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Original Essays | Yesterday, 10:00am

Jessica Valenti: IMG Full Frontal Feminism Revisited



It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in... Continue »
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Customer Comments

Erin Clarkson has commented on (16) products.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Fathomless

Erin Clarkson, August 3, 2012

Fathomless was a dark and heady re-telling of The Little Mermaid, done typical Jackson Pearce style: two strong and flawed heroines, a romance, and a heart stopping finale.

All of Jackson's fairy tale retellings are set in the same world, but this is the first book where characters from a previous one are referenced (not present). I like that this is a series without having over-lapping characters, even though I am dying to see Scarlett again, but the way Jackson played the overlapping stories in this book was excellently done and really added depth to the story and the world.

In Fathomless we met Lo, an ocean girl who's lost her memories of her past, and waits out the days until she is taken by the currents of the sea to become an angel. The ocean girls tells stories of getting your soul back if you can make a boy love you; but then you have to drown him and take his soul. Lo has tried this and knows that it doesn't work, or at least it doesn't work so quickly--there is no such thing as love at first sight. But Lo is also Naida Kelly, the lost sister of Sophia from Sweetly, and our second heroine, Celia, is the key to Lo's past.

Celia is an intriguing heroine for Jackson because she has psychic power. Jackson's previous heroines have certainly been strong and their lives have been touched by magic, by werewolves, but they have never had magic of their own. Celia however can see into a person's past when she touches them, a power that is part of a set of three because she is part of a set of triplets. Her sisters Jane and Anne can see the present and the future, and the three of them are alone in the world, struggling to grow up and grow into their powers.

Celia and Lo meet on the night of the highest tide of the year. One of Lo's sisters, desperate to be human again, tries to drown a boy. Together Lo and Celia save him, and a complicated triangle begins. Celia and Jude develop a friendship, then romance, and Celia learns for the first time to shut off her power when she is touching someone--or someone is touching her. Celia and Lo form a tentative friendship when they discover that Celia can help Lo remember her past. And Lo and Jude can't help but be drawn to one another: the ocean girl to the boy who could save her, and the boy to the ocean girl who's music sings in his head as constant as the waves.

Like Sisters Red, the narration of Fathomless is split between the two girls, Celia and Lo. But this is complicated by the fact that Lo is actually two girls herself: Lo and Naida. What you end up with is three narrators, all with different desires and motives. Though Lo and Naida share the same body, they are far different girls, slippery and elusive as the ocean. Celia is the solid rock, like Gretchen from Sweetly. Despite her psychic powers, her day-to-day troubles are like any girls: arguments with her sisters, worry over the boy that she likes, and questions about who she is. Lo is not that different from Celia, but their circumstances are vastly separated simply by the water between them. For Lo, it's a matter of life or death. If she stays as Lo, Naida will die, and eventually she will pass away with the waves too. If she becomes Naida again, Lo will die, and so must someone else.

The three girls make for engaging heroines and narrators, their stories told so well you're not sure who you want to win when it comes to the stormy ending. And once again the love interest was one of the best parts of the book. Jude isn't as brooding or mysterious as the previous boys, but he is just as lovable.

The best part of Fathomless is the chance to get to learn more about the Fenris and the mystery of the twin girls. Not every question is answered, by Jackson certainly opens a door into the hidden mysteries of her world. We meet the Fenris once again, and learn that the ocean girls don't actually become "angels" when they die: they return to the land and become Fenris themselves, soulless monsters.

I'm really hoping this isn't the last book Jackson will write in this series; it really feels as though she's just getting started.
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Rapture (Fallen #4) by Lauren Kate
Rapture (Fallen #4)

Erin Clarkson, August 3, 2012

Rapture is Lauren Kate's best in this series. Full of adventure, romance, and revealed secrets, Rapture is an epic conclusion to this star-crossed love story.

Luce and Daniel have been through a lot. They've fallen in love, and for the first time Luce has survived her first memory of what their love really is: timeless. There was no pillar of flame, and Luce is on a quest of discovery. Their love was tested by distance and secrets, even by the interest of another. Luce has just finished an arduous and revealing journey through time--through her past lives--in order to discover a way to break their curse. But she was tricked by the devil himself--Lucifer--and now they have 9 days to save their world and their love before time rewrites itself and they have to start all over.

Rapture continues the theme of world travel that was set in Passion, which was again a refreshing break from the boarding school setting of the first two books. All your favorite characters are there again: Arianne, Cam, Roland, Annabelle, even Molly. And of course Daniel. They're on a hunt for three artifacts that when united will guide them to the location of the Fall, and thus Lucifer. These artifacts have been lost to the ravages of time, making them difficult to find. On top of that, Luce and Daniel and their friends are being chased by every heavenly and demon force, because no one wants them to succeed. From Venice, to Vienna, to Avignon, to the desserts of the Sahara, to the ancient fields of Troy, Luce and Daniel will chase their destiny.

This book was the perfect combination of action, romance, and back story. We've been waiting this whole series to find out what really happened at the Fall, how Luce and Daniel first met, and Lauren doesn't fail to deliver. After the back story packed Passion, Rapture eases off on the flashback for a while, but its not too long before you're rushing back in time, solving the mystery of these two lovers. And the twist? Well I won't give it all away, but there is another man that Luce once loved, and he may be the key to everything.

Luce and Daniel were once again lovey-dovey and staring into one another's eyes longingly, but despite the fact that Luce is wrapped in Daniel's arms for half the book, I still felt her strength and her fire. And some of the best moments are when Luce is forced to be strong without Daniel at her side to protect her--the damsel rescuing herself it far more satisfying.

