Title: TO BEST THE BOYS
Author: MARY WEBER
Released: 19H MARCH 2019 BY THOMAS NELSON
Genre: TEENS + YA FANTASY
Rep: Dyslexia, Autism, Downs Syndrome, Women in Science | TWs: Death, Near Death Experiences, Grief, Parent Illness
Initially, this story comes off very outdated being set in a world where women have duties to the home, family, and sometimes socially, and men are the breadwinners nearly exclusively – going to college to be trained in something or doing other work, such as fishing. We have Rhen, who is a woman scientist and flies in the face of everything her society takes as normal, so obviously she’s a bit of an outsider. But she’s so cool! She thinks differently and it takes her so far!
Rhen’s mother is sick from an illness, which has no cure so Rhen and her father are doing research to try and find the cure. She gets samples from dead bodies to study and experiment with, which I found highly fascinating. Rhen is extremely unconventional. When the letter for the competition arrives, Rhen starts to get ideas about how to get funding, or even support, for their research into the illness and upcoming cure – leading her to enter the competition herself! Her cousin, Seleni, is her companion in nearly everything, yet very opposite in her future goals. I enjoyed that recognition that women don’t all have to strive for great things to be fulfilled in life. Seleni just wants to be a wife and mother someday, but she is all for supporting Rhen in her dreams! We all need ladies like that in our lives – or just people in general! Find you people who lift you up!
I quite liked a lot of the side characters. Beryll was lovable, even if he was a bit of a flop. Lute was a bit standoffish – for good reason – but has a heart of gold (one of my favourites). Rhen’s parents are so great and made my heart soar. And Mr. Holm himself was quite surprising, and very modern!
The story was a lot of fun, but the pacing was a bit slow at times. Sometimes I felt I wanted more (action or detail, depending on the scene) and it kind of felt like part of the build up was just filler and could have been handled better. That really didn’t detract much from me loving the characters and how the story happened. It was unique and fun, and I would recommend it – if only for the important conversations about standing up for what you believe in and not having to fit in to what society expects of you. Even if you only pick it up for the labyrinth aspect, I hope you take away some of the important points Weber makes in this story.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into 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’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
Thank you so much to Mary Weber and Thomas Nelson via BookLookBloggers.com for the Review Copy.