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And now for something completely different. White Stag is a Norse mythology-based YA novel that is filled with goblins and a cornucopia of other unique creatures. I love it when an author promises something new that goes outside of the norm of what is out there.
Unfortunately, White Stag was filled with many distractions. I kept thinking of Netflix’s Friends from College while I was reading it. Ethan and Max discussing Ethan’s venture into the massively popular YA genre and the advice they receive from Kate McKinnon’s character: pick a monster and make it sexy. It seems to me that was exactly what Barbieri did. A new angle, yes, but still not really different.
The protagonist, Janneke (or Janneka), was your typical cookie-cutter, YA heroine. Irresistible to every eligible man, an unconquerable foe in battle, and completely confused by her sexual urges. I found Janneke’s internal torment with her feelings and her past too rushed and underdeveloped.
While I can appreciate that I am not Barbieri’s target audience, and that White Stag ticks off all of the boxes of what a YA book should be, I really think that the young adult readers are a lot more sophisticated than they are given credit for. It is a highly competitive market with some of the best authors hard at work; I think that this audience wants and deserves more.
As a young author, now with her first published book under her belt, Barbieri has some great ideas, and I can foresee a bright future. I applaud her fearlessness in going into places that some people want to close their eyes to, but she needs to push the boundaries more. The Permafrost world is an intriguing place, but it really needs to separate itself from the bulk of what is found in the YA universe.