“Prepped” by Bethany Mangle – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

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This was described as a YA romance, so I went into it thinking it would be a little on the fluffy side. I was intrigued by the setting – it takes place within a community of doomsday preppers – but thought that was going to be kind of a quirky hook to make it different than other YA novels.

I was not prepared for how poignant, tense, and frustrating this novel was going to be! The kids in this community literally exist to keep the species going, and calling the parents “detached” would be an understatement. In many ways, those aspects reminded me of Tara Westover’s “Educated.” The parents are often using the kids for free labor, putting them in harm’s way, and acting like any harm (physical or emotional) that they inflict is good for the kids.

Thankfully, this story is fictional. But, like any good piece of fiction, the emotions it brings up are very real.

The heroine here is Becca Adlaine, whose parents run the aforementioned prepper community. She is a high school senior, and has every intention of leaving as soon as she can… but, she also has a younger sister. A lot of the story focuses on this relationship, and Becca worrying about whether she can leave her sister behind or try to save her.

Becca’s relationships with her parents are also fraught with difficulties. She both hates them for the way they are, and still kind of loves them because… well, because they’re her parents? I have known people like this, who are still fiercely dedicated to abusive parents because they feel the pull of family ties. So, while I struggle with understanding this dynamic myself, I do acknowledge that it is real for some people.

There are also logistical issues with running away – like how to get away, how to make money to live on, etc.

The Adlaines picked out Becca’s future husband for her already – a boy in her grade named Roy Kang. His family is newer to the community, and they are Korean American, so this will diversify the gene pool. Becca is less than enthused, for obvious reasons. It also irks her that Roy seems to go along with all the training drills and such with no complaints. While she may not like Roy romantically, she is comfortable with him – he’s one of the only people who understands her upbringing, and they have a long history of shared experiences.

Photograph by James Mangle

All that changes when Roy reveals that he doesn’t believe in this prepper stuff, either. He just goes along to get along with his parents. Now, with two of them, there’s a better chance that they can make a plan that will work.

Let me interject here that Bethany Mangle is a Korean American herself, and specifically wanted to write the love interest in the book to be Korean American. However, his ethnicity is not Roy’s defining trait by any means.

Becca (and Roy) have a few other allies: one is another student in their grade, Sydney, who is not a part of the prepper community. Another is one of Becca’s teachers, Mrs. Garcia. While these two characters do not know all of what Becca is going through, she confides bits and parts to them as needed, and they both protect her secrets and help when they can.

Hopefully, I’ve given you a lot about the emotional punch of this story without giving away too many of the plot details. I didn’t want this review to be so full of spoilers that you don’t go pick up this book!

The book is being released on February 23rd, 2021. I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy through the Books Forward program and NetGalley.


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“Bookish and the Beast” by Ashley Poston – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


“Bookish and the Beast” by Ashley Poston is the final book (as of writing) in the Once Upon a Con trilogy. For fans of Reading Our Shelves, you’ll remember our first review was for the second book in this trilogy “The Princess and the Fangirl.”

Nisha and I both gave the previous book ☆☆☆. Looking back, I think my main dislike for “Princess and the Fangirl” was my general dislike for the fairytale “Prince and the Pauper” as well as how much time was spent at ExcelsiCon. I do enjoy stories that take place in one central location, but those are for short stories and novellas.

So going into “Bookish and the Beast,” I had higher hopes knowing that it was going to take place in a library over an extended period of time.

As usual I listened to the audiobook and I have to say that I loved that Caitlyn Kelly was one of the two narrators. She is my all time favorite book narrator. Curry Whitimire did a great job as well, so kudos.


Looking back at my previous comments related to “The Princess and the Fangirl” I quickly realized that less ExcelsiCon the better. Ashley Poston might have read my mind because there was just enough of ExcelsiCon to establish the aura that is her Once Upon a Con series aesthetic but not shoving it down your throat.

The opening of the book is the ending of that year’s ExcelsiCon. Starting with the big ball and leading to the meet-cute. Rosie – our “Belle” – isn’t too enthused about this ball. It’s too loud and too many people. So she goes off to find someplace quiet and meets Vance – the “Beast” – and his amazing General Sond cosplay (spoiler it’s the actual movie wardrobe).

I very much enjoyed this meet-cute. It sets up Rosie and Vance as two individual people, not just a fan and actor respectively. Rosie isn’t defined by her love of Starfield which seemed to be more prevalent in the previous two books. Yes, she loves Starfield, but her love is more rooted in the Starfield book series and it’s connection with her recently deceased mother.

Vance on the other hand is a nice and charismatic young man, but as the book goes on he shows how his Hollywood lifestyle has somewhat rotted his brain, making him believe he is the bad boy everyone thinks he is.

I’m not going to spoil the novel in this review, but I will speak now on some of my favorite sections and my thoughts on a couple characters. Ashley Poston did a fantastic job with “Bookish and the Beast” that I encourage all of you to read it,

First off, one of my favorite scenes was when Rosie meets Vance. The real Vance, not the General Sond cosplayer. There’s a dog and a pool and a book. It’s funny and sad at the same time. It made me want to shove Vance in the pool too.

Like with “Geekerella” and “The Princess and the Fangirl,” Ashley Poston adds in scenes from Starfield. These scenes are from the novels based on the TV series. They focus on General Sond, who is believed to be the “Big Bad” who steals Princess Amara from the hero Prince Carmindor. There’s a lot of complexity in the relationship between Amara and Sond, and I hope Poston continues to explore the world of Starfield.

Rosie’s father, aka Space Dad (you’ll understand when you read the book), is my favorite side character. The love he shows his daughter and his “I used to be big into the punk scene in my youth” aura made him unique and lovable.

Overall, I would give “Bookish and the Beast” ☆☆☆☆☆. It is my favorite in the entire Once Upon a Con series. You can tell the passion for the story that Ashley Poston put into it as well as all the Beauty and the Beast tie ins. It’s a love letter to geekdom and booklovers young and old. There’s lots of nerd culture and book culture and sweet YA romance. Everything I enjoy in a book, and more.


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