Damsel Distressed

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Pub Date 14 Oct 2014 | Archive Date 11 May 2018
Spencer Hill Contemporary , Spencer Hill Contemporary

Description

Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after-in fact, she doesn't think they are possible. Ever since her mother's death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy. When Imogen's new stepsister, Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she's been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace--the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant--aren't enough to save her from her pain this time. While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story. And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.

Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever...


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ISBN 9781939392176
PRICE $9.95 (USD)

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Final rating: 4.5 Kelsey Macke just slayed me with her words. I can literally feel my heart squeezing while reading Imogen's thoughts. I don't know how to go about reviewing this book. Frankly, this is a book that will linger in my mind for the rest of my life. It made an impact on me. Imogen is overweight and depressed. She's Ella Cinder's step sister. And she hides in the audio room because she thinks that that's where she belongs. Imogen is such a real character that it scares me. She's engraved in my heart now and I'd be lying if I say that it's easy letting her go because it's not. I cried with her, laughed with her, she shared her feeling about everyone that surrounds her and she even let me know her greatest fears. And I am grateful for that. There are characters that you read, but there are characters that you read.. and stays with you. Imogen is also Grant's best friend, the sound goddess and a precious friend to have. Grant.. Gosh, how do I even describe Grant? I want to say he's perfect. But he's not. He is absolutely flawed and beautifully made. I have a feeling that I might love him more than Imogen. This book is stunning. It will break your heart. It made my stomach hurt as I recalled my past experiences, and made me cry at how cruel people can be to others. But this book needs to be read. Bullying and depression needs to be brought into the light. This is not an easy book to read, but well written, capturing the truth and hardness of high school bullying and where it leads to, the damage it can do. With a cast of characters that you will love to hate, Kelsey Macke has portrayed the bullies in this book exceptionally well. I enjoyed this book despite it's difficult message and content, a YA book that adults can read, an intelligent book talking about important matters using fiction as the messenger. What happens to Imogen? Do the bullies get the best of her in the end? Will she learn to love herself so she can finally open her heart for other people who wants to love her? Damsel Distressed is a powerful debut. It's provocative, beautiful and creative. Kelsey Macke is an author to watch out for. I cannot wait to see what's more in store for her readers. I really hope everyone will read this book.

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Adorable. Heartfelt. Emotional. Genuine. Raw. Beautiful. These are all words that I would use to describe this wonderful debut novel by Macke. She took a retelling, twisted it and made it absolutely her own so much so that you barely see the original story underneath. Gen is not your average stepsister fairy tale villain and the princess of the story, is not a princess at all. Macke tackles some pretty challenging, pretty tough emotional issues in this story and she does it with such finesse that it is all believable, all real, and all something you can't help but actually feel right along with the characters. You see their struggles and they become your own insecurities and issues. You feel their pain and you feel their heartache. Their triumphs are your triumphs and their happiness is something you want more than anything. I loved Grant and Gen and Brice and Jonathan, how could I not feel for them all and love them all for their strength and their character? I don't think it is possible to not fall in love with this story, with their stories. I absolutely loved every minute of this read and I can't wait to read more from this author.

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This is one amazing and powerful book. If you've ever felt sad and had any insecurities, you will feel connected with Imogen in one way or another and will feel like her pain is your pain. I am not clinically depressed and I have not Imogen's issues but I have dealt with insecurities before and even if I'm much better know, there's always a lil something in the back of my head, and now dealing with the emotional distress of a massive heartbreak... Reading this book has meant a lot of anxiety flaring for myself too because I was connecting so much with Imogen, but has also meant a lot of warmth and happiness as I saw every little bit of improvement. Imogen has been fighting depression since her mother's death, seven years ago, and she was spiraling down to clinical depression for a long time, but things have been getting a little better as of late, getting out of the darkest part of her dark hole, but then a new change comes into her life, only with not the best of intentions. Gen has a stepmother that has very good intentions and tries to help, but it's still an awkward situation for Imogen since she feels like she's a burden for someone without a real obligation towards her, a father that has written a book about living with grief (about Gen's mother) and is more out of the house than in because of promotion and the new addition, Carmella or Ella, the stepsister. Seems like the stepsisters situation will be once again like the usual ones in the fairy tales, the beautiful one gets the prince and the ugly stepsister gets nothing. And Gen feels like the ugly and worthless stepsister way too often without Ella helping pushing her down with a vengeance. But Gen is not alone, she has friends and she has Grant, her best friend since childhood, the one that has seen all the worst and the best that she has, and the one that keeps on trying to help her out her dark places. Gen's journey is a very slow and dark one and with her anxiety and her sadness and self-deprecation and self-doubts. She's her worst enemy and her journey to discovering that and to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel is a tough one to read, but it is never without hope and that's a wonderful message to take from this book, mental illness is a real illness, it's not something you can simply "snap out of it" but with time and the right help and people around you that love you, you can find hope again and you try and go towards the light at the end of that dark tunnel. Very well deserved 4.5 stars to this one, a wonderful and powerful debut. The ARC didn't have all the enhanced artwork and music that the final book will have, and I am very much looking forward to get my hands on a finished copy!

