There’s something incredibly relatable about a bunch of people practicing knighthood in a laundromat at night, using pool noodles, and a girl talking about Brienne of Tarth destroying patriarchy.
This review has quotes as examples but it will not give away plot points. It only illustrates my love for this book. If you want to ignore them, they are easy to glance over because I have formatted them in a larger font.
Title: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly
Author: Jamie Pacton (American author)
Genre: YA contemporary
First publication: Page Street Kids (2020)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
What I liked: Relatable humor and cultural references, the way it combines history with feminism, friendships and diversity.
What I didn’t like: Literally nothing.
What is this? The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is a fresh, creative YA contemporary about Kit, history lover and clumsy nerd. Working in a Medieval restaurant as a Wench (which companies thought would be a good idea to call waitresses), she’s confronted with company policy: Women can’t be Knights. But Kit is someone who doesn’t go down without a fight and she’s in the mood to kick iron ass.
Why did I decide to read this? First of all, look at that cover. I’m not a cover-buyer but you can be damn sure I’ll pick up a book and read the summary because of a cover. I did exactly that and I was promised a wholesome feminist story about a girl fighting for her dreams and beliefs. And you know what? I got what I was promised and had the time of my life.
My review: Let me tell you…
“Gadsbudlikins, Lady Wench! he says, spotting me. The balls stay in the air, a twisting rainbow of color. “You’re in quite a hurry for such a fopdoodling scobberlotcher.”
… this was the moment I knew I would love this book. And this is on page 12, so you can be sure Jamie Pacton took me on a ride that can’t even compete with It’s a Small World (I love that ride and you can’t change my mind). The thing I love most about this book is that it’s just so easy and sincere. The humor in this book was, for me, very relatable and I found myself snickering a lot.
Most of the humor is told through Kit’s perspective, as the author chose to write in first person. And this was a wonderful decision because Jamie has written Kit as such a likable character. She’s the not-taking-your-bullshit-about-men-taking-all-the-credit kind of girl who loves pancakes and sassy fandom puns. I want to pick her up, cuddle her and wrap her in fluffy blankets. But she’s not only sassy and nerdy, her inner dialogues also fulfil the promise of the feminist vibe this book gave. And fellow readers, her inner dialogue is everything.
Kit is a history freak and her (inner) dialogue is all about her passion. Regularly, she starts ranting and daydreaming about the strong females of the Middle Ages and how they left a mark on the world today. But the author also finds a way to bring in this subject without glossing over reality. At one point, Kit is talking to herself how she wants to be like a female character from Canterbury Tales; “bold, brave, saucy and spirited“. But she adds the comment: “minus the six husbands and all that“.
“Serving Wench is my official job title, not just some sexist slur. Well it is sexist. But also correct in a history-is-painful-to-the-modern-feminist-kind of way.”
It’s something small to notice, the reality behind history and feminism of ye olde days, but I adore this book for it. You can regularly read about feminist point of views but there’s still that critique added to it. And not a lot of books seem to have the guts to do that. On top of that, this book includes. It’s diverse without trying too hard (again something not a lot of books can do). And to add to the charming personality of Jamie’s book, Kit is also a character that acknowledges her own white privilege, without sounding stuck-up or fake.
“I’m just a white girl from the suburbs. Maybe my privilege makes it easier for me to say this isn’t fair; but we need to show people that this is about more than just me doing a man’s job.”
And you know what? I’m not ready talking about Kit. Because Kit, Kit, Kit, Kit, Kit (in the words of her best friend, Layla). It was not enough to include diversity, criticism on history and toxic masculinity (whether it be unconscious or not) and talking about privilege. Nope, there are also numerous moments in this book that criticize harassment towards men and racism. There’s a small dialogue in the book that talks about people telling one of Kit’s co-workers she looks like Missandei from Game of Thrones. And Kit’s starts talking about how it might not be the best time to say that to an African American girl working a minimum-wage job. (Trust me, it makes more sense in the book.)
Which brings me to something not everyone will like. This book is full of cultural references. Next to talking about Joan of Arc and the likes of her, Kit also regularly describes things by adding characterizations pulled from fandoms. Éowyn yelling “I AM NO MAN“, telling someone not to Hulk-smash the kitchen counter, going into a Veruca-rant, and so on. And I counted the cultural references (because I love them). To illustrate:
Sometimes I annotate books with colored tabs, with the colors representing a theme depending on which book I’m reading. For this book, I used the color blue to annotate cultural references. Get what I’m telling you? It’s full of it. So if you’re someone that doesn’t enjoy them, you better stay away from this. But if you’re someone like me —incredibly nerdy and excited whenever someone understands my fandom puns so I squee like the little girl I was when I first watched Éowyn slaying all the toxic man from her life— this is something for you.
To elaborate on the photo above. Pink tabs are romantic moments. Notice how there are only five of them? That’s because this book has the guts to mildly ignore a romance 3/4th of the book. And I can really appreciate that because sometimes, it’s just not necessary to have a romantic interest breathing down my neck yelling “look at me! I’m in this book too, love me!“. Further, my yellow tabs are for moments I laughed (most out loud). “Right now, all I know is I really should have peed before agreeing to this.” Did you laugh? Then you’ll love this book. Did you not laugh? Well, still read it, because it’s probably the most lame joke in the book but I found myself crying from laughter because oh, Kit, blessed thee soul.
But enough about Kit and the damn jokes. There’s a lot of positive things about this book but summarised I’d say that this is a FEEL GOOD book. If you expect large conflicts, emotional damage, or some serious deep talk, forget it. But if you’re in for a light, cheery, heartwarming book with subtle, yet relatable, critiques towards society, then go for it!
And that’s not to say this book isn’t deep. There’s still some things going on that have a large impact on someone’s life and I think many people will find themselves in any of the characters (I know I did). To add to that, all of the characters have their own charm and story and the relationships Kit has with her friends, parents and co-workers are described in a relatable manner which only made me appreciate this book more.
And you know what, halfway my rant review I changed this into a 5 stars. Oop, guess I found my very first contemporary I actually LOVE.
Overall feeling: A feel-good book that’s practically a love letter to historical women (fictional or not), A Knight’s Tale, cultural puns, and inclusivity. This got me laughing, smiling and leaving me awake at night thinking “I should keep reading”.
Do I recommend this book? This is my very first 5 star contemporary, so hell yes I do. But if you’re someone that gets easily annoyed with nerdy puns or cultural references, you might want to stay away. But hell, I had a blast.
What will I do after this book? Quoting Kit all day, every day.
Hope you enjoyed reading this review. Did you read it already?