Upright Women Wanted

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
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In true Tor fashion, this book is... SO GOOD. This is the queer western book of all of our dreams.

Esther Augustuss watched her best friend and (secret) love of her life hang for having and reading "unapproved materials," which turns out is resistance propaganda. After this event, Esther finds out that her father is planning to marry her off to her late best friend's fiance. Esther can't stomach this, so she makes her escape via the Librarians' wagon who travel from town to town, who are a group of "upright" or upstanding women, passing out approved reading materials that hold up the patriarchy. But that's not all they're doing. Soon Esther is confronted by truths she didn't know existed in her universe as she gets to know the gang of Librarians who aren't all that they seem from the first appearance. As the group travels across the West, Esther redefines what she was always told was good versus bad. And Esther slowly starts to see that she can be exactly who she is with this group of Librarians, and beyond. She can fight back.

This is the kind of book that makes you want to rise up. It makes you want to stand up and clap. Sarah Gailey wrote the hell out of this book, and I hope that anyone reading this review decides to pick it up. It's a classic western tale with intelligent, complex, modern commentary that we need in the world.

Also, we NEED another book in the series that showcases more of the relationships built in this book because they are simply swoon-worthy. Esther and Cye especially!

Highly recommend this novella!
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I'm really sorry I didn't get this one read until after release date, but this format of ARC did not allow me to increase the type size; I had my teenager try and he couldn't even do it.  Anyway, thanks for the ARC and I did enjoy the book very much!  Sarah Gailey is on my fave author list and this was fun.
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I've been hearing good things about Sarah Gailey's works for years, but this is the first time I've read anything from her. I'm glad I finally gave her a chance!

Esther is running away from an arranged marriage to the man who was originally meant to marry her best friend and lover Beatriz - before Beatriz was killed for possession of "Unapproved Materials" that didn't meet state propaganda standards. She thinks a chaste life with the Librarians, a group of nomadic women who distribute "Approved Materials" across the State is the only possible solution. But when she gets there and discovers the Librarians aren't quite what she's always believed, she's even more desperate to prove herself worthy of the title Librarian.

So: queer librarians in a post-apocalyptic western controlled state. A lot going on there. But I liked it! It was fun, fast-paced, and feminist. It did stay very superficial given the length, so I almost would have rather read it as a full novel or even watched it as a movie or show. There's some character development, though I would have liked to see more; sometimes the pace was almost too fast.
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As with everything Sarah Gailey writes, this novella is a delight. The world they created in so few pages was wholly immersive, in large part due to the way they are able to get to the core of their characters so efficiently—a turn of phrase here, a significant look there, a gesture, and suddenly the character seems full and real in front of you. The actual premise was as fun as I expected, but Gailey also did the thing they always do in their writing that makes me feel and fear and think and love, harder than before,
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I really love dystopian novels and this was no expectation. It is set in an alternative future where we have gone back to the Wild West and cars are reserved for the government. It felt vaguely like Fahrenheit 451 where information is very much regulated. In this case those materials are distributed by a group of badass librarians. This book was a beauty. I love the inclusion of a non-binary character but found it difficult to identify when they was being used for the  collective and they for the non-binary character.
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Sarah Gailey's stories are usually set in the wild weird American West and her stories punch way above their weight in terms of being moving and thought-provoking narratives that are an entertaining mix of violent action and well developed characters. Her latest, Upright Women Wanted is a little gem of a story that is possibly the shiniest gem in her Tiara. Still set in the weird Wild West of a Futura-South West Americana, where there is always a war going on, men are constantly being conscripted and the patriarchal society is steeped in strict fascist homophobic rules and propaganda. Women, on the other hand, are still being treated as furniture, pressed into marriage against their wishes.

