Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky #Gifted
I was gifted an advanced reader copy of Mammoth from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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. It is a realistic fiction novel with a sprinkle of romance and a plot that hooked me from the very beginning.
I adore the protagonist of Mammoth, Natalie Paige. She is a plus size blogger and is passionate about palaeontology and fashion. Natalie is ambitious, smart and funny. I love that she is feminine and fashionable but also happens to love science. Honestly, it is fantastic to see a young, intelligent female protagonist with an interest in STEM. Natalie’s character is fantastically well-written and I could definitely identify with her.
All of the characters in Mammoth are wonderfully nuanced and realistic. I love Mellie! Like Natalie she unashamedly follows her passion – crafting! I would love to have a crazy crafting friend like Mellie 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. Through all of the plot twists the character development feels very realistic.
Themes & Issues
A key theme is Mammoth is Women in STEM. Women only make up approximately 24% of all people employed in STEM industries. My own experiences at school taught me that girls are rarely taken seriously when they show an interest in STEM. It is a fantastic issue to raise to a YA audience and I truly hope that we see a positive shift going forward.
Another important issue raised by Mammoth is bullying. The story cleverly interjects information about Natalie’s previous issues with bullying. I like how the novel shows us how her past 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.
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. Plenty of books promise characters that break the mould but Mammoth is one of the few that truly live up to it. Jill Baguchinsky shows us as readers the same thing that Natalie shows her followers, that you should embrace who you are. Fundamentally, being plus size, intelligent or geeky does not make you any less of a woman. I love this book and I already want to re-read it. If you are a YA contemporary fan or have a secret love for Jurassic Park then I highly recommend Mammoth.