This Savage Song

Of course, I had heard of Schwab’s other series, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic, and had been interested in quite some time (don’t worry, I am currently reading that one now!) but I hadn’t really heard much about her earlier duo. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was the same author at first since she uses only her initials on the Shades of Magic series.

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Demons, Family, Friendship, Romance, High School, Fear
Pages: 464
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


To begin, I just want to say that I don’t think I’ve ever given a book here 4.5 stars out of five. I don’t even have a half star image to use.

As we pass the first-week mark of 2018, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in terms of our environment. The North East where I live is still frozen, but Chicago is thawing out on this balmy, 34 degree Monday. San Francisco was just hit by a moderate sized earthquake a few days ago and I’m assuming parts of southern California are still on fire, but since the news only reports on things for about two days and forgets about them, how am I ever to know? Things certainly haven’t changed immediately in the political sphere of the US and even though it’s a new year, new you, I highly doubt that they will. While the women of the Golden Globes made their voices loud, people are still laughing about it on Twitter and such. And what was I doing during all of it? Finishing Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song. I had originally picked up her A Darker Shade of Magic to read first and after reading a few pages I knew I would like it too much that I didn’t want to get sucked in right away–I wanted something lighter, I suppose. And that clearly didn’t happen. This Savage Song is breathtaking–and, more importantly, relevant.

“What do you want?” chided Leo. “To be ordinary? To be human?” He said the word as if it stained his tongue.

“Better human than a monster” (81).

Schwab tackles the question: What makes someone a monster? And while not not successful, can this question ever really be answered? Based in a world where monsters, like the ones from our childhood nightmares, exist, This Savage Song directs the readers’ attention to how a label or an identity can be changed. August Flynn is one of our two main characters and he is, more or less, a monster. As one of only three known Sunai–the deadliest and most unknown monsters out there–the reader would like to assume that he’s creepy crawly like how the other monsters (Malchai and Corsai) are, but he isn’t. August is a timid boy, cute but probably not sexy, too young for me no doubt, but all around sweet. He doesn’t want to be a monster; he doesn’t want to be what this society has already labeled and created him as.

On the other hand, our other main character, Kate Harker, is a human but does this make her any better than August? She might not kill people and feed on their souls, but she’s still…a bitch through and through. Her father runs the north end of their city, Verity, and forces people to pay for his protection from the things that go bump in the night. Kate really only wants to please her father and make him see that she is capable of running a corrupt empire like he does.

She was her father’s daughter. A Harker. And she would do whatever she had to do to prove it (119).

August lives in the southern part of Verity, the war-torn half that offers as much protection as possible–but still isn’t enough–and doesn’t force the residents to pay for it. North and south sides are obviously opposing, the north and Harker’s domain want control of the entire city to build a greedy corporation that “protects” people from the monsters Harker himself controls. The Flynn family in the south, though far less wealthy and resource heavy, are honest and good people. They don’t want a war, but they realize that they cannot let Harker take over Verity for his horrid reasons. In a way, Schwab’s tale takes from Romeo and Juliet. To warring families with children of the same age that team up together to fight the battle their families created for them.

Of course, there’s bad guys and fight scenes ensuing all over the place as the reader inches closer and closer to the climax, but something that never really happens, while I, as a fangirl, was certainly craving it, was August and Kate never had a romantic moment. Sure there were times when I could feel the tension crackling off the pages myself, but even in the end, there was never an embrace or a kiss or anything. And I left both shocked and pleased. Sure, Schwab could have finally let the fangirl’s dreams come true and let Kate and August be together–perhaps this happens in the next book, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t read it yet–but she didn’t. Schwab chose to exclude that crucial part of any good YA romance-type book because, at least what I’d like to believe, is that this book isn’t about Kate or August really. They are just the examples, the vessels used to further discuss her main, overarching question of who is the real monster?

“And you?” asked Kate…

When August answered, the word was small, almost too quiet to hear. “Lost.” He exhaled, and it seemed to take more than air out of him. “I’m what happens when a kid is so afriad of the world he lives in that he escapes the only way he knows how. Violently” (308).

