Two Mini Book Reviews {The Revenge Edition}

Hello!

Ciao Bella was more quiet than usual this past week, but it was for good reason: I was enjoying a quiet four day break with family, somewhat of a rare occurrence in the midst of junior year! I’m grateful that I can start the holiday season feeling both refreshed and ready for the weeks ahead, as I – and the blog – have plenty planned to take full advantage of this festive time of year. To kick off your Monday, however, I have two new book reviews to share, linked by the element of revenge. What have you been reading lately?

The Revenge PlaybookTitle: The Revenge Playbook
Author: Rachael Allen
Published: June 16th, 2015 by HarperTeen
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Library / Paperback
Series: None!

Don’t get mad, get even!

In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.

In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson — but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game. {Goodreads}

There’s rarely a time when a revenge novel does not have a home on my bookshelf. I could list a number of reasons as to why – I love the intricacies of rivalry, the suspense of a plan in action, and the motivations of enemies – but to put it simply: a well-plotted act of revenge is, at the very least, entertaining, if not exactly taxing to consume. You can then imagine my interest and excitement when I came across Rachael Allen’s sophomore novel, The Revenge Playbook, at my local library. As its title suggests, acts of revenge meet a small town football team, shaping a conversation on female empowerment, slut-shaming, and rape culture through a relatable and, sadly, all too realistic narrative.

Consider The Revenge Playbook a feminist manifesto for the YA audience. Allen lends a keen eye for controversial issues, weaving the never-ending question of blame in the storylines of each of the book’s four main characters, Melanie Jane, Liv, Peyton, and Ana. Working with four point-of-views is ambitious, to the point where their voices blend together, but they nevertheless illustrate the message of the novel: that girls can be “king” just as much as the players of the football team, or any group that holds dominance in society. Furthermore, the best novels need not be fun or thought-provoking; they, as seen here, can be both. The girls’ plan for revenge is lighthearted – steal the team’s precious football – but their motives – to fix what was done wrong to them – hold a more serious tone.

Allen writes in her bio that she loves a “strong female protagonist.” In her second book, she presents her readers with four. Melanie Jane, Liv, Peyton, and Ana may hail from different backgrounds and beliefs, but where they bond is in taking charge of what they rightfully deserve, even if society tells them otherwise. Empowerment is in abundance, the plot is well-paced, and the themes are important.  Revenge novels have long been on my auto-buy list. I’m now thinking books by Rachael Allen deserve a spot on there too.

Daughter of Deep SilenceTitle: Daughter of Deep Silence
Author: Carrie Ryan
Published: May 26th, 2015 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Pages: 375
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary / Mystery
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: N/A

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story — and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose. {Goodreads}

Books exist on a spectrum. Contemporary stories can make you laugh with every chapter or cry on the closing page. A good fantasy could be a fluffy fairy tale or a deep delve into world building. My favorite mysteries have been both adorable and a twist on the mind. It’s only natural, then, that revenge novels would also fall under two categories; whereas The Revenge Playbook can be seen as a lighter read, Carrie Ryan’s own take on revenge, Daughter of Deep Silence, is of the darker sort, bringing this year’s favorite literary trend, the unreliable narrator, to an extreme. While it has its fair share of flaws, Ryan proves herself apt in captivating the reader, myself included.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Protagonist Frances Mace takes this saying to heart, waiting years after a devastating yacht accident to enact revenge on the only other living survivors. Taking the identity of another passenger, Frances plans to bring the truth of the destruction to light, no matter what the cost. Where this plot succeeds is in its addictive quality, hooking the reader on Frances’ endless hunt for vengeance. The writing is simplistic, but it’s effective, as Frances’ thoughts alone are more than enough to craft a compelling story. Where the plot fails, however, is in how much it asks of the reader to suspend their disbelief, crossing the line between what is relatable to what is unrealistic.

If they as characters have less than desirable qualities, why do we seem to gravitate towards unreliable narrators? I can’t provide an answer, but I do have an example of one done right. Frances works under an assumed sense of betrayal. She’s manipulative. She’s certainly no one I would want to be friends with. Most importantly, she’s fascinating enough to launch me – or any reader – deeper into her complex web of suspense and secrets. The book is a page-turner, solely because Frances is a surprise herself. I may not seek revenge in real life, but these two novels have me sure of one thing: I very much like it in my literature.

Have a delightful Monday!
Bella

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4 thoughts on “Two Mini Book Reviews {The Revenge Edition}

  1. I don’t know how I feel about revenge books! I’ve never been one to be particularly interested in them, and for some reason they just don’t seem to be my thing. But I like the way you featured two sides to the take on the theme of revenge. The lighthearted side and the darker, more serious side to it all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I wrote about – or more accurately, obsessed over – Rachael Allen’s sophomore novel, The Revenge Playbook, just last Monday, so you’re sure to understand why I’ve included her in this week’s prompt! If her debut book or upcoming works are anywhere near as good, I envision a spot for Allen’s novels on my bookshelf for years to come. It’s excellent, entertaining, and well-written stuff. {review} […]

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