124: Readers' Choice Pick - Katharine McGee's AMERICAN ROYALS
In this Unabridged Podcast book club episode, we discuss the readers' choice spring 2020 pick, Katharine McGee's American Royals. We pair it with other books we've loved, including Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians (which we discussed in a film adaptation episode here!), Kiera Cass’s The Selection series, and Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass. We ended the episode by sharing (confessing?) things that we love to do to relax.
Intro and Bookish Check In: 00:00 - 06:13
Book Club Discussion: 06:14 - 45:14
Give Me One: 45:15 - end
Bookish Check In
Ashley - Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Jen - Maggie Downs’s Braver than You Think (out May 12)
Sara - Abby Jimenez’s The Happy Ever After Playlist
Ashley - Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians
Sara - Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Hamilton the musical
Our Bookish Turn Offs episode
Our Crazy Rich Asians Book-to-Film Adaptation episode
Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games
Give Me One - One Thing You Do to Relax
Ashley - coloring and lettering
Sara- exercise routine
Jen - reality TV / reading
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
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Hi, before we get started with anything today, we just wanted to say again, how much we appreciate the essential workers and all that you are doing around the world during this difficult time to keep us safe and to help us get through this virus and to bring us toward a better time. We appreciate you and are thankful for the work that you're doing.
Today is Episode 124 of Unabridged, and today we're discussing May's book club pick, which is Katharine McGee's American Royals. Before we get started discussing American Royals... Oh, and I should say that we are doing some different things with our book club book. This month, we are going to be talking about it all month on our social media platforms, especially on Instagram. And one of the things that we're doing is an IG Live on May 9, so be sure to join in for that. We'll be putting some things in our stories, but let us know if you have questions that you want to discuss. And for sure, join us on May 9, at five o'clock eastern standard time for our happy hour book club. We're very excited to do that this month and look forward to talking with you then about this book.
Bookish Check In
Before we get started today, I just wanted to find out what you all are doing for your bookish check in. So Sara, what are you reading?
It has been a well documented struggle in this season of my inability to stick with a book or finish a book. I have been reading Abby Jimenez's The Happy Ever After Playlist. I downloaded this from Libro.fm. Libro.fm is awesome. And so I downloaded it, and I've been listening to it when I walk and when I do things around the house, and it is just such a sweet story. I love both of the main characters, Sloane and Jason, and there is a dog.
I'm always here for a dog.
The dog is named Tucker, and it's just a really sweet story of overcoming grief and finding your way in the "in between." I really like that description that she uses, talking about some of the relationships in the book, and it's just really good. It's just what I needed. I'm excited to listen to it, and I am really enjoying it. So that is Abby Jimenez's The Happy Ever After Playlist.
I just downloaded that one on Libro.fm, Sara, and I can't wait. I'm so excited.
It's really good. Jen, what about you?
So I'm reading an arc of Maggie Downs's Braver Than You Think. This is a book that's coming out soon. It's going to be published on May 12. It's a memoir. Maggie Downs's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and as she started getting progressively worse, and Maggie started reflecting on her life, she thought about the fact that her mother had all these plans to travel the world. There were all these sites that she wanted to see, but she had put those dreams aside when she started having a family and had decided that she would do it later. Then she was diagnosed with this horrible disease and never had the chance. Maggie Downs decides that she is going to travel the world for her mom basically. She gets married, and she and her brand new husband go on their honeymoon, and then they know that they're going to be apart for a year. That is sort of as far as I've read, but so far, it's really good. It's really well written. Of course, it's sad, but it's also beautiful to see her working through her feelings about her mom, and to feel like she is going through this tribute to her mom while she's still living. But definitely her memories are not there. So it's great so far.
Ashley, what are you reading?
So I just started Talia Hibbert's Get a Life, Chloe Brown. I have said on here many times that Jen is often my personal book shopper, so she helped me pick this. When I finished American Royals on my Kindle, I sent her several screenshots (because of course I miss seeing both of you in person, ladies). So I sent her several screenshots of my books on my Kindle, and she helped me with shopping on my Kindle, and she gave me great recommendations for several of them. She outlined maybe five different ones and why I might like them. And for Chloe Brown, she had said this one is definitely the lightest of the mix and that it's very good. So I thought, well then that's the winner because light is what I'm looking for right now.
And so I really am loving it so far. I think that I love her. I love Chloe's voice. And the opening scene is really compelling. And so I think it gets your attention right away, which I need. These days, like Sarah was saying, we've all talked about our struggles with staying just interested and focused. And so I love that, and I also love that it is speaking to what it is like to live with a chronic illness. I think that that is really great as well. And again, I'm very early in the book, but already those are the things that I really like about it.
