Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is tough, smart, and sassy. She’s also not like other girls her age, but then, who would be when the family business is monster hunting? Combat boots, ratty hooded sweatshirts, and hair worn short so nothing with claws can get a grip, Maggie’s concerns in life slant more toward survival than fashion or boys. Which presents a problem when Maggie’s mother informs Maggie that she can’t get her journeyman’s license for hunting until she loses her virginity.
Something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy rage monsters. Blood and gore and insides being on the outside and all that.
Maggie’s battled ghosts and goblins and her fair share of house brownies, but finding herself a boy – fitting in with her peers – proves a much more daunting task than any monster hunt. Did you know normal girls don’t stuff their bras with holy water balloons? Nor do they carry wooden stakes in their waistbands. And they care about things like “matching” and “footwear.” Of course, they also can’t clean a gun blindfolded, shoot a crossbow, or exorcise ghosts from a house. Which means they’re lame and Maggie’s not. Because Maggie’s awesome. The Awesome, in fact. Just ask her. She’d be more than happy to tell you.
After she finds herself a date.
Before I get into the main part of the review, I have to acknowledge how much I enjoyed Darrows (aka Hilary Monahan) ability to inject humour into her novel. Too often these days our PNR/YA novels are angsty and dark, and while The Awesome has its fair share of darkness, it comes in the form of black humour and snark. It was so refreshing to read something that made me laugh – intentionally – and that recognized the tropes that it was slyly subverting along the way. It also made me realize that I really need a break from said angsty YA dystopian/PNR novels.
What makes the book for me is Maggie; she is an incredible protagonist, full of sass and insecurities and humour and an inner strength that leaves you in awe. This is a strong female character who more than holds her own on the job, and who is absurdly normal despite her daily regime of monster hunting and vampire killing. I loved that she was awkward, that she made mistakes and that she recognized when she screwed up and learned from it. Like any child of a single parent, Maggie is close with her mother, and her embarrassment over some of her mother’s statement and actions will resonate with any teenage reader. Janice is fantastic role model, and their relationship / friendship is one of the highlights of the book. Maggie doesn’t just have Janice to back her up – she has some amazing friends in Lauren (the zombie) and Julie who show that female relationships can be awesome and supportive and healthy.
There is something (sadly) rare and special about reading a sex-positive book for women, where losing your virginity is just another thing to be done, much like getting your driver’s licence. Maggie isn’t vilified for wanting to have sex; it’s pretty much a job requirement for her as she can’t proceed with her training unless she removes “virgin” from her personal status. The discussions are frank and funny as hell, and Ian – the guy Maggie begins to see – is all the things you want your niece to have in her boyfriend.
“”You realize that it’s totally screwed up that you’re fine with me finding a piece of random ass, right? You should be going on some spiel about self-respect right now.”
“I dunno. Most mothers would.”
“Well, most mothers think sex is shameful for a woman and I think that’s a heaping pile of shit. As longs you’re okay and your boy treated your right, no spiel. If he treated you bad, I’ll cram his dick down his throat and watch him choke.”
The Awesome is my first book by Eva / Hillary, but it won’t be the last. Funny, frank and action-packed, I can only hope that there’s a sequel in the offing (c’mon – I want more Jeff, and what’s going to happen with Lauren?). This was the perfect book to break our Brunch Book Club hiatus.
Dreaming in Red
Just a Lil’ Lost
A copy of The Awesome was purchased for Brunch Book Club, and is available for sale at all fine book retailers. ISBN; 9781781083246, 246 pages. Did you read The Awesome? Leave your thoughts below, or check out our recap post over at Just a Lil’ Lost!