Light-skinned brown hand holds novel A DREAM SO DARK. Shelves of library books in the background.

31. A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney

Hello, magical folx! This week we’re discussing A Dream so Dark by L.L. McKinney, the second book in the Nightmare-verse series! In this episode we’re making predictions about the future books in the series, talking about “urban” fantasy, and coming at you with some major Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker spoilers (you’ve been warned!). For a refresher for what happened in the last book, check out our episode on A Blade So Black.

Here are all the things mentioned in this week’s episode!

Action Item: Read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and check out Leesa Renee Hall’s Patreon.

Transcript Below (or access the pdf version)

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Episode 31 A Dream so Dark

transition [00:00:14] [Bright, whimsical music plays].

jessie [00:00:14] Hello! And welcome to “JK, It’s Magic,” a bi-weekly podcast in which two bookish besties discuss (mostly) YA fantasy through the lens of intersectional feminist criticism. Why? Because critique is our fangirl love language. And because talking about books is pretty magical. I’m Jesse.

kelly [00:00:29] And I’m Kelly. And in this episode, we are discussing A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney, the second book in the Nightmareverse series. And I didn’t write a plot synopsis before recording. So fuck it, we’ll do it live. [laughs] The novel picks up right after the battle that ended the first book. Alice is grounded and people are in trouble. And lots of villains come out of the woodwork and Alice has to go into Wonderland. But she also accidentally goes to Japan. And then there’s large battles and that’s what happens. [laughs]

jessie [00:01:09] Chaos ensues. There’s chaos. Lots and lots of chaos.

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jessie [00:01:18] All right. Initial reactions, I think, as you all know at this point. I love L.L. McKinney. I follow her on Twitter and I just love everything about her. She’s great. So you have to know that I love this book, too. It was fast paced and super fun. I loved getting some additional POVs this time around. So I stan, I guess. Like, yeah, I really enjoyed it.

kelly [00:01:41] No choice but to stan.

jessie [00:01:43] Yeah. [chuckles].

kelly [00:01:44] I mean, I agree with you. It’s a Black feminist reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. So what’s not to love?!

jessie [00:01:51] Yeah.

kelly [00:01:52] Also it’s very gay. So I—.

jessie [00:01:54] —Yes.

kelly [00:01:54] —so I stan.

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jessie [00:01:58] Time to talk about all things worldbuilding and “through the wardrobe”. So we spend a lot of time in this book in Wonderland. And I thought it was really cool to see how McKinney reimagined some places and things that we’ve seen time and time again in movies and adaptations and things like that. Um She changed things up, but kept Wonderland just as fantastical as we would expect it to be. So I really enjoyed like getting a wider view of the world she created.

kelly [00:02:27] I agree with you. But I don’t think that we saw as many of the like mmm fantastical descriptions of Wonderland as we had in the first book. There wasn’t quite as much of that, but we did see it a little bit with… What’s Alice’s best friend’s name?

jessie [00:02:42] Courtney.

kelly [00:02:43] Courtney! Yes. Thank you. Because it was Courtney’s first time in Wonderland. So that did make things a little bit more interesting, right? We got to see a character experiencing it for the first time. And that was kind of fun.

jessie [00:02:55] Yeah. And we got to see, like, the different gates. Like in Japan. We got to see the eastern gate, whereas Alan’s up Alliss at the western gate and we got to see like a town, which I didn’t expect people to like live in Wonderland and towns for some reason. So like when um and Addison is getting helped by Ny- Nynet? um The healer. um And like her family. So I thought that those kinds of things were things that I didn’t expect to see in Wonderland. So I think we get like kind of a mixture of like the fantastical and the mundane.

kelly [00:03:31] Yeah. And we also saw the town where they were training the Dragons.

jessie [00:03:36] Yes.

kelly [00:03:36] And the one that got basically plundered by all of the creatures.

jessie [00:03:40] Yeah. Yeah. The- now I can’t… sli– sl–  sl– slithe? Slythe!

kelly [00:03:47] Slythe. Well, they were like… Because they weren’t nightmares. They were like dogs? Or they were like nightmare dogs or something like that? Oh no they were people turned into… It was like…

jessie [00:04:04] They were like zombies.

kelly [00:04:04] Yes!  Yes. Thank you. Exactly.

jessie [00:04:07] Yeah.

kelly [00:04:07] So I was like, that’s what we learn happens to Chess. Anyway.

jessie [00:04:10] Yes.

kelly [00:04:10] I’m putting it together. [laughing] It’s been a while since you read this book. [jessie laughs] um Another thing I loved is that Alex goes to Japan. It’s like an accidental cross-hemispheric trip,.

jessie [00:04:25] Yeah. Her mom is not happy.

kelly [00:04:27] No. Oh my god.And I also loved that– the reimagining of the caterpillar, too. What was her name?

jessie [00:04:38] It was Haruka’s  like like, quote unquote, handler, whose name now I cannot remember,.

kelly [00:04:44] But she was such a bad ass! I thought it was hilarious and really clever that McKinney depicted her as like constantly smoking and vaping.

jessie [00:04:52] Yeah!

kelly [00:04:52] And I like–

jessie [00:04:52] Which was funny.

kelly [00:04:53] I liked that small detail, like the vaping addition, because it made the worldbuilding feel super real because we’re reading it like, obviously in the contemp– it’s a contemporary urban fantasy.

jessie [00:05:04] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:05:04] But it would probably be like one of those things like we talked about with Cassandra Clare, where they talked about like the phone book. And then it becomes,.

jessie [00:05:11] Yeah.

kelly [00:05:11] You know, 20 years from now, it’s not a thing. But…

jessie [00:05:14] Yeah. Yeah. Cuz, like, I don’t know, vaping already seems to be getting less and less popular. But I don’t–  I don’t know if the youth are doing these days. [kelly laughs] Who knows.

kelly [00:05:25] Who knows

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kelly [00:05:30] Also, Cho is my new favorite character,.

jessie [00:05:34] the like Dragon Dog thing?

kelly [00:05:35] Yes! Of course!

jessie [00:05:37] [laughs] Yeah, you would..

kelly [00:05:37] Fly– Who flies? I mean,.

jessie [00:05:40] Yeah, I did think, like, Neverending Story [kelly bursts into laughter] and maybe  like McKinney mentioned that in, like, in the exposition? But like, all I could think was like that flying dog thing from Neverending Story.

kelly [00:05:51] Oh my God! I didn’t even think of that until you just mentioned it.

jessie [00:05:55] It was like ALL I could see was like— and I haven’t watched that movie since I was like a child. But like when I saw that, I was like, oh, like from Neverending Story.

kelly [00:06:05] That’s hilarious. I did not even put that together at all.

jessie [00:06:08] Well, there you go. It’s in your head now forever.