Before we get started with American Royals, I wanted to just remind you all that if you haven't signed up for our newsletter yet, we are doing those weekly right now to help you through this time of staying home. We're making lots of recommendations and just sharing the things that work for us. So if you haven't signed up, you can do that at unabridgedpod.com, or you can do that through our profile on Instagram. It's in our link tree on our profile @unabridgedpod.
Main Discussion - Katharine McGee's American Royals
So, our summary for American Royals -- here is a quick summary here before we dive into discussing is in Katherine McGee's American Royals. We the readers find ourselves in a modern day America that's a monarchy instead of a democracy. In this alternate history, George Washington was crowned king, and we get to know the Washington's of modern times, particularly the three children -- Beatrice, who is heir to the throne and the first female to become queen, and her younger twin siblings Jefferson and Samantha. Between the constraints that limit their choices, the social climbing agendas of people around them, and the difficult realities they have to face as they each began to fall in love, there's plenty of intrigue and drama.
So ladies, let's start with overall impressions. Jen, what do you think?
I like this one. So I am, as I have talked about on the podcast before, pretty obsessed with Hamilton. And so I think that in the musical one of my favorite moments is when George Washington explains to Hamilton his decision not to accept this kingship, not to accept a monarchy, but instead to step down after eight years, and to have this system in place that built basically our democracy. And so to have a premise that, you know, flips that switch, and that is like, Oh my gosh, what would happen if he had accepted it? I think it's just a great premise to base a book on. I really like books that have alternating points of view, which this one has. It goes through four female characters' points of view, and I like that I like the feminist elements of it that are really questioning what it's like to be a woman, so I think it raises a lot of really interesting questions. And of course, there's tons and tons and tons of drama and soapiness and yeah, so I liked all of that.
Awesome. Sara, what about you?
For me, it was kind of a mixed bag. I thought the premise was really interesting. I like that idea of really kind of exploring what it would have been like if America would have been a monarchy instead of a democracy. At some moments, I was really in to what was happening and at some moments, I was totally out. So that is what was kind of hard for me. Like I said, it was a mixed bag. The things I liked were the relationships between the siblings. I really liked what Jen said, kind of the reimagining if the heir to the throne was a woman and the feminist aspects, but some of the soapiness and the relationships and some of the drama just was not my cup of tea. So, overall it was a mixed bag for me.
Awesome. Yeah, that makes sense. I felt like it was really fast moving, which I appreciated, and it was a fun read. I think a lot of it was fun. And I really related to the characters more than I thought I might. I should say that in general, monarchy stuff is not my thing, so a lot of the shows that are really popular and things like that. And in real life, following the royal family in England, for example, Jen and Sara know that I'm totally clueless. I'm always like, Who are those people again? It will come up in our open office, and people would be talking about them. And I just became quickly aware that I had no idea who any of the people were. So anyway, that's not exactly my skill set, but I think that because of that, I wouldn't have picked this one up myself. I'm really glad that I did because I do think it had some really interesting things about it and just had some family dynamics I really appreciated and also showed the struggles of when you know your destiny, what that means for you and how if that's laid out really early on in your life, then, like, what repercussions that has. I really thought that part was interesting. I agree with what you said, Sara, about some of it as just too soap opera-like for me. I mean, in general, I'm not big on stuff that has a whole lot of drama, and so there was some of that unfolding that I think was necessary to get toward the resolution, but in those parts, I wasn't in it as much as I had been for other parts.
Let's talk about something that worked for us. Sara, what was something that worked for you in this one?
So like I said, when I was talking about my overall impressions, I really liked the relationship between the siblings, particularly the relationship between Samantha and Beatrice, and then Samantha and Jefferson. I think Samantha was one of my favorite characters in the book. So I really like the things that were related to her. And the thing with Beatrice, and the rivalry and the resentment that each of them felt for one another throughout the book, and then the ultimate resolution and this kind of come to an understanding of each other . . . I thought that seemed really authentic. I thought that the whole way that that transpired seemed really authentic and real. And I thought that the reactions of the characters, that they aren't they but you could see where both of them were coming from, and I thought that was really interesting to see that. And then I just like that twin aspect of Jefferson and Samantha but how how quite different they were, and how he just kind of seemed oblivious to a lot of things. And Samantha was like, I love the wild child and like the rule breaker and the rebel because she was trying to be kind of the total opposite of Beatrice. All that was really interesting. And I really liked the way that those relationships developed throughout the book. So that was what really worked for me.
