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Pants' Books & Stuff!

Hi there! I imagine you must be wondering what the heck is up with my blog name. The short answer is, Pants has become my internet handle in a lot of places where I hang out (somehow). I mainly read YA and comics, and I also frequently read speculative fiction of pretty much any kind. My other hobbies include watching anime and playing video games. Other random tidbits: I have a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and a Masters in Library and Information Sciences. I also have an affinity for tea.
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June - Robin Benway Review originally published here.

Why I Read It: Back in 2009 I read and enjoyed Benway's debut, Audrey, Wait!. It's not one my favourite books ever, but it was fun and light-hearted. I found this novel in the bargain section at work and decided to give it a go (I was also entranced by the pretty cover).

One thing that I noticed that Benway did really well in Audrey, Wait! was her dialogue; it was sharp and witty and felt genuine. She crafted real teen characters, which was what I enjoyed most about it. She mostly succeeds with that in this novel as well. The dialogue between the sisters felt authentic (though I'm not an expert on the matter; I only have a younger brother), fraught with annoyance, jealousy, but also mixed with a level of protectiveness.

Sometimes though, it felt like the dialogue kind of faltered when it came to its humour. This is no fault on Benway's part as humour is something that's very subjective, but for me, it sometimes felt forced and just.. not funny. But again, this is a completely personal thing.

Where this novel also faltered for me was the whole super-powers aspect. I suppose it was meant to separate this novel from the rest of the YA contemporary fiction pack, but it felt superfluous and unnecessary to me. This facet was never really explored to any extent, making it feel like it was tacked on. I do like how the super-powers matched the sisters' personalities: April is paranoid so she got to see the future, May doesn't like to be noticed so she can become invisible, and June is too preoccupied with what other people think so she becomes privy to their thoughts. I was kind of confused about how April interpreted her power. For example, when she sees herself having sex with her future boyfriend, she is all like "THIS IS SET IN STONE. I AM DOOMED TO SEX THAT BOY." But then when she sees June and her soon-to-be boyfriend in a vision together, she endeavors to make sure the two of them are never together and tries to prevent the vision from happening. So she simultaneously thinks that the visions are set in stone (which she's very adamant about), yet also thinks she can change the future (though understandably -- she thinks her sister is in danger.) I'm probably looking into this little thing too much, but it bugged me regardless. Overall, I think the novel would have been perfectly fine without the super-powers, because the exploration of the girls' sisterly bond WAS fairly compelling.

The secondary characters also suffer from a lack of development. The worst of this was April's would-be boyfriend (I can't remember his name). I had NO idea why he was attracted to April; she just acted so STRANGE and stand-offish with him, yet he keeps pursuing her. He then reveals at one point that he likes that she doesn't judge him despite him being a goth -- it was NEVER mentioned at any other point in the novel that he was an outcast and goth-y, so I taken aback. May's love interest, and June's popular snob friend had a little more depth to them, but it was all kind of meh.

Final Verdict: I feel like this review was a little harsh, so I do want to say that I don't think this is a BAD book; the exploration of sisterly bonds was well done, and I did like most of the dialogue, which was sharp and witty and felt very authentic (even though I wasn't always super keen on the humour, but that's more of "it's not you, it's me" thing.) I wasn't, however, on board with the super-power facet of the novel which was never really explored with any depth and felt kind of superfluous to me. Yes, it does make this novel stand out from the slew of contemporary YA that comes out every year, but it ultimately felt like it hindered the novel. I also wish the secondary characters had been developed a bit more, and I wasn't super keen on either of the romantic subplots. I'm sad to say that I didn't like Benway's sophomore effort as much as her debut, but despite that, I do think I'll be checking out her future works.