kelly [00:06:10] It really is. Oh, my God [laughs] that puppet.

transition [00:06:13] [bright, whimsical music plays]

j & k [00:06:19] Wands out!

kelly [00:06:20] Let’s discuss all things magic.

jessie [00:06:23] Alice can use the vorpal blade now and has revealed some powers we didn’t know about before, like shooting light out of her hand that, like, hurts people. So I think we might find out in later— and I think we might find out why in later books. But I think this may turn into more of a Chosen One story um as we move through the series. So I’m interested to see what happens with that.

kelly [00:06:46] I hadn’t thought about the Chosen One angle, but I think you might be right, because now that I’m thinking about it, several characters over the course of both of the books that we’ve read mentioned that Alice is different, slash, special slash, more powerful than they expected her to be. So that could very well happen. And I think that because I am on this Cho kick, I think they were kind of teasing when they’re in the village meeting Cho that Al– that there was like that one loner dragon who’s someone died… Their rider died or whatever. a haha. Ride or die. Anyway [both laugh], um I had to put a pun in there just for you.

jessie [00:07:25] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

kelly [00:07:26] You’re welcome. So maybe Alice will end up like riding the dragon, like bonding with that dragon or something like that and becoming super awesome.

jessie [00:07:35] Well, I have this feeling, so we’ll see where it goes. And this is partly because I watch too much TV and read too many books that I– you know, you kind of start to people like predict to these things. But anyways, I have a feeling–

kelly [00:07:46] You’re Alice. You’re a witch is what you’re saying.

jessie [00:07:49] Yeah, exactly. I can see the future. um  I have a feeling that Alice might actually somehow be the red queen that has gone missing. And that was the rider for like that Lone Dragon thing that disappeared. And I think that’s why she will connect with the dragon. Like, I think there’s something going on there where Alice might be like some reincarnation of that queen that went missing. That’s my prediction.

kelly [00:08:14] Mm hmm. I’m sold.

jessie [00:08:16] So we’ll see. “I’m sold” [laughs]. Should I just like email L.L. McKinney right now and  be like, “hey, I figured it out, like, write it this way”.

kelly [00:08:24] [sarcastically] Yeah, i’m sure she would totally appreciate that.

jessie [00:08:26] Oh yeah. For sure. I think so. [laughs]

kelly [00:08:28] She would light you up on Twitter. She’s the best on Twitter. Really. Yeah.

jessie [00:08:32] This would be like a D.M. because I don’t want it to be like out there in the– in the people’s sphere. [chuckles].

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kelly [00:08:43] I think like “muchness” we could put this in this like “wands out” section, don’t you think?

jessie [00:08:48] Mmhmm. Yeah,.

kelly [00:08:48] Because it’s the key to Alice’s powers and it’s… I loved the quote um during Alice’s Dark Night of the Sno– Dark Night of the Soul about how muchness is the way you imagine yourself at your most powerful.

jessie [00:09:04] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:09:04] And I just was curious what you would look like at your most powerful. How do you imagine yourself as at your most powerful?

jessie [00:09:14] I would probably look mostly the same because I don’t really like the idea of changing how I look that much. [laughs] But probably mostly I’m like all decked out in my emo gear, like, you know, Doc Martens.

kelly [00:09:25] Yes!

jessie [00:09:26] all black, that sort of thing. Like I’m about to walk into the Matrix or something. [laughs]

kelly [00:09:30] Hell yes! Oh, my God. Totally.

jessie [00:09:32] What about you?

kelly [00:09:35] Well, stretchy pants, obviously, but also probably darker colors. Maybe a graphic t. Love a graphic t.

jessie [00:09:46] Really? Darker colors?

kelly [00:09:48] Yeah, cuz my hair’s already bright enough, you know?

jessie [00:09:51] OK. I see, I see.

kelly [00:09:52] It’s already Iike a statement. Probably some red lipstick. Love me some lipstick.

jessie [00:09:58] Mmhmm.

kelly [00:09:58] And then also Doc Martens because I just got some because I copied you. Because I think you’re so cool.

jessie [00:10:03] Awww!

kelly [00:10:04] And they’re so comfortable and I love them. And they make me feel like I’m ready to go kick patriarchy ass every time I leave my house.

jessie [00:10:13] Yeah, they’re the best. Would recommend. 10 out of 10 would recommend. [both laugh] Yeah. I thought those scenes were interesting though. um I like that Alice didn’t like look completely different. Like Alice knew that was her.

kelly [00:10:28] Right.

jessie [00:10:29] It was just like Alice kind of dressed like kind of like… She talked about like going to conventions with her dads and stuff. So like more similar to that.

kelly [00:10:38] I think it’s it’s really cool. I hadn’t put that together, but it’s basically like Alice Cos-playing is–

jessie [00:10:43] Yeah.

kelly [00:10:44] –Alice’s most powerful version of herself. And I think that’s a huge reclamation and makes me think of one of the first books we read for the podcast Ship It. Right?

jessie [00:10:54] Oh yeah, yeah! Love that book.

kelly [00:10:54]  where it’s like reclaiming POC visibility and space within these like nerd fandoms.

jessie [00:11:03] Yeah, it could be a hard place for us.

j & k [00:11:06] Wands away!

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jessie [00:11:11] Now we’re going to talk about conflict, villains and good versus evil. In our segment, “Get Me Kylo Ren!”

kelly [00:11:17] I just thought of this this morning, but I think that we get a Kylo-esque character with a redemption arc in the form of Humphrey, a.k.a. the second Black Knight.

jessie [00:11:25] Yes. Wait. Have you seen Rise of the Skywalker yet?

kelly [00:11:28] Yeah.

jessie [00:11:29] OK. OK, spoiler alert for Rise of the Skywalker. Let’s put that out there just in case. [kelly chuckles] Yeah. But. OK. So like I feel like maybe in future books we’ll get like a more Kylo Ren-esque redemption arc with Humphrey. Because I mean I assume he’s going to come in and like save the day but like die doing it or something.

kelly [00:11:48] Oh yeah. Probably because they wouldn’t kill off Hatta.

jessie [00:11:51] I hope not! But we’ll see.

kelly [00:11:53] Yeah I guess maybe.

jessie [00:11:56] Yeah. I would be surprise pretty much if anyone died. Like I was surprised Ches didn’t actually die.

kelly [00:12:02] Yeah. I–. Mmm. Yeah. Because he was just like, “oh, I have amnesia. She was making me do it the whole time.” Which like I get she act… Like the bloody lady, Is that what we’re calling her?

jessie [00:12:15] Yeah, I think that’s what Alice called her.

kelly [00:12:17] Yeah. I mean, she was in control of him. And so I guess that does give us a picture of. Villainy as like you can… Like as you’re a tool for someone who’s a mastermind behind you.

jessie [00:12:31] Right.

kelly [00:12:32] And that’s what we’re– that’s what we’re seeing pretty much, although, I mean, through all the villains in this story.

jessie [00:12:38] Yeah. Like Palpatine. [chuckles]

kelly [00:12:40] Ugh, can I just say,. It was bullshit that they made Rey a Palpatine.

jessie [00:12:44] Yeah.

kelly [00:12:45] That’s my take.

jessie [00:12:46] I don’t really know. I wish they didn’t, but it’s like, whatever. I don’t– I’m not like the biggest Star Wars fan. I’m mostly just a Kylo Ren fan.

kelly [00:12:55] [laughs] Saaaame.

jessie [00:12:58] Yeah. Yeah.

