Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
April 23rd 2019
Viking Books for Young Readers
Received from publisher.
As a slightly obsessive YA contemporary rom-com reader, I’ve wanted to read an Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka book ever since their début novel last year. Fortunately, I was able to snag an advance copy of their latest book, If I’m Being Honest. Pitched as “The Taming of the Shrew meets Mean Girls”, I was a bit wary of it since The Taming of the Shrew is the Shakespeare play that I hate the most. Yet something told me to give it a chance and fortunately I listened.
To almost everyone around her, Cameron Bright appears to be your stereotypical “mean girl”. She’s attractive, popular and has no regard for others. However, as readers, we get a glimpse at Cameron’s home life and her complicated family, thus showing us a more vulnerable side to her “mean girl” actions. After getting to know her better, it was difficult not to feel sympathy for her. She just wants her father to acknowledge her since her mother never seems to care about her. So while Cameron is not your typical, likeable protagonist I actually liked her for her independent nature and how she was incredibly honest to others even if it was to a fault. It was also enjoyable to have a protagonist who was a teenager who, while flawed had several layers to who she was. This made it more satisfying as we see Cameron develop into a more self-aware and caring person while still retaining her “bite”. Furthermore, she learns to accept her flaws and won’t settle for someone who can’t take her as she is.
The romance in If I’m Being Honest was sweet. I love all the banter between Cameron and Brendan especially since they went from sending emails to each other to texting and then to interacting in person. There’s also family drama in this book as both of Cameron’s parents are not truly present in her life and Brendan and Paige also do not have the best relationship with their parents. Cameron’s mother, however does do a heel face turn towards the end of the book, though I had difficulty buying into her reasoning as it just doesn’t add up. That being said, it was refreshing to see parents who weren’t perfect, but who weren’t exactly all complete monsters either.
Similar to Always Never Yours, If I’m Being Honest is a modern twist of The Taming of the Shrew. However, it’s so much more than that. If I’m Being Honest stands on its own as an unflinchingly realistic, but empowering twist on your average teen rom com. I’ll definitely be checking out future books by this duo as well as Always Never Yours since the couple from that book make an adorable cameo in If I’m Being Honest.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books focusing on South Asian women.
A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose by Samra Zafar
A Good Wife is about arranged marriage and domestic violence, knowing that it comes as no surprise that it was a difficult read for me. Still, I felt like it was a necessary read as even today domestic violence and sexual abuse is still prevalent, especially in Asian communities where unfortunately, more than often than not it is swept under the rug. I appreciated how Samra doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse she faced as well as the reality of what happens when you leave a marriage and the mixed feelings when your marriage ends. And it was refreshing to hear her path to being free wasn’t just an easy and straight road. Instead she was constantly plagued with doubts and even backslides at one point. However, this just makes her tale all the more inspiring and powerful, especially when she gains the strength and motivation to finally stand up for herself because of her father and daughters’ love and faith in her. More than just a survival story, A Good Wife is also the story of the importance of having a community and social support system. It’s also a heartbreaking read, but also one with some hope as Samra continues to tell her story and work to help those in situations like the situation she was in.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters appealed to me as it’s about travelling to a country where you look like the locals on the outside, but on the inside you’re different because you were born/grew up elsewhere. I also appreciated how the Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina were all complex and well-developed characters, and how the book looks at the challenges and issues women travellers face. The novel’s themes of sisterhood, culture and travel is also obvious in how the chapters are laid out. I loved that each chapter started with the girls’ late mother writing to them as it provided greater insight into who she was in addition to giving the readers some background and context about why she wanted her daughters to do the things on the itinerary she made just for them. This also made me feel like I was joining the girls on their pilgrimage and that I was right there with them every step of their journey. The conflict between the three sisters felt authentic and I truly empathized with each of them as they all had their own issues and struggles which, when not dealt with directly only exacerbated their various misunderstandings with one another. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a refreshingly empowering read. What I enjoyed most was how it touches upon issues like dysfunctional family dynamics, cultural representation in the media, female feticide, sexism and misogyny while still maintaining a good amount of lightheartedness thus making it the perfect vacation read.
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Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.