AshAsh by Malinda Lo
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

goddamn it, this was my bright shiny hope for gay YA week! this was the one i was banking on to be my best “assigned-but-loved-the-whole-time-i-was-reading-it-and-this-is-why-i-am-paying-for-grad-school-discovery.” a lesbian retelling of cinderella?? sign me up! i’ve already read what robert coover and angela carter have done to improve fairy tales, let’s see where this one goes!

and it starts out great – the writing is wonderful; it is very literary and lush and haunting. boy meets boy and keeping you a secret were so chatty and conversational – this one required more involvement from the reader, which involvement i have been missing in a big way. it’s not a difficult read, but unlike the others, it is not all surface reading; there is depth here that elevates it to the ranks of “litterature,” yessss.


fairy tales are generally symbolic stories which mask universal human desires too emotional or frightening to deal with head-on. is this a universal truth, or am i letting my undergrad “psychology of fairy tales” class color my thinking here? let’s say we all know this to be so. i simply do not understand this character’s motivations, or what leads her on to her fairy tale ending. is it just a matter of “the heart wants what the heart wants,” and we don’t need to explain what attracts two people to each other? there was no “moment of falling.” i never got a sense of character from the huntress; she remained enigmatic. strangely, she was even more enigmatic than ash’s fairy-lover, with his intoxicating presence and fancy gifts and willingness to assist ash in all her assignations. am i the only one feeling bad for sidhean?? his was a “forbidden love,” too, and he didn’t even get any say in the matter. damn curses.

so as a fairy tale, it fails me, psychologically. and as a lesbian awakening novel, it fails me, too. we never see them fall in love, we never understand why. in the world of this novel, the same-gender love is not shocking, it is not taboo – sometimes girls just go with girls. so kudos on that, but this does two things: it removes conflict, except the conflict of  “do i go with my awesome fairy lover which is what i have wanted since i was a little girl, or do i go with my awesome huntress woman who is badass and has a great job.” two great options, must be nice.

in this world, she is not choosing the love that dares not speak its name over the more traditional lover, in fact, she is choosing the more socially acceptable one. mindboggling.

so but also, it is not developed enough to be that casual. because we never see the love developing, it just sort of seems unconvincing at the end. this is my favorite review:… because this reader obviously didn’t see this turn coming, and is confused by its ending, since nothing else suggests that this is where it is going to be going. i don’t know if the stars are meant to avoid spoilers (although, really, you don’t have to be a master wordsmith) or because it is a naughty naughty word, but it made me laugh. clearly, in the world of teen readership, we are not ready for lesbian lit that does not proclaim itself from the outset, as this other reviewer’s surprise seems to indicate:…. secret, creep-up-on-you lesbian fiction?? maybe in a few years. biding our time, ladies…

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