Our story follows stowaway Esther who is running away from her oppressive household. She's running away from her father who wants her to marry her best-friend Beatriz's ex-beau. Beatriz was sentenced to hanging ( in the name of having possessed illegal propaganda material. but in reality, for perhaps having been bold enough to flout the homophobic rules against queers in the society.) Esther longs to be "Librarian" - a sort of nomadic, rebellious, road revolutionary spreading the good government's word and blessings. But reality, as Esther soon finds out, couldn't have been farther from that. These traveling librarians are a set of two ( sort of like the whole Jedi Master and Apprentice set up!) - the older matrons Betta and Leti are a lesbian couple, very much in love with each other. Cye, the apprentice is something of a bi-gender and is a hard taskmaster, who resents that she has to babysit the stowaway. But Esther is fascinated by 'them' (Cye mostly!) and soon, endears herself to the group with her earnestness to learn. The myth of librarians are further blown to smithereens as the group stops to pick up 'cargo' - in terms of more 'free-thinking' women and help them move around, in the pretext of loading and unloading government propaganda books and pamphlets. But the 'cargo' they picked up soon invites trouble, as the group finds out with a bunch of bandits, unruly lawmakers hot on their trial. Esther, unwittingly gets pulled into the thick of this soup-curry of a conspiracy as bullets fly and the buzzards start gathering in the dry, arid desert canyons that surround their paths.

Written in the classic western mold, six-shooters, dusty blue skies and the thrilling chase-sequences on horseback - all of these form the backdrop to Esther's intimate story of self-discovery. She's writhing in a pool of guilt for having had 'feelings' for her best friend Beatriz which she strongly suspects might have led to her being falsely implicated. But she's soon realizing that it is actually a free country. There's Cye with that gruff behaviour but a heart of gold, whom she's falling hard for. Not to mention the unspeakable just got real with the Librarians themselves being a lovely couple, who are so in love with each other and are defying the laws by helping out other women, just like themselves get away from their yokes. And then there's Amity - one of the brightest sparks in the story, she's a revelation. A rebel-yell, a middle-finger to the patriarchal society with a wicked smile ready at the drop of a hat, Amity's badass attitude lends Esther courage to find herself. Buried beneath those unyielding blankets of guilt and a strict upbringing.

It's a lovely tale, a delight of feminist outcry and joyous rebellion against age-old stigmas and patriarchal lawlessness - couched in the garb of a Neo-western with smart authentic characters and deft cinematic action sequences, written in Sarah's inimitable prose.

Upright Women Wanted is a tale that we need today.
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Oppressive goverment men beware, these ladies have your number.

Gailey knocks it out of the park again, this time with Upright Women Wanted. Queer, gun wielding, horseback riding librarians, in a dystopian future, risking life and limb to deliver 'packages' on behalf of an underground resistance?? Oh hell yaaaaaas!
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I read this novella in a week where I was feeling depressed about the news, and dreary about the weather, and down about work, and boy, was it ever a breath of fresh air and sunshine. Gailey makes putting together an adventure story with vivid characters and a sharp plot look easy -- but I know it's not. I appreciated seeing the strong partnership between Bet and Leda, and the developing partnership between Esther and Cye -- and especially Esther's uncertainty and growing awareness of her own sexuality. As a bisexual woman who was raised in an overconservative household -- who came late to her sexuality, narratives like Esther's mean a lot to me.

If Gailey had more books in this series, I'd have already preordered them all. It was EXCELLENT.
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Argh, this is so frustrating. Sarah Gailey has the coolest ideas and then I read the books and the characters just fall absolutely flat for me. I range from not caring about them to absolutely disliking them. And it just makes me so incredibly frustrated because the ideas/stories are so cool and would be my perfect books if I could only like the characters. :(
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Like the other Sarah Gailey books I’ve read, the premise of Upright Women Wanted might be a little hard to explain, but go in on trust and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

It took me a little while — probably longer than it should, I can be obtuse — to realise that the story is set in a near-future dystopian society rather than the historical ‘wild west’.

The sense of place is that well written. For most of the story we’re on the road, travelling in an unforgiving landscape with a few brief stops along the way. Even though the characters are never still, you really get a sense of the world their travelling though, both in terms of physical setting and the political/ sociological atmosphere. It has a tangible sense of place, that feels aged — like you could reach out and touch it, or like it’s always been there.

