To Best the Boys Review

I don’t consider myself much of a feminist, at least not in the way the term has come to be used today. So, when I heard that Mary Weber was coming out with a new book about girls taking part in an all men’s competition, I admit to a bit of wariness mixed in with my excitement. But I really love Mary’s work and had heard so many good things about the book that I gave it a go anyway. And I’m not sorry I did!

Synopsis: The task is simple. Don a disguise. Survive the labyrinth. Best the boys. In the providence of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands-through the annual all male scholarship competition. With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

The Good:

  1. Girl Power: There are so many examples of strong women in this book! And I especially appreciate that they come from all walks of life. Rhen wants to be a scientist, a trade reserved for men, and she has the tenacity to pull it off. And I really like Rhen, but I identify with Seleni more. She just want’s to be a good wife and mother some day. She isn’t entering the competition to prove a point; she goes in to help the people she cares about and keep them safe. And I love that her choices are portrayed as having just as much value as Rhen’s.
  2. The Guys: Just as there are many different types of women in this book, there are just as many diverse men. Mary doesn’t pull punches, but she doesn’t bash men either, and in today’s society I find that very refreshing.
  3. Complexity: This book was so much more complex than I was expecting. And I was expecting a lot to begin with! I can’t go in to too much detail without giving spoilers, but just know that this book is about so much more than a girl trying to win a place in college.
  4. Free Recipe: Who doesn’t love a free recipe? I tried out the recipe for Labyrinth Cakes and they are delicious! White chocolate, orange, and caramel together? Yes, please!

The Bad:

  1. Pacing: All together, the pacing wasn’t bad. However, I did feel that it took a bit too long to actually get into the labyrinth. However, with the complexity of the book, I understand that the longer set-up was necessary.
  2. The Twists: Once again, not all of these were bad. Some were actually really good and I didn’t see them coming at all. However, there was one or two I figured out early on and got a bit annoyed that the characters were so dense 😛 I also felt like a few at the end came out of nowhere and didn’t have much backing to give the appropriate emotional weight.

My Rating: 5/5

Though I feel a few aspects could have been strengthened, I fully enjoyed this book. A great commentary on society with plenty of fun and wit thrown in! And did I mention the yummy cakes? Definitely one I will re-read!

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