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jessie [00:13:01] Um Our other villain, as we’ve kind of touched on, is the Bloody Lady. So she has taken over the mind of Humphrey and Humphrey is like starting to break free of that. He’s the imposter black knight, also like former love interest of of Addison’s, which is kind of interesting. And she’s taken over control of Ches and she’s doing this stuff with the nightmares or with this thing called “slythe” and like taking over people and basically making them into her controllable zombies, which was a pretty cool power, I guess. I mean, maybe don’t use it for such bad things, buuuut [jessie laughs and then kelly laughs] she is the villain.

kelly [00:13:43] I also thought it was interesting or “curious”, you could say… Curiouser and curiouser!

jessie [00:13:50] [not amused] Uh huh uh huh.

kelly [00:13:53] That um we see the Bloody Lady almost using too much power. Right?

jessie [00:13:59] Mmhmm.

kelly [00:13:59] Because she has the heart. And then when she gets the eye, it’s like seems to be too much power for her to wield. And so it, like, depletes her essence or something. Do you remember that?

jessie [00:14:10] Yes. And I think it’s how we kind of find out through Addison that she’s not the actual Red Queen. But I mean, I guess kind of like Humphrey, she’s like an imposter. So I don’t really know who she is because it seems like only like the royals can control, like, the eye and the heart. And I don’t know if there are other, like, magical instruments throughout the world we haven’t encountered yet, but she’s not one of those. So she is obviously very powerful to be able to do that. And that’s part of why I think Alice might be the Red Queen, cuz she was able to use the heart, I think, or the eye at that end battle scene with the Bloody Lady.

kelly [00:14:48] Mmmm. Good point.

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kelly [00:14:53] Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor or what does not simply read fantasy without talking about representations of race, class and gender. This is our segment about power and bodies and how they relate.

jessie [00:15:04] Let’s start with race. You can’t really talk about this book without talking about race I don’t think. Um and there was a lot set up in the first book in– in such a way that because they’re in Wonderland this time around, I think race maybe plays a less big role in this story um because we’re not seeing Alice walking through like a very white world because she lives in Atlanta. But I love that when Alice is the narrator, we have the use of AAVE in the narration. Um I really–.

kelly [00:15:35] –which is… Will you say what that stands for–

jessie [00:15:36] Oh, yeah.

kelly [00:15:37] –in case anyone doesn’t know?

jessie [00:15:38] AAVE is African-American Vernacular English. Um. Even though I personally don’t use the term “African American”. I prefer Black. But it’s– it’s whatever. Um. But I really appreciated this. And I think this is one of those things that really speaks to having someone from that background writing the story, because this would come off as weird, I think, if a non Black person was writing this story. And I really appreciated it cuz I don’t think we get a lot of stories written from the perspective of young black people, whether they also include AAVE and don’t make it like a big deal. So I really appreciated that.

kelly [00:16:17] It’s just normalizing this other way of talking.

jessie [00:16:21] Mmhmm.

kelly [00:16:21] Which I– if a white author or a non Black author were to do, that would be totally inappropriate and appropriative I think.

jessie [00:16:27] Yeah, I 100 % agree.

kelly [00:16:28] Like it would come off as… I don’t. I don’t know. I don’t think that that would land very well.

jessie [00:16:32] No.

kelly [00:16:34] I totally agree with your point that this is one of those aspects that like this is why representation in publishing is so important,.

jessie [00:16:44] Right.

kelly [00:16:44] So that we can have voices like this and stories told from um voices like this that have always existed but just haven’t had access to the pub– platform that is YA publishing.

jessie [00:16:54] Yeah, agreed.

jessie [00:16:57] We also have Nayet speaking Xhosa and Haruka speaking Japanese. And I thought it was interesting because McKinney didn’t translate for us what they were saying and she didn’t write it in the story. Um. But I thought it was interesting to see like these different communities and like how when Alice is in Japan with Haruka like they’re taking their shoes off when they go into the houses. And so we’re seeing like how different cultures function. Um. And when she’s with Nayet it seems like very matriarchal and Nayet is a healer. So I just thought those things were like really cool. I really like the way that we got to see how different cultures, even though they’re in Wonderland for part of it with Nayet and Haruka, like we get to see how these different cultures kind of function.

kelly [00:17:44] Totally, 100 percent.

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kelly [00:17:48] I guess there’s not too too much to discuss class wise, probably because we spend so much time in Wonderland and there do seem to be class divides in Wonderland with the royalty and pretty much everyone else.

jessie [00:18:00] Right.

kelly [00:18:00] But um I don’t know. They don’t seem to be affecting the narration too too much at this point.

jessie [00:18:07] Right. I guess. I mean, we see how much power the royalty have in that they were able to banish and curse Addison out of Wonderland.

kelly [00:18:17] [in agreement] mmm! mmhmm.

jessie [00:18:17] But other than that, we don’t really see like the non royals interacting with the royals in such a way to show like a really descriptive class distinction between the two.

kelly [00:18:30] Yeah. And that’s something I’m. It makes me curious. Maybe the the lack of information itself is also worth talking about. Right? It’s like we don’t have any information about how the royals came to be royal, like the origin story. Or it doesn’t really like… You were saying, we don’t really see any interaction between the– between like, I don’t know the people in these communities that we um encounter throughout the book and the Royals. Like there doesn’t seem to be particular love or hate for them, which is kind of refreshing. Right?

jessie [00:19:00] Yeah.

kelly [00:19:01] They’re just like, “oh, yeah, they’re there. But we don’t really– we carry on with our lives and they do whatever.”

jessie [00:19:05] Yeah. I guess we see a little bit when I think Duchess and Addison are in the different towns. We see how the people have like this reverence for them because they were I think the Duchess was the White Knight in Addison the Black Knight. So people know who they are. They are like pseudo famous.

kelly [00:19:23] But they– but they seem to care more about the fighters than they do about the royals they are protecting.

jessie [00:19:27] Right. Yeah. Exactly.

kelly [00:19:30] Which is cool, it shows like the values of the– this fictional culture.

jessie [00:19:34] Yeah, for sure.

