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).

 

Another Rant About Women’s Bodies

[Disclaimer: this is totally not a book review, just a little social piece I thought I’d share]

The new hit comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, started another craze for me. Ever the fan of beautiful Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick as well as sexy Zac Efron, seeing their movie was a must. Little did I know it would upset my stomach–not like the way some Tosh.0 episodes do, but in a much more unexpected way.

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As a budding 22 year old with too many plans for my future that I don’t know which one to pick, to say that I am “in shape” would be a disappointing understatement. Sucking it in is really the only ab exercise I do these days. So unless you count pudgy hourglass as a shape, then I am not in it. I have large breasts and a decently sized booty to match. My legs don’t go on for days, but are average and my arms could be more toned but eh. What remains is the centerfold of every woman: the stomach–I’m envisioning here the sound of canned screaming as if from a drive in movie back in the fifties when The Blob came at the screen. At times and at the right angle, I’m a size 8 to the passerby. Other times I’m so large i look five months pregnant (spoiler: I have gotten seats on the bus before by sticking out my gut and cradling it like any good unwed young mother would).

While hilariously well-written and starring an A+ cast, I walked out of the movie, tossing my empty giant-sized cherry limeade slushie in the trash, with whiplash about my own body. I wanted to love every aspect of it, but i couldn’t look Plaza and Kendrick in the face, only their one-eyed, rock hard midsections. I can’t blame them, and I don’t. They didn’t know this feeling of utter self-hatred would arise from their glorious on screen performance, and in fact both girls are so cool that if they had known, they probably would have stopped production, or at the least gained ten pounds in just their stomachs for me. However, their movie started a new body craze for me.

“I’m gonna work out” I told myself on the drive home in the rain. I can get washboard abs like they do (I can’t), I can get toned thighs and arms like they have (I can’t do that either). But I was on a mission. Soon I was thinking are diet pills really that bad? How easy it would be to get skinny by just swallowing a pill a day! I would love that! I began downloading workout apps on my phone and dreaming about running in the morning. However, I always hit snooze.

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Though they gave me reason to hate myself a little, Plaza and Kendrick couldn’t give me the one thing I really need: motivation. Furthermore, I got mixed signals. Cosmopolitan’s August covergirl, model Ashley Graham, talks about how amazing it is to model and still be a normal woman–that is a regular, average, size which is somehow deemed “plus-sized” in the business. For once in a long time, the queen of women’s magazine seemed to be edging towards accepting women as they are; what a game changer! Graham plowed through her interview with chic confidence and inspiration for every woman with a waist size thats double digits. She is awesome, to put it simply. She the Cosmo interviewer about her troubling past (all models seem to have it) and how she eventually found body peace: “A tireless body activist, [Graham is] never not preaching that beauty is beyond size.” The article features pictures of Graham’s sexy body at parties, on the runway, with husband and so on and it ends with Graham’s last tidbit of self-wisdom: “Everybody’s going to have an opinion. As long as I’m healthy and I feel good, that’s what matters.”

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This isn’t the only #BiggerGirlsMatter article the August issue of Cosmopolitan printed. Before Graham’s interview, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s six-page piece “Stop the Absanity” sits nestled in at page 116. Here Brodesser-Akner assess the origin of our obsession with the midsection from Tamilee Webb’s Abs of Steel video became a hit in 1991 to today where “a rock-hard belly is the ultimate signifier of hotness and hard work” (121). If this is true, then I am neither of the these things. Now wait a second, I always considered myself at least one of those things! Hard-worker. I’m a hard-worker and my boyfriend calls me hot, so that has to count for something?

“This is a body part that is historically was hard, associated with men, and soft, associated with women. Now we, the women, just want our bellies hard. We want the softness eradicated like it was never there” (122).

So what is a girl to think? On one side, there’s Plaza and Kendrick along with every other female celebrity in LA with their thigh-gaps, and then Cosmopolitan features a bigger model and an anti-ab declaration. What side am I supposed to be on? Obviously the bigger side (both literally in weight and in population) because that’s where I fit. However, the fact that Graham is covered up on her cover and how her interview really only deals with her being bigger as the only reason for her success, it’s already sending mixed signals. I want to applaud Cosmopolitan for at least putting in some effort, but what’s stopping Cosmopolitan from featuring what they deem a “normal-sized” girl on cover of the September issue? I guarantee that they will because bigger girls, unless their last name is Kardashian, they do not get featured very often.

I suppose by now you’re wondering “Where is she going with this rant?” and honestly, I do not know. I suppose that’s the sad part. Every day I wake up with a different feeling about my body. Some days it looks killer and I’m the hottest chick around and some days I want to burn all my clothing, start eating only water (if I chew it, then I’m burning calories right?), and question why my boyfriend finds me attractive. The constant media whiplash of “Butts are Totally In Right Now” to “Women were supposed to be soft!” and also “You need to be skinny–end of story” certainly doesn’t help either. I truly think that the only way to find some body peace is to literally try everything and then push out anything that doesn’t work.

If your boyfriend thinks you look great and you love eating mac and cheese, then why stop? Does eating it make you feel good? Sure it does! It’s freaking cheese! I ain’t giving any of that up. Maybe I’ll stop eating bread with every meal, but I am not giving up gluten because Miley Cyrus said so. Candy is my kryptonite and I probably have dessert after 6 out of 7 dinners a week. Who cares? I need to learn to be happy with that regime because I know that anything different would make me unhappy. Watching my boyfriend get to have a milkshake while I have a kale smoothie for dessert? Kill me now.

So to the Aubrey Plazas and the Ashley Grahams alike, I salute you. You’ve found a way to be healthy, sexy, confident, sexy, beautiful, sexy and, most importantly, happy. One day I’ll get there. Let me just research 21 Day Fix while eating frozen yogurt first.