by Kelsey Macke
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Find It: Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing
Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.
While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.
And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
“The End” is just the beginning.
Can I just leave the review like that? Just read this book. Trust me. The end.
No? Okay… I will say more, even though I don’t think it’s truly necessary. 😉
Imogen is an extremely fragile teenager. She’s battling emotional issues (including depression, panic attacks, low self-esteem, etc.) that have left her with a less-than-stellar label at school of “emotionally disturbed”. With only her one friend, Grant, she is struggling to keep her head above water and not lose it completely. This year is starting off better though, as she meets new friends, is succeeding in therapy, and is keeping herself busy with theater at school. But this happiness doesn’t last long when she finds out that her father’s new wife and daughter, Imogen’s stepsiter Ella, will be coming to live with her.
Imogen is a character you can’t help but route for. She’s a total mess, and all I wanted to do was be her #1 cheerleader. I have a small understanding of emotional issues, but not to the extent that Imogen was facing them. Her inner demons were mind-blowing, and I just wanted her to find it within herself to stay strong and beat this thing. The secondary characters were equally impacting. Grant was one of the best friends I’ve ever seen in a story. If I had the choice of any book BFF I’ve read so far in my entire life, he would be in my top 5 for sure. I also appreciated the significance of all of the other characters, all playing such an important role in this story. From Brice and Jonathan all the way down to Ella, they each had such an important role in Imogen life; good or bad, happy or sad.
I’m having a difficult time expressing my love for this book without including spoilers. Anyone who knows me knows my hatred of spoilery reviews when it’s not stated. I love going into a book completely blind, and the fact that I did that exact thing for this book made it so important to me. So now I’m going to write a small spoilery paragraph or two just because there are things I want to express my love of, without ruining it for anyone that plans to read this book. (Which should be everyone because this book is THAT good!)
View Spoiler » « Hide SpoilerOne of my very favorite aspects of this book was the strong family bond, despite the difficulties they faced. Imogen’s father was completely non-existent in Imogen’s physical life, but not by choice. He was working out of town, and thus wasn’t around when she needed him. But man, when she hit rock bottom he was right there for her. Also the fact that it was so important for Imogen’s stepmother and stepsister to come live with her was nice too. At first I really didn’t like Imogen’s stepmother, which I think was the idea. But when times got tough, I couldn’t believe the support she showed Imogen. It was exactly how it “should” be, though so often isn’t.
My only complaint, if you can even call it that, was that I wish I got to know Ella a bit more. Honestly, I would absolutely love it if Kelsey decided to write a companion novel about Ella. We do get to find out a tiny bit about her in a general sense toward the end, but I’d love to know what her life was like before this. She was so cruel and evil to Imogen, yet it was all just a cry for attention. She was suffering herself from so many inner struggles, and the only way she knew how to handle it was to aim all of her hatred and frustration toward Imogen. I felt so bad for her. Yes, I disliked her immensely as well, but really I felt like she just needed some help. The poor thing was suffering herself, and was crying out for someone to save her. Inner emotional demons are really paralyzing.
I’m all for HEA endings, and this one was perfect. I really liked how it all came together. I was routing for Imogen and Grant the entire book, though I would have been happy if they simply remained BFF’s as well. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go, but I really liked the ending Kelsey chose. I didn’t like that Ella was simply relocating. I felt like they had to work out their issues and get to the bottom of it… but I’m okay with it. These few “complaints” I had don’t change my rating one bit. This book was perfect just the way it was. <3 [/spoiler] Damsel Distressed is simply amazing. It’s extremely difficult to read at times, but well worth it. I had to put it down a few times and compose myself because I was a complete mess, but I always went back to it with an open mind and open heart. I honestly learned quite a bit from this book, more than I ever thought possible. I can’t stress enough what a gem this book is. If it wasn’t for the cover that won my heart, I don’t know if I would have read this book. I tend to shy away from emotional disorder books like this, as they tear my heart apart. I’m so thankful that for whatever reason (totally the cover, seriously.) I chose to pick this one up. Before even finishing it I ordered myself a keeper copy. I knew I just HAD to have this beauty on my shelf.
This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. No, this book isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a fan of contemporaries with quite a few emotional elements, pass on this one. But if you want to be touched deeply, while learning a thing or two in the process, I would say pick up this book immediately. I think it will always have a special spot in my heart.
This book isn’t just an ordinary book… it’s interactive! Kelsey Macke also created a CD of music called Imogen Unlocked that goes along with the book. Between chapters there are pages of artwork, and each of those pages contains a code that you can scan and listen to the coordinating song. It’s amazing! I wish I had this physical copy the first time I read the book. But since I plan to read it again, I will definitely be scanning and listening as I read. 🙂
If you’re interested, check out Kelsey Macke’s video addressing the book and CD combination!