Review: The Pacifist by Jenny Holiday

pacifistReviewed by Janell

This is the third in Jenny Holiday’s adorable eighties-set New Wave Newsroom Series. In the first, we met Jenny and hot moody art guy Matthew (excuse me I died of his hotness). In the second, Dawn stood out as the smart, driven investigator who’s noticed by the campus cop (swoon). Here, newspaper photographer Tony pursues Laraline, the grad student just itching to break free from her father’s control.

I have to say off the bat that Tony didn’t do it for me. Usually I’m all about the less alpha hero, but his casual demeanor didn’t have enough fire for me. Tony loves women. He has a twin sister, he’s friends with a lot of women, he enjoys sex with them. He’s a nice guy who’s gotten distracted in college, so now he’s in his fifth year, trying really hard to graduate.

Now, Laraline is tough. She’s one of the few black students on campus and her dad is a professor there. She comes from a home of wealth, privilege, and expectations… and they’re crushing her. Her parents are ready for her to settle down and marry the guy they picked out for her when she was a teenager, and she’s stretching out her graduate degree to have one last taste of freedom before she becomes a permanent quiet, supportive hostess like her mother. She’s spent her life as the family peacemaker.

Tony snaps a picture of Laraline kissing a guy on campus who is not her future husband, just because he thinks it’s a cool picture, and it gets published. Laraline’s dad does not think it’s cool. She confronts Tony, telling him that he basically ruined her life, and I was with her:

“I want you to understand that you can’t just walk around invading people’s private moments without creating consequences for them.”

Tony gets mad because she doesn’t want to stay and talk, and then he tries to do his nice-guy chat. I was like, dude, she doesn’t owe you anything, let her walk away. Laraline is better than me, though. She releases her hate. When they run into each other again, and again, she calls a truce and asks Tony to photograph a friend with a black eye after a Take Back the Night rally.

This is a story about activism, about waking up. Laraline realizes that she wants to get the school’s board of governors to adopt a new sexual assault policy, and Tony can use his photography skills for the PR campaign. They also start a zine. A zine! Remember those? Tony then encourages Laraline to run for the board of governors herself, which is really a very nice and supportive things to do, and it’s totally not the thing that her father would want for her.

Laraline is a Latin word for seagull, and her roommates nickname her Dove because she’s such a peace keeper. Either way, this book shows her spreading her wings for the first time. I really loved Laraline. She takes small steps, and she fumbles. Tony is there to support her the whole way (this book could totally have been based on the song “Wind Beneath My Wings,” but it was really inspired by “When Doves Cry”).

Romantically it’s very sweet, and I give that part of it a B. But it’s a stronger book showing a woman standing up for herself, and I would have loved it to be longer to get even deeper. Laraline gets an A-.

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Pacifist
by Jenny Holiday
Release Date: October 25, 2016

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