So I know this is two days in a row posting about the same book and posting in general (I'm so sorry! Senior year and college apps have just made it so hard to get any sleep, much less blogging time.), but this book seriously deserves it all, as I've said before.
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.
Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn't think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.
While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.
And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
"The book is just so well-crafted and paced, and it's written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. It's so balanced, and I can't get over how well it understands so much of what I've felt, thought, and been through."
Disclaimer: I received an eARC as part of this blog tour. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this review.
Damsel Distressed left me speechless. The book is so beautifully sad, yet amazingly inspiring; it's really the only way I can describe how the book left me feeling. There are happy, joyful moments, but there are intense, heartbreaking scenes as well, and each works just as well as the next.
Part of what made Damsel Distressed the book that it is is Imogen herself. Her voice, her thoughts, her emotions, her actions--oh gosh, it was just so...right. I don't know if I've ever connected to a character as much as I connect to Imogen. We both have different issues, but I think that beyond the surface, our separate issues (some of which do overlap) cause us to think in similar ways. And while there are many ways in which Imogen is much more extreme than I have ever been, at the heart, I understood everything or almost everything Imogen felt. There are times you'll be frustrated by her. There are times you won't necessarily understand why she did or didn't do something. But trust me. I've been there. Yes, it's frustrating; yes, it's sad; yes, it's everything you might be thinking. But when you're in that situation, when you're the one that's stuck, you truly understand. And that's the power of Macke's story. She truly gets it. I don't care if you complain about Imogen being whiny or whatnot because trust me when I say that it's almost exactly how I felt. And there have been books and characters that have scratched the surface or have even made a tiny hole, but Damsel Distressed is just something else; it understood it all.
That being said, I feel as if I've been on both Grant and Imogen's side of the issue, and once you read the book I think you'll understand what I mean when I say side. I've been the person in the situation, in that deep, dark hole, but I've also been on the opposite end. I've been the friend that just doesn't know what to do or say. And it's so painful. On both ends. And I hope that if you've never experienced one or both before, you won't ever have to, but I'm so grateful there's a book out there now that addresses both sides. Because as painful as it is, sometimes, at least for me, just knowing that someone else out there understands means the world to me. This book understands me.
Moving on from the sad, dark parts, I'm so glad that there was enough time in the book for the conflict to develop, occur, and then be resolved. I love the pacing of the book, and I'm so glad the effects of the conflicts could really be addressed and explored because oftentimes, books don't leave enough space and time to really resolve a conflict in a reasonable amount of time. The number of times I've commented that a book's conflict was resolved too quickly was not an issue with Damsel Distressed.
And one of the most powerful parts of the novel is the friendship and various other developing relationships found in this novel. I'm jealous that Imogen has Grant by her side (as horrible as it is to say that I'm jealous of her) because I wish I had had that kind of friend when I was at my lowest point. Grant is such an amazing character, and I love every bit of him as a character. I really admire how he sticks by Imogen's side throughout everything in her life. What an amazing friend, and what an amazing friendship. Grant, and all of the other characters in the book, are so well-developed and explored. I loved seeing Imogen's relationships change as she changed and grew throughout the book. I loved seeing how everything had an impact on her thoughts and/or actions later on. I love Jonathan, and I really love Brice and his perspective. I especially love, love, love Antonique. I love how she looks like the type of girl that Imogen hates because she can't be--pretty, skinny, etc--but she's so much more, and she's not the girl Imogen originally took her to be. Just yes! And everyone's flawed in the book, but that's also the beauty of each person, and I LOVE that. Now, I do wish Jonathan's OCD had been explored more, but I understand why it wasn't. I would have liked to see what happened between Imogen and Andrew because I felt like the book was building up to something, and it didn't necessarily deliver. I wish Grant's financial background/difficulties and his own family life had been explored a bit more because we almost never got to read about his personal life at all, but I guess it's not the most important aspect (or perhaps it wasn't what was most important to Imogen). And I do believe there were times when Jonathan and Brice were overly stereotypically gay; I'm sure it was realistic most of the time, but there were scenes when it just felt over the top. I would have loved to learn more about Imogen's stepmother (whose name escapes me at this moment). But let me just say, these flaws were small in the grand scheme of the book. It's not perfect, but then again, nothing's perfect.
The book is just so well-crafted and paced, and it's written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. It's so balanced, and I can't get over how well it understands so much of what I've felt, thought, and been through. I highly, highly recommend this book. It addresses mental illness, self-harm, body image, divorce, friendship, jealousy, and SO much more without being overwhelming. Damsel Distressed is without a doubt one of my favorite books not only of 2014 but ever. The book deserves all the love it can get and then some. Please check this one out! And thank you, Kelsey, for writing this book.
About the Author
Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published... a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.
Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.
This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain.
DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.