I keep getting rude comments on my reviews of CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE low-key implying that I hold white cis-het YA to different standards than I do LGBT+ YA or YA about PoCs. Now, I'm 99.9% sure I'm not a bigot, although that's probably not very convincing because bigots, like the spouses of cheaters, are often the last to know. But also, I consider myself an equal opportunity hater. Case in point, GRACE AND FURY. It's actually very similar to GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE, in that it uses a fantasy dystopian world involving the sexual oppression of women to explore feminism(!)... but in a kind of lame way. Woohoo, I guess? Because, hey, why not turn HANDMAID'S TALE into a romance? Because that's what oppression needs... romance!
Seriously, though, was the working title of this book THE HUNGER MAID'S TALE? It's honestly kind of ridiculous how desperately it's trying to revive the dystopian craze of the late 2000s. GRACE AND FURY is about two sisters named Serina and Nomi. Serina has been groomed her whole life to be a "Grace," which is basically a high-class sister-wife. Women in this world have no rights and aren't even allowed to read; they can aspire to bridehood or factory work, and Serina has chosen this as her life goal. Nomi, on the other hand, secretly learned how to read and chafes at this ~oppression~ and simply cannot believe nobody in the history of ever has ever NOT ever felt this way before, because oppression is wack, it's one of the few things you can't cure with a spontaneous Kendall Jenner Pepsi rally, which means it's serious business, you guys, oh em gee.
Anyway, when they visit the ~Heir~, Serina is primping herself to be chosen with her reluctant handmaiden (no, that's literally what they're called) sister in tow, but because Nomi snarked at the Heir in the hall, he finds himself attracted to her sexy defiance (women can be autonomous? they aren't just objects? whaaaaat? Science!), and he chooses her instead. But oh no! Nomi's book is discovered and reading is forbidden, so Serina decides to nobly sacrifice herself and take the fall, and as punishment she is sent away to Hunger Games Island, where women are forced to fight to death for their food while all their male guards leer and jeer and try to trade sex for favors. Lmao, what.
I saw someone say that this book is like a cross between THE SELECTION, THE HUNGER GAMES, and THE HANDMAID'S TALE, and I was thinking, "No way, those are all very different books, there is no way that will work." But that person was totally right, and so was I, because this book is indeed a combination of all those different things, and no, it does not work. The world-building is not good and it's hard to believe that a willful teenager was the first person to question the system, especially since she flipflops pretty hard over her traitorous body when the Heir comes along. It's just as ridiculous as THE SELECTION, but lacks the action-adventure and doomed romance of THE HUNGER GAMES, and to compare this book to Queen Atwood? I can't even. No.
GRACE AND FURY didn't work for me, in a long line of YA books that didn't work for me. Too often, I'm encountering YA books that lack depth and introspection. They rely on marketing and buzzwords to sell their stories, but don't do the legwork for what's inside the covers. I could honestly see a book like this do really well, but it would have to go a step beyond the stabby-stabby white girl oppression route that it's decided to take here. But hey, maybe Kendall Jenner will show up with a Pepsi and fix everything. You never know.
1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars