible at will, are blamed for planting an explosive device at a race, New Heart’s leaders begin jailing and threatening the execution of anyone with Flickerkin blood. With her mother in prison and her father in a precarious political position, the teen must rely on herself and her friends to survive. The novel starts with a heavy dose of exposition typical of this genre, and although it moves at a slower pace than action-filled works such as Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and its successors, this title invites readers to ponder big political and social questions, many of which are easily applicable to contemporary life. Myra comes across as a somewhat passive character until the climax approaches and she and her friends take things into their own hands. This change speeds up the pace and brings the narrative to an adrenaline-filled close. VERDICT For those who can’t get enough dystopian fiction, this work offers another look at governing-gone-wrong, with central themes of equality and racism.

Abby Reads: The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
HarperTeen, 2016, 432 pages
YA Fantasy

When a great beast begins terrorizing the world of Eurona, the king issues a challenge: he that can defeat the animal will win his daughter’s, Princess Aerity, hand in marriage. Resigning herself to do what is best for her kingdom when the king’s resources are limited, Aerity watches at people from her own kingdom and beyond are destroyed by the beast’s terror. During her visits to the fighting men (and few women) who try to defend Eurona, Aerity meets one contender who, while he has no interest in marrying Princess Aerity, feels he must do what he can to protect his homeland and family. Paxton and his brother hunt alongside the others and there’s no doubt they are good — but Paxton is drawn in by Aerity’s self-assuredness, causing an internal conflict over why he is actually fighting. In a tale that recreates the Grimm Brothers’ “The Singing Bone,” The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins is the first in the Eurona duology.

The Great Hunt came into my life because I was asked to review its sequel, The Great Pursuit. In many ways, especially after having read both books, The Great Hunt felt more like a large prologue to The Great Pursuit rather than its own book even as part of a duology. The Great Hunt lays out the foundation for The Great Pursuit but doesn’t have much of a story of its own. In fact, characters in the first novel are severely underdeveloped. This is especially obvious with the book’s main character, Princess Aerity. With little nuance, Aerity’s primary characteristic is the clichéd defiance many-a-fictional princess exhibits. The slight difference with Aerity is her willingness to go along with her father’s decree for the sake of her kingdom; this is not enough, however, to flesh her into a full being. Aerity’s one hobby — something that might help to better form her personality if done well — is merely a plot device which ultimately serves in one small scene to remove characters from trouble. Its presence in her life has no other purpose and feels, therefore, disingenuous. Other flat areas include the villain and the villain’s motivations, which otherwise begin with promise but ultimately fall.

Also troubling is the level of sluts-haming in the novel. Wyneth, who watches her betrothed die, begins to move on with other characters and one hunter in particular. She is not only seemingly punished for daring to kiss her betrothed before he dies, but is on the receiving end of sneers and other mistreatment and judgment as she develops a relationship with the hunter. The importance of monogamy in this fictional society is emphasized to the extent that it makes me wonder if the author was trying to make a point with this. While I’m on the fence as to whether we should portray humans and reality strictly as they are in fiction or condemn actions that are, in our society, generally seen as unacceptable, the fairly frequent talk of monogamy and consequences for stepping outside those boundaries in one way or another (of course more severe for women) was a bit much for me.

Higgins does a decent job with romantic moments despite her characters’ lack of personalities and even pulls off a surprise ending, but the entire premise of the book doesn’t quite add up for me. The king makes excuses for not rewarding land to the winner of the hunt by saying he needs it for his son and his other daughter’s dowry. There’s apparently no money to be had. And so he turns to…selling off his oldest daughter? Surely there were more options and, because Higgins does not explore other potential options (which causes some deficit in the world building area), readers are forced to accept that this is truly the only way.