Yeah, I loved that scene with them in the kitchens were Beatrice was just so helpless. I mean, I think that for one thing, that was something that McGee did really well was just showing that, even though Beatrice had been trained every moment of every day basically of her life to do all of these things, there are also all these other things that she couldn't do that made her feel really incapacitated. And so I think, like that part was really interesting, and also that tenderness between her and Samantha. And just like the hashing out of things. And like you said, Sara, I do think that part felt very authentic because we do harbor these grudges towards the people that we love and hold them inside, and a lot of times we don't say this stuff out loud, even though a lot of times, like for them, saying it out loud did bring a lot of resolution. It's just hard to come to that space because those things build up slowly over time, and you don't realize that you're getting separated or that you're kind of moving apart from each other until a lot of damage has been done in a lot of ways. And then at that point, like with Teddy, you know, it felt like Samantha saw that everything that Beatrice was doing was to be hurtful to her in a lot of ways and of course that wasn't the case, but it just echoed her perception of what their relationship was like. And same for Beatrice, that like everything that she saw Samantha doing, that Samantha felt not seen and kind of useless. But for me, it's just perspective. She could do whatever she wanted. And she could have fun. And so I think like, I really appreciated that, just the way that those tensions built and built and built, and we could see how that had been happening for years. And then to see them work it out was really sweet. Now, what about you, Jen, what was something that worked for you?
So I really like, like you were talking about not loving the monarchy stuff. And I don't know that I keep up on current events quite as much, but I love the show The Crown. And one thing that I appreciate about that show is the examination of sort of the burden of being a leader when maybe you haven't chosen to be one. In that show, we see Elizabeth dealing with the fact that she doesn't really want the crown. She doesn't want attention. She doesn't like to be in the public. And she has a younger sister who is hungry for all those things. And so then to see that mirrored in this, where you see Beatrice, who is great at doing the right thing, she is great at saying, well, this is my responsibility. I was born to this position. This is the privilege I have, but she doesn't really want it. And then Samantha in many ways reacting against that, I thought that was really powerful.
I love the conversations Beatrice has with her dad, where he talks to her about--and with Samantha. He does a great job, just letting each person know how they can be of service to the country, and saying, here are all the benefits that you have because you were born into this family. But that also means you have an obligation to serve the people who have given you this power and this privilege. And I thought he was a great character. I thought those relationships were really authentic. I liked that as well. And I like just thinking about, what does it mean that this is going to be the first woman who has been a queen that . . . So, in the book, Beatrice's grandfather had decided that it no longer needed to be the firstborn son that it could just be the firstborn who would ascend to the throne. And so you see, this double standard. Jefferson is not obviously going to have the throne, but there's this double standard that he gets a pass for everything and Beatrice and Samantha, the scrutiny of their behavior and of their personalities is much closer. So yeah, I mean, I thought there was a lot of complexity in that whole responsibility thing. And then the gender dynamics, I thought, were really interesting.
I like that in the book because I feel like that is something that women and young women can relate to, even if you're not a royal and can relate to those double standards for men and women. And I liked that she brought that aspect into the book.
Yeah, I appreciate that too. Because I felt like, even though she's setting it in this alternate history, the reality is that in America today as a democracy, we still cannot vote for a woman as a President. And so I think that we do see that playing out in our society. And I appreciated the way that it was envisioning that, okay, we still in America probably would have valued patriarchy, you know, even if people don't want to admit that as exactly what's happening. I think that you know, whether it had been a monarchy or what we have now, as a democracy, I think we have trouble with seeing women as people of power. And so I really liked that part, for sure.
Yeah. What did you like Ashley?
And I mean, I think that Beatrice suffers from imposter syndrome a lot. And we see a lot of her really struggling to feel like she deserves to have the role. And I know that there are ways that she just doesn't want it. And I think that's different than feeling like you don't deserve it. But there's some of both that's being worked out there. And, Jen, like you said about the dad. I mean, I think that dad is a great figure in the book, and he is just so wise, and so I really loved all that stuff with the daughters. I mean, I just thought it was just so tender and sweet. And I think that I could see why Samantha would have felt kind of slighted by him in a lot of ways, but I also think that you can see how earnest he is, and those scenes where he talks with them. And I mean, that was another thing that I thought was great about the book is the way that the family, even though they--I mean, all of them have flaws, of course--but they all do want to serve the people. And they're kind, and they're trying to do the right thing. And I mean, I really appreciated that part too.
So something that really worked for me was the relationship between Samantha--like you said, Sara, I really love Samantha in general. I mean, I think, she's rebellious, and she's wild, but she's also really savvy, and she has a good sense of herself. And so I liked all of that. But I especially like relationships between her and Nina. I just loved that friendship. I loved a lot of the female dynamics in the story really worked for me, but I loved that friendship between them. And I felt like all of that, like you said before about being able to relate as a woman even though you're not part of royalty, I feel like just that feeling of how to navigate friendships between girls, and how those change over time, and how, you know, as you get older, you change, people change. And then how do you maintain these close and intimate contacts with your friends, as all these changes are taking place. I felt like all of that was really genuine, and I liked that a lot.
