ARC Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, by Kate Hattemer
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, Kate Hattemer
Pub. Date: February 18, 2020
*This Advanced Reader’s E-copy was provided through NetGalley and Random House Children’s Knopf Books, free of charge.*
The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, written by Kate Hattemer, is a young adult novel written specifically for 2019. Jemima Kincaid is one of the three members of her student government, the Triumvirate, and is in charge of various student events. Jemima prides herself on being a feminist and constantly fights for womens’ rights, whether it is through challenging problematic teachers to educating her fellow students about gender politics. However, with senior year comes several obstacles, such as planning the prom (an outdated practice Jemima is determined to abolish), sudden attraction to fellow student government member Andy Moore, and the burgeoning realization maybe she isn’t the best feminist she could be.
I will admit, the cover caught my eye before I heard any description - the image of Jemima smirking and standing defiantly made me want to read this novel. The way the artist designed her pose reminds me of the Uncle Sam posters, which fits given the first line of the offical book description: “Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one too.” The aesthetics of this e-copy are dynamic, from the color scheme (various blues, whites, and pinks) creating a pleasing effect. The cover does a great job of luring the reader into the story.
From there, the story is generally enjoyable. Without giving away too many spoilers, Jemima’s last semester is fraught with various situations that reveal that she is actually what is called a white feminist - a feminist who only actively uplifts the experiences of Caucasian women while ignoring experiences. The story made me ponder my own experiences with both white feminism and intersectional feminism, and how I could make sure to do better in the future. Jemima’s journey from internalized misogyny and white feminism to intersectional feminism is a valuable one that everyone should undertake at least once in their life.
However, on the flip side of this journey, Jemima is then unlikeable for about half of the book. I really wanted to like her as she is trying to be a thoughtful and confident person, but there were so many times at which I had to give her the side-eye. Jemima deals with a lot of internalized misogyny, misandry, and ignorant racism, a lot of which seemed obviously bad. Granted, she is a few years younger than me - so take my experience with Jemima with a grain of salt. At least Jemima begins to improve with the support and no-bullshit-attitude of her best friend, Jiyoon.
Speaking of Jiyoon, if Jemima is one of my least favorite characters in The Feminist Agenda…, then Jiyoon is the opposite. A fierce, outspoken Korean junior, she educates Jemima on internalized misogyny and the dangers of ignoring race when it comes to feminism. She also provides a good example of how a relationship should be between two people whens she meets Paul, as opposed to Jemima’s relationship with Andy.
What relationship, you may ask, as I have skimmed over it? That is because the relationship that Hattemer creates is questionable, to say the least. It is based entirely on lust, rather than any actual feelings; it wouldn’t even be a bad relationship if she had played it that way. Instead, Jemima is acting as if she has feelings for Andy, when in reality she herself only ever talks about her physical attraction to Andy. In fact, they both seem to hate each other, and only encourage each other positively when they are locking mouths. If anything, the relationship between Jemima and Andy is a testament to how we can ignore obvious red flags when distracted by our urges.
In the end, I would give The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid three out of five stars. The premise is interesting, if a bit slow, and good for fluff reading. It is also great for beginning a conversation about feminism and how to improve yourself. However, in trying to make the characters educatable, they are then made annoying and judgmental for most of the novel. It is a shame, as the plot promised more than the characterization delivered.
If you want to read more books like The Feminist Agenda…, I recommend:
The Birds, the Bees and You and Me, Olivia Hinebaugh
Amelia Westlake Was Never Here, Erin Gough
Hello Girls, Brittany Cavallaro, Emily Henry
Let me know you think of my review in the comments below! I appreciate you taking the time to read this post. Until next time!