And while a beast terrorizes the kingdom of Eurona, the stakes never felt quite high enough to warrant the tense action-adventure atmosphere Higgins tries to create. Plenty of moments in the novel are overly drawn out and slow while others are completely unnecessary, adding nothing to the plot or character development. Pursuit was certainly better, giving Hunt more of a payoff than it probably deserved, but I can’t necessarily recommend Hunt beyond that, which is why I leave it with two-and-a-half hearts.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Penguin Books, 2005, 832 pages
Biography

I caught the Hamilton bug last June, during which time I swore to myself again and again that I’d listen to something else for a change, just to once again, plug the Hamilton soundtrack into my ears. (The obsession gradually shifted to also include Panic! at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor, but I still listen to Hamilton pretty heavily, discovering new layers every time — but that’s enough about my music habits.) Like pretty much the rest of the country/world, I decided I must read the original biography which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus in the first place. My friends, I was not prepared.

It took several months waiting on four or five different holds lists (hooray for living in a metropolitan area with reciprocal library systems!) before I finally got my digital hands on it in late August. I have never been so grateful to have checked out the digital version of a book, because this thing is massive. Not only is it eight-hundred-thirty-two pages, but the print is pretty small. But I’m never one to back down from a challenge. This little monster took me about three months and some days to read, slowly inching through it by commute and lunch reading. And it’s not because it was boring.

It took me a while to get on the biography train. I’m someone who likes a decent amount of dialogue because it helps switch up the sentence length and, therefore, the pace. And certainly there were genuinely slow parts of the biography during which the passage of time and details about Hamilton’s life were necessary to include, but did not feature any exceptionally exciting moments. Fortunately, Chernow is a master at detail and rich research, which brings the subject and other players to life in a way of which few biographers are capable. This level of detail also allows Chernow to logically draw conclusions and implications for events we cannot necessarily know for sure about. For example, while Hamilton’s exact intent for Burr and Hamilton’s duel are cloudy, Chernow makes a reasonable guess based on his research and what we know of Hamilton himself.

With all of the detail, it’s easy to get lost in Chernow’s depiction of Hamilton. Returning to the length of the book, readers might even expect to eventually get bored — surely there’s only so much to say about a person, right? Chernow again defies the odds with an engaging prose style that, while not quite reading like fiction, does read with an easy flow. Chernow’s intelligent, yet accessible prose makes Alexander Hamilton a win for most readers. Chernow highlights his writing with fascinating anecdotes from Hamilton’s life and heightened drama and stakes, even as he writes of the past.

For readers who enjoy the details of the influences on the subject, Chernow makes more excellent progress. His focus on Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton is unprecedented, even as he acknowledges the first-hand information on her is limited. This makes the book not just a beautiful tribute to Alexander Hamilton, but of all his family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and achievements.

The biography might have benefited from some illustrations, of course — although Chernow generally does an excellent job of explaining concepts, tools, and so forth of the past with which modern readers might not have familiarity, he often references paintings and other more visual media that might have increased the quality of the book had they been included. It’s reasonable, now, that we might simply use our phones to look up a given piece (I know I did), but when it was published in 2005, most readers did not have such a luxury and, to be sure, not everyone does now. Truly, I did most of my reading of this book underground in a Metro car. My cell service? Basically non-existent.

So, if you’re looking for something challenging in length this year, consider Alexander Hamilton. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was.

❤❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Show Off: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

With summer approaching, readers of all ages are looking for easy going reads with happy endings. Teen fiction over the last several years has veered toward the darker aspects of life. And no surprise! The recession combined with plenty of world events that have continued to reveal the murkier side of humanity has made pessimists of authors and readers alike. We find comfort and understanding in work that reflects our reality in one way or another.

But sometimes we need a break. We need an escape. So I put together this list of titles that are lighthearted. These stories aren’t without conflict — what is a story without conflict, after all? — but they’re fun reads. Great for the beach, pool side, or a tall glass of cold water, these novels will bring a little sunshine into your life.

Each book on the list is represented as a festive triangular flag.

 

What are some of your favorite lighthearted reads?

Show Off: April Showers Bring Superpowers

Summer means blockbuster movies mean superheroes! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives in theaters next week, so what better time to feature some of the library’s materials on superheroes than now? I put together this board for April, which gave me the excellent opportunity for the “title” of the board — April Showers Bring Superpowers. While I featured a few graphic novels, I also included some fiction and nonfiction to give readers who might read exclusively graphic novels the option of something related, but in a different format. Although this door display is located in the teen section of the James M. Duncan Branch of the Alexandria Public Library system, some of the materials are located in the adult section.