I could pick up the first five YA books on my shelfie and find at least one kiss scene in each of them–and don’t get me wrong, I love the kiss scenes, when my heart fills and flutters and happiness pools inside me cause two people that aren’t even real are happy–but by omitting that scene from This Savage Song, Schwab forces the reader to think closer about who is the true monster in this story. Is it the actual monsters? Sure, they do horrible things and are creepy, and are rightfully labeled “monsters” because they kill and eat people. But then there are people who think they’re doing good, but end up doing bad–like Kate’s father for example, or August’s older brother Leo. These characters might not look like monsters in the traditional sense, but their beings are monstrous.

There are too many people in power right now who aren’t technically a Malchai or Corsai or Sunai, but they still are monsters. Women are still mistreated left and right, and have to work in solidarity to at least be heard (hinting at the Golden Globes again) and even when we do speak out, we’re mocked or cringed at for not letting Guillermo del Toro be happy for winning his (rightful cause he is a great director) best director. Our president doesn’t care about us citizens unless we’re in the one percent and a white male. He could care less about anyone else; he only himself like Kate’s father. He might as well have branded his minions with T’s under their eyes, like Harker does his.

So while people hashtag New Year New Me, maybe we should really be looking at our own actions and those of the people around us. Just because we are human, doesn’t mean we are not monsters.

He was a Sunai–nothing was going to change that–but he wasn’t evil, wasn’t cruel, wasn’t monstrous. He was just someone who wanted to be something else, something he wasnt (351).

 

Dear My New Best Friends,

Dear Jenny Lawson, Ruby Elliot, and Allie Brosh,

Dear award-winning authors,

Dear you crazy women,

Dear my new best friends,

I’m assuming you’ve heard this many, many, many times over (I’m hoping it doesn’t get old), but I want to thank each of you for the work you have done. To some, your work might seem like fun books with drawings and crazy taxidermy stories, and while this is totally true, your books have been so much more to me. I honestly don’t even know where to begin this review–and let’s be honest, this is hardly a review at this point but more like word-vomit colored with fancy sprinkles and googly eyes. All five books get five stars and if you don’t like that, you can leave. This is my website after all. If I must nitpick, I would give Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson five out of five stars and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened also by Lawson four-and-a-half stars simply because that’s how much I love Furiously Happy. So you get five stars! And you get five stars! Everyone gets five staaarrrsss!

But seriously, I am in awe of all of you. I think I might be in love with all three of you at the same time. Can we have a sleepover?

Did that come off as too creepy? I’m sure at a Barnes and Noble signing, you guys have heard worse–like someone’s comment about how your hair smells and you wonder how he knows. Or someone on meth asks you to a steak dinner with a note reading: Attn. pretty lady behind the counter. Wait…these things happened to me, not you. Anyways, dear god do not ever change. Please, for the love of humanity, keep writing, drawing, living your beautiful lives so nobodies like me, who frantically type up raves that no one will read, have something to do with their boring, depression-ridden lives.

You all speak to me–individually and together. We are having a conversation together, whether you intended for it or not.

Positive conversations between women are crucial today and by displaying all sides of yourselves, you three women (and I’m sure many more) are having a conversation with each reader, letting them know that everything they are feeling from mental illness to motherhood, from husbands/boyfriend/girlfriends to family issues and work issues, we are not the only ones. These feelings, emotions, dark and light thoughts are happening to women all around the globe. By publishing these stories, these non-fiction tales, Lawson, Brosh, and Elliot are letting me know that what I am experiencing right now, in this very moment, might be both horrible and hilarious, or the worst and the best. Because you all talk about these issues as everyday problems, and yet still a crucial part of you, you are normalizing issues that society has hushed. No experience from a woman is allowed to be discredited or silenced any longer.

With the changing of hands in our government, the repealing of Obamacare and the lack of care for mental health patients, I am scared that my drugs that keep me stable enough to live each day will no longer by supported by my insurance. I’m scared that those like me, that have problem waking up in the morning because of something dark sitting on their chest, will not receive the help that they, that we, need. Depression and anxiety might seem commonplace on the internet, it is still misunderstand or not wildly accepted as a real thing. Many do not understand, and choose to not understand because these illnesses do not affect them the way they affect us, and this scares me. However, thanks to you guys, you have made these illnesses even more commonplace and easier to explain. I can show RubyEtc.’s pictures or Brosh’s drawings to my boyfriend, so he can grasp what I’m feeling when words escape me. I can color in and hang a picture drawn by Lawson’s beautiful hand in a heavy-traffic space in my house, so I can see it every day and feel “normal.”