And I loved all the stuff about Nina, where she wanted to just go to college and not have anyone know. I think that while we see a lot of the social climbing in the story, and we see a lot of people who are desperate to be part of the court and part of the royalty, or recognized by the royalty, we also see people who want to help in politics but who do not want that to be their life, and I think with Nina, it makes sense that she would want to go to school and . . . I mean sometimes it was kind of ridiculous, but it also . . . I think it's believable, but like with the Secret Service cars coming to pick her up, and she's like sneaking through because she doesn't want her friends to know. And, you know, I think it's funny, but it's also . . . I can see how she just wants her life to be a normal life. And her moms, I loved that relationship, too, Nina with her parents. I think that both her moms were just great. I thought they had different perspectives, but they work together really well as a couple and as a family. And they're always trying to help Nina to figure things out and do the right thing. And anyway, I felt like with her moms, that they knew that was going to be a struggle for her. So yeah, I thought all that stuff with Nina and how she related to royalty was interesting.
Yeah, I liked that, too. I thought she was a great character, because everyone in the book is privileged, but I think you need someone who's a little more down to earth and has that outside perspective to sort of ground . . . because Daphne, who is the fourth person that we haven't talked about whose point of view is represented in the book is such a social climber. She's so infatuated with the royalty that you need someone who, that's not why she wants to be around these people. She genuinely like them as Samantha and she genuinely likes Jefferson. And you needed someone to have that perspective to bring it down a little bit.
Yeah, absolutely. So what was something that didn't work for you?
I was not the biggest fan of the way the romantic pairings were so neatly laid out from the very beginning. That each of these four women who is narrating the book . . . I have not read the second book yet. I do have the e-galley. I'm very excited to read it. I have a prediction about who each of the four women is going to end up with, and so I don't . . . I love romances, and I think a lot of times in romances when there's a single main relationship, I am okay with that. But there was something about the symmetry of all four and feeling pretty confident that I know who all four of the women are going to end up with. I just didn't like quite as much. I wish there were a little more spontaneity, I guess, in the way those all work out.
Yeah, yeah, I agree with that. What about you, Sara?
So I would have to say also the romances. But I think, for me, the development of some of the romances . . . . the development is way stronger for some of the pairings than others. So, for example, I bought the relationship between Connor and Beatrice, because he has been with her for three years. He lived on a college campus. He followed her everywhere, and I felt with that relationship, I was in for that relationship. I thought that it seemed very plausible, and I mean, I felt their struggle. When Samantha made out with Teddy in the coat closet, and then it seemed like they had . . . it reminded me of Twilight, like imprinting. I'm like, what is happening because how do they, like, love each other? I mean, how did it become this huge thing? And I totally get Teddy is a really good guy. He is very handsome and all that. But to be like that, I mean that's exactly what it reminded me of, and I don't know how else to say because all of a sudden, Samantha was this wild child and this girl who likes to go out and party and all of this stuff. And then all of a sudden she's like, this is like my one true love, and how dare Beatrice? I just did not buy that at all, and I just felt, like I never felt in for their relationship in the same way that I felt in for for Beatrice and Connor's relationship. And so I don't know. I just, that whole thing with like that one true love thing that starts very early in the book, that you were commenting on, Jen. Some of that just took me way far out of the story because I didn't find myself rooting for the characters' romances. The only one I was really emotionally invested in was Connor's and Beatrice's because I bought it. I could totally see how they fell in love. So a lot of that romance, soapy stuff took me a little bit out of the story. And yeah, so that was the thing that didn't work for me. What about you, Ashley?
Yeah, I think that was a great point about the imprinting. Because I do think that there's a way to . . . I think I could have believed like you said about Teddy. He's so lovable. He is a very lovable guy. And Beatrice can see that even though she does not love him romantically. And I think that if there just been a different set up, I could have bought it, but it was hard to . . . I just kind of had to look aside from that part, because I felt like after that, the way that things unfolded between Samantha and Teddy was what new love would be like, you know, and I think that they would, I could see that they could come to love each other even though they know that that's like, not the right fit. But I did feel like, I mean, making out with a guy in the coat closet because he was like he was handsome and he happened to be closest to the door or something, so if you're picking him out of the crowd, just because of convenience or whatever, then that's like, yeah, a little bit.
