NetGalley Reads: The Anti-Virginity Pact

NetGalley Reads: The Anti-Virginity Pact

NetGalley

Hello and happy Friday. I promised you a rant, so here you have it. I don’t know if you know Katie Wismer, a BookTuber. Her channel is called KatesBookDate. I found out about her novel, The Anti-Virginity Pact, through her channel and I was obviously drawn to it. Sadly, yes, it was a huge disappointment and I’m here to tell you why. I requested this book via NetGalley and I thought I had no chance to get it, so I’m thankful to them, the publisher, and the author.

I read this book between May 21st and May 26th, 2020, and gave it one star. Before the actual novel starts, there is a page with content warnings, and I appreciated that. I hadn’t seen that in a book before. That being said, it’s pretty much the only thing I can say I liked about the book. If you’re curious, this is what the author listed as content warnings: bullying, religion, sexual assault, animal abuse, substance abuse, anxiety, and trauma. That’s the exact list, but there’s more I’ll discuss later. Personally, I don’t like reading about three of the items listed (I’ll let you guess which), so I knew the book and I weren’t off to a great start. That doesn’t mean I was predisposed, but the title does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

When I give a book one star it is because I have found something structurally wrong with it, and since this is the case, I won’t go super deep into minor details. I want to say, however, that the writing style was not for me. I hate sentence fragments and this had a lot of them, especially towards the beginning. I also didn’t like how everything had an explanation like the author was telling us that she hadn’t left any plotholes, that her story was developing exactly how she had planned and that everything made sense. That is not life, and I’m no writer, but I don’t think that’s what writing is about, either.

The whole book is dark, because, well, duh. I mean, judging solely by the title and the list of content warnings you’d assume that’s going to be the tone, but besides that, it was all pseudo-deep and I don’t like that. I like simple language and I think that it can have as much effect as big words and metaphors and hyperbole can. Also, the main character is supposed to be eighteen years old, but she sounds way older. I am twenty-six and I don’t even sound like that. At times, reading this felt like I was back at university in my American Literature of the 20’s class in which everyone would say the biggest words they knew to try and impress the teacher. Well, reading this I was not impressed, I was annoyed.

Now let’s talk about the structural issues that I found. The title is pretty self-explanatory, right? The main character writes and signs this pact with her best friend that by the end of their senior year they’ll lose their virginity (not to one another, although that would’ve made the book way more interesting) and obviously everything goes to shit. There is no way to read this book without thinking about one’s own views, experiences, and lack thereof, is it? From a somewhat young age, I stopped considering having sex for the first time as “losing my virginity.” I rarely talk about the concept of virginity. To me, having sex was something that would happen if/when I was ready and with a person I trusted. Again, these are my views and this is my experience, but I think that for someone young, who has questions, who doesn’t have a clear idea, a book like this might be misleading.

I did not go to school in the United States. I went to a Catholic school for women in Colombia. Did this shape my whole view of sex? Probably. I never felt pressured to have sex because it was part of the things I was supposed to do in high school. I did talk about it with my friends, but in general, not about when we would each have sex for the first time. I know there’s a pressure and I know that there are cultural differences, but those might have prevented me from clicking more with the story.

Like I mentioned, the plot of the book is, this girl signs a pact that states she and her best friend will lose their virginity before graduating high school and everything that can go wrong goes wrong. My question reading this book was, what was the purpose? What did the author want to accomplish by writing this? It wasn’t really helpful for young readers that might struggle with the pressure others put on their sex lives or the choices they want to make. It wasn’t really sex-positive. I think it was more of a cautionary tale against having sex while you’re a teenager…which, seriously? Don’t have sex because you’ll get pregnant and die? I mean, I guess that is a valid purpose, but had I known it was, I wouldn’t have requested this book.

I had serious issues with Meredith, the main character. I know that I’ve said the story was not relatable to me, but Meredith read exactly like people I know and don’t like. She was the kind of person who would look down on everyone and think she was better than them whole simultaneously being jealous of them and wanting to be like them. I’m not saying the other people at school weren’t shitty as well, but that didn’t excuse her attitude.

Meredith has anxiety and she takes medication for it. This is how her character was portrayed and I’m going to tread carefully because I don’t want to say something that invalidates anyone’s struggles or experiences. As a person who has been diagnosed with anxiety and as a person who has read and felt represented in other books, I don’t think that anxiety was being portrayed accurately. I say this, and again, I am talking from my experience, because the main character describes her anxiety as something that comes and goes. I think she confuses being anxious with having anxiety, which I guess is a mistake people who don’t have anxiety can make. I’m not assuming that the author does not have anxiety, but I think she did not portray it accurately.

