“I guess my point is that teenage girls aren’t supposed to be powerful, you know? Everybody hates teenage girls. They hate our bodies and hate us if we want to change them. They hate the things we’re supposed to like but hate it when we like other things even more, because that means we’re ruining their things. We’re somehow this great corrupting influence, even though we’ve barely got legal agency of our own. But the three of us—the four of us, counting you—we’re powerful.”
I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. SO MUCH. Subversions of high school girl stereotypes? The Scapegracers has it. Strong female friendships? Uh huh. Lesbian, bisexual, and unlabeled sapphic rep? You got it. You’re into cursing men who touch women inappropriately and make them uncomfortable? Keep reading.
What is this book about?
Eloise “Sideways” Pike is her small town’s resident outcast lesbian who dabbles in witchcraft™. She’s worked diligently to cultivate her reputation of “don’t bother—this one bites.” After the three most popular girls at her school—Jing, Daisy, and Yates—pay Sideways to cast a spell at their joint Halloween party for scare-clout, Sideways finds herself adopted into their tight-knit clique and realizes she has genuine friends, possibly for the first time in her life. The four girls uncover perilous tensions between fundamentalist witch hunters and local covens, curse fuckboys at their school, and form their own badass coven together.
This book is for you if you like sapphic characters, dark and witchy vibes, angst, and magic. This book also reminded me of Jennifer’s Body, despite not having similar premises, which I loved.
Content warnings: underage drinking, discussion of loss of a loved one
Rep: lesbian mc, Asian American bisexual mc, Black sapphic mc, sapphic li, mlm side character(s), nonbinary side character
Sideways is unapologetically herself; she’s prickly, she’s a little wild, she’s not altogether pleasant in the way she’s described. Sometimes it’s frustrating being inside her head in first person POV because she’s stubborn and has a bit of a temper, leading her to act out at times. And you know what? It’s completely loveable. I fell in love with Sideways “the spooky lesbian weirdo” as a character. How often do we actually get YA female protagonists (or any gender, for that matter) that are genuinely “feral” and both internally and externally imperfect? All of Sideways’ thorns make it that much more satisfying when she has difficult conversations with other characters or we see her in moments of self-reflection.
And I wish I could be friends with Jing, Daisy, and Yates. Such ferocity burns in their convictions about how teenage girls should be treated and their sheer willingness to do anything if it means protecting the people they love. You want these girls in your corner. I will admit that it was slightly difficult to distinguish between the three of them at first, but as I continued reading, each character grew in their individuality. Jing is a bold and beautiful bisexual rebel who’s not afraid to display her immense power. She’s got a hard exterior but melts for her best friends (a trope that I adore). Daisy is anything but your stereotypical hot cheerleader; she’s viciously protective, bordering on homicidal (for a good cause, of course) and there’s no doubt that she’s loyal, brave, and loving. And Yates is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a total cinnamon roll–she’s sweet, cautious, and utterly cares for the people in her life. Yates isn’t sure exactly how she identifies yet, but she thinks she’s queer.
Aside from this perfect character ensemble, which I feel is one of the major selling points of The Scapegracers, Clarke’s writing style is conversational and full of pinpoint descriptions. Sometimes the worldbuilding could have been more fleshed out, but overall, the atmosphere of the novel shines through in such a way that it compensates; I never felt lost or like I was floating aimlessly in The Scapegracers world. I mean it when I say I was immediately drawn into the story. The book begins in media res and I felt the pacing was perfect for a quick read—quick, of course, because I didn’t want to stop to set it down. The story wasn’t predictable in the way that a similar book might be; I was always waiting to see what would happen with the girls, the witch hunters, and between Madeline (the love interest) and Sideways.
Clarke’s thoughtful insight into the lives of teenage girls is poignant and relatable.
Overall… If cursing fuckboys and complex female friendships-slash-covens and magic don’t lure you in, I don’t know what will. This is one of my top books of 2020 so far, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the next book in The Scapegracers trilogy.
What’s your favorite witchy book?
I was given an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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