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REPOST: Book Review: Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke

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Release date: October 14th 2014 Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary Age group: YA Pages: 336 Buy the book:  Amazon - Book Depository Description (from Goodreads): Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status. When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time. While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story. And maybe even find herself a happily ever after. Enhance the experience with the companion soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, by the author's band, Wedding Day Rain. "I am whole. I am more that just the pieces that I see. I am stronger than I seem." I liked this book so incredibly much. From page one, I felt a connection with the main character, Imogen, and throughout the 336 pages this book made me feel compassion, joy, anger, sadness, happiness and so many more feelings I cannot put into words. This review will attempt to open up why this book was such a great reading experience for me - in fact, one of the best overall reading experiences of 2014 ! "I just can't understand folks who willingly go to the gym and participate in choreographed masochism. Maybe I'd have to experience it to get it. Like, maybe if I knew what it was like to put on my jeans without doing the fat-girl, jean-buttoning rain dance, I'd understand." This quote, from the second page of the novel made me realize that this would be one of those books that I feel an incredibly connection with. It perfectly introduces us to the character of Imogen, who is funny and sarcastic, but also deeply troubled. The book starts with Imogen visiting a therapist, which right away makes us face the issues she is dealing with. Her mother had died when she was young, her father has remarried and now the daughter of her father's new wife is moving into to live in the same house with Imogen. And she's definitely not fine with that. Not at all. Carmella Cinder (later on known was Ella Cinder) has only met Imogen once, but it seems like the moment they saw each other, Carmella decided that she hates Imogen.  "Being ignored means nobody's making fun. It means nobody's making comments under their breath about me being overweight. It means less anxiety." Imogen is tired. She is tired of being feeling the way she is. More than anything, she just wants to be normal. But since normal does not seem like an option for her, she has accepted that her not being normal equals misery. When her step-sister Carmella, who happens to represent everything Imogen is not, moves in, things start to get even more complicated. Carmella seems to be there just to destroy the small resemblance of happiness Imogen has - her involvement with the theatre group, her invisibleness inside the school and her friendship with Grant, the boy Imogen has been in love with for a long time. At first, Imogen thinks that according to the laws of the nature, it is okay for Carmella to bug her - whereas she is perfect, beautiful and like the princess in fairytales, Imogen sees herself as the step-sister who is destined to be the loser, the one left alone and unhappy. For Imogen, it seems like there will be no happily ever after for her.  "When are we gonna get a fat princess? How about a princess with bad acne and crappy posture and the mouth of a sailor? Probably never. Every. Single. One. Is the same. Totally hot. Totally predictable. " You can't believe how refreshing it felt to read about a protagonist who is overweight. A protagonist who deals with issues related to her body image and how she is supposed to look versus how she really looks. I feel like many times when it comes to body issues, young adult novels deal with eating disorders so some sort, because those inevitably feel more dramatic than someone being overweight. But as someone who does not really fit into the "normal body type" category, I feel like I was able to identify with this type of description much more. Imogen so desperately wants to be confident and love herself and her body, but then there are people and situations that make her feel like the elephant in the room. She thinks about how her life would be if she would be skinnier, but comes to the realization that it is not really her weight that makes her life occasionally like hell. It is the people she has to deal with and their toxicity. What she realizes also is that she needs to just shut those people out, surround herself with people who love her despite the way she looks, and most importantly, learn to love herself and embrace herself as someone worthy of love. "I look at myself, at my shape, at my body, and I smile." Despite the heavy issues the book deals with, from bullying to mental health issues, Damsel Distressed is also extremely funny. And by that I mean laugh-out-loud, trying-to-stop-laughing-at-a- public-place, funny. Imogen is such a fantastic character to read about, and from page one I kept thinking that it would be awesome to have someone like her as a friend. Yes, she is troubled and messed up and all that jazz, but she is also incredibly kind, creative and caring. For a long time, she just does not seem to be able care about herself the way she cares about others. She has a great sense of humor and she is quite sarcastic, which I ALWAYS love, because I love sarcasm and being sarcastic. And despite her problems, she can make fun of herself. "Real happiness? You show me a barrel full of chicken nuggets and ten different sauces, and I'll show you real happiness." I think I already mentioned Grant once. But oh my, Grant deserves several mentions, because he is WONDERFUL! He is exactly the type of male character and a love-interest I want to read about. He is kind, funny, nerdy, loving, but also flawed. He can also be a bit ignorant towards Imogen and her feelings, but he learns from him mistakes, asks for forgiveness and rightfully gets it. For some, Grant might seem a bit boring, but for me, he was just perfect. He is entertaining and interesting without being dark, mysterious, sparkling, dangerous or a bad boy in general. The more and more I read about him, the more he made me think of Seth Cohen, one of the best fictional guys I've ever been fortunate enough to be introduced to. And seriously, anything that makes me think of Seth Cohen, has to be perfect. "The mild October wind blows and steals away the last wisps of the smell of him, and I miss it before the leaves can settle again on the concrete." I guess to some extent it could be argued that the relationship between Imogen and Grant is quite predictable in the sense that you pretty much can guess that they will somehow end up together. But I guess that is the case with pretty much all YA books that deal with friendships that turn into something more. What Macke excels with is the establishment of that moment, the building of that relationship and what it takes for the characters to declare what they are feeling or not feeling. There is no instalove here, no cliche moments - everything feels so real and so honest and just so romantic in its simplicity. "I was just wondering how a girl who is as messed up as me managed to be here. With other humans. Who don't seem to hate me. Kinda makes me nervous I'll mess it up.  I feel like slut-shaming often becomes an issue with books like this where there is a bully and the bullied, someone who is "perfect" and someone who is "imperfect". For a long time, I feared that despite how much I was enjoying this book, I would have to mention in my review that it does include some slut shaming. But oh man, I am happy to say THAT IT DOES NOT! Macke carefully untangles everything that could be identified as slut-shaming, making her "villain" a human too, someone who is also hurting, someone not so different from Imogen. The ability to do this made me like this book even more, and really made me appreciate Macke both as a writer and a human being, while also making me really excited to see what Macke comes up with next. "You watch me live, live alone inside my pain You watch me try, try to keep it locked away" (Sinking by Wedding Day Rain) Damsel Distressed is accompanied by a soundtrack by Wedding Day Rain, a folk-rock band the author of the book, Kelsey Macke, is a part of. The soundtrack can be found from www.damseldistressed.com and the book itself identifies which song should be listened when. Since I was mainly reading this book at home, I decided to listen to the soundtrack in addition to reading the book and really found it to be an interesting addition to the story. The songs really fit fell to the events that take place within the novel and I feel like the songs really give a voice to the characters, mainly Imogen and Grant. I almost wish this book would be turned into a film and the soundtrack provided with the book would be the one used in the film.  As you can probably sense from this quite long and rambly review, I really LOVED this book. There are so many other things I could write about, but at the same time I do not want to give up too much because I want you all to pick this one up and love it as much as I did. Seriously, do it! You won't regret it.

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