Let me elaborate more on the inaccurate portrayal of anxiety. Meredith starts seeing this guy, Sam, and when she’s with him it’s like she’s cured or something. She even says things like “I should feel this way, but because he’s here I don’t.” Honey, that’s not how anxiety works. Yes, the person you’re into makes you feel nice and cute, but the thoughts that anxiety provokes are always there. Anxiety is a constant. Yes, there are triggers and yes, there are flares, and also, yes, there are ways to soothe it, but it does not come and go that way, at least not for me. The idea that a romantic interest can make anxiety go away or whatever is not new and even authors like Sophie Kinsella in Finding Audrey (which I adore) explore it in a very interesting way.

Another problem I had was the use of ableist language, with words like “crippling” or “you’d have to be blind not to see this.” This book will be published in 2020. The author can do so much better. I mean, those comments did nothing at all for the plot, so it could have been fine without them.

Meredith is a white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender woman. She belongs to a Christian middle-class family. She has been diagnosed with anxiety, but other than that and being an atheist in a family of believers, she really doesn’t have any problems, or does she? She mentions that she feels forced by her family to participate and believe and whatever. I am not a Christian or a Catholic. I do not practice any religion, but I think it is valid that some people feel restricted by their families because of their faith, especially since Meredith’s dad is a pastor. What I didn’t get is the fact that she was never vocal about this up until she was confronted by her parents about something else.

Remember when I said that Meredith and her best friend signed the pact? Well, the best friend, Harper, decides that she will have sex for the first time with…her teacher. No. I’m going to talk from the perspective of a person who had crushes on teachers at school and a teacher, okay? Look, it’s no secret that teenagers are hormonal and yes, developing a crush on a teacher is not uncommon or unheard of. What was honestly cringe-worthy was the way in which the whole “relationship” was portrayed. I’m using quotation marks because, and hear me out here, people have crushes on their teachers all the time, but most times they amount to nothing because they are pathetic and illegal.

Now, let me talk as a teacher. Teachers are used to being misrepresented, misunderstood, and all the “miss” anything you want, both in real life and in fiction. It makes sense in books in a way because many authors do not have the experience of teaching students within the age range of their characters, and so they rely on what they think or what they remember from their own high school experience. The teacher Harper wanted to sleep with? He was a guy in his mid-twenties, minding his own business, who probably was kind of attractive and tried his best not to gag every time a sixteen-year-old would try and “flirt” with him. He did not engage in whatever Harper thought she was doing, and yet the way Meredith depicted him was like this pathetic loser who rejected her best friend.  They even say something along the lines of “he earns a crappy salary.” Yes, we do. That is a fact. He’s not a teenager who broke up with you via text message; he is an adult who doesn’t even consider being in a relationship with you because, among many other important reasons, he likes his job and wants to keep it.

Oh yes, the trigger warnings that were not listed. There are a few homophobic comments and a subplot regarding homophobia. Additionally, judging by the way the characters act when it comes to food, I could sense disordered eating. There is no specific mention of an eating disorder, but I noticed that the main character rarely ate, and when she did it was too little. There were also many mentions of her not being able to eat or leaving her food untouched.

That’s it for today’s rant. I am finishing this post as I listen to my boss giving us instructions for the end of the year and I can’t wait to hang up and play Sims. Do you have any book recommendations that accurately portray the topics I found problematic in this novel? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 4

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 4

Copy of Copy of THROWBACK THURSDAYHello and happy Thursday. How’s life? I’m back from spending a week at my mom’s house and I can’t wait for this school year to be over because. well, just because. I don’t know what I was thinking two years ago, but thankfully, I have a trusty old notebook that might so let’s go back in the past and see what 2018 Camila was thinking.

May 28th, 2018: Watching Full House again makes me happy. 

I don’t know why I said “again,” but I imagine I took a break from binge-watching it and then went back to it. I thought the show was kind of stupid but it was funny and I enjoyed it for that. I don’t really think anybody was watching it for the story. That last episode, though…

Do you prefer Full House of Fuller House? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Thursday!

Love, Miss Camila

Oh Wow

Oh Wow

Hello and happy Wednesday. Have you been missing my in-depth reviews of books that are more like four-paragraph essays? Good, because I’ve been missing writing them. I’m also back and at least the two reviews you’re getting this week will satisfy your need to read me gush (in this case) and rant (on Friday) about books. Make sure you’re comfy and that you have a drink and a snack because I have a post-it full of notes for you about none other than Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Let’s get started, shall we? 