kelly [00:19:37] Um another class uh point is Alice and Courtney.

jessie [00:19:41] Yeah.

kelly [00:19:41] Which we saw more of that divide between them and how it came like– that was one of the things that caused conflict between these two besties was class status.

jessie [00:19:52] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:19:53] And like Courtney’s priorities, who is just she’s so privileged and wasn’t, like, understanding why Alice couldn’t come to her birthday party.

jessie [00:19:58] Yeah.

kelly [00:19:58] But that’s book one. In book two, I do think we see some character development for court– from Courtney.

jessie [00:20:04] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:20:04] Where she’s like less of a useless rich girl and more of… She’s willing to stab someone with the heel of Louboutin. I mean, that’s like sacrifice, okay? [both laugh]

jessie [00:20:13] Is it? I have no idea. I don’t even know how much a pair of Louboutins costs because like–

kelly [00:20:17] Like five hundred dollars.

jessie [00:20:19] OK. That is not as bad as I thought. But I’m also like, I wouldn’t buy them because I am not spending that much money on shoes for my feet to hurt. [laughing] like no thank you. But good for her.

kelly [00:20:31] You can buy a pair of Christian Louboutin heels for….[pauses] Oh. Nope, the lowest one I’m seeing is six hundred and fifty dollars.

jessie [00:20:41] OK. Well, I’m not spending money on that. That just seems– that’s like.

kelly [00:20:45] Hell. No.

jessie [00:20:45] I mean, to each their own obviously. But I’m like not enough into shoes for that. I wear like two pairs of shoes. [kelly laughs] So yeah, not happenin. Yeah, but good on Courtney. Like she’s– she’s– she wants to be more helpful, I think, in this novel than we saw in A Blade So Black. I think at one point Addison is trying to get her to go back home or at least go back to Jap– like go to Japan with, like, Haruka’s handler. And she is, like, committed to staying to help, even if that helping means like helping Nayet’s grandson gra– gather herbs and healing things so that, you know, she can be helpful when they get back from their battle.

kelly [00:21:28] Yeah. You saying that that that’s a really good point, that it like upsets the power dynamic when Courtney, who has a bunch of power and cultural capital and money in the real world or on earth, whatever… um then comes to Wonderland and finds that all of her status and things that had made her very like…. Had capacitated her very much and like let her move through the world with a certain degree of power don’t– that doesn’t work for her in Wonderland. So like other kinds of abilities are like more valued.

jessie [00:22:07] Yeah. And I think it– she navigates that really well, like from going from someone with a ton of privilege to going to Wonderland and she doesn’t not have privilege that we know of. Like, there’s– I’m not sure, but she doesn’t have money. Like, none of that stuff matters there. I’m guessing because they don’t use, like, the money from this realm. And I feel like she navigates that pretty well. So I think we have seen her like kind of grow and change. As the book has gone, like as the books have gone on.

kelly [00:22:36] Agreed.

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jessie [00:22:40] All right, let’s talk about gender. We get really strong females throughout this story, and I particularly like the generational view we get with Alice, her mom and Nana Kay. So like kind of like the maid, mother, and crone. Um And L.L McKinney said on Twitter that her favorite character to write was actually Nana Kay, which I thought was like really cute.

kelly [00:23:02] I loved Nana Kay. I thought, oh, my gosh, she was… I was really glad that we got to see more of her in this novel.

jessie [00:23:10] Me too. We also have Duchess, Nayet and Haruka, as well as Haruka’s handler, whose name I cannot remember now. But I think we also have like Xylon and whatever the Princess’s name is. So we have a lot of very strong female characters throughout this story, which I think is great. I don’t really expect anything less, but it is kind of changing up the narrative because of the warriors we see fighting for… Like at the gates. Like half of them are women as opposed to like– I forget like what Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’s names are [both laugh]. But, you know, the two twins, the like Russian twins. And then we have Alice and Haruka. So it’s kind of cool to see that like half of the people protecting the gates are women.

kelly [00:23:59] Absolutely. So much more gender equity, it seems like, in these um both in Wonderland and in the Atlanta that it’s showing.

jessie [00:24:09] Yeah.

kelly [00:24:09] Because the the main characters that we encounter in Atlanta are Alice’s mom and Nana Kay. And then also the poet. What’s her name? Maddie.

jessie [00:24:20] Yeah. Maddie.

kelly [00:24:21] Yeah. um But then in Wonderland, we pretty much only have women in power.

jessie [00:24:28] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:24:28] Except for like a few dudes here and there.

jessie [00:24:31] Yeah. But I think even like the royals are all queens.

kelly [00:24:34] Mm hmm. Which is like we’re not about royalty. But…

jessie [00:24:40] I mean, I like them a little bit. Like, I love following the stories about like the UK royalty, like I’m all I’m all caught up like this Harry/Megan situation.

kelly [00:24:53] You’re gonna have to catch me up because I have not caught up.

jessie [00:24:56] Well, I have a lot to say. [both laugh].

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kelly [00:25:01] Let’s talk about ability. So I have a question. Al– Addison at this point is still supposedly, quote, going mad. Right? Like, he still has this– that like black spot disease thing that’s like supposedly taking him, like, spiraling down into his…. I don’t know, bodymind somehow to turn him mad. Is that happening still?

jessie [00:25:23] I think so, because he he does mention a few times about like drinking (like alcohol) to help with the madness that is going on. But I’m not really 100%… I don’t remember if that is from the curse front that the Black Knight gave Alice to give to Addison or if that is something from before that. So I don’t really remember. He has a lot of stuff going on cuz he also has that um banishment going on. And that seems to be– like that’s like slowly killing him while he’s in Wonderland.

kelly [00:25:55] Yeah. He has this like different layers of injury and and lack of capacity and all these things, cuz he does get like his ass kicked.

jessie [00:26:03] Yes.

kelly [00:26:03] Several times throughout the novel and needs to be rescued.

jessie [00:26:06] Yeah. Rescued by a lot of people. [laughs] He takes it well, though. So good.

kelly [00:26:12] Yeah, he does. And I think what we also… It’s curious to note that we see that trauma affects ability in the novel. Right? So, or rather, not facing trauma, I guess. And the fears resulting from them is what– specifically what traps Alice in her dark night of the soul scene.

jessie [00:26:33] Mmhhmm.

kelly [00:26:33] And then Alice, like her big breakthrough, is that she learns that she can be afraid and fight anyway.

jessie [00:26:39] Right.

kelly [00:26:39] And so let me just say that that whole scene equates to YEARS of therapy [jessie laughs]. Years! Ask me how I know. [both laugh].

transition [00:26:47] [bright, whimsical music plays]

jessie [00:26:54] Finally, it’s time for Shipwrecked, a segment about sexuality, asexuality, sex, romance and relationships. And sometimes we take some liberties and do some shipping of our own. We have the availability of so many ships after this book. So I’m just going to list some of them. Alison. Alison Addison, which is like my ship. I ship them.

