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The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson Okay. A lot of the reviews for this book have "issues" with it that make them not want to say how much they actually liked this book. And I have issues with their issues. Spoilers ahead.
Elisa is kind of a sad-sack of a girl when the novel begins. Despite being blessed with a treasure troll belly button, her life kind of sucks. She's sixteen, she hates her body, she has no friends, she feels uncomfortable where ever she goes, she knows people are constantly talking about her behind her back (they are, and not just about her weight, as she finds out later), she thinks her sister hates her, her dad doesn't notice her, and she's about to be sacrificed as a child-bride to some strange king. The only thing she really likes to do is study, and she is particularly interested in military strategy. She knows she's supposed to become some kind of hero, but how the hell is she going to do that?
The "issues" other readers have had with the novel sound like this: Elisa is too fat, Elisa gets too thin, Elisa is too perfect, Elisa is a complete whiny idiot and I hate her, etc.
Personally, as I reader, I have no problem with beautiful main characters. I have no problem with love triangles or super powers or any of that stuff either. I mean, it is kind of annoying when a non-awesome girl has dudes clamoring all over her, but most of the time the author does a good enough job of convincing me how totally awesome the girl is that it makes perfect sense that everyone wants to be around her and soak up the awesomeness. But I hear ALL THE TIME how readers want a non-perfect girl with non-perfect-girl problems. People are all, "if I read one more book about a pretty girl who thinks she's not pretty..." etc. BUT then you give them a main character who isn't pretty - not just to herself, a la D.U.F.F., but to other people who are not exactly shy about letting her know - they aren't happy with that either.
I've read that people aren't sure where her over-eating impulse came from. Who's ever sure? We aren't here to psycho-analyze the MC; these are the kind of ridiculous questions that never get asked of characters with other kinds of problems. No one's like, "well, I'm just not totally convinced there was a deep enough reason for the MC to be as clumsy as she is." Also, I think I paraphrased at the beginning of the review reasons enough that Elisa might over-eat: hello, she's lonely! She's all alone.
I've read that people are "concerned" about the take-away that Elisa becomes a super-woman as soon as she loses weight. What a sloppy reading of this novel. Elisa has, from page one, always been fluent in war strategy. She is smart and she is trying to be brave. She is still in the castle when she learns the truth about the book of prophecies and discovers why she has been always set apart and decides to be more assertive about her rank and responsibilities. This is BEFORE she loses some weight walking across the desert for a month. But after she does, it's natural for her to feel more confident as she becomes physically stronger and it's natural for her to be happier with the way she looks. At the same time, I think she's seeing all these people who are scarred by battle - burn victims and amputees - and feels less of a need to be so self-conscious about the way she looks. Further, I think a really important part of this issue is addressed when she returns to the king's palace and is introduced as the leader of the Malficio. Her husband, the king, doesn't recognize her because of how changed she looks, but he is drawn to her. Elisa suddenly feels a sense of sexual power she had never felt before - and she rejects it. All the strength and power he now sees in her, he should have seen before.

I think this novel has all kind of interesting things to say about power, and whether power resides in an object - i.e. the Godstone or a princess - or in the bearer - an individual. I am really looking forward to the next in this series.