I read this between May 15th and May 24th, 2020 and gave it four stars. For the sake of accuracy, it’s more like 4.5, but I always round down on Goodreads. This was simply amazing. It was like reading an action movie and I was totally into it. I had heard other book reviewers talking about this so I kind of knew what it was about, which I probably would’ve preferred not to, but I wasn’t spoiled or anything like that. Even though I have many thoughts and opinions, I’m going to try to be very vague so that you can go into this book, if you choose to read it, which you should, with as little information as possible. 

To give you a general idea of the vibe, I’ll say that at first it reminded me of More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, which is a book I read last year and that totally destroyed me. When I say I was reminded of the vibe, I don’t mean the plot or the unique elements of each story, but I mean more in terms of genre. It is no secret to anyone that I am not a sci-fi reader, right? But I do enjoy books that have some sci-fi elements or that tend to be speculative. I like to read about a world like ours in which the reader, along with the main character, learns about this new thing. In More Happy Than Not it was this memory-altering treatment, and for a moment I thought that Dark Matter would go down that same route, but it didn’t. 

Dark Matter is way more sci-fi heavy than More Happy Than Not, but not in a way that went over my head or that confused me or made me want to wish I were smarter. I even appreciated the fact that there was stuff the main character didn’t know or couldn’t figure out. Oh, right. Without going too much into the plot, Dark Matter is about how there are infinite alternate universes in which the versions of ourselves live as a result of the choices we did not make. I’m making it confusing, but I tell you, it’s not. Blake Crouch was way better at explaining that than I was. 

Even though it took me so long to read this book because I was sort of in a reading slump at the time, every time I sat down I had to at least read an hour-long chapter. I am overcoming my fear of long chapters and now I’m starting to prefer them, but besides that, the author had an amazing ability of make each chapter seem like a short story. I swear, they could stand on their own. I had never read something like that, and it made me keep going. If you like Black Mirror, each chapter in this book is like watching an episode of the show, only way better. 

You know I’m a sucker for happy, closed endings, and I knew that I would most likely wouldn’t get one in this book. This isn’t a happy book at all. But I also knew that even if I didn’t get everything wrapped in a little bow, it would totally make sense. I’m not going to lie, I got a bit of a book hangover and I think I will still wonder about the characters for a while. And yes, I cried towards the end. 

Have you read anything by Blake Crouch? Should I? Let me know in the comments. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Update

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Update

CertificateHello and happy Tuesday. I just got a very sad email from one of my students, so I’ll need a temporary distraction. Last night, Ann from Great New Reads, the host of the Book Review Blog Challenge, emailed the contestants to announce that the results for the challenge were in. If you know anything about me it’s probably this: I am an overachiever through and through, but I didn’t get into this challenge to win.

I didn’t even think I could read all the books I read for the challenge and the ones in my regular TBR! I had so much fun, though and I got in touch with different people who, like me, love talking about books.

So, no, I did not win first place, but…I got second place! And because Ann is most definitely a sweetheart and didn’t go to my school, she believes that second place winners also get a prize. Bless her soul. The prize is a $20 gift card from Amazon and a digital certificate, which I’ll make the thumbnail of this post as soon as I have it.

I know this wasn’t *my* challenge, but I want to give a shoutout too, okay? I want to give a shoutout to Michelle from Unidragronfrag because she kept up with my posts throughout the challenge, actively commented, and she even read and reviewed Number the Stars for one of her challenges, per my suggestion. Is this what having internet friends feels like? I think it does.

If you’re here to find out what I’ll buy with my $20, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my prize wishlist. Obviously, I’m buying ebooks with that money, but I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone.

How’s your week going? What have you been doing? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Character Book

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Character Book

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Character BookHello and happy Saturday. It’s been a while since I last shared a TpT product with you, or at least it feels that way. It’s weird because when I’m working I get the most inspiration for new resources to create, but at the same time, that’s when I have the least energy and time. I’m not making excuses, I promise.

Today I bring you a product that I had a lot of fun making because it’s about a world I’ve always been fascinated with. I’m talking about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. As much as I loved this universe, I hadn’t read the book until recently, and when I did I decided it would be great material for a resource.

My Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland character book is exactly that, the template for students to fill out information about every character in the story. Students will write the description as well as make a drawing of the characters. They can work on this as an individual project, in groups, or even the entire class, each student focusing on one page.

