If you thought getting into university was stressful, woah, take a step back and try this book.
It’s basically about a contest where the winner of the death-defying-maze-of-monsters gets a scholarship to university and also PTSD. (Isn’t that lovely!? Packaged deal!) I totally enjoyed myself with this one! The author is beyond lovely on instagram and has reached out and said such encouraging things to me during my debut year when I was losing hair (writing is hard, folks). I was super excited to read my first book from her!
It was such an empowering adventure. Did not disappoint!
Thanks to the author + Harpercollins for the ARC!
➸ I love the apt parallels to today’s world too.
It’s a story that really has its fingertips on the heartbeat of society’s discussions today and I love that. It’s set in a world with a 1900s vibe and there’s magic, ballgowns, plagues, classism and ghouls. The current view of females is “go have babies” and “leave the thinking to the men”…and it makes you just shake with with rage. The book is here to hit us with discussions on what feminism truly is! And I love how it discused that it’s VALID for women to want (a) eduction and careers, but also (b) babies and being a homemaker too!! The point of feminism is: you get to choose, you have power over your body and your aspirations, and there is no “one way” to be female. Yesss for a book that brings that home — and also mixes in MAGIC.
➸ Rhen is our STEM girl who is the actual loveliest.
My heart is so full and warm with love for the fact we have two main girls who are so different and so brilliant. Rhen is into science and cutting up corpses. She’s also dyslexic, impulsive (like 2 seconds after a decisions she’ll hack off all her hair to fake being a boy) and sharp-witted and craves a world full of opportunities. Then there’s her cousin, Seleni, who is soft and a little giddy about her boy crushes and is intelligent and forthright and takes risks and loves frills. They’re contrast was made even more amazing by how they supported each other and were badass in their own ways. 10/10 for epic female friendships!
(Also hilarious note: I spent the longest time thinking this book was called “To The Best Boys” not To Best The Boys…because I’m also slightly dyslexic. And then I open it up and is Rhen dyslexic lmaoooo. Relate.)
➸ so let’s talk about these boys we need to best
Because ugh, mate, do we need to best them. Again, we’re not left with caricatures. It gives us the total scope of boys, with (1) the privileged snob jerks who treat women like property, (2) the old men so solid in their warped beliefs that they can’t see beyond their own classism, (3) the softly anxious boys who want to please their fathers…but also want change, (4) the cute dorky boys here for a good time and so chilllll, and (5) the soft careful heartfelt boys who work hard and think for themselves.
So Vincent and Germain & Co fit into category #1 and I’d be ok if they fell into the sea. I loved Beryll who is so posh and ridiculous but also sweet!!! And Will and Sam were DORKS I LOVE THEM. And Lute? Lute is a gift to this broken world. He’s the poor fisherman boy, supporting his single-mum and disabled brother (absolutely loved the disability rep!), and he’s so heartfelt and kind!! His and Rhen’s romance is here to make your heart do floppy things.
➸ now for university scholarships and ptsd
Ok this was amazing. It is like Caraval x The Maze Runner. We have this old rich man who runs this contest every year — the winner takes a scholarship to a university. It’s “for boys” but Rhen and Seleni dress up as boys to get in. The contest is stresssssful. Mazes. Locked rooms. Puzzles. Inventions. Hallucinations. Poisons…
There’s backstabbing and danger and the magic and wildness is amazing.
Also am a big fan of the fact the relationships were already set up (waiting for a little nudge) so there was no rushed 1-day romances. And I found the “disguised as boys” trope realistically done because who the heck is peering at everyone’s faces when tHE MAZE WALLS MIGHT EAT YOU. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s a plot with the potential for some annoying tropes: and it did none of them!!!!! Yes!!!!
➸ it’s so easy to be absorbed by the story!
I’d been finding it hard to focus lately…but this? I flew through it and lost time. I love that feeling while reading! The writing is engaging and Rhen’s voice is dynamic and she’s such a winning character with her intense passions for finding a plague cure and her anxiety over taking control of her own future.
this is truly a story of feminism and love. It embraces all types of women and their strengths and vulnerabilities. It’s about girls forging paths so that others can follow. it balances the sweetness of romantic and family love…all set in a world of ghouls and mazes and tests. Here is a book for girls taking charge of their fate and totally besting those boys.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.