Likewise, the characters feel ‘lived in’. Apart from Esther, the characters get no real direct backstory, and even hers in dealt with in a few short paragraphs. That doesn’t matter though, because somehow I felt that I knew them all — had known them all for a long time — within just a few pages.

Upright Women Wanted is less than 180 pages, so it’s a quick read, but one that really packs a punch. The story was incredibly memorable and touching, and the cast of characters caught my heart. It’s a standalone story — and functions absolutely perfectly as one — but I’m greedy, and I’d happily read a series of novella about these people.
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Last summer I met Sarah Gailey at ALA.  While they signed a copy of Magic For Liars for me, I told them how psyched I was to read it.  They said, "Hell Yeah!"

Well, I say, "Hell yeah!" about Upright Women Wanted.  This amazing novella is about queer librarian spies fighting fascism. It was exactly the book I needed to read today. The characters are diverse, tough, and believable.  I'm so over the patriarchy that I simply cannot watch another Quentin Tarantino-type movie ever again, but I think that some lady producers and directors should totally make this into a dope Spaghetti Western film.
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In a post-collapse eternally-at-war America, most States are rigidly controlled, with traveling women Librarians bringing only Approved Materials to small communities. Conventionally rigid “virtue,” subservience to male authority, and suppression of free thought are the rule in Esther’s world. Just before the start of the story, she has fallen in love with another teen girl, their affair has been discovered, and her lover has been hanged. Only the power and political standing of her father has saved Esther’s life. So she does the only reasonable thing: she runs away to join the Librarians. Who are not at all the conventional, convention-enforcing women she expected: a lesbian couple and a third, who presents as female in public but wears trousers and insists on “they” in private. To say this blows up Esther’s preconceptions and challenges her guilt for having the “wrong” attractions is putting it mildly.

The core of the story emerges as Esther gains in confidence, rising to face one increasingly dangerous challenge after another. The world is nothing like what she expected, and the only way to gain her own freedom to be fully herself is to fight for the rights of others to do the same. 

A satisfying ending concludes this thoughtful page-turner.
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I wish this were a full novel! I love the idea and characters. I think a lot of folks will have fun with this one. I just wish it were longer.
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Gailey's weird, wild, and worrisome Alternate West kicks off the first of what I hope will be quite a lot more fiction. Esther, on the run from her oppressive community after the execution of her best friend and lover, tries to join the moralistic Librarians who distribute "Approved Literature." She hopes to keep her queerness from hurting others--but instead discovers that the Librarians are the Resistance, and that the world is both more frightening and full of possibility than she could ever have imagined.
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It's not that I wanted to love this, it's more like I just took it for granted that I'd be blown away by it. 

While I wasn't, and while I had a few issues with the book, it was still a good story that simply oozed Gailey's style, and I loved the representation among the characters.

If you like weird west, women, lots and lots of queer people, and a literally endless stream of euphemisms for the word 'gun,' then this book is for you.
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The entire premise of this novella is just amazing: queer librarian spies on horseback? Yes, please! Sarah Gailey really delivered with this one too, it’s a quick and enjoyable read. It was a great setting, with diverse characters but it was a teeny bit slow for my tastes. Overall a great little read though.

Overall the plot is pretty straightforward especially since this is a novella so nothing is too terribly complex. The setting seems to be a future American Southwest but one where we have gone backwards with certain technology as it’s very much a “western”. There aren’t cars anymore but we have horses and guns! There is a bit of world building but it really isn’t expanded on a whole lot so I was left confused as to certain aspects of the world. I understood that some sort of regime came into place where only “approved materials” were distributed to the public, hence the Librarians of the story, and certain technologies weren’t available to everyone: latex gloves, generators, diesel fuel, etc. I just wish there had been a tiny bit more explaining behind this.

As well as executing people for possessing “unapproved materials” (books, writings, film, etc) they also punish people for being LGTBQ+. People trying to hide their romantic interests as well as genders are a very central plot point in this book. The Librarians help these people escape the State and smuggle various items as well. Essentially the Librarians are rebel badasses and they’re smart about it. I cannot express how amazing this concept was, I loved it.

