Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke: Review + Giveaway

Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke: Review + Giveaway

Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke

Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on October 14th 2014
Purchased copy from Amazon
321 pages
Purchase on AmazonFully Booked


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.

Have you ever had a book speak to you even before you actually read it? Because I can confidently say that Damsel Distressed spoke to me. It wasn’t even a case of ‘judge a book by its cover’ because I knew about this book before it had its gorgeous cover. I’d simply read the summary and some more bits that Kelsey shared about the book and I knew I needed to read Damsel Distressed. I was so excited about this one that I even preordered it on my kindle app (just so I could read ASAP) despite already ordering a physical copy, which is a first for me.

When are we gonna get a fat princess? How about a princess with bad acne and crappy posture and the mouth of a sailor? Probably never. Every. Single. One. Is the same. Totally hot. Totally predictable. Snow White has the attention of seven little men, not because she’s the only one who can reach the top of the bookshelf, but because she’s a porcelain-skinned, ruby-lipped knockout. The Little Mermaid got a prince because she shut her trap for five whole seconds and looks fierce in a bikini. And Cinderella? She’s a girl who clearly demonstrates to the prince that she’s got lots of experience on her knees and doesn’t mind getting dirty.

Anyway, after finally getting to read Damsel Distressed, I had a newfound love for the book and it knows no bounds. Damsel Distressed was all I ever expected to be and much much more. There was snark and banter and swoons and tears, but most of all, there was heart. In fact there was so much of it that my own heart was filled to the brim. A reversed fairytale retelling of Cinderella, Damsel Distressed explored the story of the ‘ugly step sister’ who in this case was our female lead, Imogen Keegan.

I am whole. I am more than just the pieces that I see. I am stronger than I seem.

Imogen thinks that a happily ever after for a broken, overweight girl like her is impossible. She’s meant to be behind the sound booth not center stage of a theatre performance. Her prince charming best friend, Grant, won’t ever fall for her the way she has with him. She’ll never live up to her princess step sister, Ella Cinder, who is perfect and gorgeous (not to mention evil). Life is a constant struggle for her as she deals with these harsh realities, as well as the death of her mother and the absence of her father. I felt for Imogen so much. The thoughts and feelings her character conveyed stunned me and moved me- they were so honest and heartbreaking.

People should treat each other with kindness, but I’m not talking about them. You can’t fix them. I’m talking about you. You deserve better treatment from yourself.

Imogen’s insecurities about being heavy-set which were something I especially shared with her. At almost 160 lbs, some people might say I’m only slightly overweight compared to Imogen’s 200 lbs, but when you’re the oddball among your petite friends and when your own family likes to remind you about how your voracious appetite and addiction to sweets is getting you bigger, confidence doesn’t come easy. You start to wonder if being chubby is the reason why you’re so unpopular or why you’ve never had a boyfriend. Like Imogen, I rarely had the luxury of feeling pretty. When you see yourself in a character like that, and you root for her to realize that she’s beautiful inside and out and she finally does, there’s a feeling in your chest that’s warm and radiant. So thank you, Kelsey Macke, for writing Imogen the way she was. 

“What if I broke us?” In less than a breath, a smile—his real smile—breaks across his face, and his eyes stare straight into mine as he shakes his head, laughing. “Oh, would you stop being dramatic? Nothing’s broken. A little bruised, maybe, but not broken. Never broken. Not us.”

Now, let me talk about Grant, Imogen’s bestfriend. OH THIS BOY. I love him to death.  I love him because he wears cute geeky shirts and because he always makes Imogen happy. I love him because he is loyal, caring, sweet, wonderful, hilarious, charming and REAL. I love him because he accepts Imogen wholly and believes in her. I love him because he gets her and because he know’s what’s best for her. I love him because he is the anchor that keeps Imogen grounded. There are a million reasons to love Grant but I love him most because while Imogen may feel alone in battling the darkness that attempts to consume her, he always has her back. No matter what and no matter how bad things got, as he promised her once upon a time.

Someday you’ll have to let some of that pain go to make room in your heart for something even bigger.

Aside from Imogen and Grant, the rest of the Damsel Distressed cast left such significant marks as well. I loved watching Imogen develop such strong friendships with Brice, Jonathan and Antonique. Imogen’s relationship with her family, her stepmother Evelyn, her dad (and even how she deals with her horrid stepsister) was moving. Honestly, I ugly cried a whole lot especially during the last few chapters. And really, the best books are the ones that go so deep and awaken so many many emotions inside of you.

I feel like a door has been unlocked by a key that was in my pocket the whole time. I’ve been broken, but I’m not broken. That pain won’t disappear anytime soon, maybe not ever, but it’s not all I have.

Damsel Distressed is a beautiful emotional journey. Mixed with amazing music and artworks, Kelsey Macke has created a phenomenal debut novel, one I’m sure will leave a huge impact on its readers as it did for me. Despite grappling with tough issues of grief, self-harm and depression, this book is a shining ray of light- one that promises hope and happy beginnings. This is a story that deserves to be read and I highly recommend it.

