Romance and humor strike the perfect notes in curses
As has been the norm for the past year and a half, I have often found myself doomscrolling on Twitter and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is going on in the world. For many of us, books have been a loophole during the pandemic, providing a safe place to immerse ourselves in and distract from negative news. I’ve been turning more to high fantasy lately, but with the release of Lish McBride’s new YA novel, Curses, I was reminded that the fantasy genre can also be humorous and light.
An ironic spin on The beauty and the Beast, Curses follows Merit Cravan, a young woman who has been cursed for living her life like a beast unless she marries a man chosen by her mother. After Merit catches a thief stealing valuable plants from her family’s garden, they strike a deal to exchange the thief’s life for her eldest son, Tevin. Upon learning that Tevin has been gifted with charm and comes from a family of crooks, Merit enlists him to help her find a husband before her curse becomes permanent. The closer they get to the deadline, however, the fewer his options become – and the more it looks like Tevin could be the one to break the curse.
Curses is overkill and ridiculous at times, and he’s incredibly aware of it. When Merit first meets Tevin, he is held in a jail cell with his siblings and cousin Val, but because of Tevin’s charm, they convinced the guards to give them playing cards, a mat plush toy and a food basket to share. At one point, Merit and Tevin get into an argument, and she throws plates and cups of tea against the wall in frustration, but when she struggles to reach the table for another cup of tea, Tevin pushes her closer and she thanks him before resuming their fight. Val and Tevin’s brother, Amaury, are tasked with gathering information about Merit’s potential suitors, but that doesn’t stop Val from flirting with other single women or Amaury from sneaking around to dig up and uncover damaging gossip. There is no shortage of comedies, and the fact that they are so absurd makes even the most suspenseful scenes a pleasure to read.
As fun as the story may be, there are more serious moments that have been embedded through troubling parent-child relationships. Tevin has complicated feelings about his parents, knowing their way of life is illegal and dangerous and not appreciating the fact that he needs to help them make ends meet. However, he seeks their approval and secretly wants their life to be more stable. Merit has similar issues with her mother, regarding her curse and the way she behaves as a lady of high society. In Merit’s case, there is a parallel between a generational disconnect, with her mother wanting to stick to tradition while Merit wanting to forge her own path in life. I appreciated how grounded and authentic it has remained, in light of the exaggeration of other aspects of the book. There is a bit of levity and that helps make the emotional arc more satisfying.
This is no surprise to anyone, but my favorite part of Curses was the budding romance between Merit and Tevin. When they first meet, their trust rests on extremely rocky ground, especially since Merit’s previous relationship involved a boy who left her after his mother paid him off. That being said, Tevin keeps his promise to be honest and helpful to Merit as he tries to find her a husband, and he allows her to have fun and be herself – something she has been given. always said is not desirable. Their relationship is a slow burn, but there are a lot of moments of nostalgia and tension that are frustrating in the best way possible. It’s not just that they have great chemistry that makes Merit and Tevin such a great couple; it’s also how they challenge each other to be better and accept each other despite their shortcomings. I’ll be the first to admit that Tevin holding Merit’s happiness and well-being above his own made my heart melt, and I had more than a few moments where I thought, “Kiss each other. already ! ” During the lecture.
It may be too early to tell, but from now on Curses is easily my favorite book of 2021. It was an absolute joy to read and gave me a well-deserved break to focus on something that indulged in lightness. It’s an eclectic story that has a little something for everyone, and I really enjoyed my time with Tevin and Merit and following their shenanigans. I’ll be honestly surprised if anything else comes close.
Curses is out now.