Review: The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee


The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee
Series: The Thousandth Floor #2
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publication: August 29th 2017 by HarperCollins
Length: 432 pages
Format: eARC

New York, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amidst high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

LEDA is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden–even if it means trusting her enemy.

WATT just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When RYLIN wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

AVERY is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him… no matter the cost.

And then there’s CALLIOPE, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York, determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. And in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

There will be spoilers for THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR and THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS in this review.

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THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS is the sequel to one of my favorite reads of last year, THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR. And I’m quite ashamed of that fact. I promoted a book that has been widely discredited for being harmful to the queer community, and I sincerely apologize for that. There are a few problems with this book, and I need to share them.

Let’s start off with the positive. I found that McGee has a way with enticing readers. The writing is addicting, and I found myself reading both books very quickly. Are the dramatics faced by the main characters interesting? Yes. I guess I’m a sucker for teen drama because this was incredibly reminiscent of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and GOSSIP GIRL. However, I find that many of the aspects of this novel can be harmful towards readers, especially queer people and people of color.

At the end of THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, one of the only queer characters, Eris, was pushed off the roof of aforementioned thousandth floor building to her death, purely as a plot device. In this sequel, it is not much better. At the very end of the novel, Mariel, the girlfriend of Eris, is depicted as a vicious villain, set out to harm and ruin the lives of the people who pushed Eris off of the roof. Why was the only queer girl left in the novel was depicted as heinous and villainous? That being said, Leda “accidentally” pushed Eris off the roof for some dangerous accusations as well—Leda thought that Eris was having an affair with her father, when in fact, Eris had discovered that she and Leda were half-sisters. Turning circumstantial evidence into something nasty is something that is incredibly prevalent in this novel. This novel is supposed to be set in a progressive society, with huge advancements in technology. Is it so hard to have developments in social aspects too? As a queer woman of color, I feel hurt and pain at the fact that both canon queer girls were killed off purely as a plot device to shock readers. I feel angry that there is no positive representation from any of the main characters. Even so, there are a plethora of sins that the other main characters are carrying out—Avery is having an affair with her adopted brother, for example—yet none of them are killed or harmed as a consequence.

Not only does this novel grossly kill off two of the only known queer characters, it also poorly depicts people of color. One of the main characters, Leda, is described as “just another half-Asian girl in the uniform” (eARC, 967/5861). Asia is filled with various countries, all with widely different climates, geographies, and cultures. By describing a character as being “half-Asian” it perpetuates the notion that all Asian people are the same, that Asian people are a monolith, because who cares about specificity? While the white characters are described in great detail about their “flawless pale skin” and “beautiful blonde hair”, non-white people get “half-Asian”. Do we get (non-food-related) descriptions of our appearance? Do we get a specific acknowledgement of our ethnicity in a book that is set in a seemingly progressive society? Maybe I read too quickly and maybe I missed where the author stated what ethnicity Rylin is. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the author describes this character as being plain, at the bottom of the social ladder, overlooked, all until a WHITE GUY (Cord) notices her. I’m sick of this misogynistic and racist shit. Stop simplifying a plethora of cultures and identities, especially if this character is one of the only non-white characters.

The depiction of marginalized characters in this novel is truly shameful, especially regarding the fact that many of the privileged characters are one of the most successful and rich people in the community, living at the top-most floors of the tower. In the same vein, the only canon person of color, Rylin, and the queer characters, such as Eris and Mariel, live closer to the bottom of the tower, which represent those who are less successful and affluent. Coincidence? I think not.

While this book kept me reading, I cannot excuse the problematic aspects of this book, especially in the depiction socioeconomic issues and of queer characters and characters of color. This novel is incredibly harmful, and I only hope that this doesn’t find itself into the hands of people who could possibly be hurt.

Thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review.


alice name.pngAlice is an 18 year old college student who loves the oxford comma, television shows, and the company of dogs. She finds writing in the third person odd yet enjoyable. You can find her scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and forever organizing her shelves on Goodreads.


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What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my take? Let me know in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “Review: The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

  1. hey i know this is old but this is the most valid thing I’ve ever read, god i fucking hate this book


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