ARC Bookish Review: A Change is Gonna Come by Various

A Change is Gonna Come by Various

Published: 10 August 2017 by Stripes Publishing

Genre: Diverse, Anthology, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Featuring top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla. Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman, and Phoebe Roy.

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Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: A Change is Gonna Come is a phenomenal landmark in YA fiction! The book is a collection of short stories and poems covering a range of genres, everything from dystopia, contemporary, realistic issues, historical, and surreal fantasy – phew! And all written by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic authors, both published and debut. 

Whilst growing up I could never have dreamed of coming across a book that captures different stories written by people who looked like me or had a similar upbringing – case in point, 13-year-old me would never have thought I’d see an inner London borough in the title of a YA story (Tanya Byrne’s Hackney Moon in case you’re wondering). Each and every story in Change resonated with me in different ways. Ayisha Malik’s A Refuge was fantastic in bringing a relevant and timely topic to a YA audience in such an accessible way, putting backstories to the nameless faces we often see in the news.

Homa was already climbing on top of a mound and overlooking the jungle as if she were there to conquer it.

I loved how the diversity of the authors reflected the diversity of the genres – there’s definitely something in here for everyone! Patrice Lawrence’s The Clean Sweep read like a Black Mirror episode to me! It left my skin crawling with its dystopia feel but at the same time there was a lot of familiarity in the setting too. Aisha Busby’s Marionette Girl really took you into the character’s head and in a few short pages made me empathise with what can be a difficult and misunderstood illness – and she’s a debut author too!

The dark’s shifting around me. It’s crawling out of the walls.

We Who? and Fortune Favours the Bold were searing in their accuracy portraying racism and Islamaphobia. The backdrops of Brexit and terrorist attacks were so relevant and hopefully give a voice to what so many young people feel and go through. We Who?, written by the legend Nikesh Shukla of The Good Immigrant fame, was really cleverly written to make it applicable to lots of people (you’ll see what I mean when you read it!) Meanwhile, it’s frightening how much I related to Yasmin Rahman’s protagonist in Fortune – the idea that you’re on alert after every devastating attack, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I look forward to more from Rahman because she absolutely has a very bright future in publishing ahead! 

If people want the freedom to say and think what they want, you have the freedom to challenge them. It’s your duty.

I loved the exploration of identity in Hackney Moon and Dear Asha. I could really relate to Mary Bello’s character in Dear Asha – the idea of visiting a new place which is at once totally unfamiliar and at the same time an intrinsic part of you. Tanya Byrne’s approach in Hackney Moon was great in that it was not at all condescending – in fact, for me the message was that we often need to make mistakes and bad decisions before we figure out who we truly are and to be comfortable in our own skin. I was also blown away by Musa Okwonga’s The Elders on the Wall. There were lines that I could relate to as a young person growing up feeling screwed over by the older generation.

“You youths can reach where we are if you toil,” // They say, pouring oil down that wall’s face.

If it’s not obvious already, there really is something for everyone in A Change is Gonna Come. I’m so thankful of the contributing authors for writing such strong voices and stories, for Stripes Publishing getting behind such a worthy cause, and the YA community for being such a welcoming place that an anthology of this sort doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. If you are at all interested in supporting and reading diverse books, or just understanding the world through the eyes of people from a different walk of life, A Change is Gonna Come will not disappoint! The book is out on 10 August so pick up a copy ASAP 🙂

Do you have any diverse book recs? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: April 2017 by Walker Books UK

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life. 

