Mammoth – Review
Author: Jill Baguchinsky
Published: 6th November 2018
Publisher: Turner Publishing
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
“The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.
It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.
Until it isn’t.
When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.”
In our social-media focused world where girls are pigeon-holed into online personalities that show who they feel they should be, rather than reflecting who they really are, Mammoth brings us the refreshing protagonist that we all desperately need. Natalie Paige is a plus size blogger, with passions for both palaeontology and fashion. I absolutely adore Natalie’s character. She is ambitious, smart, funny and a science geek. It is fantastic to see a young, intelligent female protagonist with an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Women only make up approximately 24% of all people employed in STEM industries*. It is a fantastic issue to raise to a YA audience!
Another important issue raised by Mammoth is bullying. The story cleverly interjects information about Natalie’s previous issues with bullying, showing us how her past has shaped her but without overwhelming the other parts of the narrative. Natalie being plus size is important but the novel subverts expectations and crucially is body positive. Her motto is ‘be awesome’, which may sound like just another positive affirmation but it really highlights the pressure she puts on herself to be liked by others. Natalie’s character is fantastically well-written and I think that a lot of readers like myself, will be able to identify with her and the very real and relevant issues that she faces throughout the novel.
Jill Baguchinsky shows us as readers the same thing that Natalie shows her followers, that you should embrace who you are and that being plus size or geeky does not make you any less of a woman.
“I get my share of trolls – some pick on my size, and others can’t handle the fact that I’m a girl geeking out about paleontological finds and science news.”
All the characters in Mammoth are wonderfully nuanced and realistic. Natalie is my favourite character but I also love Mellie! Like Natalie she unashamedly follows her passion, which is for all things craft based. Mellie is the kind of crazy friend that I would love to share a dorm room with. From Dr. Carver, Natalie’s Indiana Jones-esque palaeontology hero, through to her peers, each character has a very strong sense of identity. Jill Baguchinsky is very good at capturing the essence of a character and even with plot twists and through character development, she keeps it intact allowing for a realism that I was not expecting.
Mammoth’s plot is carefully constructed and I really enjoyed all the different elements. There is a hint of mystery, a sprinkle of romance, exciting action and an overarching coming of age story. I didn’t want to put the book down because I was enjoying reading it so much. The pace is great throughout the novel, even when the plot is character rather than action driven.
When I first read the synopsis of Mammoth and requested an ARC I thought that the book sounded enjoyable but it honestly blew me away. I did not expect it to be so well written. Plenty of books promise characters that break the mould but Mammoth is one of the few that truly live up to it. I love this book. It is in fact my favourite book so far this year, which is really saying something. I already want to re-read it and I will definitely be pre-ordering a finished copy. If you are a YA Contemporary fan or have a secret love for Jurassic Park then go and pre-order a copy of Mammoth.
5 Stars and some dinosaur bones.
*As discussed on the women in STEM website here
*I was sent an ARC of Mammoth from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
P.s. You should follow @JillBaguchinsky on Twitter. She is awesome.