I didn't get as much of the other characters as I would have liked, in particular Cam and Arianne, but it felt necessary that they would fall into the background at the end. Even if there is another secret love in Luce's past, you know by this point that the Fallen series is not a love triangle--it's Luce and Daniel or nothing. It's refreshing to see other male characters present, but not directly competing for the love of the heroine. And it was nice to see Cam and Daniel really working together finally.

Rapture was a really fantastic end to this series, and proof that Lauren knows what she's doing. I am excited to see what she does next. She certainly gave Luce and Daniel a stunning send-off.
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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars

Erin Clarkson, February 7, 2012

Among all the vampires, apocalypses, and plagues John Green's books are always a breath of fresh air. His stories are smart, funny, sad, and utterly true about the world. His characters may not be the average Joe or Jane, but they have something so human at their heart that it impossible to not feel the emotional roller coaster and catharsis of their stories. With Looking for Alaska John took us somewhere heart-heartrendingly sad with teenager suicide. In An Abundance of Katherines we met the charismatic math prodigy searching for love, and finding it in the most unusual of places. In Paper Towns we go on a daring road trip through adventure and love. In Will Grayson, Will Grayson John partnered with David Levithan to bring us the story of two boys trying to find their way in the world and make an identity for themselves. Now in The Fault in Our Stars we meet Hazel Grace and August Waters: teenagers with cancer.

From the very opening lines we see immediately that Hazel is darkly sarcastic and deeply afraid. She is sixteen years old and her cancer is slowly killing her. She knows she wants more out of life, but is resigned to the fact that she will not get it. Estranged from her old friends by her disease, she hides in her room re-reading her favorite book over and over again. The book is like Hazel: it is the story of a girl who could have a brilliant future, but her dreams are cut dramatically short (the book literally has no conclusive ending) by cancer. But Hazel's mother is not content to see her daughter waste away what is left of her life inside four walls: so Hazel ends up reluctantly joining a Support Group for teens with cancer. And that is where she meets Augustus Waters.

He is beautiful and athletic and funny and smart, and missing a leg from a surgery that saved his life and put him in remission several years before. Hazel is drawn to him because of his energy, his beauty, and the fact that he is instantly interested in her. Within their first day they are fast friends, with the stirrings of something more. Their romance is not love at first sight--at least not for Hazel--and it is not easy. Two teenagers brought low by the betrayal of their bodies can never laugh as easy as those of us who will never understand that pain. But they find the good and the laughter amid all the struggle.

As you would expect in a book like this, someone dies. I won't say who, because that ruins the story, but it's no spoiler to say that someone does. The real resonance of this story wouldn't exist without the death of one of the characters. While it might be a great dream/fantasy to read about two kids with cancer who miraculously beat it and go on to live long happy lives, that is not John Green's intention. He doesn't want to tell fantasies. He also isn't telling the hard, plain truth. His stories fall somewhere in the middle--in that place where dreams and reality meet to make us laugh and cry all at once. Even with death and reality looming over their shoulders we cheer for Hazel and Augustus until the very end.

So many nay-sayers of young adult fiction would argue that books for teens aren't worth reading because they have no deeper meaning. John Green's books (and so many other fantastic YA authors) blow those people away. The story of Hazel and Augustus is one of facing death, of finding your place in the universe, of wondering what you think about God and the afterlife, of trying to love someone even knowing that one of you will lost the other sooner than later, of trying to find meaning in the chaos.

The Fault in Our Stars will be a must-read this year for young adult readers, and readers of any age. It is one of those stories that will touch your heart in unexpected ways, and stick with you long after you have turned the last page.
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Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Blue Thread

Erin Clarkson, February 4, 2012

Blue Thread is the story of Miriam Josefson. She lives in 1912 Portland, OR at the height of the women's suffrage movement. Her father owns a printing shop, which Miriam loves to visit and hopes one day to run. But her father is determined to have Miriam marry well and live life as a proper lady. It seems that no matter how hard Miriam tries, she will not sway her father. Then fate intervenes. One day a mysterious girl named Serakh appears to Miriam and tells her that her great-grandmother's prayer shawl is special: it has the power to transport Miriam through time. With the touch of the blue threads on the shawl Miriam finds herself in biblical times, in the midst of another struggle for women's rights, and her actions and decisions could change the lives of many. Alternating between journeys to the past and struggles in the present, Miriam's story is one of perseverance, dreams, and the power of one woman to change the world.

What I loved about Blue Thread was Miriam. She is headstrong and confident, but still learning what it means to be a woman in her world. She is sixteen, at the crux of becoming a woman, but still held in the thralls of childhood by her parents. Struggling to free herself from sexist prejudices and societal expectations, Miriam breaks all the rules in her effort to build a place for herself in what could be a new world. But amid all her bravery she is still afraid: afraid of her father and angering him (because despite his flaws she does love him), afraid that one wrong word will doom her friends in ancient times, afraid that the suffrage movement will fail, afraid that she will not get to live in the future that she wants to. Her strength and her flaws are what makes Miriam feel so alive. Even though she lived a hundred years ago, through her actions and dreams she is just like any teenager today, wishing for a better world.

The world and story that Feldman built is lush and detailed, from the eccentricities of 1912 Portland to the grand majesty of the ancient biblical lands. She certainly did her research and it paid off. Her world feels as real and alive as her protagonist, and the two match perfectly. The characters surrounding Miriam are also brave and flawed like she is. You are drawn into their lives and struggles, hoping that it will end on a good day for all.

Definitely an excellent read for any teenage girl, or any lover of history. This is a story that will echo with girls for years to come.
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Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie
Matched (Matched #1)

Erin Clarkson, January 2, 2012

So much better than I was expecting. Instead of a sappy teen romance, Matched proved to be a provocative, well-written dystopia, looking into the heart of what it means to love and to find out what love really means. Her handle of the first person present tense was superb. An excellent read.
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