Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

I found this beauty of a book in the library and just had to check it out when the cover transfixed my eyes. And with already having read Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours in the previous month, I was more than ready to pick up this tale.

In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.

A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

I feel like saying that Boy, Snow, Bird is a retelling of Snow White is quite confusing as it’s barely that. I mean, sure there are some nods to the original tale, however, less than you would anticipate. I ended up liking the book more for its take on beauty, vanity, and race.

Speaking of, I’m going to continue with the positive aspects of this book, and then towards the end discuss something that really made me feel at unease.

The positives:

  • The writing knocked me out of the park. Oyeyemi has exactly the kind of writing style I love i.e. specific as hell.

Just to share some of the love:

“She’s tall too, tall in a way that you only really notice at certain moments. The statues of Greek gods were built two and a half times the size of the average human being; I read that in a book Miss Fairfax lent me. The book describes the magnification as being small enough for the figure to remain familiar, but large enough to make you feel mighty strange standing near it. You sense some imminent threat, but common sense tells you there’s no danger, so you don’t run away. You keep a distance that appears to be a respectful one, and you don’t run away, just keep hovering on the point of doing so.”

Also this:

“Hey, Bird—”
“Yeah?”
“Do I look forty?”
“Forty years old?” I asked, trying to buy time.
“Yes, forty years old.”
Her eyes flicked up toward the rearview mirror. I was sitting in the backseat because she doesn’t like to have anyone sitting next to her while she is driving. She says it makes her feel crowded in.”

  • Boy, Snow, Bird was a quick read once invested in the storyline ( about half-way through, for me).
  • I picked this up when I really needed a distraction from real life — and it did its job perfectly.
  • Sisterly-love. I LOVED how the author took the time to really develop the friendship between the two sisters. Sisterhood is such an important topic for me, and I always appreciate an author that tackles it with the utmost precision and love.
  • The magical realism had me enamoured till the end.
  • The head-on discussion of race.
  • All the relationships and people that get connected and explained towards the end thrilled me. I loved how something or someone that was mentioned in the first half would reappear towards the end.
  • … I tried to keep it short, but I have to include these next two quotes that have taken over my life:

“I’d recently come across a proverb about not speaking unless you’d thought of something that was better than silence. So I kept typing.”

“No revelation is immediate, not if it’s real. I feel that more and more.”

Ok, now that I’ve got all the ravings out of my system, onto the negatives: I mainly only have one thing to discuss, which is that ending…

Spoilers ahead

This next passage is taken from this article I found that perfectly summed up the events that were written high-key problematically: “In the final pages of the novel, we learn that Boy’s father, Frank Novak, was at one point known as Frances Novak. Frances was a promising graduate student doing advanced research in psychology when she was raped by an acquaintance, at which point she abandoned her work and began to live as a man. Unfortunately, Frances became pregnant as a result of the rape, and it is implied—though not stated outright—that it was in large part this confluence of circumstances that led to Frank’s brutal mistreatment of Boy. When Boy learns the details of her birth, she rounds up Snow and Bird and heads off for New York, determined to “break the spell” holding Frances captive and thus undo the damage she herself has wrought in her dealings with Snow and Bird.

Based on this brief synopsis, one might reach any or all of the following unfortunate conclusions:

  1. Transgenderism is the result of trauma.
  2. Transgenderism is something that can (and should) be “cured.”
  3. Being [transgender] causes you to turn into an abusive sociopath and shove starving rats in your child’s face.”

I don’t even have words for that ending. This is the one time a book has left me completely speechless, and not in a good way either. The way Oyeyemi characterised Frankes Novak becoming Frank Novak just felt completely offensive. And I’m utterly disappointed with the author for making Novak’s decision seem like a plot twist that appeared in the last ten or so pages. It’s such a harmful take on an important and more than often underrepresented topic in literature. Instead, I’d recommend giving Coffee Boy by Austin Chant a read for its positive trans representation by an own voices author.

So I’m not sure what to think of Boy, Snow, Bird. If it weren’t for that harmful representation, I would’ve easily praised this book for its take on race, but yeah… tearing down one group while voicing another doesn’t work for me.16459553

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Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

This poetry collection takes a honest look on love, sex, food, and bodies. And it does so with dark, unsettling imageries that ultimately made it so unique.

Though it was brilliantly exceptional and bizarre, it ultimately failed to impress me save for a few poems:

If Tampons
Were for Guys

“Of course there are no pink wrappers,
only camo.
Forget Gentle Glide and pictures of pearls—
the box reads Smooth Ride across
the hood of a bitchin’ red Porsche.

For pads with Wings, Kotex shows jet fighters.
For Heavy Flow, ninjas surf a tsunami.
For Scented, smiling blondes in bikinis
enjoy sniffing a crotch.

Panty Shields are now just Shields
or maybe Boxer Armor.
On the commercial, tanks roll through the bathroom,
manned by scowling marines in white pants.

Then it’s back to Monday Night Football,
where both starting quarterbacks are on the DL.
“Dysmenorrhea,” mutter the trainers.
In other words, cramps.”