I do think some I agree that that relationship was not as strong. I do think there's something in that that she is infatuated with him because he's with Beatrice, and that is before that they've had sort of their reconciliation. So I agree that there could have been more to set it up. But well, and Nina and Jefferson, I think that's believable that she would have feelings for him. But I found her to be a much more appealing character then I found him to be, and so that was, yeah, I agree that Connor and Beatrice were the couple that I was rooting for the most because with Nina and Jefferson I just kept getting frustrated that he . . . the levels were different there something.
She just seems really smart, Nina does. And so does Samantha. And the fact that they are duped by Daphne seemed really unbelievable to me, like the whole scene in the dress shop where Nina . . . or Daphne offers the help to Nina, and that Nina was like, Okay, yeah, this girl is gonna help me, and the fact that nobody in the whole royal family--nobody. No press. No one ever saw through Daphne, that just seemed preposterous to me. And I think because of Jefferson's blinders. I mean, Jefferson comes off as kind of a dumb dumb, I'm not gonna lie.
I think he's sweet, but
He's kind of dullard-y. I don't know.
Well, again, I think that's partially a gender thing because I think he has been allowed to have a pass with very little effort. Whereas with Samantha and Beatrice, they've had to work much more to be savvy and to really question other people's motivations because of the way they've been treated by the public. And so I think for Jefferson, when you're allotted just because you're a handsome guy . . . I wish he'd been a little more savvy, but I do think it's realistic that he would not be quite as sharp at questioning other people's motivations as Sam and Beatrice were. And Samantha doesn't like Daphne. I don't think she recognizes everything that she's done, the level of the machinations that she's gone through to become a part of the family, but she doesn't like her.
And I agree about Jefferson, but I also think like he's been to school, like he's been around other people, and I just think that his, like, it's just such an extreme, and I mean, I almost can buy that he is duped by Daphne more than I could buy that Nina thinks he is this great. I mean, like, because he's handsome. But Nina seems so smart and so driven, and when she, I don't know, it just didn't seem like they had a lot in common besides having grown up together. For me, like, I totally get why they're paired together. But I for me, like, as an adult reading a young adult book, it was harder to buy into it, but I can see where the audience is intended for would be all about it. Because I mean, you know, I love romance, and I, you know, I can see students I've taught before loving this book, because I mean, it's fun. And there's tons of romance and drama, and so I want to make sure I say that, as an adult reading it, my experience is so much different. I'm bringing more to the table than I would have if I would have read it when I was a teenager.
Yeah. And I feel like he is both naive and immature. And so even though I mean, I really like him. I mean, I really do like him when I was reading his parts. You know, when I was reading about him, I mean, we don't hear his voice, obviously. But when I was reading all the things that he did and all that stuff, like I really liked him, but I did feel like those two things for sure for an adult are more off putting than they are for a teenager. So, I get enough of that in real life I think sometimes.
Anyway, something that didn't work for me in general. And Sara, you were talking about Daphne. I just could have lived without hearing her perspective. Honestly, I felt like it was hard for me to . . . I just didn't enjoy her sections like I did the other ones. And I know that we're supposed to, she's obviously dastardly. I mean, and I think we're supposed to see that, and I think we're not only supposed to see that but also that she has been at least verbally abused. Basically, it seems like by her mom from the bit that we see, she's definitely in a hurtful relationship with her mom and with her parents in general and with the expectations of her and the pressure on her to be a social climber and to succeed in getting into the royalty at all cost. So I think we see that, and I think, therefore, we should feel some compassion for her. But then it's both that I didn't need to be in, in every detail of her . . . I could have watched it play out without hearing her thoughts, I think, about every single dastardly thing she was going to do, but also that it's hard for me to believe that someone who is that calculating and manipulative and narcissistic would also be so self aware.
And so I think, the other thing is that I just felt like I do believe she's totally not--I mean, sadly, we see this in the real world also, like if you're totally narcissistic, then like every single thing that you do you feel like is the right thing. Or even if it's not the right thing, that it's worth it for the end price, and feel like that's her thing. You know, she knows she did wrong with Himari, thank goodness, you know, she knows she did the wrong thing. But she feels like then it's just deeper into this one-way tunnel and that there's nowhere else to go but farther in. And so I feel like . . . I mean, I can believe that. It's hard for me to think that, uh, that, you know, a girl her age, who is that self absorbed could also be so aware of why she's doing all the things that she's doing and kind of how wrong they are. So yes, that was kind of my thing for for her part.
I totally agree.
And I mean, that goes back to when we talked about bookish turnoffs. I have a hard time with unlikable characters. I mean, she's very unlikeable, so I think like she's supposed to be unlikable, but I think it's hard for me when they're the ones driving the narrative. So for sure, the other, all the other narration I enjoyed a lot more than her part. Well, let's talk a little bit about a quote that you'd like to discuss. Sara, what was your quote?