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Review: I actually finished The Hate U Give a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been stalling on writing a review because I was worried about doing this stunning book justice. The hype has been strong with this one and whilst THUG isn’t actually out in the UK yet, I came across it whilst on holiday in Singapore earlier this month (so technically I few halfway around the world to get my hands on it – dedication!) proceeded to grab it and devour it in a day or two. Also fair warning, this review is a bit of a long love letter…

Let’s start with the characters because that is easily one of my favourite things about this book. The protagonist, Starr Carter has one of the most compelling voices I’ve come across in YA fiction. There are points where she is speaking directly to us, the reader, and seriously it’s difficult to remember that she is a fictional character. Her personality is so colourful and she is searingly honest about how her life is divided in two: the Garden Heights Starr and the Williamson Starr but at the same time naive about what she is sacrificing by having it so. In this way, Starr is brilliantly realistic – she is hyper aware of reality but at the same time just wants to fit in and initially doesn’t want to rock the boat. I loved reading about her relationships with her friends and family, the conflict of feelings she experiences when she becomes witness to the worst crime, and also how she bravely finds her voice. 

Being two different people is so exhausting. I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.

And Starr isn’t the only standout character. Every other character felt fully formed – not one of them felt like they were trotted on to depict ‘Label X’ and then shown the exit never to be seen again. Instead, all of the secondary characters were given backgrounds, page time, interaction with the protagonist and most importantly, an original voice. Khalil is a good example – his death is what sets off the chain of events that make up the plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this character wasn’t fully formed, I mean it happens often enough in books. But not THUG, no siree.. Even though Khalil is ‘on screen’ for a couple of chapters, his presence is felt throughout the book and Thomas makes you care about him and want justice for him which contextualises Starr’s response to her experience.

The drug dealer. That’s how they see him. It doesn’t matter that he’s suspected of doing it. “Drug dealer” is louder than “suspected” will ever be.

The same goes for the other characters. They were all distinct and real – and honestly I would be happy to read a book where Kenya is the protagonist, or Maya, DeVante, Khalil, or even freaking Uncle Carlos. Because Thomas writes in such a way that makes you care – you want to know these characters intimately, you want to know their history, how they got to where they are. A shout out here to the portrayal of Starr’s parents. I’ve often complained about absent parent syndrome in YA but this is most certainly not the case in THUG – not only are the parents present but they are parenting hard. I really liked how realistic Mr and Ms Carter were, the latter’s past was always acknowledged but never glorified, and their own difficulties were also made clear; they might be parents but they are also people.

That’s the hate they’re giving to us, baby, a system designed against us. That Thug Life.

I also want to mention the setting. The contrast between Garden Heights and Williamson was stark but not overdone – everything about Thomas’ writing is very much show not tell. The deprivation of Garden Heights was clear but the sense of community in spite of this was palpable to me. It felt like a real neighbourhood, one with the entire spectrum from young to old, ordinary to eccentric. I loved how Thomas showed us the best, like when the community band together in times of need, as well as the worst, like the gangs and turf wars that tear it apart.

This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us…

The crowning glory of The Hate U Give though is the subject of the novel – a shooting of black boy by a white policeman, something that is sadly all to common these days. Thomas deals with the topic so deftly, she puts the big questions to us, specifically, ‘just because a person isn’t a saint, is that enough to condemn him to death?’ Thomas takes the narrative beyond the usual black and white and lays out the grey for us. At no point does THUG shy away from the big issues it grapples with whether it’s police shootings, casual and institutionalised racism, social deprivation and crime etc.

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.

In short, The Hate U Give taught me A LOT. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a landmark this book is – both in the publishing world but also, personally to me as a person of colour. I became very conscious of the fact that I’ve ‘experienced’ casual racism, and how it’s important to confront it rather than excuse it for the sake of keeping things cordial because this only serves to normalise such behaviour. In case it’s not obvious, I ADORED this book and think it should be made into a required text! This is one of those times that the book not only deserves the hype but surpasses it. And if you needed further convincing, I’ve already got both my sisters to read it with very positive results! The Hate U Give is out on 6 April but I recommend having it on pre-order 😉

Have you read The Hate U Give already? Or have it on pre-order – if so what about THUG are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Published: March 2016 by Andersen Press Ltd.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia.  But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending – one that will rock his life to the core.