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Loved this book, such a good read, but tissues are needed!!!

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I was quite doubtful when I signed up to read and review Damsel Distressed, but if there’s anything you should get from this review is that your should read this book. You don’t even have to read what else I have to say. Just read the book. I mostly took this on as a whim. Damsel Distressed was being published by Spencer Hill Contemporary, which pretty much published YA books from some of my favorite authors. And it also helped that the book references fairytales, specifically Cinderella. I hesitantly took a blind leap of faith, and Kelsey Macke did not fail me. There are 37 chapters, and in between some of them are 12 illustrations by Jessica Nickerson and 12 songs by Wedding Day Rain (Kelsey Macke’s band with her husband – Man that girl can sing). I previewed the illustrations and songs on the website before reading the book, and I will admit that I found them interesting, but not something I would consider revisiting. BUT. BUT when I started reading the novel and seeing the illustrations and listening to the songs within the context they were made for, it felt like such a life-changing thing. It was a beautiful marriage of different art forms, and I would surely love to go through the whole thing again. If they turned this book into a movie, they should use the exact same soundtrack! Putting together a novel, artwork, and a soundtrack is not so revolutionary. I’ve seen it done. But Damsel Distressed simply blew my mind. It’s like having some eggs, flour, sugar, milk, and chocolate chips – basically different ingredients – and Kelsey Macke whipped them all up into one perfectly delicious chocolate chip cookie. Can you imagine that perfect cookie? Fresh from the oven and moist and chocolatey. (Is anyone else hungry? I bet Imogen would be proud of my food reference. :P) Damsel Distressed gives you that feeling too – orgasmic, elated, and wanting more more more. However, this book also has a bite to it too. It deals with depression, self-harm, and a couple of other heavy things. It will make your heart ache and break. The way that Imogen was dealing with depression was so raw and honest that I couldn’t help but feel an ounce of what she was going through. I felt like I was having mood swings with her while reading the book. One moment I’m laughing. And then my heart is hurting. And then I’m swooning. The next I’m tearing up. There are a lot of ups and downs. And I’m grateful for the song breaks in between some chapters that just allow me to breathe and feel all the emotions. I went slow with this book, but I didn’t even mind because I was just savoring it. I loved Imogen from the first chapter. You know right away that she suffers from a mental disorder and that she copes by over-eating among other things. But she’s a really strong person. She regularly goes to the therapist and asks help when she needs it. She takes her pills and she does what she needs to in order to make herself okay. I’m not saying that it’s easy. It was certainly a struggle, and you can see and feel that with the bluntness of the narrative and the setbacks that she experiences. Imogen is so messed up, and sometimes it’s frustrating. But she’s also beautiful human being. She’s passionate about theater, and she works really hard for the school’s theater group. She’s kind and she has a wicked sense of humor. And she learns from her mistakes and makes things somewhat better for herself. She has fallen so many times, but she slowly and surely brings herself back up. I’m so glad that she had friends and family by her side. And I would gladly be her friend if she wanted me. My favorite character of this book would definitely have to be Imogen’s best friend, Grant and his pun-ny shirts. I love him to bits and pieces. One, he’s a nerd (Yay!). Two, he is just the sweetest. Three, he never fails to make you laugh or put a smile on your face. Four, he is loyal and true – a friend you can depend on. Five, he is just the SWEETEST. The SWEETEST. Yes, I have to emphasize that. Ugh. I can’t even explain how much I love him. Someone find me a real-life Grant for me. Please and thank you. In conclusion… Kelsey Macke isn’t just selling some story or some music or some illustration. She’s sharing a powerful experience. Damsel Distressed was phenomenal to say the least. I fell in love with all of the characters (except Carmella!), and I loved being a part of Imogen’s story. It was like winter throughout a huge part of the book, but near the end, the cold and somberness began to thaw out, and you see the beginning of spring where things start to bloom and become pretty again. It becomes hopeful. I like how there’s a bit of everything in this book – laughter, drama, ideas, emotions, tears, modern friendships and families, feels, and so much more. I feel like everyone can get a little bit of something from this book, or in my case, get a lot lot LOT. I love this book so much that I wish to own the paperback and actual CD (Hopefully in the future). I highly recommend this book and the soundtrack.

