I picked this book up for #DiverseAThon 2.0.
Robin Talley’s 3rd book ‘As I Descended’ is a dark and exciting retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Set in an elite private American boarding school Acheron Academy, the story tales us through the story of our protagonist Maria Lyon’s doomed rise to the top of school status.
After finding out that she may not be front runner for the prestigious Cawdor Kingsley prize Maria and her girlfriend Lily make the beginnings of a plan to change the order of things. However what Maria hasn’t told anyone – not even Lily, is that since childhood she has had a strong connection to the spiritual world, and one night after a game of ouija board ends in disaster, Maria unwittingly sets the spirits loose on Acheron School and its pupils.
With some fatal consequences along the way Maria and Lily soon regret all that they wished for and begin a slow and steady descent to sheer madness.
I originally picked up this book because I knew it focused on a f/f relationship and was looking for a new YA lesbian novel to fall in love with. I certainly was not let down on diversity within this book as once I began reading I realised that Talley did not just represent f/f relationships but also m/m relationships, underrepresented body types, biracial characters and perhaps the most pleasantly surprising for me – a character with a physical disability. Lily, our main character’s other half, uses crutches permanently and lives with chronic pain after a childhood car accident. I loved this aspect of the story especially as I myself lives with chronic pain. Talley wrote this characteristic of Lily beautifully becuase although at times is was woven into the main plot, it was never all that Lily was identified by – her character was a lot deeper than just her chronic pain and crutches. There were times when we did watch Lily struggle due to her disability and it was shown both physically and mentally. I adored these scenes as hard as they could be to read. I saw myself in Lily’s character as she cursed the constant unrelenting pain and its restrictions and I empathised deeply when she worried about being constantly on the sidelines due to her inability to just join in with her peers. These scenes were written respectfully and very true to reality.
Another aspect of the story I absolutely loved was the scary, chilling suspenseful tone of writing throughout. I will 100% put my hands up and say I am a total scaredy-cat and that this book had me sleeping with the lights on! Talley writes with such vivid imagery and descriptive language, not unlike Shakespeare’s use of language to convey dark atmosphere. Half true to the spooky story of Macbeth (which you can see references to throughout if you keep your eyes open!) and half rooted in hispanic folklore this story was truly chilling and the suspense only grows as you turn the page… every time you think its safe to relax something else jumps at you from the pages, leaving you reaching for a pillow to hide behind!
My only criticism of the book, if you can call it that, is that I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction between Maria and Lily toward the end of the book. Although they were both experiencing their own descent into all things mad in separate ways I would have liked to see them exchange a little more eveb perhaps to heighten their own paranoia and suspicion even more.
Overall I thoroughly loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a diverse and spooky alternative to the ususal high school drama story.