The DUFF- Kody Keplinger

Bianca loves her best friends, but isn’t interested in dancing at the under-21 dance club in their home town.  While watching her friends have fun on the dance floor, notorious womanizer, Wesley, comes over and informs Bianca that of her friend group, she is the DUFF: the designated, ugly, fat friend.  This gets under Bianca’s skin because, like any high school student, she is a little bit insecure.  Anyways, things kind of blow up in Bianca’s home life and somehow she finds that her only way to deal with it is to find some moments of escape in sex.  With Wesley.  Wesley, who is actually a better listener and friend that Bianca gave him credit for.  But Bianca doesn’t believe in love in high school and certainly not in love with the guy who gets around the most out of their whole class.  So where on earth can this “relationship” take them?

I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, which is why I picked it up in the first place, but I still kind of feel surprised by how much I liked it.  The story reminded me of being in high school more than any other YA books I’ve read.  Bianca’s life is not just her parents getting divorced or her fooling around with Wesley.  She’s got schoolwork and friends.  She isn’t popular, but she’s not an outcast, even though she feels that way some of the time.  Mostly, she’s happy and comfortable with herself, but sometimes she wonders if she isn’t the DUFF and worries about what other people think about her.  Basically, she’s a normal teenager.  And a pretty likeable, interesting one, at that.  She is cynical, but smart and funny and loyal to her friends.  She doesn’t exactly have the best coping skills when it comes to some of the problems in her life, but she’s 16 and human and that makes sense.

As for the romantic plot, it’s nothing new,  just an enemies become lovers plot, but the depth of the characters, particularly Bianca, made for a fun romance.  I liked Wesley, sort of in spite of myself, and as much as I agreed with Bianca that he was probably bad news, I couldn’t help rooting for them to work it out, for Wesley to settle down on just one girl.  There is also a point where Bianca gets caught in sort of a love triangle, as Toby, the sweet, nerdy boy she has crushed on for 3 years, suddenly notices her and as she tries to disentagle herself from whatever is going on with Wesley.  I found that I liked Toby, too, and was kind of sad that there was so little chemistry between him and Bianca.  Also refreshing, plot-wise, is that teenagers have casual sex in this book and nothing bad happens.  It’s really not even a big deal.

I only had one complaint with this book and that is that the home stuff wrapped up a bit too easily.  Bianca’s father is a recovering alcoholic who has a relapse and even shows a violent temper as a drunk.  But he seems to bounce back to recovery pretty easily.  Bianca’s mother has been traveling across the country for years doing speaking events, but after she files for divorce, she suddenly seems to want to connect to and be present for the daughter she’s been ignoring and absent from for so long.  And Bianca accepts that.  These are all big things and the solutions seem a little more simple and drama-free than they’d actually be in real life.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and wish it had been around when I was a teenager.  There is something about the plot and characters that resonated strongly with me as an adult and would have had an even bigger impact on me as a teen.  I imagine this would have landed on my short stack of books that I reread for comfort from time to time.  As it stands, this was absolutely worth my time and I would recommend this as a YA book with appeal to both teens and adults.

 

September 2015 Roundup

September was an insanely good reading month for me.  I read 11 books… I haven’t come close to that in a very long time.  Most of that was due to the fact that I was on a major binge read of the Myron Bolitar series and those are snappy little mysteries that I just blew through.  I forgot how much fun it is to binge read a series… it’s SO nice to not have to think about what to read next and to not have to reacquaint yourself with the characters or overarching plotlines.  Really, I should only ever read series back-to-back-to-back.

I also finished up 3 of my remaining Read Harder Challenge tasks (Sci-Fi, Author of the Opposite Sex, and Book Written before 1850) and only have 3 tasks left (all of which are toughies).  I might actually “win” this challenge after all!  And since I read at a ridiculous pace this month, the last book of September was my 60th book of the year, meaning I have completed my Goodreads challenge for the year, too.  This is actually the earliest I’ve ever finished up my book count goal, so I guess I grossly underestimated my reading speed this year.

Blogging didn’t quite go as I had hoped in September, but that is mostly because I became unexpectedly busy at work and because I read a bunch of books in genres that I don’t review very well (mystery, romance).  I keep hoping for more on this front, but hey, I do what I can.