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Damsel Distressed left me speechless. The book is so beautifully sad, yet amazingly inspiring; it's really the only way I can describe how the book left me feeling. There are happy, joyful moments, but there are intense, heartbreaking scenes as well, and each works just as well as the next. Part of what made Damsel Distressed the book that it is is Imogen herself. Her voice, her thoughts, her emotions, her actions--oh gosh, it was just so...right. I don't know if I've ever connected to a character as much as I connect to Imogen. We both have different issues, but I think that beyond the surface, our separate issues (some of which do overlap) cause us to think in similar ways. And while there are many ways in which Imogen is much more extreme than I have ever been, at the heart, I understood everything or almost everything Imogen felt. There are times you'll be frustrated by her. There are times you won't necessarily understand why she did or didn't do something. But trust me. I've been there. Yes, it's frustrating; yes, it's sad; yes, it's everything you might be thinking. But when you're in that situation, when you're the one that's stuck, you truly understand. And that's the power of Macke's story. She truly gets it. I don't care if you complain about Imogen being whiny or whatnot because trust me when I say that it's almost exactly how I felt. And there have been books and characters that have scratched the surface or have even made a tiny hole, but Damsel Distressed is just something else; it understood it all. That being said, I feel as if I've been on both Grant and Imogen's side of the issue, and once you read the book I think you'll understand what I mean when I say side. I've been the person in the situation, in that deep, dark hole, but I've also been on the opposite end. I've been the friend that just doesn't know what to do or say. And it's so painful. On both ends. And I hope that if you've never experienced one or both before, you won't ever have to, but I'm so grateful there's a book out there now that addresses both sides. Because as painful as it is, sometimes, at least for me, just knowing that someone else out there understands means the world to me. This book understands me. Moving on from the sad, dark parts, I'm so glad that there was enough time in the book for the conflict to develop, occur, and then be resolved. I love the pacing of the book, and I'm so glad the effects of the conflicts could really be addressed and explored because oftentimes, books don't leave enough space and time to really resolve a conflict in a reasonable amount of time. The number of times I've commented that a book's conflict was resolved too quickly was not an issue with Damsel Distressed. And one of the most powerful parts of the novel is the friendship and various other developing relationships found in this novel. I'm jealous that Imogen has Grant by her side (as horrible as it is to say that I'm jealous of her) because I wish I had had that kind of friend when I was at my lowest point. Grant is such an amazing character, and I love every bit of him as a character. I really admire how he sticks by Imogen's side throughout everything in her life. What an amazing friend, and what an amazing friendship. Grant, and all of the other characters in the book, are so well-developed and explored. I loved seeing Imogen's relationships change as she changed and grew throughout the book. I loved seeing how everything had an impact on her thoughts and/or actions later on. I love Jonathan, and I really love Brice and his perspective. I especially love, love, love Antonique. I love how she looks like the type of girl that Imogen hates because she can't be--pretty, skinny, etc--but she's so much more, and she's not the girl Imogen originally took her to be. Just yes! And everyone's flawed in the book, but that's also the beauty of each person, and I LOVE that. Now, I do wish Jonathan's OCD had been explored more, but I understand why it wasn't. I would have liked to see what happened between Imogen and Andrew because I felt like the book was building up to something, and it didn't necessarily deliver. I wish Grant's financial background/difficulties and his own family life had been explored a bit more because we almost never got to read about his personal life at all, but I guess it's not the most important aspect (or perhaps it wasn't what was most important to Imogen). And I do believe there were times when Jonathan and Brice were overly stereotypically gay; I'm sure it was realistic most of the time, but there were scenes when it just felt over the top. I would have loved to learn more about Imogen's stepmother (whose name escapes me at this moment). But let me just say, these flaws were small in the grand scheme of the book. It's not perfect, but then again, nothing's perfect. The book is just so well-crafted and paced, and it's written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. It's so balanced, and I can't get over how well it understands so much of what I've felt, thought, and been through. I highly, highly recommend this book. It addresses mental illness, self-harm, body image, divorce, friendship, jealousy, and SO much more without being overwhelming. Damsel Distressed is without a doubt one of my favorite books not only of 2014 but ever. The book deserves all the love it can get and then some. Please check this one out! And thank you, Kelsey, for writing this book.

