I've done quite a few events with my friends Darkfallen and Greta over at Paranormal Wastelands. I've also never been lead astray about a book by these two. So, when they invited me to be part of the Miss World blog tour, I took one look at the summary and went "Hell yes!".
I'm very glad that I did. I have a lot to say about Miss World -- starting with the fact that this book is definitely not for everybody -- but I personally really enjoyed it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind and start at the beginning, shall we? Read on to find out my thoughts about this extremely original and unique book...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
It's 1993. Kim Ho wishes she were Courtney Love, instead of the chubby 16-year-old who clashes with her traditional Chinese parents. Her very own Kurt Cobain arrives in the form of Kevin, a 26-year-old failed musician. But Kevin uses Kim's rock-star dreams to exploit her, and those dreams die along with the real Kurt Cobain.Too scared to tell anyone, Kim conjures up a cross-dressing imaginary friend and dates Walter Riordan, the cute boy from special-ed. Walter helps her recover, but after a joke snowballs into a plot to murder Kevin, Kim's forced to choose between revenge or her sanity. This is a truly daring and original coming-of-age novel about one girl's quest to reclaim her power from those who've stolen it.
I love it when I can say that a book "took me back". I've always had a thing for history, and when a book explores a part of it that I have actually lived through it leaves me with this really weird and wonderful feeling. Now, first up I need to tell you. I wasn't part of the whole Nirvana thing. But that really didn't matter as I read this book. I had my own bands that I followd at the time, and while I would likely have been a bit younger then Kimmy is here one of the things this book made me immediately want to do was go back and listen to the songs I personally recalled from this time.
Music, and it's power to heal, is a huge part of Miss World. Music is also often a huge part of one's identity during the teen years, regardless of what time period you are talking about. This is one of the things about the book that I think makes it just as applicable today as it might have been if it had been available to those at the time it is taking place. In music we seek self, solace, understanding, safety, a voice to speak for us when we can't necessarily speak for ourselves.
But Kimmy's silence is far more profound then simply needing music because her life is filled with the general "sense of suck" that most of us think our lives are as a teen. Kimmy has a very pushy and unforgiving mother, struggles to walk the line between Chinese traditions and being an American teenager, battles her own insecurities with regard to her self esteem and must rise above the ashes created as she experiences and must come to terms with sexual abuse.
There are several words that immediately come to mind when I think of Miss World, but as far as plot and substance, I think the most immediate would have to be "fierce". Randi Black does not hold back in any way, shape or form. She looks every thing she aims to tackle straight in the eye and makes no attempt to sugar coat it.
I've seen a lot of people questioning how old someone should be to read Miss World. Before I tackle this, and I feel I must tackle it because it's come under some controversy, a quick background on me. My mother bought me my first "adult" romance novel when I was in high school -- to be turned into a report for my grade 11 English class. My family has always had a very open door policy about entertainment -- my parents preferred talking about things and knowing what was going on, rather then "forbidding" things and having us hide them instead.
Here's the bottom line on Miss World, in my opinion: the sort of girl who is going to be drawn to this novel is likely to also be the type who does not need her family's permission to read it. She likely has a mind of her own and is going to do her own thing one way or the other anyway. There is some very, very graphic stuff here and it's very straight to the point. But it really all tied together to enhance this book and make everything seem very real. And the "realness" of Miss World is one of the things that compelled me to keep reading it for the entire day it spent me to finish it, when I had only intended to read a chapter of it to see what it was about.
I really liked Kimmy. She was flawed but fabulous. I feel that Randi really captured the depths of a fully developed character here; one who possessed traits that were endearing and issues that ensured that she truly had a story that needed to be told. I enjoyed accompanying her on her journey and felt very close to her despite the fact that our backgrounds -- relationship with family, culture, etc. -- were vastly different. I was a little worried when I first got the book and wondered whether there would be much for Kimmy to say to me, but by the end I truly felt that I had made a new "friend" as far as this character goes, and I am very anxious to see her story continue.