At this library, teen nonfiction is interfiled with adult nonfiction (which is located on the other side of the library). I hoped that teens who might venture over for the adult nonfiction titles featured in this display might come upon some familiar YA stickers on the spines of the YA nonfiction in the stacks and realize those materials were available to them as well. Plus, the adult section of the library always felt so forbidding to me — perhaps if we specifically invite teens to that side, their transition from teen to adult fiction might be that much easier. Of course, the transition need not be a complete transition — my reading is still YA heavy and there’s no shame in reading YA as an adult. But for readers looking for something outside the usual YA parameters, this might strike them as an opportunity.

Take a look at the door below and let me know what you think!

And, for those of you who want to cry out, “You can’t include Batman! He doesn’t have a superpower!” Consider this: Batman’s superpower is being super-sad.

Abby Reads: Maud by Melanie Fishbane

Maud by Melanie Fishbane
Penguin Teen, 2017, 400 pages
YA Biographical Fiction

I received this eBook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Maud will be available for purchase April 25, 2017 (today!).

Before L. M. Montgomery was the best-selling author of Anne of Green Gables and other works, she was a young woman living on Prince Edward Island. Drawing from Montgomery’s journals, letters, and other artifacts, Melanie Fishbane brings Montgomery to life in her biographically-inspired work of fiction, Maud. Beginning in her early teen years on Prince Edward Island, Maud takes its title character on a journey to the west and on a journey to adulthood. As she encounters family relations, friendships, and romantic entanglements, Maud learns about herself and what it will take to become who she wishes to be.

Although the story is in the third person, Fishbane employs a prose style similar to what was common in Montgomery’s time. The language is simple and carries an innocent air along with it, helping to build the slow, small-town scene which Maud inhabits. This sometimes causes the plot to crawl at a pace that seems slower than necessary, which is only emphasized by a plot structure that heavily relies on thickly-characterized individuals. Fishbane’s attention to the detail of each character makes each evolution fascinating to watch. Maud’s relationship with Will, her second love interest, is particularly fascinating as Will’s demeanor is more mature than most other teenage characters in the story and, while Maud regularly compares him to her first love, the circumstances of the relationship among other things makes whatever love triangle that might exist seem fresh and new.

Aside from the usual relationship woes many teenagers face, Maud is also in conflict with her future and those around her who wish to stifle any chance she has at the future she wants. Though Fishbane’s approach to this central conflict makes it seem more true to life, it’s not clear until the very end whether Maud’s desire to write or to teach is the true conflict. While she wants both and anyone at all familiar with Montgomery knows how her writing desires turn out, which is the primary want is ambiguous until the conflict is solved.

Another conflict, this one relational, is Maud’s experience with her step-mother. As if out of a fairy tale, Maud finds her step-mother to be over-demanding, cruel, and selfish. There are moments of light and kindness in the new Mrs. Montgomery’s personality, but this is one conflict that is never resolved and Fisbane refrains from speculating on the why, for the most part. Is Mrs. Montgomery jealous of the attention her husband affords his daughter? Is she simply prickly from pregnancy hormones? Is there some other issue stemming from the nearness in the two women’s ages that is causing a problem? The root of Mrs. Montgomery’s attitude toward Maud is never truly explained and, while certainly in reality Maud may never have discovered the reason, a fictional narrative of her life is the perfect place to at least make some leading guesses.

Maud is, overall, charming. Though the writing style is perhaps more appropriate for a younger audience than the audience who would find interest in the novel’s content, it’s a wonderful way to incorporate Maud’s personality and to articulate the lifestyle Maud and her contemporaries experienced. Fishbane’s research is evident throughout the book, creating a mostly-satisfying
presentation of Montgomery’s life and leaving readers with a hunger for more, whether of Maud herself or the results of her work.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas
Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2015, 448 pages
YA Fantasy

Feyre, a human in a world that is not our own, hates faeries. When she happens across one in wolf-form in the woods while hunting for her family, she kills it. Before long, a faerie comes to collect her as she’s violated the treaty with her murder. Her captor, Tamlin, is High Lord of the Spring Court and will keep her for an undetermined time. While Feyre learns about the way of the faeries just over the border, she also learns they are perhaps not so evil as she has been led to believe. Although she still must fulfill the treaty’s consequences, Feyre finds Tamlin to be forgiving as he restores her family’s wealth and protects her from the antagonistic forces of Amarantha and her consort, Rhys, who has taken an interest in Feyre himself.