Real life was lots of fun in September.  The weather was finally not blazing hot and I’ve been feeling more energetic, so one weekend we did a family trip to the zoo and another we stopped by the annual hot air balloon festival held in our town.  Both these things were tons of fun.  Lydia is at a great age to go out and do things with and we all seem a little happier getting out and about than being stuck inside all weekend.  I’ve also been doing prenatal yoga once a week with a friend who is also pregnant and that’s been a nice little me time to look forward to.  We’ve also been making some progress to getting the future nursery cleaned up.  Baby steps, but hey, it feels good to be doing something with it.

Books Read in September:

The Martian by Andy Weir (audiobook)

Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben

Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

Fade Away by Harlan Coben

Back Spin by Harlan Coben

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One False Move by Harlan Coben

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl

Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl (novella)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan (audiobook)

In the Works: I am currently reading Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (which is not turning out to be my thing, really) and listening to After You by Jojo Moyes (which is so totally my thing that I kind of want to read/listen to it all at once).

I am looking forward to October, as the weather should finally settle into comfortable temperatures, my friend will be having her baby, and I might actually get to participate in the Readathon on October 17 for a few hours, at least.  I imagine we’ll try to get out for some more family fun time, but we’ll see how that pans out between a visit from my mother-in-law and a work trip for my husband, not to mention Halloween.

What’s new with you?  Read anything good lately?  Looking forward to October with hearts in your eyes like I am?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten All-Time Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is a FREEBIE and I totally meant to finish drafting this post of my top ten favorite authors back in April, but didn’t get a chance so now I am finally finishing it and putting it out there.

This is a hard/easy category.  I am pretty fickle and am always adding new-to-me authors to this list, so this is more like an all-time favorites as of right this minute.

1. J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith— Duh, Harry Potter.  But she mostly makes this list because of her Cormoran Strike books and The Casual Vacancy, all of which hooked me and wowed me and confirmed for me that Rowling is an awesome and multi-talented author.

2. Sarra Manning— I’m on a mission to read all of Sarra Manning’s books and have enjoyed the handful I’ve read so far, but mostly she is on this list because Unsticky has wormed its way into my soul and is one of my all-time favorite books.

3. Shirley Jackson— I’ve loved Shirley Jackson since I was a teenager reading “The Lottery” in school.  Back then, I made it my mission to read everything by her I could get my hands on and ended up reading most of her major works.  I found out a year or two ago that Penguin released some of her titles that I think were out of print for a while (at least they were never in stores/libraries in the late 90s/early 2000s), so I have been meaning to get back to reading her complete works.  I love that she does everyday creepiness so well.

4. Juliet Marillier— I discovered Marillier’s books last summer and I have slowly been making my way through her enormous backlist.  I love her strong female characters, her worldbuilding skills, and her beautiful writing.

5. Allie Larkin— Larkin is a rather new addition to this list, but I listened to both her books (Stay and Why Can’t I Be You) on audiobook earlier in the year and just devoured them.  I love her romantic interests (marriage-material kind of guys), the dogs that pepper her stories, and that there is some real depth to her stories and characters.  I wish she had a bigger backlist because these are the kind of stories I love reading.

6. Liane Moriarty— I actually just finished reading her entire backlist after getting hooked on her stuff with Big Little Lies and I have enjoyed all of her books.  They are addictive and funny, but also tend to explore serious issues and themes.  Smart stuff and her writing seems to get better as time goes on, so I am eagerly anticipating her future releases.

7. Rainbow Rowell— I have enjoyed all her books, although I am uncertain about even bothering with Carry On.  I like her quirky, but well-developed characters and that somehow her books feel like they are written for me.  I don’t know how to explain that other than I related so strongly to Lincoln in Attachments and to the sentiments about marriage in Landline.

8. Taylor Jenkins Reid— I just finished up the remaining 2 of her books I hadn’t read and I loved them.  Reid has the ability to tell unconventional love stories that are totally absorbing and her stories are just tight– I only ever have minor quibbles after completing them.

9. Kiersten White— If I want to read something that is fun and fluffy, but not at all vapid or dumb, I pick up a Kiersten White book.  I have been surprised by how much I enjoy her books, but they are the best kind of fluffy.

10. Janet Evanovich— Another fluff author that I apparently cannot get enough of.  She does sexual tension like no other (Stephanie-Ranger-Morelli is the best love triangle ever) and though I keep swearing I’ve overdone it with her books, I keep picking up more of them.  I like the over-the-top humor and action and, of course, the romantic tension.