There are a few surprising twists along the way but I found the pacing to be a bit slow. I had to trudge along at certain points because there’s a lot of tedious traveling at times. However, the ending was so feel good and I really, really loved it! I mean I’m always for a happy ending and this very much was one, I feel!

This is a more character driven novella featuring a LGTBQ+ cast. We have Esther, the protagonist, who was in love with her friend Beatriz and is now on the run. She honestly develops so, so well throughout the story and I was so proud of her by the end of it! She’s a bit more shy and has skill, though she is slow to admit that she’s good at anything. Esther is also a lesbian and develops the cutest most satisfying relationship by the end of the book, again, so proud of her.

Then we have Bet, the Head Librarian, and Leda the Assistant Librarian. They’re both in a relationship together as well  and are both lesbians. Both women were such badasses too, I adored them. Then we have Cye who is an apprentice Librarian, they are non-binary and are also a badass. Though Cye comes off a little rough they’re actually really sweet. ALSO this is own voices non-binary rep!

What I Loved:

Diverse Characters
Non-binary own voices rep
Interesting setting
Character development
Cute romances
Queer Librarians on horseback!

What I Didn’t Love:

Pacing was a bit slow
World building was not developed a lot

Honestly, I know I don’t have a lot of “negatives” about the book but it didn’t quite grasp me as much as I thought it would so I’m going with the 3.5 rating. It’s definitely an enjoyable novella with amazing rep and I highly recommend checking it out!

Trigger Warnings: Mention of Parental Abuse, Misogyny & Homophobia (Challenged Throughout The Book)

**** Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****
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We’re a wee bit late but on GOD. UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED by Sarah Gailey is worth the wait, no matter how late. We’re always down for Sarah’s work, and this novella did NOT disappoint. You want some queer rebel cowpokes? Because we’ve got some queer rebel cowpokes.

But let’s talk about UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED.

–


“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

–

Esther is the quintessential protagonist. I love her more than I love myself, honestly, and I adored watching her journey to self-acceptance in this story. We’ve got such a diverse cast of characters who model this self-assurance, which helps Esther on her journey immensely. But they also model this behavior for readers, which gives this novella the face-punching impact that it has.

Self-acceptance is hard. I’m not talking self-love (trust me, I’m not the person you’d want for that) but just the first step of accepting yourself. Of looking at your behaviors and experiences and the other building blocks that make you a person and going, “I accept you, flaws and all,” instead of cycling into a self-hating spiral of death. And this novella shows us that it’s a process, and that we can usually make it out okay with the right people around us.

The setting was perfectly dark without the narrative spinning itself in circles trying to describe it; we got the info that we needed, no more and no less. (I mean, I would’ve loved more, but then it would’ve bogged down the narrative and that’s no fun.) It’s a taste of sweet summer heat in the dead of winter, and I couldn’t have been more joyous for it.

I obviously love this story, in case you couldn’t tell.

If you want a short, sweet story about a girl coming into her own, this is the novella for you.

–

Don’t forget to check out our podcast review, out now on your favorite podcatcher!
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A book about queer librarians? Sign me up! I was super excited to see this come up in my search. This takes place in a sort of Dystopian setting, where the Government approves what media the public can consume, and the librarians deliver it via horse and wagon. There is lots of danger, and smuggling and other things going on, making for a very exciting plot! I loved the different characters, although I do think the story was a bit quick for me. I didn’t get to really fall in love with any of them, because there just wasn’t time. I liked the addition of a non binary character that uses the pronoun “they.” It made for an interesting read. 

I do wish this story had been longer, to give the plot and characters time to develop. It was a lot right away, which gave me a little bit of a struggle sometimes. Overall, it was an awesome book and I am excited to see more from this author! 

I was given an advanced reader's copy via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own
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This book was incredibly fun and exciting. I’ve read almost all of Gailey’s work and each story is an exciting treasure. The setting was captivating, the characters enthralling and interesting, and I hope that they write a sequel soon!
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