I’ll be honest, I struggled with this book’s plot but probably not for the reasons you would expect. I’m a proponent of free choice and of leaving people to live their lives in whatever way they want regardless of race, religion, preferences, etc. I’ve had occasion to identify with Mildred Dunlap and I’ve also been fortunate enough to live in circles where I was accepted without question. I do, however, despise gossips, trouble-makers, and holier-than-thou’s so, for me, this book was twenty-seven chapters of remembering why I prefer to avoid most members of the human species. It was like picking at a scab that I had long-since thought was healed and, apparently, it wasn’t. For its ability to address some exceptionally tough issues and bring to light things that most people simply prefer not to think about – I respect this book. For making the terms “villain” and “church-goers” synonymous while the protagonists and their supporters were non-churchgoers, I was disappointed. In addressing one stereotype it, unfortunately, embraced another.Characters: 4/5 stars
I had animosity toward pretty much every character in this book – which means they were well written and realistic. I was off-put by the fact that Mildred was the “stereotypical” lesbian (tall, manly, unattractive). Her lover also bothered me because, despite being beautiful and feminine, she embraced a second element of the stereotype as the victim of a vicious rape at the hands of a man. Women can be beautiful, feminine, AND psychologically healthy … and still prefer other women. I understand that, for the sake of the plot itself, these stereotypes facilitated certain elements of the story but I also felt that the loss of this truth detracted from the message that the book is ultimately addressing: Don’t judge a book by its sexual preferences.
Writing: 4/5 stars
Narrative: This was probably my favorite element of this book. The author especially blossomed in her descriptions of nature and the various scenes. This made it easy to “watch” the book play out in my head like a movie.
Dialogue: This was not the author’s strong suit but for a first work its better than most. Some of the sayings used and topics discussed, to me, didn’t seem quite period appropriate. In some cases the dialogue made me feel like I was reading a YA novel for the 10-13 range and then I would have to remind myself that this book contains some very adult situations and clearly was not intended for that age group.
Editing/Formatting (paperback): 5/5 stars
Flawless. The inclusion of quotes from Wilde added a fabulous, and certainly applicable, element to the story.
****Potential Spoiler Alert****
Originality: 3/5 stars
This is where I start to war with myself. On the one hand, I’ve never known a book to address these issues at all, let alone with such fearless embrace. On the other hand, when you scratch away the controversial elements you’re left with something that is very familiar. Girl forms a plot that involves boy, boy falls for girl, girl is publicly humiliated and boy is blamed, boy feels bad about it, boy apologizes and helps girl make everything all better. For shock value: at least two victims of statutory rape (1 by her father), three people with a serious illness (2 died), a pre-teen sexual encounter, 3 same-sex relationships, and 2 accounts of incest all in less than 200 pages certainly does pack a punch though! Lolita’s got nothing on Mildred Dunlap!(less)