So my quote is . . . I feel like in a lot of this book, the most quotable quotes are interactions between the king and his daughters. So mine is one that comes from the king, and it's pretty far in the book, page 305, and he's talking to Samantha and he says, "Samantha, the criticism is a good thing. It means you’ve fought for something. The only people free from censure are people who’ve never taken a stand." And I just love. I love that quote, because of the knowledge he's imparting to Samantha, but I also love that scene because it's such a tender moment between the king and Samantha. And it's this moment of realization for Samantha that the king does value her as a person and that he sees a place for her within the construct of the monarchy. And I just love that scene. I thought it was really sweet. And I love that moment of realization for Samantha.
Yeah, I love that too. Jen, what about you?
So I chose a quotation . . . This is from a scene where Beatrice is reflecting on her inability to connect with theatre and with novels, and she talks about how she never liked to read books about princesses on quests. She says, "The whole thing had felt so deceitful to her--this story about a princess who drove the action, who got to make choices. Because the life of a princess was decided for her long before she was even born. Writers got to pick the endings of their novels. But Beatrice wasn't living a story. She was living history, and history went on forever." And I thought that just really played into the thing, when I was talking about what worked for me, just that whole idea that we think people who are born into royalty have all this privilege and have this glamour. But what it really means is a lack of choices. Beatrice does not to choose to be the leader of the country that is decided centuries before . . . Well, I guess in this case by a grandfather since he said she would be queen, or that a woman could be queen. But yeah, just that idea that her life is so limited that she can't even read a book to empathize with someone who has choices because she has so few choices in her life. But I get so swept up in books, and I find it so easy to lose myself in characters that I'm reading about that that hit me really hard to think that you can't use your imagination to imagine someone else's life. Because your own life is so limited and that . . . Yeah, as an avid reader that hit really hard. But I've also thought that was just a great illustration of the lack of choice and of the burden that she has taken on by being born into the life she's born into.
Yeah. Yeah, I really appreciated those insights into how hard it is for her because I think because of all the privilege, it's sometimes hard to imagine how things could be challenging for anyone in the royal family. So I think that, you know, McGee does a great job of showing that of course, those that there are a lot of issues, and there's a lot of complexity there.
Yeah, what was yours, Ashley?
So one of the times that I loved I mean, we already talked about how but with the king when he talks with both Samantha and Beatrice, I thought that those moments, those father-daughter moments were just really powerful. But the one that I chose was when Beatrice and her dad are talking toward the end of his life, and she says, "'I wish we could erase all those--those atrocities,' she stammered, and was surprised by her father's reply. 'Never say that,' he insisted, 'say you want to make things right, to build a better future. But erasing the past--or, worse, trying to rewrite it--is the tool of despots. Only by engaging with the past, can we avoid repeating it.'" And I just think that was really insightful. I mean, I said before that I felt like his character was just so wise, and he had a lot of great advice. And I thought that was really insightful because it is hard to not, . . . especially for someone like her who's in a position--who will be in a position of power to really bring about major change--it is hard to look back and to have let slavery happen, to have let . . . you know to think that your ancestors chose to let that happen in a very direct way. I think is really hard. You know, all of the things with Native Americans, . . . I mean, just really all the atrocities that happen within our country not related to what we've done with other countries, that having to reconcile the fact that your ancestors directly did that in this, you know, in this history version is really hard, and that you would have this desire to want to erase it. And so I just felt like, what he said there was really powerful because I think it's hard for us, as we look back in time, to not want to undo these things. And so I just thought that was a really insightful thing to share that, if we were trying to do that, what would really be doing is just erasing what happened and that, you know, that's the opposite of progress. So, so that was really powerful.
What about pairings, ladies? What books do you think would work well, if people were loving this one? Sara, you wanna start us off?
Sure. So my choice is Melissa Bashardoust's Girls Made of Snow and Glass, and I read this several years ago. It is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. But at the center of the story are these two women or two young women, Lynette and Mina, and the story centers around both of these characters. And I think that it's a good pairing for American Royals for a couple reasons. One is that it is a YA novel, so it's a quick read, and you can get through it really quickly. And two, it centers around the women in the story, and the men are kind of just . . . the male characters in the story are kind of there as a function of how they relate to the female characters, which I feel like a lot of American Royals is like that. So it's kind of like a feminist-ish . . . it is touted as a feminist retelling. I did have--just like this book--it was kind of up and down for me, but I do think that a lot of people really loved it. And it has gotten a lot of accolades. So I think that if you liked American Royals, I think you will probably like Girls Made of Snow and Glass. It's really interesting, has magic in it and some really vile characters in it. And I mean, it definitely held my attention. So I think it is a good pairing for this book. And Jen read it. So I don't know if she endorses the pair
Yeah, I definitely do.
