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Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy - Sara B. Larson

12/24/14 ** This book cam highly recommended by someone in my Facebook feed. She said the story would appeal to any fan of Tamora Pierce and strong female protagonists. I checked it out from the library and read the flyleaf. I instantly thought of Alanna's story by Pierce. Though the overall narrative seemed to be derivative, I thought perhaps the world-building would add something new to the genre.


I am currently a little over halfway through the book and am seriously hoping there's a payoff at the end - if I were rating the book right now, it would be a 2. I have to disagree with the unremembered advocate for the book. Alexa is nothing like Alana (Pierce) or Katsa (Cashore). While those young women struggled with maintaining their own identities of strength and resilience when faced with possible love, as soon as Alexa's secret (that she was masquerading as a man) was revealed, she seemed to become a twitterpated fool. There are too many scenes where she's noticing and admiring half-naked torsos and kissing both young men while trying to sort out her feelings of attraction.


I also struggled with the phrases "you're falling for him" and "do you like him?" While Larson did a reasonably good job with the world-building - helping me feel the overwhelming jungle landscape, these phrases jarred me back into a suburban high school. I was also struck that the other guards were referred to as men, but when Alexa's secret was revealed, she was a girl (not a woman). My worst reading moment was on p. 179 when Rylan told Alexa that he wanted to cherish her as all men should cherish a woman he loves. This seemed to imply that women must be protected and couldn't lookout for themselves.


At about a quarter of the way in, the prince was clearly making advances to "Alex," and I hoped for an unexpected twist - that he was looking for a male companion. This would definitely have added to the genre. Instead, it became increasingly clear that he knew "Alex" was a "girl." The rest of the book was a simple love triangle, rather than a quest for personal identity in a male-dominated world. The final chapter nudged me to move from a 2 star to a 3 star rating because of the way the love triangle was resolved. I hadn't quite expected the conclusion.