“The things we do to girls, whether we put them on pedestals only to tear them down, or use them for parts and holes, we are all complicit in this. But everything touches everything else, and I have to believe some good will come out of all this destruction. The men will never end the grace year. But maybe we can.”

*

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett lingers between a 3 & 1/2 and 4  star read for me. I am not much of a YA reader anymore so I think it will rate higher for those who are. It is a very intriguing read and has a unique plot. For women’s 16th year, they are sent away to come into their “magic” and to expel themselves of it so that men aren’t tempted or affected by it. They are expected to live a year on their own on an island away from civilization with limited supplies while protecting themselves from poachers who will kill them, the jealousy of other women, and the natural elements. Once they return, they are rewarded with marriage, if they’re special enough to be chosen, or a job if they’re considered unlucky. They can also be thrown to the outskirts to be a prostitute if they are rebellious, or can be treated to a death by hanging if they show signs of magic. It focuses on Tierney, who never wants to be married and will gladly take a job to not be considered property of a man. 
*
This world touches on the all too real tradition of women being treated as property, bartered off to men, and their decisions regarding their lives and their bodies being dictated by the male population. 
*

It emphasizes the absurd notion that women are responsible for the gazes of men when they show “a little skin.” We have seen the extent of that changed over time: from ankles and wrists, to calves, to knees, to upper legs, shoulders, and cleavage. Why have we been trained to be ashamed of mere skin? Why is it considered our responsibility to make sure men control themselves? Young girls are leered at by grown men. We are always going to be drawn to the human form, but there’s a difference between respectful interest and undiluted lecherous advances. Women have always had to fight for control over their own body. The women in this series are taught to feel ashamed of their “magic” until it serves a purpose for the men. 
*
I was getting annoyed with Tierney turning to questioning herself instead of the traditions… but then I realized that simulates real life. What woman hasn’t thought there might be wrong with them or critiqued themself and the way they  carry themselves, look, or thought process? Not many. 
*
One of my issues with this book was how drawn out some of the unimportant scenes were and then how quickly some of the more important things happen. I would find myself skimming parts because they weren’t necessary. 
*
I will say, the author absolutely surprised me with who the “usurper” was. Throughout the story, there’s tales of a rebellious woman who helps the people of the outskirts and rallies behind the back of the men. I wish this had played a bigger part in the story, because that was an interesting storyline. It was sort of thrown in here and there. 
*
The ending was bittersweet. I like that it left it as a cliffhanger but it also left me wondering if anything was accomplished. We are treated to a bit of the secret society of the usurper but not enough to show us whether things are likely to advance. We can only hope that they future generations fix this society as Tierney hopes. 
 *
One very cool thing that this book proclaims: women are stronger together. When we set aside our problems and our preconceived notions, when we insist we matter, when we love ourselves and the women around us… there’s power in that. We deserve that power. It isn’t magic, we aren’t temptresses, we aren’t wrong, we aren’t things to be controlled and owned. Our womanhood is beautiful and it should be no concern of men. 

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