Who are your favorite authors?  What topic did you pick this week?  I’d love to visit your post, so please leave me a comment/link and I will do my best to stop by your blog!

Stiff- Mary Roach

I have been meaning to read this book since I started this blog and I finally got around to it, using it for the microhistory portion of the Read Harder challenge.  (Though, now that I think about it, this was only kind of history and more pop science, but whatever, I’m counting it for a category that seems kind of arbitrary to me anyways.)

So… Mary Roach is a journalist with a focus on science who decided to write a book about allll the various things that can happen to a dead human body.  She covers the role of cadavers in medical education and the history of anatomical dissection, as well as the role of cadavers in other science research/practice (criminal forensics, car safety, gun/explosive safety, organ donation).  While her focus is more on the extreme things done with human bodies, she does talk briefly about decomposition of dead bodies and funereal options for dead bodies– embalming, burial, cremation, and some of the newer, greener ideas such as body composting.  She also dabbles in the super extreme, spending some time talking about bodies used in religious experiments (trying to prove that the Shroud of Turin was authentic) and even goes so far as to spend way too much time talking about cannibalism.

This was an interesting subject, but if you know me you know that I have an academic background in the history of medicine and that I kinda dig reading books about death or history of medicine (see my reviews of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).  I came into this excited to learn something new.  However, I spent the first several chapters rehashing or reviewing information that was not at all new to me.  For example, the history of medical dissection and body snatchers is not new to me because of stuff I read in grad school, body farms are not a new concept to me as I used to read/watch a lot of crime fiction/TV, and Doughty covers what happens to bodies in funeral homes in greater detail in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  The later chapters provided new information and I was interested in the use of bodies in scientific research, organ donation, and thought some of the ideas for new ways of disposing of dead bodies were pretty interesting, too.  But Roach lost me when she gets to the most extreme and rare examples of cadaver use– religious research and as food/medicine.  In particular, the cannibalism chapter seemed designed to push the reader to the limits of squeamishness (and dead bodies don’t really squick me out, so this was certainly a bit much) and just involved Roach investigating a bunch of bogus stories without finding any real actual evidence of people eating their dead in contemporary society.

I did enjoy learning some new things about what happens with dead bodies and I did enjoy that Roach really plugs for body donation and organ donation– options I am pretty firmly set on for my eventual dead body– and options which get some odd reactions from people.  (You know if you donate your body to science, people will see you naked, right?  Umm, yeah, they see you naked when they embalm/cremate you, too.)  I had always figured on cremation as my back-up option, but hearing it has such negative environmental effects has made me think on that a little more, too.

There were things that really bugged me about this book, though.  Namely, Roach’s tone and style.  Roach tries to inject humor into her analysis and it wasn’t very successful for me.  I kind of wondered if the narrator on the audiobook was just not delivering the punchlines successfully, but I think the jokes just weren’t that funny.  Also the tone of this book is very… pop-journalismy, if that makes sense.  I do prefer my non-fiction not be stuffy and dry and this wasn’t stuffy or dry, but it just bordered on too unserious and too casual for my tastes.  And perhaps this last complaint is related to the style of the book, but there were areas where I wanted Roach to push further and she just didn’t. She seemed far more interested in trotting out extreme or gross examples of what happens to dead bodies than in actually talking about anything in real depth.

Anyways, I’d recommend this to people who want more of a gross out, wow example of what happens to dead bodies, people without a whole lot of background knowledge of the subject. I guess I’m just not the average Joe when it comes to dead bodies.

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents- Liza Palmer

I’m going to develop a reputation for not liking Liza Palmer’s books, but I swear that’s not true.  I really did enjoy the first two of her books that I tried.  (Proof 1 and Proof 2)  But I guess pushing that proof aside, I really did not like A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents.