Like you, like many women, I struggle with my mental illnesses. In fact, I feel as if saying this is so commonplace that my readers will be like “Yeah, so? We all do. You’re not special in saying that you have mental heal issues.” However, it is so easy to feel alone in our own minds. Sure, logically I know I’m not the only one with depression, anxiety about time, etc. but since most of the people I surround myself with do not experience these crippling issues, I can feel more alone. You guys take that feeling away. I am not alone thanks to your books. I am normal thanks to your books.

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Order in which I read, starting on the left.

So to Ruby Elliot:

Thank you for putting pictures to my thoughts and feelings. In the beginning stages of my mental illness, I didn’t even know I had problems–I just thought I had temper tantrums, anger management problems, and tons of emotions because I was always crying. Once I started therapy and began putting names to the feelings, I felt much better. And you have done that again. If someone asks me how I’m feeling, I can just show them your book. Pictures are so much easier to digest and interpret. In our busy lives, sitting and reading an entire self-help book is unlikely (okay but I do this anyways), but being able to flip through your book to a dog-eared page and remember that you felt this way strong enough to draw it out for me to ponder on is remarkable. Here are some pictures (that I took myself) of your pictures that perfectly describe me (please excuse potato quality and my nail polish):

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To Allie Brosh:

I had one of my least favorite English professors recommend your book. He is a condescending arse-hole and actually got fired from my school. Now I’m assuming this has NOTHING do to with your book and more to do with the fact that no one likes him. However, once I started reading Elliot’s book and had read one of Lawson’s, everyone began asking me if I had heard of or read Hyperbole and a Half. I was always brought back to that classroom with my teacher saying he had found myself in your book (so condescendingly might I add) and I wanted to smack him. But trust me. I get it now. Sure he’s a prick, this letter isn’t about him, but goodness Ms. Brosh, I think I peed my pants while reading your book (I wouldn’t be surprised if many strangers tell you that). Not only this, but even though I’ve been on medication for four years now and have seemed to grasp my own problems as far as mental illness goes, you still have shed new light on what I once was feeling and what I still am currently feeling.

The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief…But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck…Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom (124-25).

I feel like when I start therapy again once I move, I could simply bring in chapters from your book and say “This. Diagnose this, and you’ve diagnosed me.” On top of the mental illness similarities, you just totally understand the other weird shit that I feel:

It feels unfair when the other things in the world refuse to be governed by my justice system. [Brosh goes on to draw a panel about falling in love with an otter in a magazine, and then wondering why the otter has betrayed her by not being real and in front of her] (276-77).

Why do we feel this way? I don’t know, but thank you for pointing out a thing I do that I really didn’t even know that I did until you pointed it out.

Finally, to the mastermind Jenny Lawson:

Where do I even begin? You were my first; my first for a lot of things. Furiously Happy was not only the first book I bought that you wrote, it was the first “mental illness is a topic in this book” book that I bought, and I’m pretty sure it was the first book that made me laugh so freaking hard I wanted to throw up. Jenny,–I can call you Jenny, right?–I want to be like how you are to your own mental health issues. I know that that is kind of a shitty and fucked up thing to say, knowing your history with self-harm and just general issues, but seriously. You not only put to words feelings and emotions that leave me speechless and that I cannot describe to the lesser, normal people, but you then take it a step further and depict the ways that you are actually living with it. Your stories, particularly all those in Furiously Happy, have made me want to be a better person towards the issues that battle each other inside my cranium. You are so proud of yourself and the work you’ve accomplished–being a famous blogger, bestselling author, loving mother and wife, taxidermy animal collector–all while struggling with these non-curable problems. And you’ve done it so hilariously and real. I cannot thank you enough for being the type of person who is so true to herself and just also happens to have crippling mental problems and doesn’t use them as a crutch for her life.

I’m pretty sure I’ve dogeared my entire copy of Furiously Happy, so much so I can’t even find an appropriate passage to turn into a block quote here because I’m pretty sure I can’t insert the entire text–must be some sort of law. All I know is that throughout Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I was laughing so hard I was peeing and my boyfriend was wondering if I was going to make it out alive (uhh the pooping story in LPTNH??), I was nodding my head in complete and utter agreement with other tales, and for once in my life, dreaming about visiting Texas. And though I haven’t had the chance to fully go through You Are Here, I know while it might not be as hilarious as your tears-in-the-eyes stories you tell, it will only further complete my collection of your work.

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These are the things that I need to get through the day.