I shouldn’t be writing this review. I know too much!

Without spoiling too much, I’ll say the following: the sequel to this novel, A Court of Mist and Fury, will completely change how you interpret A Court of Thorns and Roses. You may pick up inklings of how a certain character really isn’t as moral as they ought to be, but you won’t realize the extent of it until A Court of Mist and Fury. I had a lot of complaints about Maas’s Throne of Glass series, which didn’t feel well set-up (or, if it is, the payoff is too slow and not worth the work to get there), but this series blows that away easily.

The fun thing about Thorns and Roses is that it’s in many ways a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.” And it’s especially fun because Tamlin and Feyre take turns in each role. Fan theories have suggested that Feyre’s lack of love for other beings (read: faeries) makes her beastly and her journey from beast to beauty is illustrated through her journey from illiterate to literate. It’s interesting stuff and, whether or not Maas intended it, creates a layer of literary-fiction-level-writing (at least for a young adult fantasy) that isn’t present in Throne of Glass.

This type of writing is highlighted by the many, many problematic characters. No one character in this series is perfect (and the ones that supposedly are, are actually flawed because of their perfection). It makes character development absolutely fascinating, even when the plot gets a little flimsy or over-burdened with politics and details from time to time. The characters are not just interesting on their own, however, but each relationship (be it romantic, friendship, or foes), has an exciting element of chemistry I haven’t seen in a fantasy or any novel in a while. It’s electric and really sets apart this novel from others. Perhaps one of the most interesting relationships is that of the Archeron sisters. Feyre, along with Nesta and Elain, create a trio that are strongly different and with dissonant motivations and emotions which heightens the way Feyre interacts with others.

But, okay, the novel wasn’t perfect. Amarantha’s name grated on me. The prose and plot were slow in points, bogged down with irrelevant information that hardly served as a red herring. Feyre’s thing is painting which is just so trite (and, I’ll admit, it does have a sort-of purpose in A Court of Mist and Fury but I’m still not thrilled about it).

It’s nice to get drawn into a heavy fantasy novel once in a while, and this one did the trick. I’m genuinely looking forward to the third book due out in May to discover Feyre’s fate and the rest of the — well, no spoilers here.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Fiction Re: Sibling Loss

*This post will be updated with books as I become aware of them, so keep checking back!

In July 2016, I lost my only sibling in a car crash. As no one is probably surprised, much of how I’ve handled this is by reading, both to better understand my situation and what I was and have been feeling and to escape. A few weeks after he died, I attended an event at the Arlington Public Library at which author Hannah Barnaby spoke about her new book, Some of the Parts, which features the story of a girl whose brother dies in a car crash and how she works through the grief she experiences. Barnaby spoke of her own sibling loss and I was grateful that she took the time to speak with me after, waited while I purchased a book, signed it, and spoke with me a while longer despite others waiting to meet her. A few weeks later she got in touch on Twitter to check in on me. We’re a strange little club, those of us who have lost a sibling.

I only just recently started reading Some of the Parts, not having felt ready until now. And even now, I keep another book — A Separate Peace, something old and familiar and in my favorite niche genre of books ever — by my bedside so I can choose not to read Barnaby’s novel if I’m not feeling up to it in the moment. But it occurred to me others might find comfort in reading stories that reflect their own. So I went to work putting together this list.

