Sunday, June 21, 2020

Book Review: The Grace Year

The Grace Year 
by Kim Liggett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a story takes you from annoyance, to tolerance, to friendship, to love you know it’s special. I really didn’t get this book to start. But I realize now, that’s on purpose. Liggett has given us a journey to experience, much like Hunger Games, we may not understand the constructs or the challenges entirely at first (and our lead gal doesn’t either); but as we progress with our leading gal into the dark trenches of reality and truth, we realize that we knew all along we just didn’t want to believe it. The truth is messy, dirty, bloody, and not flattering; just like real life.

Women’s Competition
This is a powerful story about girls, women, mothers, and childless crones. It is a reminder that we as women are taught to compete; not to further ourselves but to keep us apart, because apart we are stronger.
I tell my husband all the time about how meeting new women is terrifying for me and how I hate the competition. He tells me I imagine it, but I know that it’s my imagination. Especially because over the years I’ve carefully talked with other women and found out we all feel the same. And so we gain progress inch by inch by quietly discussing our realities. The Grace Year shows us how to start (or continue) the work that these girls begin. It lifts the veil (or the shroud) and tells us that not all men are evil, women don’t need to compete, and ultimately that change may be slow and our patience is required.

Change Comes with Sacrifice
From the early chapters of The Grace Year we are shown that not everyone survives, and most return broken or changed so much it’s difficult to recognize them. As our lead gal progresses through her own Grace Year we, of course, start to see why that is. The knowledge or questions our gal starts with aren’t even the most important ones she answers throughout the story.
Everyone in this story sacrifices something in someway. It’s not romantic, pretty or bittersweet. Instead it’s harsh, bloody and stark as bone. Yet each sacrifice made, and the ultimate ones made at the end, are essential for the progress of our story and characters. Liggett has intertwined them so well that I didn’t even realize what was happening to my thoughts and emotions until after I had tears in my eyes.

Very few real life relationships are fairy tales. In fact I have yet to meet someone with the perfect fairy tale spouse or life. It’s because it doesn’t exist and we are reminded of that in The Grace Year; sometimes the best you can hope for is that it not be awful. Thus when a small speck of hope and love shows up it’s all the more powerful. Liggett takes that knowledge of the poignance of love and how we all crave the fairytale and uses it against us. Watch for your emotions to be twisted and at times you won’t know what you want to happen, or even have a clue what is next. I recommend staying on the ride and letting yourself be immersed in the difficulties of living in an imperfect world (to say the least).

While the premise is intense and grabbed me quick; it’s the main character that nearly broke me off from this novel. Thank goodness I didn’t give up on it. If you hate our lead gal at the start, find her annoying or just inconsistent that’s okay. There’s a purpose to it. Were I to make a suggestion about edits to Liggett, I’d recommend that she tweak the introductory chapters to focus more on our lead gal and her male friend; and theorize less about the magic. Give us something to at least respect about this girl (and keep us reading) before she’s torn to shreds and rises back up in the most unlikely of ways.
I wonder on a reread how I’d feel about the beginning. Maybe I’d see more to it? Maybe I’d see what seemed obvious wasn’t as clear as it was portrayed? All I know is there is power when a shift happen. My brain, heart and soul shifted while reading The Grace Year, almost without my knowledge. I felt myself recognizing so many of the things said as true to my own life and experience. It’s a treat we get insight into our own lives and makes this a perfect story for the YA/Teen genre.
One of the first books as a pre-teen to make a strong impression on me was The Giver; when the apple flies through the air and changes to red. That moment in The Grace Year isn’t as clear cut, making it even more impactful in the end, but it’s there. Hidden under some small YA tropes; but once you uncover it, and keep on reading, you’ll suddenly know that this isn’t your average YA girls versus girls book. It’s got some magic of it’s own.

Note: I wrote this review within minutes of putting this book down. I may not feel as strongly tomorrow; and normally I allow myself time to digest a book. But I felt like I needed to capture this emotion I have right now before it disappeared and was replaced with the depression of headline news and our own reality. I’ll be intrigued to see how I feel about this book in a week, a month or a year. Do I remember it? Does it stick like The Giver, like Black Panther, Red Wolf, like Hunger Games, like Station Eleven, or so many other dark(er) dystopian books I’m drawn to. Only time will tell.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

So - ten days later, do you still love it as much? It does sound very interesting!