I hope that you find this product useful for your lessons, and if you do get it, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

 

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 3

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 3

Copy of Copy of THROWBACK THURSDAY

Hello and happy Thursday. I know that because of a recent book review challenge I got some new followers and I want to say thank you and welcome. Mine is not only a reading blog but an “everything blog.” I talk about lifestyle stuff on Sundays, do makeup tutorials on Mondays, books on Wednesdays, the things that I’m grateful for on Thursdays, ARCs on Fridays, and teaching on Saturdays. Also in July, I blog every single day, or at least I try to.

Now that you know what my blog is about, let me tell you about this post series. Since 2016 I’ve kept these notebooks where I have written about things that have made me happy, so since the beginning of this series, I’ve been picking one of those random happy thoughts and I’ve talked about them.

May 21st, 2018: My dad’s birthday makes me happy. 

I mean, should I explain it? It makes me happy, it just does. I like to see my dad get excited about all his presents and everyone paying attention to him and only him on that day. What else can I say?

Do you have any special traditions that take place on your parent’s birthday? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Thursday!

Love, Miss Camila

I Don’t Know What to Think

I Don’t Know What to Think

Hello and happy Wednesday. I hate the idea that some books are meant to be read by some people because what it implies is that they are not meant to be read by some others, you know? I feel like books are there, they must be available and accessible, and as consumers we are the ones to decide the types of books that we want in our lives. Now, I’m saying this because I recently read In Darkness by Nick Lake and my one persisting thought was “I wish I knew more about Haiti.”
I kept thinking that this book would’ve impacted me a whole lot more had I known more about the context and the history of where and when it was taking place. But I also thought that no, that’s not the idea of a book, is it? I mean, it’s great that I asked myself questions, but nobody should read a book feeling that they missed out on something because they needed to know more about a topic. Or at least I don’t think anybody should. 

I read this book between May 12th and May 18th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Now, before I continue this review, I want to share another reason why I don’t know what to think about this book, and it is the fact that the author is white. This book is set in Haiti and follows not one but two main characters, both of whom are black since most people in Haiti are black, and this white dude writes an entire novel, half of which is narrated in the first person? And he isn’t even Haitian! He’s British. Talk about neocolonialism.

No but really, am I saying that a white British guy shouldn’t be writing a book about black Haitians? I’m not going to answer that, but I know for a fact that there are many own-voices novels about Haiti that don’t have the recognition that they should because people are reading In Darkness instead of their story. Proof of that is the fact that I’m reviewing Nick Lake’s book in this blog. I keep saying that I will be more mindful about the authors I read and the fact is that I’m not doing a great job at that, so I’m sorry and please hold me accountable. 

The story itself was hard to get into. I felt like I didn’t make any progress on the first three days and that I had to force myself to keep reading. Then the reading experience got better for me, although clearly this is neither an entertaining nor an enjoyable book. I anticipated it to be more hard-hitting, and objectively, it was; it just didn’t reach me and my feelings the way I thought it would. 

We get two perspectives and two timelines: now, told in first person by a fifteen-year-old gangster, and then, a third-person narration about Toussaint L’Ouverture, a black enslaved man who led Haiti to its revolution and freedom from the French. These two characters, as we find out throughout the story, somehow share a soul because they both had twin sisters who died, so their souls are thought to be incomplete. I think this would be a required reading at school if the English and the history teachers decided to have a project about Haiti. No, that’s not a compliment. 

Do you have any recommendations of books written by people from historically oppressed countries or ethnicities? Let me know in the comments. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

 

The Empowered Woman’s Starter Course

The Empowered Woman’s Starter Course

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Hello and happy Saturday. We all know that every time I present a new product or educational resource I do it as I would present my baby to the world. In a way, the stuff I create is like a baby, only I made it by myself using my brain.

A while ago, I very proudly presented by Empowered Woman’s Starter Kit, which is a product you can get on Teachers Pay Teachers. This is basically a handbook that can help teachers introduce their students to feminism. I worked for months on it and I was very excited when it was ready. I quickly realized, however, that it would reach a very reduced audience given that I was only offering it in a platform designed for teachers and people working in the educational field.

Feminism is a topic that many people think they know about but few really do, and I think that it can’t just be reduced to academia. It’s amazing that people dedicate their lives to studying and writing papers on feminism, but the truth is that we need to make it more accessible to everyone. This is why using the starter kit as a basis, I’ve been developing The Empowered Woman’s Starter Course, a course that won’t give you any certificates or quiz you on anything, but that will hopefully give you the basis you need to better understand what feminism is, what it isn’t and why we need it in this day and age.

