review by MARISA
Here’s the thing – I wanted to like this book so badly. I was interested in it when I saw the cover and read the synopsis in a catalog. I immediately chose to highlight this this title and ordered accordingly, and true enough – it sells. The cover’s pretty cool, and I loved that the protagonist is obsessed with superhero comics.
Then I started reading it, and. Just a few pages in, that same protagonist is referring to another girl as a slut. That alone made me want to throw the book against a wall. But I continued reading, and – she goes on to refer to this other girl as a slut, as does her two “best friends”, one of whom takes a picture of Blaze, half-naked, and sends it to Mark, the guy Blaze isn’t even dating at the time. I knew about the photo based on the synopsis in the catalogue and on the back of the book, mentioning that Mark (the non-boyfriend) would end up posting it online, but I guess I thought that it would be a photo Blaze willingly took and sent, rather than an extreme thing her friend did. Oh, and Blaze ended up having sex with Mark, without using a condom. It made me think of Sarra Manning’s Adorkable, when the girl had said something like, if you can’t talk openly about sex you’re probably not mature enough to be having it. Blaze and Mark aren’t exactly in a “lets talk about it” kind of relationship, but she definitely comes off as immature.
Mark is painted as a guy whose only redeeming quality are his athletic abilities (which Blaze doesn’t really care about) and his looks, so most of the time I found myself wanting to step into the book and yell at Blaze to get past that/him. Oh, yeah, and then Mark, the douche, posted Blaze’s photos online without seeming to realize the possible consequences, because, of course, posting a picture of an underage girl half naked on a site viewed by everyone in school = being made into a fictional villainous character in an amateur comic. And yay, more slut shaming! Even after having the entire school turn against her because of her supposed “slutty” behavior, Blaze still thought of herself as “not a REAL slut” like that other girl, you know, the “real” slut. Gah.
But. I like that Blaze isn’t one of those characters who wishes they were like everyone else – she’s content with being the comics geek who one day wants to draw her own comics. I like that she grows up, even if just a little, throughout the span of the book. I like her relationship with her brother, and what she does to help her mother out despite being resentful about her parents’ divorce. I like how protective her brother and his friends are of her, especially after it looked like her friends weren’t going to stand by her at all. And I do appreciate that the author tries to talk about slut shaming, in a way – my favorite part was when Blaze and Catherine (the supposed school slut) have a talk, and it was revealed that Catherine, too, was a victim of gossip. I liked that it talked of how people shouldn’t just believe everything they hear, but it didn’t erase the discomfort and anger I felt reading girls branding each other sluts. It didn’t even touch on the fact that calling a girl a slut – whether or not she has slept with someone, or several someones, or the entire football team – is wrong, no matter what. So the conversation at the end redeemed the book somewhat, but it wasn’t enough. – Mari (originally posted in Dreaming Out Loud)