But I think it would be a good pairing for American Royals.
That sounds great, Sara. I haven't read that one. But I've seen it all over. And yeah, I can see that it would be really compelling. Jen, what about you?
So I chose The Selection series. And I guess if I have to choose a book, it would be the first book. And so we have not talked a lot about the fact that one of the major driving parts of this plot is the fact that Beatrice's parents are pressuring her to choose a husband for stability, because they know that having a husband will help with some of the misogyny that she's sure to face, and just that she needs support in moving forward because having the throne is really challenging, and they feel like she needs a support in her life. So The Selection is a YA series that is highly addictive, and has been optioned for a series, a TV series, which I'm very excited about. I think it's going to be great. I think it has such potential. So The Selection series is kind of dystopian, I would say it's imagining an alternate future in which there is a monarchy and the way that they are matching the prince, the current prince who will in the future rule, is that they have a reality show where they have girls chosen from the different castes within their society and the different places within their society to compete for the prince's love. So it's got this great like reality TV component combined with some really serious questions again about monarchy, and about how a country should be ruled. Yeah, there's lots of class . . . Yes, Sara loves this, too. . .
I love this! I just have to say not to--well, I am interrupting.
You're all good.
Okay, so I'm just gonna say, I'm sorry, but this was much this was the one I picked, and I came to our notes, and Jen had already picked it!
Sorry. I could have veered.
Sara, I didn't know that you had read it, and I was like, man, this sounds like it has your name all over it. So it sounds like
I devoured this I mean because of The Bachelor. Yeah, Bachelor and Hunger Games vibes. Yeah, they had a baby.
It is really . . . .and I will say, like, the premise when you lay it out seems as if it would be the superficial read, but it really digs into some great questions. So it has that good soapy feel, just like American Royals, but it also, just like American Royals, asks some really great questions about the way our country is run and who our leaders are and how we choose them. And how do you choose a partner moving forward? So I think it's great. I will say my niece is in high school, she's a junior, and she loves this series, and I had a lot of students who devoured it as well. So it is great: as an adult, I loved it; I think teenagers love it. And I think people who love American Royals would really love The Selection series. So yeah, read it before the adaptation. I'm not sure when that is to be out, but I'm very excited to watch.
I love that series. Oh, so good.
Yeah, it's really great. Ashley, what did you pick?
So I wanted to talk about Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians. We have talked about this when we . . . I read this. I don't know if you all had read it separately. I read it so that we could watch the movie, which is like the story of my experience with a podcast. But anyway, not that I didn't want to read it, but invariably-- back to the pop culture stuff--they're in general, like, hey, this movie is coming out. Here's the book.
Anyway, I loved it. And I think that . . . it isn't YA, but otherwise, I feel like there's a lot of similarities. And just, we read it a while ago, and as I was looking back to reference character names, I would immediately I felt such warm feelings toward each of the characters. And I think that I only read that one. I haven't read the rest of the series. But as I pulled it up, and I was thinking about, I mean, I loved Astrid, who is not the main character, Rachel and Nick are the main characters, and they are great. And as I was looking back at the character names and thinking about what had happened, I just loved that story. And I loved the movie. We all talked about that and how much I mean, the movie was fantastic. I thought.
And then you can listen to our episode on it. It's Episode 40. We did a book-to-movie adaptation episode. Shameless plug time.
Sara is our archive guru. So I think that . . . we did that one a while ago, but for sure, as I was looking at it: so Rachel and Nick are the main couple in the story. And in the beginning, Rachel and Nick are in America, and she hasn't met his family, but she agrees to go to Singapore with him. And she has no idea that his family is exceedingly--I mean, insanely wealthy. And, and so he gets there and just discovers that they live in a palace. And that, I mean, it's just is like, fascinating. And I think it's a great commentary on class, and on the divides between people. And there's also a lot of commentary about attitudes toward, within the Chinese community, attitudes toward people who are from Mainland China versus people who are born in Singapore. And so there's just a lot of really interesting cultural commentary, but I think that there are a lot of powerful female characters in the story. I really love that. And I think there's a lot of conflict. But it is conflict that's very authentic. It's very believable. I mean, his mom, his mom, Eleanor and Rachel are, I mean, very powerful women who are standing in opposition to each other. And it's a show. And so I feel like that is really interesting. But there's also this a lot of the secondary characters. Like I said, Astrid, when I saw her name, I was just remembering how much I loved everything about her character. And her relationship is evolving and kind of falling apart with her partner, and there's just a lot in there. And I think it's similar in the sense of extreme extravagance, tremendous wealth, and yet a lot of difficult circumstances to work through, and so, yeah, if you like this one, then Crazy Rich Asians would be a great choice for you.