I also really like Walter. And yet again, he is far from perfect and definitely has issues. I thought it was really cool seeing him and Kimmy get to know one another, discovering the things that they did share (particularly music; which can be such a powerful binding force) and how they drew them together despite things they did not share (academics, for instance). I think Walter's role in the story was very important and that he added a great deal of depth and a great vantage point from which to see Kimmy's growth, which was very needed.
Joey. I must, must, must talk about Joey. Because I *loved* Joey. I have never seen someone so perfectly capture the wonder, limitless insanity and whimsical joy of an imaginary friend -- especially when the need for that friend comes from absolutely heart wrenching pain the way Kimmy's did -- as Randi Black managed to convey with Joey. He had some of the best lines in the novel, he was an absolutely brilliant instrument through which to show what Kimmy was enduring and his moods and behavior were a great doorway through which to show us how Kimmy was handling the things that had happened to her. I can't say enough good, or give enough praise, here.
The last character I want to talk about in detail is Kimmy's mother, Yan. I think that a fine line was walked here. I could never totally put my finger on whether Kimmy's mother totally hated her, thought she was doing what was best (and for *who*?) or whether she had some kind of illness and was mood swinging between these two extremes. Regardless she was an extremely interesting character and her issues, and the issues her issues caused for Kimmy, created a fertile ground for the issues that Kimmy faced making them understandable, if not acceptable, to the reader. When you see what Kimmy has been through, the "why?" of what she is going through becomes abundantly clear.
I'm not sure if this is really the right way to talk about Walter and Kimmy, but for the sake of avoiding confusion, and since I can't come up with a better term, I'm going to leave it as is. The thing is, what happens between these two characters is so much more then a typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, situation.
Walter, in some ways, is a stepping stone to Kimmy being able to stand on her own two feet. He represents her ability to reconnect with the real world. He is the one she confides what happened to her to, which is absolutely essential to her ability to heal. He likes her the way that she is, which is a strong contrast to her mother's constant attempts to alter everything about her. Yet he is ultimately flawed in his need to avenge the wrongs done to her, and despite how sad it is to see the two begin to fall apart because of this, it is absolutely vital.
Kimmy's understanding that she does not need vengeance to move on, and that Walter is wrong for wanting it for her, is a huge part of seeing how she is healing. Also, the way that the book ends (...you're not getting that from me) is amazing in how it takes everything it has built up and leaves it hanging by a thread. There are at least three different ways I can see things going from here and I am absolutely dying to see which road it will take. (Probably one I never consider, actually. ;) )
Miss World is not necessarily a book that everyone is going to love. But I think it is the kind of book that everyone should at least read. Regardless of your reaction to it, you *will* have a reaction. I'm fairly confident in saying that this is the sort of book where you aren't going to come out of it feeling num. Be prepared to face some issues that might make you squirm, but realize that everything in the book is there for a reason and the book would not be the same without it.
Miss World is an always fierce, at times funny, and absolutely fabulous novel. It's a flashback to a time when for many teens, music was what we had to connect. It's a story of losing and then learning to love oneself. It's honest. It's real. It makes no apologies for what it is. But if you've got the guts to give it a go, it's a story you won't soon forget.
As part of the Miss World blog tour one of the things I wanted to make sure I did was sign up to host some type of guest post so that my readers could get to know Randi better. It's always tough coming up with these things before I read a book, but I think this turned out extremely well. What we decided on was the top ten songs on Randi's iPod, since music is such a huge thing in Miss World. As a writer, I know that I would be completely hopeless without mine. But enough rambling from me. Let's hand this over to Randi so we can get the show on the road...
Kat: Thanks for reading Miss World and being part of my blog tour! Here's the top 10 songs on my iPod!
10. Suicidal Tendencies - "Institutionalized"
I swear this song keeps me young. Gives me something to fight for. When I first heard it, my 11-year-old self knew it was autobiographical. Back then, my mom was always accusing me of being on drugs and believe me, I still know what it's like to do things and not have them work out the way I want them to.
9. X - "Nausea"
I enjoy blasting this song in the morning, and can't think of a better way to start my day. Especially with lyrics like "Today you're gonna be sick/so sick/you'll prop your forehead on the sink/say oh Christ/oh Jesus Christ/My head's gonna crack/like a bank tonight."
