Review

Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I would definitely consider myself a fangirl. There are so many fandoms I’m a part of, whether they are books, films, television shows or video games. Therefore, a book that discussed all the wonderful parts of being a fangirl seemed pretty damn perfect to me. And according to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, I am a Potterhead, a Whovian, a Tolkienite, a Bookwalker, a True Believer, a YA Book Nerd, a Whedonite and Girl Who Games – and I am PROUD to be all of those.

As a girl who plays a lot of online games, I have sadly encountered a lot of casual (and sometimes not so casual) sexism. And also a lot of disbelief – I distinctly remember playing one particular online game, and just sitting around chatting to my guild. I always tend to play female characters (normally with red hair!), but I have plenty of male friends who do the same and guys playing as female characters is pretty prevalent in the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) world. So I was innocently sat around and this guy just came up to me and said ‘So you’re one of those types then’. I asked him what he meant, and he responded with something along the lines of ‘Why the hell would a guy want to play as a female character, it’s so weird’. He had just assumed I was a guy playing as a female character, and by that reasoning ALL girls in the game were actually guys, because A GIRL PLAYING AN ONLINE GAME, THAT CAN’T HAPPEN. I then told him I was actually female and why did it even matter (because it’s a GAME, you can be whoever you want), and he proceeded to try and flirt with me. Nope. No. Not happening. And this is why I was happy to see a chapter on online gaming and how sometimes gender can unnecessarily and sadly have a negative impact on your experience.

There were plenty of other great themes: explaining the whole ‘otaku’ image and why you should avoid certain convention habits like glomping (ugh), a chapter on feminism and awesome women from various fandoms as well as some wonderful references that appealed to my nerdy self. BUT, and this was really quite a major issue, I honestly felt as if the author was just trying too hard to appeal to her audience. Overuse of slang made me cringe regularly and, despite the intended audience probably being girls in their mid-teens to early twenties, a lot of the book felt incredibly childish.

In addition, about three quarters of the book was really basic, self explanatory stuff. You’re going to pick this book up if you’re a fangirl of some kind, therefore you’ve probably already done most of the stuff the author gives advice on: attending conventions, using social media (yeah… really) and other things, most of which were really very dull to read about.

Overall, the book was fun in parts, but really really made me feel embarrassed for fangirls worldwide in others. The last quarter of the book was definitely the strongest – it would kind of be wrong to write a book like this without a chapter on feminism. This was something I greatly approved of, something I honestly feel we need a little more of in our science fiction and fantasy. Also, I’d like to thank the book for providing me with the knowledge that a letter from Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, to her mother, written in 1782, is probably the first recorded use of ‘feels’. Just imagining a duchess flailing around, whining about ‘her feels’ provides me with a great mental image!

Review

Review: She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Most sixteen year olds would probably be terrified at the very idea of travelling to New York with no-one but a much younger brother (and his stuffed toy raven) for company, with no idea of where they will be staying or what they’ll find when they reach their destination. Laureth Peak is looking for her father, who is prone to disappearing for several days at a time, but this time she has reason to think something bad has happened. So, accompanied by her little brother, she steals her mum’s credit card, buys two plane tickets to New York, and flies across the Atlantic. You might say that perhaps taking her brother with her would only make the search more difficult, but here’s the thing – Laureth is blind.

Obviously I can’t say this book was an accurate depiction of what it is to be blind. I have no right to say that, nor do I have any idea what it would be like. But I do feel that Marcus Sedgwick’s writing both revealed and hid things from the view of the reader, as if something was just out of your sight or a little blurry – and at times, completely unseen. With his descriptions, which were of course Laureth’s, I was never able to get a clear cut picture of the scene around the characters. Just like Laureth, I relied on Benjamin (her little brother) for images of the surroundings, and this worked really well.

Disabilities and impairments are not often represented in Young Adult fiction, or fiction in general, that frequently. Often, they seem to enhance another ability or sense in a superhero-esque way, or make the character seem weak and helpless. But Laureth is not weak, or helpless. She doesn’t know any other way of life, being born blind, and she doesn’t resent the fact that she was. She lives a normal life, and it gives out such a positive message. Her blindness barely hinders her, and her main fear is not being unable to do something, but people being aware that she is blind and judging her. I don’t really want to say she is brave, for fear of sounding patronising, but that’s what she is. I’d be pretty scared of flying to New York by myself, and I’m twenty-three – and Laureth doesn’t even know what she’ll find at the other end. She is intelligent and mature, and her narrative voice is lovely, as well as wonderfully quirky at times – mostly thanks to her dad’s journal entries.

I thought that She Is Not Invisible was a truly delightful book, highly original and a breath of fresh air. The way that Laureth and Benjamin worked together was adorable, not to mention the ‘conversations’ between Benjamin and his toy raven, Stan. It’s not particularly fast-paced, and some may find the portions of Laureth’s father’s journal dull – but no book is going to please everyone. A very thought-provoking read.