Shoutout to my librarian bestie, Allie Cornejo, for being featured on the Nerdy Book Club today! You can read her review of Dhonielle Clayon's The Belles below or on Nerdy Book club!
Mentally rich and decadent — this is how I would describe The Belles. I listened to The Belles on Audible with Rosie Jones (@rosiejonesactor) as the narrator. She did a wonderful job at her narration, which makes all the difference. Her English accent added such an elegant air to an exquisitely written book. However, I did find her reading pace a bit slow due to her immaculate enunciation, so I sped the audio book up to 1.25x, which was perfect. My 30 minute commute to and from work was something I Iooked forward to everyday, because I was going to listen to The Belles!
I enjoyed this book very much! The realization that I really liked it came toward the last third of the book, though. The first two thirds were good, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t become a real page turner in the last third. What requires the most applause for Dhonielle Clayton’s work was the imagery she used to create this fantasy world of Orleans. She created a world full of color, beauty, and emotion. Words and phrases like “pink and yellow macarons,” “pastel colored dresses,” “complexion of lilies and belle-rose lips,” “drizzles of honey” and the like, are heavily sprinkled throughout this book. If it was possible to read a dessert and be satisfied as if you ate it, this is the book that did just that for me! Dhonielle whisked me away to a beautiful world where the book cover model served as a baseline for the Belle beauty found in the setting of Orleans. Her words drew up a masterpiece of art in my mind. And let me just draw attention to the lovely Belle names… Camellia, Ambrosia, Padma, Edelweiss,..Wow!
The story was so unique! Belles having control over making people beautiful, but not really having any power over themselves or their lives was intriguing. The monarchy and the laws suppress their freedoms in the guise of protecting them. Camellia, our protagonist, was a great character laced with ambition, talent, originality, and a hint of rebellion. Her growing contempt for the obsession Orleans has for beauty makes her character strong and admirable. The love she has for her sisters makes her endearing, and the fact that Belles cannot experience a romantic love is heartbreaking and ironic, given their irresistible appearance. Our antagonist, Princess Sofia, is formidable and hate-worthy with the torment she bestows on hr court. Beware of those who defy her. They end up with a pig snout! Yes, she scared the living daylights out of me with her cruelty, and the tension she caused within a simple conversation with Camellia made my palms sweat. Princess Sofia’s dangerous obsession with beauty and utter dominance over the people around her makes this story very entertaining and nerve-racking.
The theme of beauty obsession had me reflect constantly on the state of affairs we find ourselves today. What I loved about Camellia, was her preference to always let her patron’s natural features shine. She encouraged curves and shapely figures, and she attempted to convince her patrons that imperfections compliment personality. She warned against unnatural beauty requests because of the harm they caused to the body. I began to research today’s real obsession with beauty and I found the following information to be deeply disturbing:
According to the National Institute on Media and Family via the University of Washington, in a survey taken by girls 9 and 10 years old, 40 percent of them have tried to lose weight and by “age thirteen, 53% of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies.’ This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.”
Dhonielle has done a phenomenal job of including these disturbing trends of self-disapproval into her novel. Camellia’s patrons desire dangerously small waists and breasts that are too large. She warns them of the risks, but her warnings fall on deaf ears. I am very grateful for the attention the author brings to the very important issue of beauty obsession. Young girls will find an important lesson here.
The cliffhanger was fantastic and unbelievably frustrating, as I would give my right arm for book two! I originally thought this was a stand-alone novel, but I’m elated that it will be a trilogy; I am definitely not done with The Belles and the world of Orleans.
Hosain, Anna. “Constructed Beauty and Our Obsession With Image.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Feb. 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-hosain/constructed-beauty-and-ou_b_4809399.html.