You’ll get access to valuable information on the subject of feminism, which let me tell you, is a very wide topic that often remains unexplored, you’ll find out about what has been said on feminism from various points of view and through a variety of formats, and, most importantly to me, you’ll have specific tasks to fulfill that will hopefully lead you to be more critical of the reality we live in now and will encourage you to change it.

Now it’s your turn to check it out and tell me what you think. Also, if you would like to suggest ideas to include in the course, you can do it in the comments below.

Happy teaching (and learning)!

Love, Miss Camila

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 2

May 2020 Thankful Thursday Week 2

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Hello and happy Thursday. Now that not leaving home has become the new normal and not something people around you worry about because you might be depressed, I feel like my energy/productivity are at its highest on Thursdays because I don’t teach on Fridays, so it’s like my body knows this is the last day of the workweek for me. I do work on Fridays, but I don’t teach. I don’t know why I felt the need to defend myself on that one, but oh well. Let’s see how I was doing two years ago.

May 14th, 2014: Late afternoon showers make me happy. 

I mean, yes and no. I don’t like to spend all day without showering (if I can help it) because it makes me feel dirty. If for some reason the shower is broken, I’ll use baby wipes and change into clean clothes. Anything to feel clean. But if this is an “I’m feeling lazy, I’m going to shower late” kinda thing, my late is usually before noon. What I do like is showering in the afternoon or at night after a long day or in preparation for a trip or a special event the following day. I do like that a lot.

I have friends who prefer to shower at night instead of first thing in the morning. What do you think? When do you like to shower? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Thursday!

Love, Miss Camila

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Day 8

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Day 8

Hello and happy Wednesday. Can you believe it’s the end of this challenge? I can’t. I had so much fun and ended up reading eight books that were pretty much buried in my TBR under so many others. I’m also kind of sad that I didn’t find a new favorite book in this challenge and that my ratings were mostly three stars, but I think that was expected from me. The last prompt was “star,” so I decided to finally reread Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. 

I read this book between May 11th and May 12th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Like I said, this is a reread for me. It was a required reading when I was in eighth grade, and though I remember some of the story, I realized I’d forgotten what now I think would be the most relevant plot points or themes in the story. 

I’d initially thought this was a middle grade, but it isn’t and I honestly don’t know why I thought the characters were like twelve years old and not fifteen and sixteen, but anyway. You know that when I read or reread certain books that remind me of when I was at school, I immediately wonder whether I would have this as a required reading for my students and how I would approach it. Well, this book is pretty mediocre but I wouldn’t deem it problematic, really. I simply would not have my students read it in class.

Stargirl is the name of the new girl who’s quirky and kind and people go from hating her to loving her to hating her again because she is different. But this is not written from Stargirl’s perspective because that would be weird, right? Young women having a voice. So of course, it is from the perspective of Leo, a guy who is basically Joe from You but without being a killer. Maybe he develops that throughout the years. Leo sees everything that Stargirl does and the way people react to her, but he does nothing; he only witnesses stuff and reports it back to us.

Oh, but although Leo is telling us about when he was a teenager, he is now in his thirties, which the author makes it seem way older because of the way Leo narrates stuff. You would think that in reality an old man was the one writing this story. You’d also think that because at times he slips up and talks about how some little girls leave for the summer and come back being full-grown women, or how Stargirl is “not like other girls” because she doesn’t wear makeup. “She game us something to talk about. She was entertaining.” That’s exactly what young women aspire to. 

I wish I’d been more critical of this book when I was younger because I wouldv’e torn it apart and I wouldv’e had a very interesting conversation with my English teacher (a man), who’d probably had nothing to do with the choices for required reading. The truth is, I probably didn’t even read this whole book in eighth grade and that’s why I don’t remember so much of it. I was probably bored, like I was this time around, which is why it took me two days instead of one sitting to read this. 

Would I recommend this? No.  Is this the worst display of male chauvinism and the objectification of women? No. But it’s a book that doesn’t stand the pass of time, really. Being quirky is way more accepted than it was ten years ago and nowadays everyone plays the ukulele and the natural look is all the rage. Like I said, this is one more mediocre book out there and I hope that the movie is better. 

Did you participate in the challenge? Any good discoverings? A new favorite? Let me know in the comments below. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila