Review: Dangerous Reflections (Adventures of Alexis Davenport #1) by Shay West

Review: Dangerous Reflections (Adventures of Alexis Davenport #1) by Shay WestDangerous Reflections by Shay West
Series: Adventures of Alexis Davenport #1
Published by Booktrope on June 17, 2014
Pages: 214
Goodreads |

Alexis Davenport wants to go home. She hates her new school, her mother for moving her away from her friends, and her father for walking out.

To make matters worse, Alex is haunted by images of strange girls reflected in her mirror. It's bad enough juggling homework, a relentless bully, boys, and a deadbeat dad; now, she must save the world from an evil presence hell-bent on changing the past - and our futures. Who knew her A+ in history was going to be this important?

I received this book from Booktrope in exchange for an honest review.

I blew through this book in about two hours. Dangerous Reflections has such an interesting premise. Young girl time travels to save historical figures throughout history. It’s a great way to make history accessible to young readers. I was pleasantly surprised at the choice of historical figures/locations. They aren’t obvious. West makes thoughtful choices. For example, Alexis goes back to 15th or 16th century Spain to save young Hernán Cortés. I never really thought about what might have happened to the Americas if Cortés had never visited. Alexis wonders if she should let Cortés die because of his involvement in overthrowing the Aztec Empire. She comes to the conclusion that it is not her place to judge or change history. I think it’s an insightful conclusion. We may not agree with what happened in the past but we can certainly appreciate the outcome.

The only historical situation that fell flat for me was when she time travels into an old slave woman’s body in the 19th century American south. I’m not bothered at the idea that Alexis experiences life as a slave. She has some pretty powerful experiences that I thought were well done. The death scene is particularly poignant. What does bother me is West’s stereotypical portrayal of the black mammy. I think using these kinds of archetypes trivialize slavery in a counter-productive way. Though the mammy is always portrayed as a loyal second mother figure to the white children on the plantation, she is still a slave. She’s still subject to the horrors of having her family bought and sold on a master’s whim. To seeing young slave girls raped on a regular basis. To the injustice of being counted as 3/5ths of a person. The fact that Agy is a beloved member of the Davis household doesn’t change the fact that she has no freedom or civil liberties. The fact that Agy herself is loyal to the Davis family doesn’t make it all ok. I think what bothers me most is that the only injustice Alexis feels is about Agy’s murder and not about her status as a slave.

I saw a disconnect between the narrative style of the time travel chapters and the style of the Alexis-in-present chapters. I’m not sure what happened but the chapters set during the present day felt a little more clunky and heavy handed than the chapters set in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because West had more fun writing the historical scenes or if she struggled with the teen perspective in general. I also thought the master and drifter scenes were a little too over-dramatic. They didn’t always feel authentic, especially at the beginning of the book. I think the idea of a bad guy trying to alter history is fascinating. But I also think that West should relax a little and let the evil show itself in less contrived ways. Perhaps that gets better in the next book.

But, enough about the issues. Let’s talk about the awesome things. First off, I think Alexis is a great role-model for young girls. She faces a lot of the problems that many young girls face. She’s bullied, she can’t always afford the latest trends, she’s a history nerd, etc. Sometimes she lets the negativity get to her (like we all do) but she overcomes it with a smile, some laughter, and some good friends. I think her friends may be my favorite part of the present-day chapters. They’re supportive, funny, and always there for Alexis … even when she’s a jerk to them. That’s the mark of true friendship. I also think West does an exceptional job hinting around that Beau doesn’t always want to go along with the popular crowd. I’m pretty sure he’s a good guy at heart. I hope so anyway. She also does a great job depicting the butterflies and uncertainty that arises on a first date. It was cute, authentic, and took me back to my own first dates in high school.

In the end, I’m always looking for good YA that features strong girls. Dangerous Reflections fits the bill. Though there are some clunky narrative moments and a questionable historical interpretation, I think Shay West writes a fun book that a lot of teens will identify with. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Twisted Reflections.

three-half-stars

© 2014 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.