Alexandra Cornejo is a high school librarian at a specialty school for future health professionals in the Rio Grande Valley. Her drive is to motivate her students to be passionate readers and responsible digital citizens. She is an enthusiast for young adult literature, education technology, and instructional design, and can often be found on edtech Twitter chats. You can find her on Twitter @allie_cornejo, Instagram @YAlitenthusiast or her YA Review blog https://sites.google.com/view/yalittech/home
Meet Cute is a super cute anthology of YA authors writing short stories about the lead up to meeting someone. Actual Rating: 3.8/5 stars
Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotugno: 3 stars
The story of two people who haven't seen each other in a long time and end up trapped together in a bathroom when a house party is being raided. It reminded me of the movie "Can't Hardly Wait" from the 90s. This story was cute, nothing amazing. I would be interested if it became a full novel.
Print Shop by Nina LaCour: 4 stars
I immediately enjoyed the diversity in this one. The main character, Evie, starts working in a print shop where everything is made by an artist instead of computers and machines. An angry customer voices her unpleasant opinion of the shop on Twitter and begins a love interest. Interesting concept.
Hourglass by Ibi Zoboi: 2 stars
Honestly, I didn't care for Cherish's POV in this one. She came off as very whiny and "woe is me" because her best friend starts dating the guy who teased her for her size, thankfully she comes to term with who she is.
Click by Katharine McGee: 4 stars
I really liked the idea behind Click. Katharine McGee introduces a futuristic dating app where your entire social media presence and online footprint are analyzed and match you with another person. While the thought of this overwhelmed me, I really enjoyed the fast pace of the story and wit and banter between the characters. It also was a great peek into how love can be unexpected even when you're looking for it.
The Intern by Sara Shepard: 4.5 stars
SO CUTE! Clara interns for her dad's record label and has to show around one of the artists and unexpectedly falls for him-cheesy, I know, but so cute. The beauty is really in the details in this one.
Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo: 4.5 stars
Another WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS story revealing a transgender girl's fears and fight with a school board about which restroom she is allowed to use while a gay student who isn't out yet deals with her own issues. It was a little slow, but a great, quick, look into a world I'm not familiar with.
The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton: 4 stars
Very interesting concept. On a remote island, the people are born with a ring mark on their finger that reveals when they'll meet their soul mate. When two teens find a way to "hack the system" they see how their lives will play out and how they will live and fall in love with. Another interesting concept. I wouldn't read it as a whole novel, but it was a perfect short story.
Oomph by Emery Lord: 5 stars
Oomph was one of my favorites in this anthology! A super cute unexpected romance in an airport where mystery is in the air. Two girls meet in an airport pretending to be Marvel characters and hit it off. Loved it!
The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout: 4.75 stars
It might be the librarian in me, but I loved this story. It was a bit predictable, but worth it. Moss has to track down an overdue dictionary from the library that she works at and finds more than just a book. Sometimes books reveal people for us. ;)
The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love by Jocelyn Davies: 5 stars
Again, it might be that I was a math teacher in one of my past lives (before I became a librarian) but I loved this one. The main character writes her semester statistics project on the odds of her seeing a mystery boy from the subway again.
259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan: 3 stars
Meh. It felt more like the main character was running away from his problems rather than facing them head on, which *spoilers* he ends up doing. Blythe and Philip are two finalists for a mission to Mars and only one of them will be chosen. They have to spend 24 hours in an isolation chamber together to see how they will interact and work as a team-of course the predictability is obvious-but they make it through the test. A beautiful display of how sometimes we meet someone at the wrong time.
Something Real by Julie Murphy: 4 stars
Julie Murphy wrote a perfect show story on how meeting your celebrity crush can sometimes be a disappointment, but you can meet someone in the process that makes up for it.
Say Everything by Huntley Fitzpatrick: 0 stars
Just no. I didn't care at all for the POV, the main character was unmemorable and it was honestly just slow and boring.
The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon: 6 (out of 5) stars
When is it socially acceptable to dub Nicola as the queen of romance? I mean really, this short story was perfect and made up for the crappy one before it. Thomas goes to the Department of Dead Love to find out what happened that caused an end to his last relationship and ends up finding a way to heal his heart. So many good quotes come from this story. LOVED IT!
Overall, I really enjoyed this anthology. Each story brought something different and it will appeal to all sorts of readers.