To Best the Boys
Published March 19, 2019
About TO BEST THE BOYS
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
From the very beginning, I loved the spooky, dangerous story world of TO BEST THE BOYS. Ghouls stalk through the mist at night, and sirens make the sea a treacherous place. Add to that a fearless, smart-as-a-whip heroine and you’ve got a story which delivers on the promised wild ride.
I loved Rhen’s passion for science. I also loved that TO BEST THE BOYS features a heroine who’s deeply into science, but the book doesn’t feel like a science book. Does that make sense? It didn’t feel like so much of the book was about the science that it would be a turn-off to readers who don’t really have an interest in science.
Rhen doesn’t neatly fit in the world into which she was born. She doesn’t want to marry and devote her life only to raising a family. She wants an education, something that her society denies her an opportunity to pursue.
I liked that the story took a moment to give a nod to women who do desire a hearth and home life. Not everyone is the same or wants the same things, and it’s okay to want to be a full time homemaker, too.
On the romance element in TO BEST THE BOYS. Y’all, Mary Weber knows how to write strong men. Like, not just physically strong, which obviously Lute is because of being a fisherman. But a strength of character and heart. He supports Rhen, sometimes simply by standing back and not interfering. He tries very hard to respect her wishes, even when he believes she’s doing something foolish. I liked him a lot. Definitely a worthy addition to a book boyfriend list, if you’re the type to keep one.
Overall, I liked this book so much. From the spooky story world to the like-Hunger-Games-but-for-college contest to the whip-sharp heroine, TO BEST THE BOYS has so much to offer. A great pick for DIVERGENT fans.
Characters are described as having tan skin and dark hair. Rhen describes struggles with dyslexia. Lute’s younger brother has some delays and sensory issues.
Recommended for ages 12 up.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A few made up curses like “hulls”. Sometimes “bloody” is used as a curse as well.
A couple steamy kisses between boy and girl. At one point, Seleni and Rhen overhear some boys making comments about which girls they’re interested in and how far they’ve gotten with them. The comments stay pretty vague, but it’s clearly wrong and offensive.
Monsters like basilisks, ghouls, and sirens make travel at night especially treacherous.
Rhen visits the morgue to collect blood samples for her research. She makes a mistake when collecting a sample, and causes a body to explode.
In the contest, two boys actively try to harm or kill other contestants.
Note: I received a free copy of TO BEST THE BOYS in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which don’t cost the reader anything when used but which help cover the costs of running this blog and occasionally provide an efficient caffeine delivery system for the blogger.