8. PJ Harvey - "The Sky Lit Up"
Joyful abandon in the space of one minute and fifty-five seconds. This is what it's like to feel truly alive. "And this world tonight is mine/A world to be remembered in."
7. Sonic Youth - "Eric's Trip" (home demo)
This is the stripped-down version of one of my favorite Sonic Youth songs. I love how raw and intimate it sounds. The lines "She thinks she's a goddess/She says she talks to the spirits/I wonder if she can talk to herself?/If she can bear to hear it?" has always struck a nerve.
(Kat adds: I need to check that out. I like interesting lyrics.)
6. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "April Skies"
Oh, dear, this song totally reminds me of Kim and Walter: "Hand in hand in a violent life/Making love on the edge of a knife/And the world come tumbling down/And it's hard/For me to say/And it's hard/For me to stay/I'm going down/To be by myself/I'm going back/For the good of my health/And there's one thing/I couldn't do/Sacrifice myself to you."
(Kat adds: Oh, my, *yes*. That does sum the whole thing up perfectly.)
5. The Tindersticks- "El Diablo En El Ojo"
This song inspired me to write a certain scene for the sequel of "Miss World." It's dark, sexy, and thanks to the string quartet, slightly disorienting. Kind of like being with someone new for the first time.
4. Suicide - "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne"
Sure, I'm way too young to remember and I've never been to New York City, but this song makes me think of the city in the late 70s and early 80s. Alan Vega's voice lures me to the Times Square that was once full of dangerous thrills.
3. The Gun Club - "Carry Home"
"Your love never survived the heat of my heart/My violent heart in the dark." Enough said.
2. Morphine - "Let's Take a Trip Together"
I like to believe that in a parallel universe, I was the late Mark Sandman's muse. Because I would've taken that trip with him, "headlong into the irresistible orbit."
1. Rambin' Jeffrey Lee - "Go Tell the Mountain"
The majority of guitar solos sound obnoxious to me, but the one in this song is the most beautiful guitar solo I've ever heard.
Well, there you have it! I'd like to thank Randi for being my guest here today. Now I need to go and see what these songs are about, since I don't think I've actually heard them. (Not a loss -- I enjoy checking out new music.)
I'm very lucky to have two giveaways for you guys to take part in today. The first one is for a signed copy of Miss World. This is open internationally. All you need to do is fill out the Google Doc form below:
The other totally awesome giveaway I have for you to take part in is for a chance to win an iPod Shuffle. :) For that one, please fill out this Rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Anyway, my questions to those of you reading are: (1) Are you planning to read Miss World? and (2) What music inspires you? Thanks so much for dropping by!
Have you enjoyed my post? Make sure that you visit all the rest of the stops to say what others are saying about Miss World.
2-01-12 Paranormal Wastelands -Miss World Review – Blog Kick off
2-02-12 Amanda@Letters Inside Out - Miss World Playlist
2-03-12 Missy@Missy Reads Reviews – How Randi's love of music inspired Miss World
2-04-12 Jennifer@Can’t Put it Down - Review of Miss World
2-08-12 Tee@A Diary of a Book Addict – Character Interview –Joey
02-09-12 Sizzling Reads@Sizzling Reads – Author Interview –Randi Black
02-10-12 Maja@The Nocturnal Library – Kurt Cobain’s suicide (How it affected you, or where you were when you found out)
02-11-12 Tee@Dreaming Dreams – Interview – How music affects Randi’s writing
02-15-12 Katrina@Page Flippers - Character Interview – Kim
02-16-12 Giselle@Xpresso Reads – Author Interview – Randi Black
02-17-12 Handcuff Betty@One Girl’s Little Odd Dream – KurtCobain’s Suicide (How it affected you, or where you were when you found out)
02-18-12 Kathy Ann@Kat Reads – Top 10 Songs on Your Ipod
02-22-12 Valentina@Cara Bosses Library – Review of Miss World
02-23-12 Katie@Novel Society – Author Guest Post – What’s nextfor Miss World
02-24-12 Cassandra@bmDimension – Author Post – Randi’s Top 5Nirvana videos
02-25-12 The Haunted Rose@The Haunted Rose – Author Guest Post – Randi blogs about sexual health and education online