Most of these books were selected by doing simple keyword and subject header searches on the library catalogs for Arlington Public Library and Alexandria Public Library, both in Virginia. I de-selected any books that seemed to sensationalize the topic — things like mystery thrillers or procedural novels. There’s a time and a place for those, but they didn’t fit the concept of this list. Incidentally, there were few adult novels who took the subject “seriously.” Those that do appear on the list below are starred. Everything else you see below is typically categorized as young adult. Because the loss of a young child is, in my mind, very different from the loss of a teen or an adult sibling, I did not include juvenile reading materials (though they certainly exist).

Various kinds of relationships and deaths are represented in the list below. Some are about the loss of a brother, others of a sister (I haven’t yet seen any loss of non-binary siblings or otherwise-identifying siblings; please comment if you know of some!). Some are about the loss of an older sibling, others of a younger sibling. Some characters have other siblings, others are left as only children. Some are twins, some are not. There are far too many dimensions to note all of them, so I’ve linked to Goodreads pages for you to view summaries, most of which indicate a good amount of this information. The list is in no particular order. While I considered it, I did not do research on the authors of the books to determine whether or not they have lost a sibling (and I do think it can make a difference).

If you’ve lost a sibling and want to find commonness in literature or if you simply want to better understand what it’s like to lose a sibling, I hope this list will help you find what it is you’re looking for.

 

Image courtesy of Photo Pin

 

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby

Eleanor by Jason Gurley*

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

The Way Back from Broken by Amber Keyser

Breakaway by Katarina M. Spears

The Good Sister by Jamie  Kain

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. Taylor*

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

All Rivers Flow to the Sea by Alison McGhee*

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee

Saving Zoë by Alyson Noël

Choices by Deborah Lynn Jacobs

The Other Shepards by Adele Griffin

For This Life Only by Stacey Kade

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Pieces by Chris Lynch

Dr. Radway’s Sasparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

Gemini Summer by Iain Lawrence

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

Displacement by Thalia Chaltas

Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows (step-siblings)

The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood*

Coaltown Jesus by Ronald Koertge

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Dear Zoe by Philip Beard*

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund

The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick*

The New Normal by Ashley Little

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman

 

Abby Reads: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015, 208 pages
Poetry

Rupi Kaur’s collection of poems is truly a collection for women who don’t like poetry. And that is to say, the book is for everyone, but especially and even for women who don’t like poetry. The movement of poems throughout the book showcases a sort-of narrative that might be any woman’s narrative, making the unspoken spoken. Once you’ve read Milk and Honey, you know not only that you’ve joined a very special community, but that a community has been there all along, seemingly existing only in the mist and in-between. For this, alone, Kaur’s work should be lauded, but truly, there’s more (and don’t even get me started on that gorgeous cover — there’s a reason it’s all of Instagram).

Each poem in the collection features short lines with simple language, making the work as a whole accessible. Yet Kaur’s incredible skill with syntax and precise vocabulary lends the collection an impact I’ve rarely seen in one poem, let alone a full set. Some poems are also accompanied by a simple illustration. These are done by Kaur and complement the text of the book with a matching raw starkness.

With topics ranging from love to abuse to living in a patriarchal society to self-love, one of Kaur’s most powerful moves is that she shows that there is strength in pain. We often hear phrases like, “Real men cry,” which we take to mean that it takes strength to have and show emotion. That concept had never really become concrete for me until I read Milk and Honey, however. Kaur, or her narrator, unashamedly feels things and puts those feelings into words and poetry that reaches out and says, “I’ve been there, too. Let’s feel it together,” in a way.

This togetherness is stilted in one aspect, however. With Kaur’s nearly-clear narrative with a neat beginning, middle, and end, her story is somewhat less relatable that it might have been in a less structured design. The straight narrative reinforces the idea that this is of a particular character, who, regardless of their reality, is a single person. With the focus on the one, it is slightly more difficult to expand to the all.

Men who encounter Milk and Honey with an open mind will probably walk away from it with a much greater understanding of what, for many, many women, womanhood is. Kaur sums up the minute and ambiguous beautifully, accurately, succinctly, and exactly. What so many women for the duration of womanhood have been trying to say (and only a few have done successfully) is here in these few pages. Even if you “hate” or “don’t get” poetry, give Kaur’s work a try — you won’t regret it.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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