Come Buy, Come Buy: A Review of Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
There is something you need to know about me. I hate poetry. If you're a long term reader then you probably know this already. Very strong dislike for poetry. Never been good at writing it. Never been a fan of many poets. Don't even enjoy reading it. But! There are three, repeat after me, three, poems that I fuck with. “The Raven” by Our Lord and Savior Edgar Allan Poe, “The Lady of Shallot” by Alfred Tennyson, and “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti. And today we’re going to be talking about that last poem…sorta.
I have a review for you today. Not on “Goblin Market” itself, but on Not Good For Maidens by Tori Bovalino. This 2022 YA novel is heavily inspired by Christina Rossetti’s famous poem and is honestly a good companion piece to the poem. So let’s get into it!
As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I should issue a content warning as well. Not Good for Maidens is very gory. Tori Bovalino does not shy away from describing some disturbing things in great detail. If you’re not someone who likes or can handle gore, this book is not for you. Otherwise we're Gucci.
Our story centers on the Wickett women of York. Deep under the streets of the city lies the famous goblin market. The market calls to the Wickett ladies as they are the ones to protect the city from the goblins and dangers of the infamous market. They’re witches and have protected the town for generations. None of them dare enter the market, until May comes along. She falls in love with a goblin and soon finds herself entangled in the market.
Cut to 18-years later, far, far away from the market, Lou Wickett knows nothing about her magical heritage or the market. She was raised by her mom and Aunt May all the way across the sea in Boston. The older women have no plans to tell Lou about their family’s magical past and the horrors they experienced in the goblin market. The market has other plans though.
One day, Lou gets a call from her Aunt Neela. Over in York, something is happening. Something dangerous. Neela is in deep trouble, kidnapped by goblins to be exact, and Lou may be the only one who can save Neela. So Lou, her mother Laura, and Aunt May all travel to York. There they shall confront their past and future whilst fighting the dangerous goblin market. Will they save Neela in time? Will they prevail? Or will the goblin market destroy them once and for all?
To begin, I need to talk about the first story of this novel. Yes, we have two separate stories going on. Not Good for Maidens flips between the present and 18-years prior. Readers follow both Lou and May respectively. It’s May’s story that I’m far more intrigued by and enjoyed.
In my opinion, May simply had more depth. Lou? Not a whole lot going on there. With May there was tons of internal conflict. May had to struggle between what was expected of her, i.e. not going to the market cause she was safest that way, and having a memorable experience, i.e. going to the market even though it’s hella dangerous. And that’s the simplified version of events. May knew all along that it was not a good idea to visit the goblin market, but she has a massive crush on a goblin, she’s going through some teenaged rebellion, is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged witch when she’s not even sure that’s what she wants nor does she feel ready to be a witch, and is just generally wanting to live her life. There is so much more going on in her story than there is in Lou’s.
That leads into my next talking point: the pacing. It was odd. The story set in the present reads slow, lowkey very slow. This is despite the fact Lou is tasked with saving not only her aunt’s life but her mom’s as well. The stakes were high but there was no urgency. I never once felt like she was in danger. Never felt the stakes were drastically high even though they totally were. Once again, May’s story had high stakes, depth, and urgency; it was an all-around better story. Sadly it was the shorter of the two.
All the issues I have with Lou’s story could have been easily solved had the author avoided the no communication trope. Lou was not raised in a world with magic, she grew up blind to those sort of things, and when she finally enters this world her family still keeps information from her! I hate the no communication trope. No matter what, it’s always poorly done. Please, authors everywhere, I beg of you: stop using the no communication trope! I don’t know one person who likes it.
Not Good for Maidens is not without positives though. The imagery in this novel is both gorgeous and disturbing. Lots of gore in this novel, be prepared for that. The imagery of the goblin market is a knockout. As I’ve stated, there is lots of gore, but there are also a lot of jewels and nature that is described as well. Not Good for Maidens is constantly walking this line between gory horror and beautiful fantasy.
I should note, this is totally the point of the goblin market. The goblins spell everything to appear nicer than it is. The fruit they sell appears better than anything else out there, but under that façade the fruit is rotten. Tori Bovalino masterfully showcases this to readers. Her imagery is simply topnotch.
Overall, Not Good for Maidens was a decent read. It certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, nor was it even the worst thing I’ve read this year, but this isn’t a book I’d write home about. The imagery is great, but the rest of the book is simply adequate.
With that I must bid you all adieu. I shall be back next week with another new review. Yes, another review! I'm really trying to write more reviews to make up for when I was sick.
Until then, stay safe, was your hands, and read some good books for me.