Thursday, March 25, 2010

With Reverent Hands: Empress of the World

With Reverent Hands

I bring you with reverent hands / the books of my numberless dreams.
-WB Yeats, "A Poet To His Beloved"

WB Yeats, I'm sure, gave books to his beloved that he valued highly himself, and that he handled with reverence.  If you had to recommend a book you revered to someone, what would it be?
I'm asking you to highlight one book.  One book that you adore, that you prize, that changed your life, that you would save from a burning building, that you found serendipitously on a library shelf or at a used bookstore, looking lonely and ignored.  A book that thrills you but that, you have come to realize, no one else has really ever heard of, much less read.  With Reverent Hands is all about those books- the ones that deserve a wider audience than they are given and that you want everyone to go out and read, even if they are out of print.

This week's post is by Jodie, who blogs at Book Gazing.  I don't even know when I first starting reading Jodie's blog, but I really enjoy it.  She reviews such an interesting array of books, updates us on her flowers, and wears trendy clothes.  Like me, she also has an obsession with sprinkles.  She's a lot of fun to follow and I'm so glad she's here for a visit!

What book are you highlighting? 

When did you first read it?
In 2009, after the amazing Coleen of ChasingRay and Bookslut fame posted about it.
What is it about?  Please give a brief summary.
Nicole is studying archaeology as part of the Siegel Institute summer program for gifted students. Nicole drifts from the dull speech given on the first day of the program as she writes down her thoughts and sketches the people around her. One of the girls she draws notices her pictures and that’s how Nic meets the friends who will come to define her summer: nice but screwed up Issac, enthusiastic Katrina and Beautiful Hair Girl, Battle. Nic quickly finds herself attracted to Battle, which is odd because she always thought she liked guys…
What makes the book stand out to you?  Why do you love it?
Empress of the WorldI love that the characters are so unique.  They have quick senses of humour, they experiment with their images and they’re really smart.  The main female characters are my favourites, not only because Nic and her friend Katrina buck the norms of what smart women are into (Nic is at the camp to study archaeology and Katrina is studying computer programming) but because of the close friendship group they form.  Their interactions really show how positive and supportive female friendships can be and how easy it can be to just hang out with girls, but their friendship is also realistic so they don’t agree all the time, there’s jealousy and friendship gets disturbed by romance.  Sometimes I think there just aren’t enough books that focus on female friendships, without the real focus being competition of some sort.
The romance between Nic and Battle is lovely, sweet when it’s going well and complicated when it’s not.  The coming out angle is pretty gentle, as the girls realise they like each other, start dating and just let the world learn about it by the way they act around each other.  There are no big declarations and I liked that approach, just a kind of quiet way of saying ‘we love each other, it’s not your business, deal with it’.  The problems Nic and Battle have in their relationship are universal that any reader should be able to identify with their struggles.  They try to work out how much trust to place in each other and how quickly see how differing perspectives can cause miscommunication in a loving relationship.
There’s also this epic scene involving Battle’s hair, which is just cool and rebellious.  I love dramatic rebellion in teen novels, but I don’t think that always has to mean screaming and drinking heavily.  It’s nice to see a little quiet, original, yet powerful rebellion alongside the more vocal sort we all get caught up in during teen years.
Please finish this analogy:  If you liked _____________, you'll probably enjoy this book.
What they Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson uses a similar gentle, explorative style to describe the gay relationship between Alex and Nathen.  Looking for Alaska by John Green is totally different to this story, but its boarding school setting is similar and I think Nic would have fit right in with the smart kids in Green’s book.
What sort of person would you recommend to read this book?
Empress of the World would be great for readers who like realistic, contemporary young adult novels that aren’t all doom and gloom.  This book feels light and it’s a quick read, so anyone who likes romances might enjoy it.  There’s also a quiet substance there, so anyone who enjoys seeing new perspectives on human relationships, but doesn’t want need novels to constantly make a big, obvious point might enjoy this book.
Do you have any quotes you would like to share?
Just a little flavour of the easy friendship between the girls and Nic’s emerging relationship with Battle:
“Promise me,” I say, “that you won’t make some Lolita move on him.”
“Excuse me-” Katrina stubs her cigarette out on the windowsill and tosses the butt – “I thought I was asking for some support from my girls.”
“This is support,” says Battle. “Support means not letting your friends do stupid things.”  She takes the plastic lizard away and holds out her hand to me, apparently as a substitute.  I take it.


  1. I can't believe that I never heard of this book before.

    “This is support,” says Battle. “Support means not letting your friends do stupid things.” I think this quote makes me want to read it even more desperately. Thanks for highlighting this book

  2. Hm, can't say I am fond of realistic YA books, but hey everything is wroth a try

  3. I recently saw this book on Tiina's blog and immediately I knew I had to get it. Thankfully I managed to swap a copy and I hope to read it in the next few months!

  4. Thanks for the review: I'll definitely seek out a copy of this one. I just finished re-reading two older books that make interesting companions (Sandra Scoppetone's Happy Endings Are All Alike and Deborah Hautzig's Hey Dollface), so it'll be interesting to update the 70s/80s scene.

  5. Oh, this sounds like a seriously wonderful read! I have not read many YA books that deal with this topic, but it sounds as if the issues in this book are related with a lot of conscience and heart, and that inspires me to want to give this book a try. I also love that the friendship between the girls is so poignant and lovely. This sounds like a winning book, and I love the fact that the rebellion that takes place in the book is not one fueled by sex, drugs, and drinking. Thank you so much, Jodie, for bringing this book to my attention!

  6. I added this to my wishlist last year, but I had completely forgotten about it. I appreciate the reminder, as it sounds like something I'd LOVE!

  7. This sounds excellent. I'd never heard of it before.

  8. This sounds great! I'm enjoying this series. :)

  9. I swear my comments are getting lost somewhere! This is about the fourth place I've revisited and my comments are not there.

    Anyway yesterday I basically said yay for letting me talk about this book and I think Amanda is going to like this one very much and then she can read the sequel and I will be very happy. Thanks for letting me hat on your blog :)

  10. Never heard of it. Thanks for sharing!

  11. It's so lovely to see someone else fall for a book that I adore. Empress is one of my all time faves - I promise you guys will not be disappointed!

  12. Colleen you're totally the reason I know about it in the first place :) I'm really looking forward to the sort of sequel, but I'm also torn about reading it and having no more Sara Ryan books.


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