On Replica, Beautiful Creatures, and (sadly) The Wicked Deep.

Replica by Lauren Oliver is one book where I felt the complaints about it being problematic were unfounded.  Going in, I had heard that the book included fat-shaming.  My takeaway was that the main character was acknowledged as being overweight, felt self-conscious about it, and had to deal with bullies, though the bullies were far less prevalent than in some YA books.  Is that really fat-shaming?

On the other hand, Beautiful Creatures is definitely guilty of fat-shaming.  One of the characters, who’s name I don’t remember, is part of the “mean girls clique” at school who ostracise the mysterious new girl Lena.  This character is noted as desperately trying to hide the fact that she is overweight so that she can fit in with the in crowd.  And when she gets her comeuppance for bullying Lena, the book makes sure to mention her weight twice in one paragraph to hammer home her humiliation.  Now there is some legitimate fat-shaming.

Which brings us too one of my favourite books from the past year, The Wicked Deep, a book which unfortunately becomes more problematic the more I think about it.  Consider the story arc.  Penny is a resident of the town, who explains the details of the curse to both Bo and the reader, how the three sisters killed for witchcraft return each year to possess the bodies of appropriately aged girls and lure boys to their doom.  The possessed girls never remember being possessed, and go on about their lives.

So Penny gets possessed, which I thought was pretty obvious from the moment it happened, though the book does try to play it cagy for a while.  Her relationship with Bo deepens into a romance, though it is Hazel who is controlling Penny’s body.  Ultimately, Hazel sacrifices herself out of love for Bo, which also kills her other sisters and brings the curse to an end.  We learn that Penny and Bo continue to be romantically involved with each other.  Which is a happy ending, except… does Penny fully understand that she wasn’t in control of herself when she became involved with Bo?  Is the relationship totally her choice, or did it only happen because of the possession?  Shea Ernshaw throws in a line about how Penny doesn’t really care about the past, and all that matters now is that she loves Bo and he loves her, and the book seems to proclaim that Bo and Penny’s relationship is ultimately a new and completely separate thing from Bo relationship with Hazel-as-Penny.  But can the relationships be completely separated from each other?  And what about the epilogue, which suggests Bo is secretly pining for Hazel, who murdered is brother and Penny’s father, along with many others?  That just seems unfair to Penny.

So, that’s it.  Replica to me was unfairly called out, Beautiful Creatures definitely has some problematic moments, and The Wicked Depp… honestly, if you think I’m overreacting here, tell me.  I loved the book, and would be happy to drop my concerns about Penny and Bo.  I mean, I’ll still check out Ernshaw’s next book regardless, but I’d love to be persuaded that The Wicked Deep really isn’t problematic at all.

For further reading, this post from Vicky Who Reads examines what to do when you realize a favourite book is problematic.  Then there is this article from Vulture, taking a deep look at the hot button issue of recent campaigns against supposedly problematic books that have been carried out mostly by people who never read the book, and the protests against those campaigns.

Published by Andrew Clendening