kelly [00:27:16] Why do you ship them?

jessie [00:27:17] Oh, I just really like Addison. He’s like peak my type, so….

kelly [00:27:21] [teasing] Oh, my God. Totally. [both laugh]

jessie [00:27:24] …that’s why. And obviously I put myself in the place of Alice like a super strong black woman. Yes. Like, yes, please. [jessie laughs]

kelly [00:27:32] Yes you are!

jessie [00:27:33] We have Addison and Humphrey, who I think that they like. Addison says that he loves Humphrey. And I wasn’t sure 100 percent like if this was like in a romantic way or not. But I think it was.

kelly [00:27:47] Yes, that was my understanding, too.

jessie [00:27:49] Mine, too. But I can also see how that could be like walked back a little bit in a future book. And I don’t think, like, intentionally walked back because I know L.L. McKinney is like super onboard for like LGBTQ+ representation. But I feel like we might see some different dynamics change with their relationship. Humphrey and Alice…maybe? The Dark Knight seems to have like this weird connection with Alice. Like where he like kind of maybe is in love with her. But I like I’m not really sure.

kelly [00:28:16] OOh! we can have a frenemies to lovers or enemies to lovers situation.

jessie [00:28:19] Exactly. Alice and Haruka, like so cute! Like I really like them even though I’m like on Addison and Alice ship. But like, I love how like nervous Alice gets [laughing] and it’s like… I feel so bad.

kelly [00:28:35] So cute!

jessie [00:28:36] And then we obviously also have Alice and Ches. There’s like a kiss that happened. But like Ches wasn’t really himself I don’t think.

kelly [00:28:45] Ches was… It was like zombie Ches.

jessie [00:28:47] Yeah, but he also like seemed to come out of his zombie-ness for a little bit. So I don’t really know. And that also raises some questions about consent. So like…

kelly [00:28:54] Wow. Yeah, that does.

jessie [00:28:56] It’s kind of a mess. But everyone has lots of options and it’s super cute and I just don’t know who’s going to end up with who.

kelly [00:29:05] I just love how these options, like there’s as many non hetero options as hetero options, which I really appreciate. We’re all about the representation–

jessie [00:29:14] Yeah.

kelly [00:29:15] –here on this podcast.

jessie [00:29:17] Mmhhmm. Mmhhmm.

kelly [00:29:17] And another point on the proliferation of ships. The fact that we see Alice having simultaneous feelings for Addison and Haruka really strikes me as quite radical and new.

jessie [00:29:30] Mmhhmm.

kelly [00:29:30] I don’t know what you think, but at least in my experience, I don’t think I’ve read a– ever read a novel, let alone know YA novel that normalizes bisexuality, pansexuality, non-heterosexuality, whatever Alice identifies as in this way, because it’s also… It’s also like playing with non monogamy a little bit, I think. More like normalizing the fact that you can have feelings for more than one person at the same time. And it’s not like a thing that needs to… Like, we don’t need to rush to resolve. um So in that way, I think it’s really cool how L.L. McKinney, in writing all these different characters and these possible ships is resisting that love triangle motif where you try to like rush–

jessie [00:30:09] Right.

kelly [00:30:09] –to get two people together.

jessie [00:30:11] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:30:12] Um Which I really appreciate.

jessie [00:30:14] Yeah. I think it’s great, especially because I think– I think you’re correct in YA books we normally… I feel like we kind of have a love triangle kind of wrapped up within one book. Like thinking kind of like Rysand and Tamlin or like Jace and Simon. There’s lots of options. But either way, I think in real life, it’s not that unusual for someone, especially at this age, to have feelings for two people at the same time and kind of be like vacillating back and forth between the two. And like, that doesn’t get solved super easily. And maybe.

kelly [00:30:52] Right.

jessie [00:30:53] Maybe not just at that age. Obviously, I haven’t dated since [laughing] I was like that age, [kelly laughs] so I don’t like what the olds are thinking now, like what people my age are going through. I have no idea as far as dating. But yeah, I think it’s good. And like Alice is allowed to have feelings for more than one person, like she’s 16. It doesn’t need to be figured out right now. So like date, a bunch of people. Have feelings for all of them. Like, who cares? I mean, not that you can’t do that as an older person, but it’s just like it doesn’t need to be figured out right away.

kelly [00:31:24] Yeah, and I appreciate how like with an exposition and the narration itself. Alice, like in her own head, wasn’t making it “a thing”.

jessie [00:31:31] Right.

kelly [00:31:32] You know? It was just observing, but non judgmentally, like all of her different feelings and how she’s reacting with Haruka versus how she’s reacting with Addison.

jessie [00:31:40] Yeah.

kelly [00:31:42] Yeah. I just thought she’s like paying attention to herself and her feelings in a way that is like a really great role model. Like it’s a positive way of modeling that sort of self-awareness for readers.

jessie [00:31:53] Yeah, it’s so healthy. Like, just–

kelly [00:31:54] Yes!

jessie [00:31:55] –think about how you’re feeling. Like you can just sit in those feelings and that’s also fine. [laughs].

kelly [00:32:00] Yeah. Exactly. And they can be contradictory and you can have more than one at the same time and. Yeah.

transition [00:32:05] [Spellcasting sound]

kelly [00:32:08] Yeah. I want to also want to talk about like friendship I guess.

jessie [00:32:13] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:32:14] We see Courtney and Alice kind of repairing, I guess, their relationship that was pretty on the rocks in the first book. So I appreciated that, like, Courtney was more humble and let Alice take the lead. So again, we have this like power shift where Alice in the– back in Atlanta is used to deferring to Courtney, but then we see Courtney like accepting with humility, I guess, the fact that Alice is way more badass than her.

jessie [00:32:41] Yeah, like a lot.

kelly [00:32:42] Like by far. I appreciated that.

jessie [00:32:46] Yeah, that was really good.

kelly [00:32:48] It wasn’t like a scarcity… there was no scarcity mindset where Courtney was feeling threatened by how powerful Alice is or how smart she is or how much she, like, knows how to rule Wonderland. Right?

jessie [00:32:59] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:32:59] It was just accepting that your friend’s a badass and that you’re going to be along for the ride on this one. And you’re not the main character in this one.

jessie [00:33:06] Yeah, agreed.