Alright, so the premise of this story is Grace is from this super tight-knit family with four kids, an estranged father, and a really awesome mother.  Grace’s mother died five years prior to this story started and Grace hasn’t spoken to her siblings since her mother’s funeral.  She has isolated herself in this little bubble of numbness, hiding from the intensity of her grief.  Then, one day, Grace’s sister calls to tell Grace their father has had a stroke and has made their older brother his power of attorney.  Grace sucks it up and out of a feeling of obligation to be a good child like she thinks her mother would have wanted her to be, drives up to see her father and her siblings gathered at his bedside.  It soon becomes clear that Grace’s father is dying and there is a big scuff-up because a lady claiming to be his wife keeps turning up, making it incredibly puzzling why their father left his power of attorney to a son he hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Amid the legal issues this precipitates, Grace is left with trying to process her grief for her mother, resolve her feelings about her father who abandoned her, get back in the good graces of her siblings and nieces/nephew, and reconnect with the boyfriend (who is also older brother’s partner at their law firm) who she abandoned when she deserted her family five years earlier.

There were parts of this story that worked for me, particularly the sibling relationships.  It felt like a very real reunion between these four very close siblings, with some anger and resentment from her sister, total acceptance from her younger brother, and some tough love from her older brother.  In the face of some really trying circumstances, they band together to make sure their father’s dying wishes are complied with.  I also enjoyed the plot antics in terms of the second wife and legal rights and inheritance and all that.  It was an original and interesting plot for a chick lit book and was actually a cohesive plot (unlike that of Girl Before a Mirror).  Also, Palmer’s writing is very readable and this book was no exception.

But there were parts of this book that did remind me of my dissatisfaction with Girl Before a Mirror.  Mainly the romance and character development in this book felt forced, much like they did to me in GBAM.  Grace’s grief bubble dissolves in the blink of an eye.  That sort of sudden character change doesn’t feel authentic and is kind of confusing.  In addition, the romance in this book lacked the establishment of a real connection between John and Grace.  It’s mostly told in flashbacks, but the on-screen, real-time romance we get is no real discussion or resolution of the five years separating these two, but rather just some sex and quick forgiveness and I love yous and never ever leave agains.  And that was also much the same way that the resolution of relationships went for Grace between her and her siblings and between her and her father.  It was all quick and easy forgiveness, and while I was willing to buy that Grace and her siblings could put aside the past to work together on their father’s behalf (after all, that’s what families do), I had a hard time buying that her ex-boyfriend whom she abandoned and the father who abandoned her would result in such easy resolutions.

Also, I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending of this book.  The epilogue was gag-me-with-a-spoon cheesy (seriously, why do authors think the surprise pregnancy is a cute, romantic thing?  WHY?) and for a story with a lot of people in heartaching situations, everything ended up a bit too rosy.  A story about a father who abandons his children and then calls them to his deathbed 20 years later could have much more depth and emotion than this story managed to.  This was all a little more fluffy and happily ever after than you might imagine based on the plot description.

And I think that brings me to the big thing that has been bugging me in Palmer’s books– she chooses very big issues to discuss in her books (the death penalty, school shootings, the death of one’s parents, sexism in advertising) and instead of digging deep, still manages to turn out a story that is rather fluffy without any major examination of those big issues.  I think that’s why Seeing Me Naked and Nowhere But Home worked for me– they were mostly about the family and personal drama.  The death penalty could have been a big issue in the latter, but plot-wise it wasn’t necessary, so it didn’t work against the overall development of the characters.  And I think this is also is why A Field Guide for Burying Your Parents fell so flat for me– it promises to deal with the grief of losing both parents through death and abandonment, but ends up settling for an easy out with a father who always loved his kids and ex-wife, but could never ask for forgiveness and come back to them and made grieving a mother as simple as not talking about it for five years and then having a mini-breakdown in a parking lot.

I only have one of Liza Palmer’s books left to read and I’m honestly not sure if I will or not.  It is her debut and should be closer in tone to Seeing Me Naked.  But I have had such mixed results with her books, that I have a hard time imagining giving them another try with the failures so fresh in my memory (Girl Before a Mirror was such a major disappointment for me).  In any case, it has been interesting to be working on authors’ backlists this year (kind of unintentionally) and to see that sometimes an author who really works for me in one book doesn’t at all in another.  Has this ever happened to you?

August 2015 Roundup

August was a pretty good reading month, actually.  I worked on the backlists of authors I’ve been meaning to read all the books by (Liane Moriarty, Liza Palmer, Taylor Jenkins Reid), I ticked another book off my Read Harder Challenge checklist, and really, just seemed to have more enjoyment in my reading than I have in a couple of months.  I even wrote up a few reviews.

