Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno

41139049._sy475_You Must Not Miss is a contemporary fantasy revenge story, and one of the most unique YA novels I’ve read in a while. Unfortunately, I’m individuating a pattern with me and Katrina Leno’s novels: I really like their premises, fall in love with the first half, and then everything falls apart in the second one. It’s true for this, and it was true for Summer of Salt as well.

I want to start by saying that You Must Not Miss is the kind of book that starts out slowly, very slowly, until suddenly everything happens at once. It does pay off, but I spent some time around the middle wondering whether something was ever going to happen. It’s a revenge story, yes, but far from a planned, slow-burn one.

I absolutely loved the main character Magpie. She’s a young teen – a sophomore in high school – and her life has fallen apart because of her father’s cheating, her mother’s alcoholism, sexual assault, and a lot of other reasons. She’s in an objectively horrible situation, and she deals with it like someone her age would: she’s barely surviving. She treats the people around her increasingly worse as the story goes on, and seeks refuge in the fictional world she invented – Near – which is consuming her in turn. This book never treats her with anything but empathy, and not only it makes you understand her, it also allows her to be bad without ever turning into a cautionary tale.

The way escapism is a double-edged blade – as much a refuge as it is a trap – is a theme that is really important to me, and I think this is one of the reasons the ending didn’t work for me.

The spoiler-y bit:

Magpie ends up leaving this world for Near, a fictional world she can control almost every aspect of. And maybe I’m over-interpreting things, because while she’s happy, the message of the only way you can be happy if your life is difficult is to leave this world is one I’ve spent… ten years fighting against? It’s not that I don’t believe it, it’s that I believe it too much, and to me there’s nothing as dangerous as an echo chamber when it comes to that.

At the same time, I think this is more about me than the book. I think that for some people, this ending could be comforting or liberating. I would like to read a book about escapism vs. real life in which the main character for once finds a balance. This is not that book, and it makes perfect sense for it not to be. Also, it’s not like I ever saw a book end like this before, so it was really interesting to read as well.

42052420._sy475_One thing I really appreciated was how this book explored how terrifying the concept of a teen with magical powers inherently is. I know that if I had had magic at 15 I would have used it for revenge as well! This doesn’t shy away from any of that.
This book also underlined just how important it is to have supportive friends in high school, and just how much a bad friendship and a friendship break-up can make things difficult. A lot of YA is focused on the coming and going of romantic relationships, with friends as reliable but not-so-relevant sidekicks, and this is pretty much the opposite. There is a sweet romantic element – and I really liked Ben as a love interest (queer m/f is great! Ben is trans) – but don’t expect this to be a romance.

It’s also really atmospheric, which I liked a lot. It’s not that it’s set in a particularly remarkable place, it isn’t, but I could see it, and I could see why Magpie felt the need to leave.

Overall, I did like it, but I’m still not completely sure about my feelings on the ending. I recommend it, especially as an audiobook – it was a really good audiobook – but I don’t know if I will reach for more by this author.

My rating: ★★★½

Discussion

Out Of My Comfort Zone #2

The second post in my Out of My Comfort Zone series! If you missed it, part one was about comics.

And this time I tried an audiobook.


Why I Usually Don’t Listen To Audiobooks

The first reason is accessibility. Audiobooks cost more than ebooks and, unlike physical books, I can’t find them in the bookstore if translated.

They don’t get translated at all, and while I am bilingual, English isn’t my first language, and listening to something in a language different from yours is more difficult than reading.

I tried audiobooks only once before, with Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, but I DNFed it.


What I Listened To

I chose Sadie by Courtney Summers, not because I thought I would like it – I didn’t, not really, but that’s not what I was expecting anyway – but because it’s an audiobook I knew was going to have great narrators.

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My thoughts on the book: as I expected, I didn’t enjoy this book, but you’re not really supposed to. This kind of dark realistic novels is really not for me – reading about tragic events that could be real means complete emotional detachment on my part (the other option, I feel, is Anxiety Time and my brain is trying to protect me. At least, that’s what I think it’s happening). But it was a story compelling enough that I didn’t DNF it, so it was perfect to understand whether or not I like audiobooks.

Anyway: I really appreciated the casual diversity (poor bi/pan main character with a stutter, the other main character is a man married to a man) and this book’s messages. Sadie talks about many important topics like the way predators often hide in plain sight and the way society fails vulnerable people like children and those who are poor or ill. I liked that while it made its point about young women’s pain being considered both normal and entertainment, in this book Sadie always had agency.

I didn’t feel strongly about anything in here – but I often didn’t like how this book talked about addiction (I talked more about that in my goodreads review) even if it made sense for the story.

My rating: ★★★½


Will I Listen To Another Audiobook?

I don’t want to say never, but… it’s not “yes” either. For many reasons, but not the ones I thought. (Well, the cost is still a reason*).

Surprisingly, I had no problem understanding what the characters were saying. I had to look up the spelling of everyone’s name when I wrote the review, but that was the only thing I didn’t get.

However, I have a very uneven reading pace. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone, but I don’t read all the scenes at the same pace – I often reread descriptions multiple times to understand how things actually look or feel like, I read dialogue very quickly, and I often skip ahead a few pages and then go back. I stop all the time, go back, skip ahead, repeat, and it’s… annoying when you do it so many times with an audiobook**.

While I understood what the audiobook was saying, I struggled to visualize what was happening. I never liked having someone tell me stories, so I probably should have seen this coming.

Also! My hands really wanted to do something while I was sitting there (me, staying still? Ha!), but I can’t multitask at all (me, paying attention to multiple things? Ha!), so… it was a weird combination of struggling to pay attention to the audiobook (which took effort) and feeling like I was wasting my time because my brain didn’t register the audiobook as something I was doing – so I was bored and tired at the same time.

*(I don’t have a library. I know about audible and scribd but it’s still money for something I could end up not using? I prefer spending once for a thing I want that paying for something that I could end up not using every month.)

**Edit: if you’re wondering why I do it, it’s the anxiety. Not being able to do that easily really impacts my enjoyment of what I’m reading. (Anxiety is not fun and reading is supposed to be fun)


I don’t think this is the format for me. Is it the format for you?