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I loved this book. It was so beautiful, and truthful, and realistic, and so easy to relate to. But it also kept its fun and romance and sweetness. This was a stunning book, made even more so by the intertwining of different media forms. Now, I didn't have internet access while reading most of the book (booo) so I couldn't see the artwork/listen to the music while reading, and doing it afterwards didn't give the same impact (although it was still amazing). (And can we talk about that STUNNING cover??) Imogen has been given many labels: emotionally disturbed, special Ed, fat, etc. And it really harms Imogen's emotional and mental state. She depends on her best friend, Grant, to help her keep it together. And she's been doing better. But it all goes downhill when her stepsister, Ella Cinder, moves in. Now, I think most of us have never had it as bad as Imogen, necessarily, but I think all girls can relate at some level. We've all felt the same way, had the same thoughts running through our minds. I know, personally, I've felt that black hole of despair before, and Macke captures it perfectly. Also, Imogen's thoughts on being overweight were spot on, and so realistic. (I, too, know.) I also love the way she incorporated fine arts into the book. I think the stage crew gets overlooked quite often, but they are amazing. (I did pit orchestra for our school musicals, as well as our regular concerts and assemblies and know just how hard they work. Go techs!) Imogen is content with just fading in the background, but when the time comes for her to take the spotlight, will years of insecurity and depression allow her to? I loved the growth that Imogen goes through in this story, as it is so true for all of us, at least on some level. And Grant. Um, swoon. How he was there for Imogen, even when she couldn't see it or appreciate it. It's hard to see someone you care about go through that. Although it might seem like it only affects the one person, it really affects everyone around them. But still, he stuck with her. You don't see that everyday. I loved the rest of the supporting characters as well--Brice, Jonathan, Antonique. They were all so much fun, and brought some light humor into the story to help balance it out. I hardly ever highlight or mark things when I read, but I found myself highlight quite a bit while reading this. And I see no other way to end than with one of my favorite quotes, courtesy of Therapist George: The end of your story hasn't been written yet. You've got lots and lots of chapters left.