The Little Mermaid

“Even before I found the globe in his study
and realized that this endless land
is really just a few stray crusts drifting
through the blue, my world had shrunk

to the size of my tender new feet
on the dance floor, each minuet
like a harpooning,

to the size of the satin pillow he lets me
sleep on beside his bed,

to the size of his eyes reflecting my eyes
begging lovemeholdmedon’tleaveme,

to the size of my mouth, this dead
eel’s nest, open now while he feeds me
oysters, or, as I used to call them,
friends.”

Rapunzel

“How foolish I was to believe that
crooning my name from below meant something
more than pressing an elevator button.

They all want to feel themselves rising
higher. They all want the girl in the tower
to pour herself into their hands.

Who’s to say that, given a chance
at lower altitude, I would be different
from the rest?

Today will be the day I refuse
to lift my head from this damp pillow,
far away from the comb and the brush and the pleading
bodies always luring me down.”

Nature Lesson

“The dress code says
we must cover ourselves
in
ample pants,
skirts that reach well below
our lascivious knees,
polos buttoned over
the rim of the canyon,
a glimpse of which can send a boy
plunging to such depths
he may never climb back up
to algebra.
We say
that if a hiker strays
off the path, trips, and
winds up crippled,
is it really
the canyon’s fault?”


Overall, Poisoned Apples was a quick read, but failed to leave a lasting impression. However, the photographs scattered throughout really made for a more fascinating and haunting read: poisoned-apples-1-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-2-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-3-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-4-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-5-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-6-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-7-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-8-bookspoilspoisoned-apples-9-bookspoils

3/5 stars

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Source

This review contains *spoilers* for the first half of this book.

Heartless is an epic retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with the focus being on The Queen of Hearts.

All Catherine wants is to be declared the office tart baker of the kingdom. She and her best friend, Mary Ann, dream of launching their very own bakery. Even their friendship hit it off upon discovering one another’s mutual love for food:

“One wouldn’t know it to look at Mary Ann, but she had an appetite to rival Cath’s own. They’d bonded over their love of food years ago, not long after Mary Ann had been hired on as a household maid.”

Their solidarity kind of reminded me of the one Anna Bates and Mary Crawley (from Downton Abbey) had in the later seasons—aka my favorite one on the show.tumblr_inline_nwtq1d7gph1rpwofs_500But according to her mother, the Marchioness, going into the men’s world of business is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen, especially with a humble servant – Mary Ann – as her partner.

“But she and Mary Ann had been dreaming of it for so long, she sometimes forgot that it wasn’t yet reality.”

Meanwhile, at the royal ball His Congenial Kingness has chosen a bride, and Cath is thrown for the loop. The King of Hearts was about to propose to her in front of the whole crowd, but the idea of marrying him seemed preposterous to her.

“She would be queen, and queens . . . queens did not open bakeries with their best friends. Queens did not gossip with half-invisible cats. Queens did not have dreams of yellow-eyed boys and wake up with lemon trees over their beds.”

Thankfully, before he could finish his proposal, Cheshire steals the show at Catherine’s request, so that she can vanish unnoticed through the rose gardens. On her way out, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker with a rhyming Raven.
And Jest also turns out to be the boy from her dreams… literally.

Cath had met a hazy, beautiful boy in her dream with eyes “bright like lemons ready to fall from a tree.” And so she informs this stranger that she’d had a dream about them, which the courage to tell a handsome someone you had a dream about them… can’t relate.

“‘So?’ he prodded.
She blinked. ‘So what?’
‘Was it a good dream?’
‘Oh.’ Her lips puckered in thought, but then she realized he was teasing her. She scowled. ‘To be frank, I found it rather dull.’
‘Ah, but you can’t be Frank. You’ve already told me that your name is Catherine.’
‘I’ve changed it.’”

A man after my heart. His humor was right up my alley.
Also, Jest giving her a piece of chocolate made my heart warm—“I was saving this for later, and so I must have been saving it for you.”
Marissa Meyer sure knows how to make me fall quickly for someone.tumblr_offv1brbpw1sxiyrco2_r1_500It’s truly been awhile since I’ve welcomed a book-romance with open arms. And I’m glad Jest, with his quick smiles and witty remarks, was the one I was waiting for.

Plus, when Jest stole her away for a midnight rendezvous – aka a tea party with the Mad Hatter – happiness coursed to the ends of my limbs. In that shared single night, one fun night, she finds out that:

  • He was from Chess.
  • He was on a mission that could end a war.
  • He was the protector of a queen.
  • Impossible is his speciality.

I was anticipating every little encounter they had.

But then…
I don’t know what happened, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I gradually started losing intrest in the characters and their arcs. I think I just need to take a break from fantasy for awhile and then eventually come back so I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself to read my most anticipated read of the year.

Marissa Meyer is one of the most talented writers, and I’m really hoping that when I pick this book up again, I’ll enjoy it more than I can now.

DNF @ p.232 (My heart is breaking just by writing this.)tumblr_o45pu517um1u8n0xao1_540tumblr_o45pu517um1u8n0xao2_540ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

no rating for now.

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