Hardcover, 544 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
It has taken me a while to read Tess because of life and other incidences that keep me from reading in peace. I read Tess in spare moments, moments were I needed the book the most. I hesitate to call this a review because I am not at all objective and not inclined to be analytic. Let’s call this a book talk instead.
I loved the Seraphina duology and anticipated Tess because I knew I was in for a treat. Rachel Hartman’s writing has matured, like fine wine (not that I think but details). Seraphina is a wonderful character but I think I love Tess better because she is so much realer to me. I can feel myself in her–all the ways in which I do not like myself or think myself unable to fit in or find a place to be long, I found echoed in Tess. Tess’s journey is unlike any other journey. It’s not quite the heroic journey so prevalent in fantasy but it is a journey that starts off unsteadily.
It a journey where the Road becomes the destination itself.
Tess has a horrible mother. Yes, there are reasons the mother is like she is but I am not inclined to be kind. She is horrid. And her sister, well, the less said about her the better. Tess, heavy with loss and grief, runs away from home when it seems her parents are going to send her away to a convent and on the Road she reunites with a friend, meets interesting people who challenge her bias and stereotypes, and finally forgives herself. She learns to love herself and let herself be loved.
The book is kind. I honestly ended up in tears at the end because I, like Tess, felt accepted and accepted myself, flaws and all. That’s one of the greatest signs a book works in my opinion.
I love how Rachel Hartman slowly, with infinite patience, teases the story into a whole. She brings disparate pieces together with such finesse that I want to grow up and write like her. I love the representation of disability and I love the discourse on saviour politics. I also love that we dip into the politics of shame and how it is used to control women.
I just love this book a whole lot and while I want to point out exactly what I loved, that would be spoiling the book for you. So how about this, you go and read the book and then come back so we can discuss.