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THIS BOOK. Can I just leave the review like that? Just read this book. Trust me. The end. No? Okay… I will say more, even though I don’t think it’s truly necessary. ;) *Sigh* Imogen is an extremely fragile teenager. She’s battling emotional issues (including depression, panic attacks, low self-esteem, etc.) that have left her with a less-than-stellar label at school of “emotionally disturbed”. With only her one friend, Grant, she is struggling to keep her head above water and not lose it completely. This year is starting off better though, as she meets new friends, is succeeding in therapy, and is keeping herself busy with theater at school. But this happiness doesn’t last long when she finds out that her father’s new wife and daughter, Imogen’s stepsiter Ella, will be coming to live with her. Imogen is a character you can’t help but route for. She’s a total mess, and all I wanted to do was be her #1 cheerleader. I have a small understanding of emotional issues, but not to the extent that Imogen was facing them. Her inner demons were mind-blowing, and I just wanted her to find it within herself to stay strong and beat this thing. The secondary characters were equally impacting. Grant was one of the best friends I’ve ever seen in a story. If I had the choice of any book BFF I’ve read so far in my entire life, he would be in my top 5 for sure. I also appreciated the significance of all of the other characters, all playing such an important role in this story. From Brice and Jonathan all the way down to Ella, they each had such an important role in Imogen life; good or bad, happy or sad. I’m having a difficult time expressing my love for this book without including spoilers. Anyone who knows me knows my hatred of spoilery reviews when it’s not stated. I love going into a book completely blind, and the fact that I did that exact thing for this book made it so important to me. So now I’m going to write a small spoilery paragraph or two just because there are things I want to express my love of, without ruining it for anyone that plans to read this book. (Which should be everyone because this book is THAT good!) One of my very favorite aspects of this book was the strong family bond, despite the difficulties they faced. Imogen’s father was completely non-existent in Imogen’s physical life, but not by choice. He was working out of town, and thus wasn’t around when she needed him. But man, when she hit rock bottom he was right there for her. Also the fact that it was so important for Imogen’s stepmother and stepsister to come live with her was nice too. At first I really didn’t like Imogen’s stepmother, which I think was the idea. But when times got tough, I couldn’t believe the support she showed Imogen. It was exactly how it “should” be, though so often isn’t. My only complaint, if you can even call it that, was that I wish I got to know Ella a bit more. Honestly, I would absolutely love it if Kelsey decided to write a companion novel about Ella. We do get to find out a tiny bit about her in a general sense toward the end, but I’d love to know what her life was like before this. She was so cruel and evil to Imogen, yet it was all just a cry for attention. She was suffering herself from so many inner struggles, and the only way she knew how to handle it was to aim all of her hatred and frustration toward Imogen. I felt so bad for her. Yes, I disliked her immensely as well, but really I felt like she just needed some help. The poor thing was suffering herself, and was crying out for someone to save her. Inner emotional demons are really paralyzing. I’m all for HEA endings, and this one was perfect. I really liked how it all came together. I was routing for Imogen and Grant the entire book, though I would have been happy if they simply remained BFF’s as well. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go, but I really liked the ending Kelsey chose. I didn’t like that Ella was simply relocating. I felt like they had to work out their issues and get to the bottom of it… but I’m okay with it. These few “complaints” I had don’t change my rating one bit. This book was perfect just the way it was. « Hide Spoiler Damsel Distressed is simply amazing. It’s extremely difficult to read at times, but well worth it. I had to put it down a few times and compose myself because I was a complete mess, but I always went back to it with an open mind and open heart. I honestly learned quite a bit from this book, more than I ever thought possible. I can’t stress enough what a gem this book is. If it wasn’t for the cover that won my heart, I don’t know if I would have read this book. I tend to shy away from emotional disorder books like this, as they tear my heart apart. I’m so thankful that for whatever reason (totally the cover, seriously.) I chose to pick this one up. Before even finishing it I ordered myself a keeper copy. I knew I just HAD to have this beauty on my shelf. This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. No, this book isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a fan of contemporaries with quite a few emotional elements, pass on this one. But if you want to be touched deeply, while learning a thing or two in the process, I would say pick up this book immediately. I think it will always have a special spot in my heart.

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It's looks like I am in my reading period of completely revisited fairy tales, and the one which rather often returns is Cinderella's one. It should be said that there is really a lot to do with this tale, especially if we decide to re-examine it with an other style, under a new angle. And if the good girl was indeed the step-sister and not Cinderella? And if Cinderella were actually an egoistic and cruel bitch? There are a lot of possibilities and the one choose by Kelsey Macke completely thrilled me! Imogen Keegan is a teenager in her last year of high school, badly in her skin, depressive and suicidal. Her mother's death a few years earlier, then the rewedding of her father weakened her confidence in herself and rock on the bad side of her spirit. Whereas she finally seems to be well, to have her life back in hands, to have friends, to keep going, her step-sister unloads and destroys all on her passage. I enormously appreciated this fragile character, who is unaware that she is strong, until the day she decides to take her chance. Her physique is not the one of usual heroins, she wear a 22 for 5 feets 3 inches and who comforted herself in food, but it's only more attaching. The supporting characters have a crucial place in the story. There is a group of people on whom she can always relay. Grant is Gen's best friend, she seems to be in love with him but thinks that he does not want her. He is a true geek, georgeous, nice, adorable. We understood very quickly that he is crazy in love with Gen, except that she does not realize it. Brice and Jonathan are the only other friends Gen have at the beginning of the book. This gay couple is really brilliant, we would like to have friends like them. But, although Brice is the stereotypical gay guy, it is not the case of Jonathan. Her therapeutist, George, is very important too.He is the one that enables her to put the things flat. Then to the wire of the weeks, Imogen will made new friends. Antonique is the only girl wich Gen count as a friend, thanks to her passion for the musicals. Her character is all the opposite of Gen, but supplemented her perfectly. Andrew is the hottest gyu in the high school, football player and in the theater club, sure of his physique and yet he astonishes by his choices. Let us enclose by the completely unbearable person of this book, I spruce my words by saying that she is true *****, Imogen's step-sister: Carm“Ella”. From the moment we see her for the first time, we want to kick her, even at the end when we understand everything (and I never fell that in a book until now). Finally, the auteure completely sellotaped me with the way in which she has juggled with all these characters, without losing us, while remaining interesting. Imogen's passion for the musicals is perfectly developed, giving rhythm to the story while following the production. Just like the fact that she makes relapse before trying to surmount the obstacles. Family, emotional, relational difficulties and also with respect of her physique are very well exploited. More than once we have the tear in the eye, in front of the difficulties she face. The moments when she writes her thoughts, sometimes cruel, are well written and show by a handwritten police. We are entitled also with illustrations in the wire of the chapters. A crush for me that I recommend to you. This book is really worth to be read.