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jessie [00:33:10] Sexy times. We don’t really get any sexy times in this book, but I don’t think there would have been time for it. And I think if that had happened in this story, I would’ve been like, who has time for this?!?! Like at like in the Grishaverse. Like there’s like they’re whatever they’re like freaking out about everything that’s going on. And Alina and Mal are like, let’s have sex. I’m like, yeah, I don’t have time for that. So I appreciated that. We didn’t like add that in for no reason because there’s a lot of shit going on. There’s no time, y’all. We I mean, we get a kiss between Chess and Alice. And that’s kind of it.

kelly [00:33:48] And like butterfly feelings, there is like pining. Yeah. Which I loved. It reminded me of, like, that sort of awkwardness. It reminded me I just started watching the second season of Sex Education. So it was kind of giving me Otis vibes.

jessie [00:34:03] Oh yeah. [laughs]

kelly [00:34:03] I don’t know. Like, “oh, my God! So many feelings!” They’re overwhelming puberty.

jessie [00:34:08] Yeah. But especially hard for Otis because he is SOOO awkward, which is f–.

kelly [00:34:13] he’s so awkward, Oh my God.

jessie [00:34:15] Yes. I’ve already finished Sex Education season two. So like y’all it was great. I think actually I think I did like a thread of all the stuff I watched over the winter break. So that was one of them.

kelly [00:34:25] Nice.

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kelly [00:34:30] Now we’re going to talk about writing style, narration, characterization, plot structure, and basically whatever else comes to mind in a segment called “Kill Your Darlings”. You mentioned this in the initial reactions, I think. But I thought the pacing of the novel was really balanced and well done. So there was, you know, it was– moved pretty seamlessly through these different travel narratives. And you didn’t mention that you were bored, so that’s like a huge win. And there was also lots of action, fight scenes, character development, different twists and also worldbuilding. I thought that was commendable.

jessie [00:35:07] Yeah, I think that L.L. McKinney did a really good job here because, yeah, as you mentioned, I do normally get very bored with the travel stories um. But while they were traveling, we’re learning more about the world or something was going on. And so, I I think that really moves the plot along in a way that isn’t just like let’s watch these people walk across this new world that we’ve never seen before. So I really appreciated that. And I was like– there were a couple of points in the book where they reference back to something that happened in the last book. But, at the same like– they’re referencing back to it and explaining what happened without it being like over explanatory, which I really appreciated. Because, like, we read A Blade So Black kind of a long time ago.

kelly [00:35:51] Yeah.

jessie [00:35:52] And I totally forget in between the other books that we’ve read what happened. So I really appreciated that.

kelly [00:35:57] Yeah, there was enough, like, signposting, I guess, for readers. Yeah, that was very helpful.

jessie [00:36:02] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:36:04] I also think that the dialogue is just killer in general. It’s super witty, and McKinney brings out the individual voices of each character.

jessie [00:36:11] Yeah, I 100 percent agree.

kelly [00:36:13] Like, it’s funny. The jokes are funny. I’m just thinking about the one from I think it was the first book about how white people don’t use spices and like it’s so true, we don’t.

jessie [00:36:20]  Yeah. Just pumpkin spice, salt and pepper.

kelly [00:36:23] Oh my God! [laughs]

jessie [00:36:23] And sugar. Yeah. Y’all are embarrassing.

kelly [00:36:28] Tell me about it!

jessie [00:36:29] No, I think it was really good. And yeah, I think you’re right. Each character has their own voice and they seem like real people. Like, sometimes I feel like when you’re reading a dialogue or reading dialogue in a book, it just seems so like contrived. But I think this really feels like very natural. Which I’m– I assume is like very difficult to do.

kelly [00:36:49] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Totally.

transition [00:36:51] [spellcasting sound]

jessie [00:36:54] Do you remember if we got other POVs  in the previous novel?

kelly [00:36:58] No, I think it was just Alice.

jessie [00:37:00] Okay. I thought it was interesting to see, like. I really enjoyed having the other POVs  in this one, especially because all of our characters are doing different things in different places. So it was interesting to see how the madness and the curse were working in Adda– or in Hatta, sorry and see at um Humphrey, a.k.a. the imposter Black Knight, come to the realization that something was happening in his memories. And then obviously we’re with Alice and seeing how she’s like making her way through Wonderland and coming into like these possibly new powers. I [pauses] I thought that the addition of more POVs was really good. And like really well used in this book.

kelly [00:37:39] Absolutely. I thought that it was very… Like a very smart tactic as far as how do we expand the world building without feeling like you’re pausing the narration or whatever?

jessie [00:37:52] Right.

kelly [00:37:52] Or how do you give more backstory without feeling like, oh, we’re just like taking a vacation from the plot of the narrative. But incorporating those different POVs lets that happen. I thought that was a super effective tactic.

jessie [00:38:05] Yeah.

kelly [00:38:06] And it’s also fun to mix it up a little bit. We learn about other characters. Yeah. I appreciated that.

jessie [00:38:11] And we got some flashbacks, which I appreciated when we were either Humphrey or Addison. I don’t remember which one. Because their stories are like so intertwined. I thought that was a really good use of the flashbacks that we might not have been able to see otherwise if we were with Alice and– or Alice the whole time.

kelly [00:38:30] Uh-gree.

transition [00:38:30] [spellcasting sound]

jessie [00:38:33] we also have Alice tell her mom everything.

kelly [00:38:37] Shocker!

jessie [00:38:37] I know! I feel like this rarely happens in fantasy books. The teens are always hiding things from their parents and getting tr– in trouble because of it, which we see happening with Alice in the first book. So I really appreciated the departure from this narrative. And Alice’s mom handled it like a champ! Like, I just like really appreciated the way they set up this story and made like a parent who wasn’t, like, villainized for being like for just being a parent, you know?

kelly [00:39:03] Yeah. For being, like, worried that their kid’s in Japan?!

jessie [00:39:06] Yeah. In Japan with no passport, no money, no way to get home like [laughs]. And she’s worried about her daughter, like being this like, you know, pseudo Buffy the Vampire Slayer character because [kelly laughs] like her daughter could die. And that is a reasonable reaction.

kelly [00:39:25] Yes. I love how they– I totally agree with you. I really like how the– L. L McKinney granted Allison’s mom or Alice’s mom. Allison, I guess that is her name.

jessie [00:39:34] Yeah, it is.

kelly [00:39:36] Like access to a full humanity. We could say, like she. We got to see her struggle with the fact that she’s not being able to protect her kid.

jessie [00:39:47] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:39:48] And that’s really scary for a parent.

jessie [00:39:50] Yeah and something I assume that like a lot of parents go through, even if their kid’s not like a super badass super hero, because, like, eventually you have to let your kids go. And if you don’t, they’ll probably resent you forever. So, like, there’s that, but….um Yeah. Like, it’s hard. Like you can’t be with them all the time. And so I can see where her mom would have these concerns, but like also have the wherewithal and the like, mental health to like be able to let go.

kelly [00:40:19] Well. And to be able to, like, check herself and be like, “yeah, I can’t fight the way my daughter can. So I’m going to, like, give up some of my power.” For lack of a better term.

jessie [00:40:28] Yeah.

