Friday, August 15, 2014

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley

Goodreads Description: "Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea
and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl’s dream.

But Jane is what you might call an anti-belle—more fishnets and tattoos than sugar and spice. The last thing on her mind is joining the Magnolia Maid brigade and parading around town in
a dress so big she can’t even fi t through doors. So when she finds herself up to her ears in ruffl es and etiquette lessons, she’s got one mission:Escape.

What’s a hipster to do? Will Jane survive Bienville boot camp intact or will they—gasp!—make a Southern belle out of her yet?"

My Review: I have a weakness for the East Coast. New England is my favorite place in the whole U.S. and I secretly (even though it's not really a secret to anyone who knows me) adore the idea of the typical, romantic, Gone-with-the-Wind South. You know, the kind that has huge beautiful plantation homes (with their terrible history), sweet tea, and magnolia trees. Kind of like the show Hart of Dixie. Of course, in reality, the South has some truly ugly history and still has very ugly aspects to it: slavery, racism, and very antiquated and bigoted mentalities (not held by all people there, of course---but held by enough). But again, like I said, the charmed and false notion of the romantic South? Love it. 

So when it comes to books set up and down the East Coast (possibly excluding's not New England, nor does it have the Southern feel of South Carolina or parts of Georgia), I'm kind of a sucker. There are very high chances I will read a book that is set in these regions. And a lot of these books tend to revolve around the debutante life (which is why I, a Midwesterner, know way too much about debutantes and Southern belles and other such things). 

Initially, the book kind of annoyed me. Jane was a funny narrator, don't get me wrong---but the way she talked and some of the slang she used sounded a bit childish and...well, fake. I've never known a teenager who speaks that way. Very "Like, no way! He did not just say that! But oh yes, he totally did!" Honestly, who speaks that way? No one. So that made her seem a little more immature, even though she was like 17-years-old. I've never been a fan of too much fake teenager slang/speak in books because in my experience, teenagers talk more maturely than that. But moving on... Another thing that annoyed me deeply about Jane was simply how she looked. It kind of seemed like the author thought, "Oh, Jane's kind of a rebel and she doesn't conform to normal standards---let's make her wear all black and have piercings and smoke!" That just screams Typical Nonconformist. Come on...this idea of the teenage rebellious Goth NEEDS to die. Piercings and tattoos, yes, teens have those. And yes, people wear all black (I myself wear mostly black, though in more of a fashion-y way). But I just have always hated the idea that Oh, a character is rebellious? Let's just make them wear black lipstick and be a Goth or something! Not that Jane wore black lipstick...but you get my point. It would have been funnier, in my opinion, if she dressed like a girly-girl but was still just as sassy and sharp. It would have broken through some stereotypes. 

But those are minor squabbles. Over all, the book was entertaining. There was the typical girl-on-girl hate and catty fighting that I expected (any book about pageants is going to have that) but I liked how the author eventually progressed into the girls getting along. I really hate girl-on-girl hate. We need to get along and support each other, ladies. No need---or time---to fight each other over silly things. So girls becoming actual friends = big yes. 

There were a few mentions of darker topics. There were a few uncomfortable mentions of racism. I say uncomfortable not because I don't want those topics addressed---I do; I think more books need to address racism---but because they were addressed in only a few random sentences and then suddenly dropped and never touched upon again and that just seems...weird. And not very well-thought-out. Why have one of your characters begin a racist thought if they're not going to continue with it and we're never going to hear about it or see it dealt with? Very strange. The book also dealt a lot with Jane's mother's death. I really liked these parts because I think they were done very well. Jane didn't seem very willing to open up and talk about it but she thought about her mother enough that it was apparent she missed her and was a lonely kid. 

The plot about the pageant was funny and pretty interesting in a girly sort of way. The romance was alright, kind of just meh to me. It wasn't very exciting or interesting or even particularly cute so I wouldn't read this book for the romance aspect. The deeper, more emotional parts were pretty good as well. But the book went down a few notches in my head simply because it ended very abruptly---almost as if the author forgot to finish the book---and you don't get much closure at all. With a serious book like Gone Girl, I can see why an author would choose to end with little-to-no closure. Sometimes it's needed. But for a quick chick-lit read? No, it just didn't work. This book needed a little bit of closure and it's random, sudden ending was kind of bewildering. 

Overall, a decent entertaining read for a boring day. Nothing too special, nothing too awful. Heavy on the stereotypes and tropes. 

Cover: I think it's pretty cute, the drawing and layering of colors and prints gives it a nice, whimsical effect. 

Overall Grade: B-

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