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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

The Crossing

The Crossing - Mandy Hager It’s very rare to see colonialism in YA/Children’s fiction through the eyes of the ‘lesser’ culture. Aside from the ‘slavery is bad and you should feel bad’ books I read as a kid (mostly through American Girl), the global ramifications of colonialism aren’t as widely known in America. Oh, sure, the British were the ones who encouraged the slave culture, but our misguided ancestors just didn’t realize it until we went to WAR! It never happened anywhere else, and there’s no way that it could happen ever again! Oppression bad!Well, it does happen, and a lot. And there’s a lot of people who justify their actions by saying, “Well, if they could only get their act together and just do what we tell them to.”I bring all of this up because this is what The Crossing is. I don’t like to think of myself of as a general pessimist, but reading the set-up for the world that Mandy Hagar presents made me think “…that could happen.” There’s very few recent YA dystopias that use race or biology as means of oppression that I can think. (Diana Peterfreund’s For the Darkness Shows the Stars, for example.) And Hagar’s descriptions of the atoll and the people who live there do bring to mind historical accounts of missionaries converting the poor, hapless heathens. And I really liked that even though Maryam and Ruth and their fellow sisters wanted to serve the Apostles, they were also strongly tied to their home. I also really liked that Maryam is on a search for her true identity, after having her real name washed away after her baptism.The scenes aboard the Star of the Sea are completely horrifying and disturbing. Maryam’s initiation ceremony is humiliating (and quite possibly triggering) as she’s drugged and stripped naked. (It’s certainly not helpful with the historical context in mind.) The implications of what Maryam’s duties where were also quietly horrifying (again, history rears its really ugly head)—even if she’s not meant to be a ‘breeder,’ she still has no right aboard the ship.But I liked Maryam. Even in the beginning, you can see this quiet strength that she has within herself, and how she relies on that to get her through her ordeal on the ship. It’s very obvious from the book blurb that the people running her society aren’t exactly as godly as they say they are. But even knowing the possibilities of what was going to happen to Maryam as time went on, I liked that she was willing to fight. I also like that she realizes that even though the Apostles aren’t the bearers of God’s word, she still has faith and she’s willing to believe in something greater.Unfortunately, the book is way too short and very quickly paced, complete with cliffhanger. It feels like a victim of marketing purposes (and yes, this is marketed as a trilogy). The climax and ended were very rushed, and I didn’t feel as much build up. I also didn’t like the fact that aside from one family, we only get two very villainous stereotypes in Lazarus and Father Joshua. Again, my historical context, I get that; but we don’t even get even the casual racism of “Oh, you’ll be okay, your people are supposed to be like that.” (You can be racist without spouting off slurs or beating people.) The scenes at the village of Onewere weren’t heavily explored and I didn’t think that I got the full weight of Maryam being cast aside from her real family whenever she tries to tell them the truth. I did like The Crossing, though, for what it was. The fact that this was willing to discuss the racism and explore the possibility of a resurgence of white dominance in smaller countries does make the book markedly different from, oh, 95% of YA dystopias wherein the main character is of the white dominant class and realizes “Oh no! Evil conspiracy! Let me go slip into a pretty dress and defeat them.” Look, I know it seems like I’m championing this only because hey, Maryam’s native and the cover acknowledges it—look at that cover, I really like it—but let’s be honest, POC heroines aren’t exactly prevalent in dystopic YA atm. But, (to get back to the book proper) the length and quick pacing are extremely noticeable, and I really did not like the cliffhanger ending. Still, it’s worth checking out, especially if you are looking for something different from the norm.