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I loved this book SO VERY HARD. I was intrigued by the idea of it from the very first minute I saw the cover and read the synopsis. Initially I thought it would be a simple retelling of Cinderella, but it's not. Sure the basics are there, but this book is so much more. Everyone wants to see a little bit of themselves in the characters in the books they read. While I can't say I completely related to Imogen, I definitely felt like I understood her and, at times, she reminded me of myself. Imogen is insecure in the way that only girls who have struggled with their weight will understand. Her insecurity and issues have reached an extreme though. Most of the time it feels like the only person on her side is her best friend Grant. Grant, who she is in love with and believes will never see her as more than a friend. All of Imogen's insecurities are magnified when her father remarries and her evil stepsister, Ella, moves in. You wanna talk about a seriously unlikable character? Ella is that. It's been a long time since I wanted to bitch-slap a character like I wanted to Ella. She was manipulative and bullied Imogen. She tried to steal the one person who means more to Imogen than anyone else in her life. It's here I have to give HUGE props to Kelsey for not taking the story down the road I feared it would go. I think had Grant fallen for Ella's charms and this turned into THAT book, I would have thrown it aside because that story has been done to death. Grant was too smart to fall for Ella's manipulations and that just made me love him even more. Grant really is the swooniest of all swoony book boys. Anyone know where I can find a guy like this (albeit quite a bit older) for myself? Even with the bullying Imogen was suffering at Ella's hands, there were so many beautiful and wonderful moments in this book. They're mostly between Grant and Imogen and, if I'm completely honest, I was all kinds of emotional reading several of these scenes. There are times when my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest, and others when it swelled so much I feared it would explode. I loved reading along as Imogen found her place and way in the world. I finished the book with a giant smile on my face and a tear in my eye. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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I had to take a step back and ponder a little after reading this book, but I mean that only in the best of ways. I think I felt every emotion ever felt by a reader while reading this book, and I wanted to bask in the beauty of such a well crafted and singularly touching novel. Now that I’ve had a chance to sit with my feelings (and oh- there were so many!) I’m ready to put together a more coherent review. First off, I cannot imagine a single more endearing and heartfelt character than Imogen Keegen. She’s absolutely everything you could possibly ask for in a protagonist. She’s wounded and emotional, yet snarky and smart. She’s a good friend and a dutiful cast mate. She’s the kind of character that you want to be friends with in real life! She’s that girl you just want to wrap your arms around and tell her everything is going to be okay, even when all signs point to the idea that they might not be. The author takes Imogen on a complete journey, and although she falters along the way, she comes out on the other side a more complete and well-rounded person. I cried for Imogen. I cheered for Imogen. I hated for Imogen. In short, I absolutely adored Imogen. She’s unlike any character I’ve ever read in YA, and I loved her. The secondary characters in this novel are every bit as complex and well developed as Imogen, and I found myself identifying with each one of them. Grant is swoon-worthy and geeky, all at the same time, and I dare you not to crush on him. Even Ella Cinder- the by-all-means evil stepsister, has more dimension that meets the eye. I fell in love with the extremely likable cast of characters and friends that surround Imogen at school and in the production of Once Upon a Mattress and my heart broke when unforeseen circumstances come between them. Every character has a purpose in this novel, and you’ll fall in love with every one of them. Damsel Distressed handles some very important topics, including depression and self-harm, but it does so with extreme care and tact. There are greater lessons about fitting in and loving yourself evident in the text, but it never once feels didactic. It is simply an honest portrayal of one girl’s struggle with very real problems. I highly recommend this novel. It is exemplary contemporary young adult with a compelling voice and well-crafted characters. I was taken on the full emotional journey in reading Imogen’s story, and I think that readers everywhere will love her as much as I do.

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