Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

3.75 dragons rounded up to four dragons.

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Sarah Rees Brennan writes the best YA feminism I’ve ever read or probably will read for quite some time. In Untold, Kami is strong without being annoyingly stubborn in a stupid way. Many YA authors write feminist female characters as idiots who just believe they’re invincible when they can barely tie their own shoes. Kami is not that character rather she is capable of a million things while still being her own brand of feminine. For example, she has no problem learning and using self-defense techniques to protect herself, but she doesn’t use them for some mixed sense of superiority or as an intimidation factor.

Perhaps even more importantly Brennan is able to write a male feminist character very well. Jared initially has a tendency to swoop in and save the day (or at least attempt to) in the first book, but by this one he has learned that Kami is strong enough to accept help but doesn’t always need it.

My favorite quote from him is “I thought you’d like a weapon better than a rescue.” BAM! That is my kind of feminism. This is a huge reason why Jared is way better in this one. It is so much clearer that he cares about Kami and that he wants her to be happy. As I mentioned in my review of Unspoken Jared can seem like a huge jerk due to his behavior and wording of things. In this one, we see so much more of how he actually feels, and it makes a huge improvement in how I felt about him.

Another positive is that consent is shown in a positive, not awkward light. He asks if he can kiss her (I believe) and she thanks him for asking and says “asking’s sexy.” F*ck yes, it is. And it’s quite sexy both ways (not only guys have to ask for consent).

Kami also fights the irritating concept of lesbians as a fetish in themselves. Meaning when (some) guys hear that two women are together they automatically deem them as more attractive and may begin fantasizing immediately. Kami argues that if that’s okay then it is equally okay for her to do the same to guys. She rants that the relationship that two females have is not for someone else’s personal enjoyment any more than a heterosexual relationship ought to be.

One negative was how Holly viewed boys. Obviously, she has had some rough encounters and has dealt with a lot of stupid boys right before she thought this next quote which is the only reason I give her a temporary pass. However, I think it is important to point out the section in which she decries that boys know “nothing: all they wanted was pretty surfaces and nothing underneath.” This is a harmful stereotype to include without at least clearing it up as an overgeneralization made out of anger. Based on Holly’s friendships, true friendships, with boys, it’s clear that she doesn’t wholeheartedly believe this.

As for the storyline I was drawn in from the first pages. It did technically draw out a little bit and delay the full climax, but that is fairly natural for a transition book. Quite a few scenes had me worried about the outcome. I was glad to see the characters get a little more time to develop both in themselves and in their relationships. There was a new family element added into this as well. All too often YA has a bad case of the missing parents with no explanation. This has never been the case with this series, but there was much more family inclusion in this installment. The reader gets a view of each family and what lines are going to be drawn for each which ups the stakes to a scarier level. Each character must face down the possibility of losing their life or of losing their family.

Overall, I wasn’t completely blown away by this second book. There were social aspects that were flawlessly included and that matters to me. There is a big shocker ending that threw me for a loop. I didn’t expect it and I still don’t know how to feel about it. It definitely has me excited for the third and final book, Unmade.

I would recommend it for YA paranormal readers and for readers interested in a book that covers socially important topics without being annoying about it (IMO). Worth it especially if you have read the first book.

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