kelly [00:40:28] Right? And again, like how Court- Courtney accepted this shifted power dynamic. I thought we– I really appreciated how the novel, like, wasn’t lazy and it wasn’t just like, yeah, Alice just keeps lying to her mom the whole time because we know that’s not going to work.

jessie [00:40:41] No.

kelly [00:40:41] It hasn’t been working for pretty much the entire series.

jessie [00:40:44] Yeah.

kelly [00:40:45] Her mom is way too smart for that.

jessie [00:40:47] Yeah.

kelly [00:40:48] It’s like it just goes to show. I think the difference in care, like all these white parents who are like, “yeah whatever” [laughs].

jessie [00:40:55] [laughing] That’s so true. They’re like, “you’re grounded. But like you can still have your phone.” So you’re going to sneak out and like what?! Yeah. Yeah, it is very different. [laughs].

kelly [00:41:04] Yeah. So culture like we see the difference culturally. Right?

jessie [00:41:07] Yeah, for sure.

kelly [00:41:09] And I also think that the fact that I totally agree with you that we don’t see this happen very often. And I think that kind of goes to show that there is this assumption in YA that like the older generation isn’t going to be able to, like, hang.

jessie [00:41:24] Yeah.

kelly [00:41:25] Or understand what’s going on. They’re just going to keep thinking that they have the monopoly on deciding how the world gets to go.

jessie [00:41:33] Right.

kelly [00:41:33] Deciding how we get to fight these fights that are coming up. And I appreciated that there was like cross-generational understanding and like conflict resolution.

jessie [00:41:42] Yeah. So I find yourself some trusty adults, you know. That’s what you need. And if your parents are white, I’m sorry. [both laugh]

kelly [00:41:54] I have another theory about Nana Kay.

jessie [00:41:56] OK.

Kelly [00:41:57] So like this necklace seems like they’re teasing that it’s more that it’s more than just a necklace. Don’t you think?

jessie [00:42:04] Yeah, I think so.

kelly [00:42:06] Like, is it some sort of Wonderland artifact. Is Nana Kay… Like, was she a bad ass fighter? I don’t know.

jessie [00:42:13] Yeah. That’ll be interesting actually because doesn’t Nana Kay have Alzheimer’s?

kelly [00:42:18] Yes, she has like some sort of dementia, right, cognitive decline.

jessie [00:42:21] Yeah. So it will be interesting because we also see, like Humphrey, who has lost memory. So, yeah, I don’t know. Interesting. Curiouser and curiouser. [chuckles] Yeah. I’m interested to see where that goes because they did make a big deal of her giving it to Alice and then it gets brought back up again at the very end of the novel where Courtney like notices the necklace. So yeah, we’ll see.

kelly [00:42:46] I feel like those sorts of things, those sorts of details rarely are– like have no reason behind them.

jessie [00:42:53] Well, it’s like Chekhov’s Gun, like you can’t mention it and then not use it. Like that would be weird.

kelly [00:42:59] Yeah. Good point.

jessie [00:43:00] That actually happened and– that actually happened in like a portion of His Dark Materials that I was watching were they like made a point of showing that the character had a gun and then they never used it. And I’m like, “what the fuck?” Like why did you even show– like make a big deal of showing it.

kelly [00:43:14] They’re just fucking with you. [laughs].

jessie [00:43:16] Yeah, they are. But it also like it’s very annoying. I’m like, this is not this is not how you tell a story.[laughs].

kelly [00:43:23] Right. And there is like this consideration where if you’re gonna draw your readers’ or your listeners’ or your viewers’ attention to something. Then like it’s for– it’s on purpose.

jessie [00:43:34] Yes. And if it’s not on purpose, then you didn’t need to do it. Yeah, yeah. So I think you’re right. Something’s going to come of this necklace. I just don’t know what.

kelly [00:43:43] We’ll see. To be determined.

jessie [00:43:45] TBD.

transition [00:43:45] [bright, whimsical music plays]

kelly [00:43:49] Recommend if you like…

jessie [00:43:51] I think, fast paced adventure stories with a bit of violence. I know this story has been talked– like, I think one of the blurbs is something about like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alice in Wonderland. And I think that’s a pretty good comparison. I don’t know how many YA readers are watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like I think it’s on Netflix. But like, I don’t know, like what the modern day equivalent is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the youths.

kelly [00:44:18] Yeah, that’s a good question, because it is like a, a comparison that only holds water… I’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even though I’m more of the age of people who would have.

jessie [00:44:29] Well, even then, I think you’re a little young. Like I was in middle school, elementary school when it was still on, like I remember watching it and like, you’re younger than me. So like [laughs], you know, so I just think people who are teenagers, I don’t know if this is something they watch.

kelly [00:44:43] Well, yeah. What would be the equivalent? I guess. Like Sabrina, maybe?

jessie [00:44:47] Yeah, maybe Sabrina. Although Sabrina is like way too white feminist-y–

kelly [00:44:51] –Ughhhh! yeah–

jessie [00:44:51] –to like a walk in L.L. McKinney’s world. [laughs]

kelly [00:44:54] Yeah. I mean, so is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s be real.

jessie [00:44:57] Yeah. Although from what I hear diverse. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s been a while since I watched it.

kelly [00:45:05] There’s a bunch of podcasts like Buffy rewatch podcasts. Yeah. Go check those out if you’re a… If you’re a Buffy fan.

jessie [00:45:11] Yeah. I don’t know what the modern equivalent would be. Maybe even Underworld seems a little old now. So I’m like maybe underworld meets…

kelly [00:45:21] I mean like that’s my shit.

jessie [00:45:22] yeah, mine too.

kelly [00:45:24] But I’m old.

jessie [00:45:24] But I think like the first one came out when I was like in maybe middle school. So it was a long time ago, folks.

kelly [00:45:33] Yeah. Well, maybe I’ll maybe I’ll do an Underworld uh marathon on one of these weekends. [laughs].

jessie [00:45:38] Yeah. That’s a good choice. Yeah. I can’t think of an equivalent. It’s kind of like a Throne of Glass meets Alice in Wonderland, I’d say, cuz she’s like a super bad ass kind of assassin fighter type.

kelly [00:45:51] Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a good point.

jessie [00:45:53] And we’ll have a TV show for that, I think. Or maybe… I don’t remember.

kelly [00:45:57] Throne of glass?

jessie [00:45:58] Yeah.

kelly [00:46:00] Really?

jessie [00:46:00] Pretty sure. I’ll look it up and put it in the show notes. [laughs]

kelly [00:46:03] Thanks, jessie!

jessie [00:46:03] I know we’re getting um, I know we’re getting A Court of Thorns and Roses. I just don’t know when.

kelly [00:46:15] We’re gonna have to wait forever.

jessie [00:46:17] Probably. It’s fine. If if I have to wait and it’s good, I don’t care. I’ll wait forever.

kelly [00:46:23] Good point.