I did participate in my one annual book event tradition of going to the library book sale this month.  I only came home with one book for myself (My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick), which was super disappointing, but I did snag a few books for my daughter and spent only $5, so I guess I can’t complain too much.  I might have been more successful, but the weekend of the book sale was the hottest weekend of the summer and while it was indoors, I think the crowd/heat got to me and I started feeling like I was going to pass out, so my book-hunting adventure was cut a bit short.  Oh well, there’s always next year.

Let’s see, the other big thing is I announced on the blog that I’m pregnant again and spent a bit of time talking about some of the fears I have about having a second child and a little time getting more personal by discussing my struggle with breastfeeding.  I have been considering getting a little more personal on the blog (again), as it is helpful for me to put some of that out there and well, I don’t read or review quite as steadily as I used to.  We’ll see.  I have some ideas, it is just a matter of putting together coherent posts that hit the right tone and being courageous enough to put myself out there that way.

So, expect a couple of reviews this month and maybe a couple of personal posts and maybe some Top Ten Tuesdays (if I ever remember to draft the posts in advance) in the next month.  I always like to post more at the end of the year, so let’s hope that trend continues this year, as work quiets down some.

Books Read in August:

Bottled Up by Suzanne Barston

A Field Guide To Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Stiff by Mary Roach (audiobook)

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In the Works: I am currently reading Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben and listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  Both of these books are for tasks for the Read Harder Challenge (author of the opposite sex and book published before 1850, respectively).  I am also giving serious consideration to joining in the RIP X event this year because well, I already tend to read mysteries/thrillers/spooky books at this time of year anyways (see above where I am reading a mystery and a gothic lit book about a reanimated corpse) and why the heck not make it an official thing?

I don’t really have any other big plans for September, other than enjoy the return of football (well, maybe… I’m not as keen on football as I once was) and the end of baseball (so that I can spend the next six months waiting for it to come back) and hope that maybe we get some weather that is good enough to where we can actually go do outdoor activities again before it gets cold (probably going to have to wait until next month for this, but a girl can dream).

How has your summer been?  What have you been reading lately?

 

Bottled Up- Suzanne Barston

This post is going to be very long and cross into some seriously personal territory and if you are not into reading about breastfeeding, I suggest you skip it.

Let me get the personal background out of the way first.  I have a two year old daughter and am expecting a second child (a boy) in January.  I had an incredibly difficult time breastfeeding my daughter due to low supply due to what the lactation consultant supposed was “insufficient glandular tissue.”  That is, my breasts apparently never developed enough of the glandular tissue required to produce an adequate supply of breastmilk to feed an infant.  I had never heard of this condition and still don’t even know how this is possible as I’ve never had issues with any of my reproductive health and development.  I just have small boobs that are kind of spaced far apart.  I never knew that was abnormal.  And with what little I read about breastfeeding before having a child, I thought that just about everyone could breastfeed, if they actually tried hard enough.  To find out that this was not actually true for me meant facing all kinds of disappointment and anger and guilt.

I’d had some issue towards the end of my pregnancy with my daughter with intrauterine growth restriction– meaning she wasn’t getting enough nutrition to grow on the inside.  I had mostly come to peace with that, I carried her to term, and I was somehow much more prepared for things to not go perfectly during pregnancy/childbirth than I was with things going wrong in breastfeeding.  It was pretty devastating to learn I could not feed my child the way I had planned to, the way I’d been told by well-meaning advocates was natural and healthy and BEST for my child.  It was pretty devastating to take my 5 day old to the ER because she was so dehydrated and jaundiced, I couldn’t wake her up.  It was pretty devastating to try everything that the lactation consultant told me to try (pumping after every feed, supplements, etc.) and everything other well-meaning advice-givers gave me (drink more water, eat more calories, pump, pump, pump) to have it make absolutely no difference in the amount of milk I was producing.  I cried a lot about it, felt so embarrassed taking bottles out in public, tried to avoid (still try to avoid) moms who talk about things like “freezer stashes” and the glories of breastfeeding because it was just too painful to admit and explain that I was a failure at those things that other women worked for, sure, but actually had the capacity to do that I didn’t.