To share the wonderful reading experience that Damsel Distressed was, I’m giving away a copy of the book to one lucky winner. Open internationally. Join by entering the rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

37 Responses

  1. WOW. So, yeah. I need this book in my life! I already really wanted to get it after knowing that it’s a fairytale retelling, but after reading your review I know that I NEED it! I’m a total sucker for amazing characters that just stay with you even after reading it so I’m really looking forward to reading this!

    And as for the most distressing moment that has ever happened to me was when I went to get my drivers license… Oh gosh.
    I was so nervous that I completely blanked when they were asking me to turn on the right blinker.. HAHA I turned the windshield wipers and spray things on 6 times in a row because I thought for some reason the right blinker was on the right side of my wheel. My Dad ran outside and pretended to grab something out of the car and yelled to me where the blinker was.

    Yeah. I have no idea why I blanked so bad, but that was honestly the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened hahahaha.

  2. Hi Hazel! I am interested in coding my own website as you do. I was wondering what tips you can give me such as to what programs you use and how you create your digital art. Thank you so much!

  3. Ah, this book sounds amazing! I love the cover design and I’m glad that the story is really great, too. I love seeing characters develop over time and it sounds like Imogen fits that. I also like how Grant sounds like a sweet guy, who’s realistic.

  4. I love your review! You remind me why I need this book in my life. It sounds like everyone could use this book in their life… Thanks for the chance to win as well!

  5. Hi! What’s causing my anxiety this month is finals. Even though tomorrow is the first day of semestral break but to me it’s still not a break because of the laboratory reports I still have to pass to my professors. :( I am in need of a good read and rest by now.

  6. Wow, great review! I had heard general positive feedback for this book, but there’s nothing more I like than very detailed and in-depth reviews (that don’t give away too much about the book)! I like how incredibly excited I am about the characters already without even having read anything except for your review! Imogen and Grant both sound like characters I want to know NOW.

  7. Wow. It sounds like this book meant a whole lot to you, and I’m so glad you had the chance to read it! It’s a really wonderful thing, when a book can touch you that deeply, and your review is fantastic–so thoughtful and passionate. I love protagonists whose character arcs include learning to gain confidence and love themselves, and this sounds like it delivered exactly that for you! Thanks so much for the recommendation, and for the giveaway as well. :)

  8. The author and I share the same first name, so the book must be great :) I do have a big soft spot for books that depict fat characters since I was pretty chubby as a child, and this book sounds like an amazing read overall. Thank you for hosting this giveaway!

  9. I totally love the cover too! This sounds like a unique take on the traditional fairy tale with an unusual main character. I can’t wait to read it!

  10. It’s my first time I’ve encountered this book and I already feel for it thanks to your review. :) I’ve also had my share of experiences regarding self insecurities and weight. Through the years, even though it hurt, I’ve learned to cope and somehow turn the insults to motivation.

    Just by your review, I can’t wait to get Damsel Distressed!!

  11. This is my first time to read your book reviews because I just came across you blog. But you know what? When I read about your review of Damsel Distressed, I was hooked. It made me want to read this book. And thank you for giving us the opportunity to have a copy by sponsoring a giveaway. More power to your blog! :)

  12. Okay, the fact that the heroine is totally me. (Trust me, I have a mouth and an appetite of a sailor) Added this already on my Goodreads list. I can’t wait. I love this review, Hazel!

  13. I really loved your review!I love the fact that you include quotes, share your opinion and made me feel like this book is a must read! I definitely need to read this book :)

  14. Such enthusiasm!

    I like fairy tale retellings. Even when I was younger, I didn’t believe much in fairy tales or the idea behind them and when I was in college, I remember my professor telling us that fairy tales objectify women and were not good examples for little girls. So when there’s a retelling, I feel inclined to read it or watch it. I’m definitely picking this one… and I hope I win! :)

  15. i love fairy tale retellings..and this one you made such a wonderful review about it…and you include some beautiful quotes…i have such a great feeling about this one. can’t wait to get a hold a copy of my own :)

  16. I love books that deal with insecurity. It’s a concept that I can always relate to, and it makes me connect with the main characters instantly.
    My favourite in that genre so far is probably The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.
    I am dying to read this book after reading your review.

    1. It’s the same with me! I looove The DUFF! <3 But I think Damsel Distressed may have just topped it for me. ;) I related to Imogen more than I did with Bianca and while a piece of my heart is with Wesley Rush, a huge part of if it went to Grant now. :')

  17. This book sounds really good and the blurbs are intriguing. I got the feeling that this book will give me so much emotion after reading it. I can’t wait to get my copy. Thanks for the giveaway.

  18. Yes, I feel like Damsel Distressed spoke to me the moment I first read the summary weeks ago. The gorgeous cover helps but I just fell in love with the summary as a whole.

    I’m glad you found Imogen as relatable as you did. It’s always nice to see a character similar to yourself and sometimes hard to find. Grant sounds like a great person. I’m really excited to eventually win this book. Great review.

  19. I can’t wait to read Damsel Distressed once I get my hands on a copy of this book! :D This book seems incredible and unique! Great review! Thanks so much for the awesome giveaway! :D

  20. Wow, this book sounds REALLY good. I was kind of wary to try it out because of mixed reviews and what not, but after your review, I think I am going to buy it. Great review!

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