Title: The Dead Queens Club
Author: Hannah Capin
Released: January 29 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Goodreads Rating: 4.08 (of 53 ratings)
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You’d think being the new girl in a tiny town would equal one very boring senior year. But if you’re me—Annie Marck, alias Cleves—and you accidentally transform into teenage royalty by entering Lancaster High on the arm of the king himself? Life becomes the exact opposite of boring.
Henry has it all: he’s the jock, the genius and the brooding bad boy all in one. Which sort of explains why he’s on his sixth girlfriend in two years.
What it doesn’t explain is why two of them—two of us—are dead.
My best friend thinks it’s Henry’s fault, which is obviously ridiculous. My nemesis says we shouldn’t talk about it, which is straight-up sketchy. But as the resident nosy new girl, I’m determined to find out what really happened to Lancaster’s dead queens…ideally before history repeats itself.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Inkyard Press through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
I’m afraid this will not be the glowing review I so wanted it to be. I’m going to get into each major factor that lowered my rating so you can judge if this book is something you want to check out, because OH. MY GOD. the ending (or the last 150 pages that I call “the ending”) was a psychological, mess-with-your mind masterpiece. Have you ever watched Pretty Little Liars? The wrap-up for this book was the most epic PLL season finale, with extra sass mixed in.
The first thing that didn’t mesh with me for this book was its beginning and then somewhat muddled middle. The Dead Queens Club summary makes Cleves out to be a determined investigator in the deaths of Henry’s exes. In reality, Cleves is Henry’s best friend forever (they’re really, really close, okay?) who will follow him anywhere, anytime. She’s confronted with his “suspicious” past by several characters and vehemently denies his culpability for a loooong time. The actual sleuthing in this book is done by her friend Parker, and a few of Henry’s other exes. Cleves just kind of … narrates? Which honestly, she does really well. Her spunky snark is a favourite protagonist voice style of mine.
The second thing I struggle with was the entire feminist aspect of this book. Cleves is a self-proclaimed feminist. As a writer on the school paper, all she wants is to include anti-slut shaming articles. She frequently calls out fellow students for masochistic remarks. But she herself is very problematic. Notably, she:
- Refers to one of Henry’s exes, Jane, as “a girl so boring that looking at her picture for eight seconds cures clinical insomnia.” Throughout the book, Cleves bashes Jane for being extremely boring and forgettable. (Feminism is about supporting each other!)
- Puts down women who work hard (uses a mocking nickname students create for her friend, Parker, and bullies her editor-in-chief for having strict deadlines) and pranks Henry’s exes/her friends without needing cause. (Some of the pranks were mean.)
At the end of the book, Cleves gets together with the girls she has mocked and sees them for their strengths. But this is at the end of a 460+ page book. I felt she could have seen the error in her ways a little sooner?
Third thing! This is a very specific dislike within the book. A comment was made within Cleves’ narration that made me incredibly uncomfortable. To give some context, one of Henry’s exes was named Anna Boleyn. She is one of the dead exes. A year ago, there was a party at “the Tower,” a piece of real estate (still under construction) and some fireworks were somehow placed under it. The fireworks went off, the building blew up, and Anna was the main suspect.
“But I don’t care, because the only thing I need right now is to forget about Ms. Parr and Judas Rochford and Anna bin Laden and every Lancaster kid.”
I don’t want to assume to know what the author was thinking with this line. I just don’t think it’s an appropriate joke.
My dislikes did overpower a lot of the good in this book, because the last two made me uncomfortable and the first one disrupted my reading flow. At first I didn’t know what was going on, and then I didn’t like the message the author was sending, and then I got near the end and FINALLY I was enjoying things and I was really getting into everything! But I was spoiled at that point.
Capin has a great idea here. A retelling of Henry VIII? I was in from the start. Henry’s character is truly well done, I give major points to his development throughout the story. The way the girlfriends/exes weave in and out of the story really felt like a historical drama gone teen TV show. I’ll for sure be looking up the life of Henry VIII now, I can say that.
I struggled for a long time to choose a rating. Ultimately, my discomfort with the amount of slut-shaming done by a so-called feminist, as well as the joke/comment Cleves makes, led me to keep this at a 2.5 crown. Three on official rating sites.
Have you ever read a good book with questionable/problematic comments? How do you rate it?