Anyways.  All that to say, having another baby has brought so many of these feelings back to the surface.  I can definitely not go through the newborn phase in the emotional stage that I was with my daughter again.  I cannot sit attached to a pump while my baby is in the swing or held by his dad, all to get another third ounce of “liquid gold” to mix into the formula.  And I certainly do not want to go through having another newborn hospitalized.  I have to, for my own sanity, do something differently this time, which means I’ve been thinking very strongly about formula feeding from the start.  And this makes me feel all kinds of guilty.  How can I not even try, especially when I nursed my daughter using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) for an entire year?  What if they were wrong last time and my issues were due to something other than my own anatomy that is now fixed?  What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t even try to nurse?  What kind of flack will I get from the breastfeeding advocates in my life (in particular, my own mother)?

In the midst of all this angst over things I cannot change or cannot predict, I decided to read Suzanne Barston’s book, after reading an article about her choice to bottle feed her second child from the start.  She wrote this book with women like me in mind.  Women who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding, but, due to whatever personal factors/choices, formula feed their babies.

Bottled Up is a very accessible, very readable book about how harmful the moralism surrounding breastfeeding promotion can be. I am not sure it is as thorough or conclusive or even as hard-lined as I wanted it to be, but this was exactly the book I needed to read with all these latent feelings swirling around in my head. This book somehow made it feel ok to have tried and fail and reminded me that formula was really not a devil. Without it, my child would have died of dehydration or jaundice or starvation or something.

As for the book itself, the first 4 chapters had me glued to the page and nodding continuously. Sometimes breastfeeding is more dangerous to the mother/child than formula and it is ridiculous and uncompassionate to suggest that every individual mother can/wants/should breastfeed.  She mostly focuses on factors like post-partum depression, past rape or sexual trauma, or even a child’s allergy to its mother’s milk (one issue that Barston encountered personally), but does bring up low supply issues and provides a firm reminder that the low estimate of women who are unable to breastfeed is 5%.  That’s 1 in 20 people, which if you extrapolate to the number of the women in the US is in the hundreds of thousands.  That’s a lot of people being done a disservice by the dialog that “breast is best” and the really lackluster support systems in existence for women with breastfeeding issues.  Barston also points out how our society isn’t really the same as it was when breastfeeding was last in vogue. Many more mothers work outside the home and pumping is difficult even in the best of situations (I had a very supportive work environment, but pumping was the worst, it was so isolating and provided a constant visual reminder of how little I was pumping, especially when my bottles sat in the fridge next to those of other users of the lactation room).

The last two chapters were a little more scattered. Barston claims that of course breastfeeding is better, but her chapter on statistics doesn’t do much to show this. I remember coming across an article (I cannot find a link to the exact article that I remember reading, unfortunately) that analyzed breastfeeding studies in much more depth with a much sharper conclusion: breastfeeding can only conclusively be linked to prevention of a couple instances of diarrhea in infants. I expected a similar summary here, but got a much more lukewarm one. As in, Barston points out that most of these studies are impossible to really take seriously because of all the complicating factors at stake (i.e. you can’t control for who breastfeeds vs. who doesn’t and some of these differences may come down to class differences or parental involvement, etc.), but doesn’t bother to draw a larger conclusion that we don’t have many reliable studies, free of bias, to base claims of “breast is best” on.  She just kinda goes with “breast is best” as the inevitable conclusion, making the same mistake most of the researchers she faults do.

In the last chapter, Barston casts her net wider to encompass breastfeeding as an unrealistic choice not for medical, psychological, or health reasons, but for socioeconomic ones. This is a particularly important point, yes, but felt like too much for this little book. That, and Barston’s winding discussion about breastfeeding in the developing world, really draw her away from what made the first chapters so striking– her personal experiences and feelings and the white middle class angst about formula. I know she was trying to bring this around to a discussion of choice rather than a discussion of well, if you tried and failed, then it’s ok to use formula, but I left this book with a little less satisfaction than I felt after the first four chapters.

If you also had trouble breastfeeding (or couldn’t/didn’t want to for any number of reasons) and felt terribly judged and terribly guilty about having to/choosing to use formula, this book is definitely for you. There is something about realizing I am not alone in this experience, something about realizing that the hyped up talk about breastfeeding is, in fact, mostly talk, and something about remembering that feeding an infant is a deeply personal choice and experience that has helped me let go of some of my guilt. I am no further in knowing how I want to proceed with my next child, but I have some more food for thought.  I have some validation for putting my mental health at the forefront in making that decision. And maybe, just maybe, I can make that tough decision with far less guilt and tears than I did the last time around.