Book Review · From the Vault

From the Vault – Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke

I’m going to kick off this “From the Vault” series with a book I read back in January, just after seeing the author at YAK Fest.

Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.(Goodreads)

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always really enjoy books in general. I know this isn’t true for some people, and for some there is a book that really started them reading. For them this book often holds a certain emotional value that I don’t really associate with any book; however, when I read Damsel Distressed, that changed. While I was already a reader, this book had an amazing impact on me, and I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think of it in some way.

When I read Damsel Distressed, I did so from a recently-arrived-at place where I knew that I had been, and still was, battling anxiety and depression. Imogen’s story resonated so strongly with me, and Macke’s descriptions through Imogen’s voice continue to give imagery to my emotional experiences.

So here’s my rating: 5 stars! – Review originally posted here.

First of all, the cover and title page are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

Imogen’s voice is immediately distinct. Influenced by her love for musicals, it is silly, snarky, and at times brutally honest. While Imogen is overweight, and that does play a part in the story, it is not the main concern, as Imogen is clinically depressed and fighting to find some kind of light. Just when she thought things were getting better, Carmella, “Ella,” her step-sister, moves in.


  • Imogen’s unique voice/view of the world. You can definitely see the influence of the theater.
  • Macke uses just enough dialect (fish-kick, for example) for the book.
  • All of the character’s were their own unique identity and had their own presence in the book.
  • Just enough comic relief.
  • Important issues treated with respect and care.
  • Super emotionally moving!
  • The perfect capturing of depression is what really turned the knob on my waterworks. For me it is Imogen’s idea of the pendulum swing that rings so true. The exhausting swinging back and forth, thinking you have come out just to plunge back in. Maybe it’s not a new idea, but it’s the first time that I have been exposed to it, and it is so perfect that it hurts to realize how accurate the swing of the pendulum of emotions is.
  • Part of my connection to Imogen is that I lost my mom at a similar age, so, bonus waterworks.
  • In my experience as an English major, one of the things I found repeated was the idea that “serious” literature was re-readable for the underlying themes, images, ideas, etc., that once the story is read there is still something to merit by reading it again. In my Young Adult Literature class, some of these things that we looked at and were often found in our texts were: non-traditional/broken homes, peer family, and identity (personal, social, cultural, etc.), among other things. Damsel Distressed addresses all of these things with such realistic voice and emotion that it grabs onto your heartstrings and doesn’t let go.
  • This book continues to come up in my daily thoughts and has become an intense favorite.


  • I honestly have nothing negative to say about this book.


  • I want to know the story of all the other characters.
  • Not a sunshine-happy read. (It is hopeful, though.)

6 thoughts on “From the Vault – Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke

  1. Came here via Carrie of Reading is My Super Power and I had to check out this book. I love retellings. Sometimes smaller local authors get lost in the shuffle, so I am thrilled to have seen it. Thanks, Julia.

    Liked by 1 person

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