To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Although it’s unheard of in Caldon for women to go to college, Rhen Tellur wants to do just that and become a scientist. Her chief point of motivation is the fact that her mother is dying from a disease that Rhen hopes to develop a cure for. The upcoming, annual, hazardous competition in a labyrinth will earn one college hopeful a full scholarship to Stemwick University, and Rhen schemes to become the competition’s first ever female contestant in To Best the Boys by author Mary Weber.

As I read this fantasy novel, the class division and simmering of social unrest in Caldon is what tugged at me the most. It reinforced to me how problems that some can downplay by labeling as “just politics” (likely because the issues don’t directly or personally affect them) are critical matters for other human beings’ lives. I cringed at politicians’ attitudes in the story. I cringed at the depictions of citizens’ rising anger stemming from desperation. I felt every bit of Rhen’s dire desire for change.

And I love how the feminist message in the tale doesn’t suggest that all women have to be like Rhen in order to be legit and worthy as women.

Now, the overall story didn’t quite “wow” me or throw me for any loops. Some of the turns of phrase struck me with their beauty while at other times the writing would spell out the obvious or overuse italics for emphasis. I found a number of parts to be creepy and/or fairly gross, with much ado about ghouls and dead bodies and excess references to characters either retching or coming close to doing so. The way the young men so easily fall for Rhen’s scheme is unbelievable, and the big labyrinth sequence didn’t really amaze or surprise me much. My interest waned during parts of it.

Nevertheless, as a YA novel featuring an ambitious heroine determined to flesh out her purpose against the odds, this is a worthwhile read.


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