To Best the Boys Book Review

To Best the Boy
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Published: 2019
Rhen Tellur is desperate to find a cure for the disease ravaging her sector of town...and most recently her mother. But nothing seems to be working and she knows the only way to progress her research is with advanced technology. Technology that she can't afford. The yearly Labyrinth competition is her only hope. If she wins, she'll receive a full scholarship to university. Only problem: traditionally, boys are the only participants.
4.7Overall Score

To Best the Boy

Content Review: Language- – Bloody is used several times as well as the made up swear word “hulls.” Sexual- – There’s a kiss described. One of the antagonists ...

  • Plot
    4.7
  • Characters
    4.8
  • Pacing
    5.0
  • Setting
    4.5
  • Themes
    4.5

Content Review:

Language-

- Bloody is used several times as well as the made up swear word "hulls."

Sexual-

- There's a kiss described. One of the antagonists suggestively glances at Rhen and makes references to her "curves." He and his friends say make some inappropriate remarks.

Spiritual-

- There are (unfounded) rumors that someone can communicate with the dead.

- Magic is used by a character but it doesn't seem to have any spiritual elements.

- Rhen sends up a quick prayer for lost sailors.

- There are multiple references to ghouls and sirens.

Violence-

- There's some slight gore. Rhen describes and studies cadavers.

Other-

- Men get drunk and brawl at a tavern.

 

Personal Review:

The romance in this story was there, but it didn't overpower the story; if anything, it gave additional motivation. I loved Rhen's relationship with Selene and how deeply they love each other. One aspect I really appreciated was that although the story had a strong emphasis on girl power, it wasn't overly feminist (which sounds like a contradiction, I suppose. I just enjoyed that the author didn't diminish the role male characters played or write Rhen as so tough-and-tumble she isn't sensitive or realistic.) It also highlights that not every girl's dream has to be earth-shattering. Selene's dream of motherhood is just as valid as Rhen's dream to change the world (or just her seaside town).

However, I was a little confused by the setting. It appears to be set partially in a futuristic town with sophisticated technology. But girls also attend balls, wear dresses and court young men. The use of magic also isn't very defined. Magic can be used to manipulate the labyrinth but not to find a cure for the disease? At times it feels a little to convenient, and it others it feels nonexistent.

Mary Weber's writing style was a main reason this story captivated me. Her writing flows seamlessly and effortlessly with descriptions that are well-crafted and engaging. Full of humor, heart, intelligence, and an eerie mood, this book left me itching to read the rest of her work.

Relationships are a crucial element of this book as well. I loved Rhen's relationship with her parents. The trend in YA is to have nonexistent, dead, or terrible parents. While this can be important motivation, it's always refreshing to read a book with concerned, loving parents. Rhen works relentlessly with her father to create a cure for her mother. Her parents relationship is also touching. Lute's brother has Down syndrome and Rhen has dyslexia, and both are well-approached and respectful.

This book has so much to unpack and explore that I could go on and on. While not perfect, it's a fun, slightly spooky read that kept me on the edge of my seat. There are so many things I love about this book and I'm sure I'll find even more when I reread.

Themes:

Loyalty, love, friendship, equality, family, self-sacrifice, grief, acceptance