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kelly [00:46:28] Before we end, it’s time for real talk. Did reading this book make your perspective change in any way, or did it make you interrogate something that you hadn’t before? I’m gonna go.. I’m going to start because it has to do. My point has to do with the narrative itself. And then your point, Jessie, is like a little bit more meta. OK. So I think Hatta– one thing I was thinking about listening to the book because I listened to the audio book is that Hatta  provides us this vehicle for like a narrative vehicle for discussing justice and punishment. And then also like abolition. Right? So we see Hatta as this like he’s got a redemption arc. And so he’s essentially trying to carry out some sort of type of transformative justice. Right? He’s, like, accountable for what he did. And uh I don’t know, tries to repair that in some way. And so the accountability came from his original punishment was exile.

jessie [00:47:25] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:47:26] Which is by spell.

jessie [00:47:27] Yeah.

kelly [00:47:28] Just interesting read because he’s not– he’s both like in… He’s in a physical prison like type situation by not being able to come back to his home.

jessie [00:47:37] Yeah.

kelly [00:47:37] So Exile as like a type of imprisonment or incarceration. And then….I don’t know, I just I don’t know if he had any thoughts on that or…

jessie [00:47:49] I mean, when I was like a resident adviser we talked a lot about like restorative justice as opposed to like punitive justice. And I think this kind of goes along like with how do you make amends for the things that you’ve done that have hurt people in such a way that, like, everyone can move on and not just like half of the people can move on? And I think Addison is like a good metaphor for that kind of in that like… I’m not sure that there was a way for him to make up for what he did before.

kelly [00:48:25] Right.

jessie [00:48:25] I don’t know, it’s kind of hard because I feel like in the end, he kind of not in the end of this novel, but in the end of the war that we saw throughout this novel, he… He did come around and try and help the like the correct side. So I feel like to me that seems like it’s enough, but it’s kind of hard because he was like a traitor. I don’t know.

kelly [00:48:45] But I also think I think that what the novel does really well is it shows the Haruka’s handler. I don’t remember her name. I’m sorry.

jessie [00:48:53] Yeah, me either.

kelly [00:48:54] But like I do, I do like that the novel showed and explained, like, why she’s really pissed at him.

jessie [00:49:00] Mm hmm.

kelly [00:49:00] Or is like only like on Okay terms with him. I’m like best friends, like they used to be. Like those sorts of repair takes time.

jessie [00:49:07] Yeah.

kelly [00:49:08] That’s something I think that the book is, is dealing with.

jessie [00:49:12] Yeah. I think it also kind of shows that that kind of healing also kind of requires proximity because Addison and Haruka’s handler are like on literal opposite sides of the world. And that makes it difficult for there to be any kind of redemption arc or healing between the two of them, because there’s like, how would they do that, you know?

kelly [00:49:37] Yeah.

jessie [00:49:38] So, yeah, I think that’s a good point.

kelly [00:49:40] What about you?

jessie [00:49:42] For me, this book brought to mind, you know, YA is not the most diverse place as we know. But I really appreciate Alice having a wonderful, strong black father figure. He didn’t die as part of a gang or at the hands of police violen violence. He wasn’t written as a criminal. He’s just an ordinary black man being an amazing dad. And I wish we saw more of that in the black books we read. I think we kind of get some of it in Children of Blood and Bone. But we yeah, her dad is like less of a strong father figure as much as. Like just a you know, he’s a good dad. But there just seems to be something different with Alice’s dad, that I really appreciated. And it’s a picture I don’t think we get to see painted very often. So I was really happy to see that in this book.

kelly [00:50:29] That’s an excellent, excellent point. And that is not trying to– it’s like not falling into certain stereotypes and which like exist for like, I don’t know. Like, just the visibility… I guess it’s just not fair that specifically black men like we don’t have access to these narratives about black men.

jessie [00:50:50] Right.

kelly [00:50:50] We only have access to specific types of narratives of black men… Gangs, police violence etc. So I think your point is superimportant. Absolutely.

jessie [00:50:59] Yeah. And I think one of the things is that, you know, especially in publishing, there has been, you know, a lot of work being done to get more diverse stories out there. And I think that’s great. But a lot of those stories end up being about the pain of marginalized people. So it was– it’s good to not have that in, you know, at least one option where that’s not what this is about. Like, we’re not… It’s not a violent story, a police violence story, a slavery story. So, yeah, I just really appreciate having a story where it’s– her dad did die and that was tragic, but it was nothing stereotypical.

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kelly [00:51:44] We have an action item!

jessie [00:51:47] So if you haven’t done the Me and White Supremacy Workbook, Layla Saad’s book is now out and available for you to purchase or get from your local library or borrow from a friend. I will– I will be reading it as soon as my copy comes into the library and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to work on their internals– internal biases. We can all do better.

kelly [00:52:08] Absolutely. And one more recommendation is this Black woman named Leesa Renee Hall does this thing called expressive writing prompts. And if you subscribe to her Patreon than it does– she does a similar thing, like we unpack our implicit biases through like writing or journaling expressively. That’s her specific tactic. And it has– I’ve done several of them, and I think that they’re really useful. So that’s another good resource.

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jessie [00:52:38] Thanks for listening to “JK, It’s Magic.” We’ll be back in two weeks for a discussion of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. Although we’ve been a little slow editing wise and some episodes may show up out of order, tbh. We’re doing our best. [laughs]

kelly [00:52:52] Yeah, part of that’s my fault. I defend my dissertation in like two months and submit it in like one month. So I really appreciate your patience. [this was recorded months ago, and kelly has since defended and graduated with her PhD!]

jessie [00:53:01] As always, we’d love to be in conversation with you magical folks. Let us know what you have… What– let us know what you think of the episode. Anything we missed or just say “hi” by dropping a line in the comments or by reaching out to us on Twitter or Instagram @jkmagicpod. You can post or tweet about the show using the hashtag #criticallyreading, and you can contact us via email at jkmagicpod (at) gmail (dot) com.

kelly [00:53:25] You can subscribe to JK, It’s Magic on the podcast app of your choice. And we’d really appreciate if you would rate and review the show and also spread the word to other magical people out there. If you’re interested in supporting JK, It’s Magic. You can make a one-time donation to us on Ko-Fi. You can also support us monthly on Patreon in exchange for a mini-sodes, bonus eps, swag and much more. And once both of us are out of school for the semester, I think that we’ll be doing more on the Patreon. So look out for that.

kelly [00:53:55] Kelly is recording on Cheyenne, Ute and Arapaho Land. Jessie is recording on Peoria, Kaskaskia, Peankashaw, Wea, Miami. Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Meskwaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomie, Ojibwe and Chickasha land.

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