Angela Ironwright is a sixteen-year-old girl that I am very familiar with. Insecure? Check. Self-conscious about her appearance? Check. A hopeless romantic with no romantic experience? Fantasizes about boys in her private journal? Check and check. Oh, if only you could see the journals I kept when I was sixteen… I’m sad to say that each one was dedicated to a different boy. Most of the journals are only partially filled out, because once I lost interest I started with a fresh journal (and fresh crush). SMH
However, young Angela has a much more exciting story than my own small-town memoir. Angela’s journey starts with the death of a relative. She and her mother attend the funeral after being informed they are included in the will of the very wealthy deceased. This trip is a big deal for Angela, who has not met her extended family due to circumstances kept secret by her mother. They head to the coastal town of Green Beach, where the residents are flush with cash and the mansions are drenched in mystery and glamour.
Awkward Angela stumbles into the dashing Joshua Thorne in the graveyard after the funeral. She is surprised at his congeniality and interest in her. Back home she spends more time alone with her journals than with other people (yet another thing we have in common!). High on the self-confidence boost, Angela is easily convinced to join him in the dark of the night for a history lesson regarding a local urban myth. The pair tumble into another dimension, one that Joshua is very familiar with and where a mere thought can change the landscape.
Joshua calls this dimension “the pocket” and gives Angela the tour. It’s a patchwork land of contradictory genres. Cross a border and you’re in a zombie-filled cityscape. Step to the right and you’ll feel feel yourself drenched in tropical humidity while you fend off dinosaurs. There is an adventure for anyone, and Angela is delighted to ultimately find herself in a Victorian countryside, housed in the deliciously gothic mansion of her romantic dreams.
Out of the Pocket has all the trappings of a good coming-of-age story with a side of romance, but don’t be deceived. It is a fairy tale in the vein of the Brothers Grimm, meant to warn the reader of life’s many traps and pitfalls.
We are so excited to be featuring this book as our Summer 2018 F-BOM. Here’s how it stands up to our Scale:
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts
Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
In this cross-dimensional fairyland Titchenell tackles heavy issues of self-esteem, body dysmorphia, emotional abuse, and sexual assault. Angela is only sixteen and suddenly has all the superficial things she has always desired. Yet what sixteen-year-old really knows what is good for them? Lacking the wisdom of experience and the self-esteem to demand better, Angela falls prey to the many romantic tropes we are force-fed by the media.
In one particularly difficult passage, Angela struggles to reconcile why she desires for Joshua to have his way with her. All her fears and self-esteem issues freeze her sense of agency, and she cedes all control in her first sexual encounter. While she does not regret the situation in the present time, one imagines that with distance she will see things in a new light. It is in these grey areas of sexual relations that some of the most difficult conversations about consent lay, and Titchenell does not shy away from portraying it.
Another story line that bucks traditional tropes is the conflict resolution between mother and daughter. Angela finally learns why her mother cut ties with her rich family in order to lead a hard life as a working single mother on the other side of the country. Their relationship is all the stronger for it, which is a refreshing reversal of the normal mother-teenage daughter clashing narrative.
Angela’s story truly surprised me at its end, which is not something I can say for most stories. For tackling tough issues and subverting dangerous romantic tropes Out of the Pocket gets 15/15 on the Scale.
Watch the Out of the Pocket book trailer: