Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Review: The Awesome by Eva Darrows

The Awesome by Eva DarrowsThe Awesome by Eva Darrows (review copy) - Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is tough, smart, and sassy. She's also not like other girls her age, but then, who would be when the family business is monster hunting? Combat boots, ratty hooded sweatshirts, and hair worn short so nothing with claws can get a grip, Maggie's concerns in life slant more toward survival than fashion or boys.

Which presents a problem when Maggie's mother informs her that she can't get her journeyman's license for hunting until she loses her virginity. Something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy rage monsters. Insides being on the outside and all that.

Maggie's battled zombies and goblins and her fair share of house brownies, but finding herself a boy proves a much more daunting task than any monster hunt. Did you know normal girls don't stuff their bras with holy water balloons? Nor do they carry wooden stakes in their waistbands. And they care about things like "matching" and "footwear." Of course, they also can't clean a gun blindfolded, shoot a crossbow, or exorcise ghosts from a house. Which means they're lame and Maggie's not. Because Maggie's awesome. The Awesome, in fact.

Just ask her. She'd be more than happy to tell you.

After she finds herself a date.
From Goodreads.

When I was contacted about reviewing The Awesome by Eva Darrows, I was drawn to two things; the amazing sounding plot - Maggie has to lose her virginity in order to fight bigger monsters? Whaaat? - and how it was described as being a feminist story. That was me sold! However, although The Awesome is a good story, I did have a few issues with it.

In a world where monsters exist, though most try not to think about it, Maggie Cunningham is a confident, snarky, no-holds-barred, kickass hunter. Well, almost, as she is informed by her mother she can't get her journeyman's license until she's lost her virginity. Vampires can smell virgin blood, and can send them into a blood lust craze, so until Maggie has had sex, she can only help her mum out with the easy jobs. There's no way Maggie is going to accept not getting her journeyman's license and becoming a proper hunter, so she's on a mission to have sex as soon as possible. Any available guy will do, so long as she gets rid of her inconvenient virginity. What she doesn't expect is to start having feelings for the lovely if a little awkward Ian. But things don't go quite to plan, and soon her inexperienced state gets her into a whole heap of trouble; a vampire dies, a first born to a vampire prince, and now Maggie and her mum are in serious danger.

I had some trouble with Maggie. She's snarky, which, generally, can be quite funny, and I'm sure went towards this book being considered hilarious by all the authors who blurbed it. Her voice is completely different to what I normally read in YA, but once things started getting into the urban fantasy side of things, I was reminded a lot of the amazing adult urban fantasies I read. Maggie is like a cross between Cat from Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series and Dorina from Karen Chance's Dorina Basarab series. Her voice was easier to get used to when I took myself out of the YA reading frame of mind and into urban fantasy reading frame of mind, but still, I found her too snarky. She verges on having an attitude problem, and I found her really frustrating and her voice a little annoying.

The Awesome does have it's feminist elements, which I'll get to, but at times it almost seemed to have the opposite. Maggie's attitude towards women got my back up from the beginning. I can understand that, with her job, she'd have little time for those horror movie cliches, but her language towards women - and women who have sex - is pretty appalling.
'You know those horror movies where the silicon-inflated babe totters down the street in stilettos while a werewolf lopes after her at six thousand miles an hour? All I have to say to that is, "Bitch would have gotten away if she'd picked better shoes."' (p21)
'I, Margaret Cunningham, would try my hand at being a slutbag.' (p27)
'But he was cannon fodder, a victim waiting to happen. He might as well be the token slut in a horror movie with a sign that said 'Me First' hanging around his neck.' (p89)
These aren't the only times she talks about women in such a derogatory fashion, and it really bothered me. Maggie's attitude is all wrong, and for a book, that is being marketed as a feminist story, to be using words like "slut", and having Maggie obviously judge people who enjoy casual sex, is such a problem, in my opinion.

And it's odd. Because this book does have it's feminist values. This attitude from Maggie totally goes against what her mother tells her during a discussion about sex, but it doesn't change her attitude.
'"You realize it's totally screwed up that you're fine with me finding a piece of random ass, right? You should be going on some spiel about self-respect right now."
"Why's that?"
"I dunno. Most mothers would."
"Well, then most mothers think sex is shameful for a woman and I think that's a heaping pile of shit. As long as you're okay and your boy treated you right, no spiel. If he treated you bad, I'll cram his dick down his throat and watch him choke."' (p57)
Pretty wonderful words from Janice, Maggie's mum. A really wonderful way to bring up teenagers, I think. Yet Maggie still says awful things, as shown by the last quote above, which came after this conversation with her mum. It's partially sex-positive, partially sex-shaming, and I don't know what to do with that.

Janice is a funny character, because I find some of the things she said awesome ('"Nudity's a beautiful, natural thing. Be proud of your body, Margaret Jane. You only get one this life. No point in getting all hung up about it."' (p123)), and her strong relationship with Maggie is admirable, yet I really wasn't a big fan of her swearing at her own daughter. I'm not a big fan of swearing in books in general, but I tend to let it go as it's real, most people do swear. There is quite a lot of swearing going on here, but I'm just not for books showing parents swearing at their children. I don't really care how old Maggie is and how she may behave, I think it's wrong, and really quite shocking. But that's just me, and I was brought up by people who felt strongly that you don't swear at your children, and swear as little as possible around them when they're growing up. You might think differently, so this might not be a problem for you.

Although it's made a major part of the description, Maggie needing to lose her virginity becomes a smaller matter as the book progresses. Trouble is caused because of her virginity, but the focus then switches, mainly, to the trouble. I got really into this side of things, as I just love a good, fast-paced, action-packed urban fantasy, and oooh, for the most part, The Awesome delivers! There's a little vampire politics, some awesome twists, and a really interesting set up for more books, if they're to come. The main fight scene of the story wasn't quite as tight as it could have been, but it was still pretty awesome; violent and a little gory. There's a mystery surrounding Jeff, Janice's vampire boyfriend, that I think will end up being really amazing and wowsome.

As for the contemporary (ish) side of things, I loved Maggie's relationship with Lauren, a newly awoken zombie. Lauren isn't your typical zombie; eating your brain isn't her sole-focus. In actual fact, she doesn't want to eat humans, even though they smell so good, she doesn't look too dead, and she still acts and feels like a normal human (despite her developing the taste for raw meat, as well as making do with killing ducks and pigeons), rather than an incomprehensible, rotting, hunger-crazed human-flesh-eater. Seeing as she doesn't seem too dangerous just yet, Janice has to zombie-sit her until the Department of Paranormal Relations can decide what to do with her. Maggie and Lauren form a tentative friendship, with Maggie having to fight her suspicion and edginess around her, and it's great watching that develop. It's sweet.

There are also two sex scenes in The Awesome, and Darrows does a great job with them. Realistic without being clinical; not hiding away the awkward and the embarrassing, and showing equally that some things can feel good while other things, maybe not so much. It was definitely different to read about a character trying to get her virginity out of the way for a specific reason, rather than just to say she's done it. I was surprised about but admiring of Maggie's almost nonchalance about the whole thing until it got down to the actual event. Maggie might not be quite as confident as she'd like people to think she is. Really well done.

So, all in all, The Awesome isn't awful, there are some really fantastic elements to it. I just really didn't like Maggie's attitude to women and how she had to be snarky all the time. I'll probably read the next novel if there is to be one, and just hope her attitude improves. Others have really loved this book, so do check out a few more reviews, don't make a decision based on my review alone.

Thank you to Ravenstone for the review copy.

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Published: 7th May 2015
Publisher: Ravenstone
Eva Darrows' Website

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