Bluebell Hall by Kayla Bashe is like reading a novelized version of really cute magical girl/shoujo ai anime—if shoujo ai were to be scrubbed clean of “but we’re both girls!” and all the insulting fanservicey boob shots stuff.
It’s the story of Tansy Trilby, a young woman with… dyslexia? or some similar disability, who has trouble reading but whose natural ability to perform magic gets her a spot at Bluebell Hall. Here, she quickly makes friends with all the scholarship girls, a lovable trio with their own interesting backstories, side-plots, and personal adventures. (For example, one of them is a trans girl trying not to get found by her transphobic uncle.)
Meanwhile, a student I can’t help but describe as a female Draco Malfoy seems like a real pill at first, but it turns out there’s something very dark going on in her life. Tansy might be the first good thing that’s ever happened to her.
There were some wonderful turns of phrase in this book, like Tansy telling her father that she’s much too interesting to be “good”, and a bit at the end I don’t want to spoil involving oceans and gardens. Maybe I will send some of these quotes floating around Tumblr with proper attribution later on.
There’s the occasional typo/grammar “thing”, but think of it as Tansy’s presence — she’s a person whose inner beauty and resilience isn’t held back by her textual issues so maybe the book can be a reflection of that.
I thought the plot was really creative, too, and I liked the way there were B plots and C plots all over the place that fleshed out the other girls in the book, not just letting it focus on Tansy and her inevitable romance with her classmate.
Standard disclaimer that this is a book in which no lesbians/otherwise queer women go off with men at the end or are sexually assaulted; I’m almost reluctant to say this because in this case it really is a spoiler but there aren’t any lesbian/otherwise queer women deaths, either. :P There is also no on-screen homophobia, and what transphobia there is, is perpetrated by a villain who is quickly subjugated.
The only other thing I can think of to say is that now I wanna see the anime!