Title: To Best The Boys
Author: Mary Weber
Release Date: March 19th, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
Page Count: 352 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
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The title alone is what first drew me to this book. Any book that sounds like it will have a strong female lead is a must read for me. And To Best the Boys did not disappoint.
The girl power in this book is phenomenal. You have the main character, Rhen, and her best friend/cousin, Seleni. Both have two very different personalities: Rhen is stubborn and speaks her mind and wants to go to school, whereas Seleni wants to be a housewife to the boy she loves. Both have different futures, but both girls are so loyal to one another, and I really enjoyed seeing that. In her village, Rhen is not like most girls. Her cousin’s family is considered an Upper, people will money and high class. Whereas Rhen and her parents are considered Lowers, people working to stay alive and to put food on the table. Seleni doesn’t let her status stop her from seeing Rhen, even though Rhen does manage to get them both into trouble often. But Seleni would do anything for Rhen, even enter the Labyrinth with Rhen to show the boys just what kind of power girls are capable of possessing.
Rhen is an exceptionally strong-minded girl in her village. She has the dream of being something more than what she currently is; she wants to change the world of science and school. She spends most of her time working in her father’s lab trying to find a cure to an unknown, fast-growing disease that is killing her mother. And when she brings this up to her Uncle’s friends—the people who can offer help—they brush the disease off as nothing, as it doesn’t seem to be affecting the Uppers. That answer, the way most Uppers react to the Lowers, is what drives Rhen to enter the Labyrinth. And though she struggles over the aspect of leaving her Mom and Da, she knows that the only way to fix this is to enter the maze and win.
The idea behind the Labyrinth is intriguing and I found myself asking the question: Would I enter the maze disguised as a boy to prove my worth and that the world needs to change? I think I would, even if the aspect of death is involved. That’s exactly what Rhen does; she wants to see the world change and she wants the Uppers, especially the University board, to understand why they need to address the disease spreading in the Lower. I do wish the Labyrinth was a bit more developed, but nevertheless, I enjoyed each part of the maze and seeing how Rhen and her friends navigated each part. The Labyrinth doesn’t just involve mathematical equations but also tests your qualities as a human being. The winner of the maze does not win solely off of knowledge but how they treat other people. The maze involves both knowledge and characteristics and, in this maze, Rhen faces more personal challenges than she thought she would. But Rhen isn’t a quitter, and she refuses to give up, no matter the cost.
Mary Weber weaves fantasy so well with the setting and plot of this book. How the book starts out, I wouldn’t think fantasy elements would arise. But they did and the elements, though not present enough to overwhelm the plot, work so well with the story. The Labyrinth breathes fantasy, with ghouls and creatures and a maze that continuously shrinks in size until you find a way to escape. It was interesting and unlike most mazes I have read in books. Mary Weber truly brought this maze (and this book) to life, and I loved it.
To Best the Boys turned out to be the story I was hoping it to be. The characters were well-developed and the plot continued to thicken until the very end. It was, overall, a book I am thankful I got to read early.
To Best the Boys is a refreshing read in the YA genre. If you love girl power, individuality, fighting for what you believe in, a deadly and heart-pounding maze, and romance, then I highly recommend reading To Best the Boys!
Question of the Post:
Would you enter the Labyrinth? I’d love to know! Leave your answer below! 🙂