Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Spencer Hill on October 14th 2014
Format: ARC (336 pages) • Source: Gals on the Same Page
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Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing
Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.
While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.
And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
Enhance the experience with the companion soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, by the author's band, Wedding Day Rain.
Enhance the experience with the companion soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, by the author’s band, Wedding Day Rain.
- No Goodbye
- Something About
- Don’t Wake Me Up
- Let Me Go
- My Strength
- Always Speak Too Late
- The End is Just the Beginning
- Breathe Easy
- Edge of the Fall
CD Info: Damsel Distressed is the story of Imogen, a girl who’s survived the years after her mother’s death by focusing squarely on her best friend, Grant, musical theatre, and lots of cheese. The book is full of humor and heart, and also contains a few surprises. Full page sketches are scattered throughout the novel, and each one contains a QR code that corresponds to a song from the book’s soundtrack. Imogen Unlocked is a 12-song album of original music written by the author and her husband Daron as their indie-pop band, Wedding Day Rain. Together, the book Damsel Distressed and the soundtrack Imogen Unlocked work together to tell the story of a girl who might just make her own Happily Ever After, if she can just hold herself together.
This book was a lot darker than I thought it would be, but it really worked! Wow. It’s actually hard to put my thoughts together. The book is about Imogen, who lost her mother years ago and is still coping with his father’s new marriage and evil stepsister…and seriously, the stepsister is EVIL. This book is supposed to be a play on Cinderella, except focuses on the “stepsister’s side.” Honestly, I didn’t really get that too much. It didn’t feel like a retelling; it felt like a girl who had a REALLY bitchy stepsister. Anyways, Carmella Cinder, who goes by Ella, definitely makes Imogen’s life miserable. Meanwhile, Imogen is struggling with her depression and negative body image. She second guesses everything and is constantly dealing with very sad emotions. It was kind of heartbreaking being in her head. She had a lot of ups and downs, which made it a lot more realistic. She would have some good moments with her friends where she really thought things could be better – and then moments later, she would be struggling with the complete opposite feeling. For a book that had pretty serious subject matter, I definitely laughed a lot! Imogen and her friends had a great repertoire.
- Imogen dealt with depression, body image, and self-harm issues. She was constantly dealing with these thoughts in the back of her head. She sort of grew throughout the novel, but her depression is certainly something that will always be with her. I liked that the author didn’t try to wrap it all up in a neat bow at the end of the book and pretend she was “cured.”
- Carmella was the evil character who came and royally fucked things up for Imogen. I wish her character was explored more though. She did some damage but her side of the story wasn’t really fleshed out.
- Grant was Imogen’s amazing best friend. He was so sweet and understanding of her feelings and ugh I want to marry him. Their relationship was unbreakable and it was nice that there wasn’t as much stereotypical drama as I expected.
- Antonique, Jonathan, and Brice are Imogen’s other close friends. They all had their own individual importance to the book but I’m keeping them together here because they were collectively a great group. They were understanding, supportive, and really funny. It was nice seeing that she had a good group of friends; I wasn’t expecting that based on the book’s summary.
Kelsey Macke wrote this as if you are literally in Imogen’s head, which was perfect. It was hard to relate because I kept thinking “OK GET OVER IT” without really understanding. I haven’t dealt with depression before so I honestly didn’t know what it was like. Reading this book was a window into that experience for me. I would definitely read further books by Kelsey Macke; she mixes humor with darkness so well. I think the book flowed decently well. There were two main events (the play and the rally), so it felt like the rest of the book was just leading up to them. At the end, I kept wondering when it was actually going to stop. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it – I just felt like some of it stretched on a little too long. She did do a good job of wrapping up each character’s story, for the most part.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to people who are fans of retellings, because it didn’t FEEL like a “Cinderella story” — but perhaps that was exactly the point. I was just expecting it to be like Cinderella except the situation was reversed or it showed the “other side” of the story. I don’t know how to explain it but I just didn’t get that vibe. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a realistic portrayal (I think?) of depression that won’t completely bum you out. It showed a lot of light among the dark. Anyone looking for a YA contemporary that’s a little different should check this out.
All in all, this book gets 4.5 stars from me. I was pretty blown away by how much I enjoyed this story. I loved the characters, their interactions, their stories – it all seemed so realistic. Macke gave us insight right into Imogen’s brain like a perfectly crafted first person narrative should. I couldn’t give it a full five stars because it lacked a lot of the “retelling” aspects I was expecting. It was also definitely darker than I thought too. The end of the book dragged a LITTLE bit for me and it felt kind of chunky Overall, I’d highly recommend this one and will be keeping an eye on Kelsey Macke for new YA books with refreshing and different stories.
Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published… a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.
Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.
This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain.
DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.
(A giant prize pack for ONE winner, consisting of: Signed copy of Damsel Distressed. Copy of the CD, Imogen Unlocked. Posters and buttons. Artist cards — US Only)
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