Just to wrap up our discussion about American Royals. Before we switch to our Give Me One . . . First question is, is it a keeper? Jen, what do you think?
So I really enjoyed the book. But I think I would consider this to be a loaner. I think I'm actually going to give it to my niece. I think she would really enjoy it. And yeah, when the next book comes out, I will likely get that and give that to her as well. So I can, I can think of several readers I know who would really enjoy it.
What about you, Sara? Is it a keeper?
I also thought it was enjoyable, but I probably would donate it to a classroom, just because I think that young adult readers will eat it up and love it, and I'd like to be able to share it with them.
How about you, Ashley?
I second that vote, Sara. I don't have anybody like you, Jen, that's a direct person in my mind, but certainly I would put it in a classroom because I think it's a great fit for classroom libraries or for a high school library.
Finally, personal rating: how much book love do you give this book? Jen?
I give this one four bookish hearts.
All right. Sara?
I give this one three bookish hearts.
And I would give it four . . . probably I'm on the three and a half, to be honest, but three and a half or four bookish hearts. If we're going with round numbers, four bookish hearts for me. So, yeah, awesome.
Give Me One . . . Thing that You Do to Relax
Let's end with a Give Me One. So, Our Give Me One topic today is one thing that you do to relax. Sara, what about you?
So I hate to be a cliche, but I really do . . . the thing that makes me relax is getting exercise because I find that if I don't exercise, then I can go to a really dark place really quickly. And I have found especially during these times when I am at home, exercising, and especially going out and just getting some fresh air has become very, very important to me and my mental health, I should say. So, that's mine: exercise and fresh air.
That's awesome. I agree: this winter, I really realized that I needed to get back into a better exercise routine. And it helped my mental health so much. And it has been harder since we've been home. I was training for a half marathon. And I was really excited for that. And then it was really hard once I realized that wasn't going to be happening. And of course, that's the right thing for our world. But it is hard when you have this goal. I'm very goal driven. I always talk about that. And so I know that I need these kind of extrinsic things going, but for sure the day is when I have, you know, gotten going and just gotten out there and done the thing. I feel so much better. So yeah. What about you, Jen?
So reading for me is always--and continues to be--a way to relax. I have been reading a lot, and I think the books that I'm reading are a little different. I'm definitely skewing romance heavy, and I read romance all the time. But I've talked about how that's sort of my comfort reading, and so I'm reading a ton of romance right now. And I think reality TV as well. And I like reality TV fine, but that is not normally the staple of my TV watching. But my family and I have several shows that we're watching together. And so that has been really nice to just have the discussion sometimes . . . my boys, they have never lived in a world where they can't hit pause. And so they just assume that if they start talking, somebody is going to pause the show, and they can have these lengthy diatribes on who's just been voted off of Survivor or somebody's strategy, which is always great. But yeah, so I would say those two things have been really relaxing for me.
How about you, Ashley?
So I really love coloring and lettering. I really enjoy those things, and this last, my last couple of birthdays--or, like Christmas, I guess, as well--I've just asked for things related to that, and it's been really nice. So I have a couple of nice pen sets that I love that I do keep in my bedroom in a place that is not visible to my children. I feel a little guilty about that. But I also know they would be decimated if they had their hands on them because they are a little more fragile than your Crayola, you know, than like a regular Crayola marker, although Crayola does make great . . . like one of the ones I have is Crayola, like their signature line or whatever. But you know what I mean? Like if they push hard on them, that's going to be the end of that marker, but anyway, yeah, some of those, and I often can't make time, like I just don't make time for it. But recently, things have been really stressful--I know everyone's surprised--and I have found that when we're watching TV at night, if I have successfully completed all the other to do items that I typically do, while we are watching TV, then I get out that set and do some coloring or lettering. And it is super calming for me. It makes a huge difference. So every time I make time for it, I'm really grateful because I do really enjoy it.
All right. Well, thank you all so much for joining us for our discussion of American Royals. We are so interested to hear what you thought about this book. We'll be talking about it all month on social media, so be sure to check us out @unabridgedpod on Instagram and to join in for our IG live on May 9. And finally . . .
Our happy hour. Sara keeps trying to help me remember that, and let me tell you these days, Happy Hour is very happy, and I'm very thankful when we get to it. So for sure join us on Happy Hour for book club discussion, and it'll be five o'clock eastern standard time on May 9. So thanks for listening.
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