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Review: This was another book club read, (so far all two of my 2017 reads have been book club ones…) and again another one I would never have picked myself. The blurb is an odd one and the title didn’t give anything away either so I wasn’t hugely interested going into this book and had no idea what to expect. 

One of the things that came of the book club discussion was that the pacing was a little off. The first 2/3 of the book didn’t have any discernible plot and we essentially just followed the characters as they went about their lives with little variation. It is the last third of the book that the pace picks up and the writing and character development gets really interesting. We all agreed that it would’ve been much better had the book started with the climax because what follows was infinitely more fascinating.

And most of all, there was the crushing weight of destiny. The ossifying conviction that he was living out some ancient and preordained plan… Something horrible and inevitable.

The setting is rather unique and I think it was this aspect of the book that kept me turning the pages. There are quite a few Americans in my book group and it was interesting to hear that in their opinion Zentner’s portrayal of the ‘rural’ American Deep South was quite accurate. He deftly handles the spectrum of religion and political attitudes in a way that makes racism and class disparity not the focal point – instead they’re in the background, quietly influencing the way characters behave. I thought this was such a brilliant and subtle way to highlight issues without making the book and characters the sum of their views or into caricatures.

He didn’t think Lydia would understand because her family was so awesome. And he didn’t think Dill would understand because his family was so awful.

Moving onto the characters, I must admit that I didn’t really connect to Dill or Lydia, even though I could sympathise with some of their dilemmas. I was totally cheering on Lydia when Dill was accusing her of deserting him – even though you can understand where his fear is coming from, there is no justification for him to take it out on Lydia. But on the other hand, I found Lydia rather naive when it came to her rose-tinted view of her new life in the big city which irked me somewhat. Travis on the other hand did make an impression on me. He was quietly optimistic at the bleakest of times and found happiness in the simplest of things like books and being a fanboy online – I guess I could relate!

They’re amazing. I forget about everything I’m not good at and everyone I’m not when I read them. They make me feel brave.

One of the things that struck me about The Serpent King was the all-pervasive bleakness. This is not an airy fairy read by any means and I wasn’t expecting sunshine and unicorns, but at points the grim reality that some of these characters exist in was pretty overwhelming. The Serpent King to me was about the resilience of the human spirit after it’s been through hell and, even though Dill’s experience is on the more extreme end of the scale, I saw it as a great message to keep going even when it feels totally fruitless. 

Times are simpler when no one hates you because of your name and it doesn’t occur to you to be ashamed of it.

On a lighter note, I’m going to acknowledge something which I think is wholly underrepresented in YA: responsible and present parenting. Lydia’s relationship with her parents, especially her father, was beautifully portrayed. He was her advocate and supporter, giving her the best in life, whilst also taking pains to make her aware of her privilege in comparison to her friends. I for one would like to see more healthy parent-child relationships in YA – especially ones that are feel genuine like Zentner has written. 

You’re destined for great things, Lydia. That comes at a price. Everybody wants to be close to greatness and get a piece for themselves… You have two friends right now who may not be glamorous, but they love you for you.

The Serpent King was an interesting read but not for the plot itself. Instead, I found its merits lay elsewhere like in the authentic setting Zentner has created and some of the characters and relationships he has written. A good read if you’re after something that is a little different to the conventional YA novel. 

Have you read The Serpent King? Or do have any recommendations in a similar setting or dealing with similar issues? Let me know in the comments below!!

ARC Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

gallery-1473414254-florabankscoverreveal123The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Release Date: 12 January 2017 by Penguin Random House UK Children’s

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult

Series: None (Standalone)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks has one of the most interesting premises I’ve come across and that blurb instantly hooked me so I was delighted when I managed to get my hands on an ARC copy.

First things first, this was a totally unique book in terms of premise, plot and protagonist. I have never read anything where the main character suffers from “anterograde amnesia” and The One Memory of Flora Banks really gave an insight into what it’s like to live with a chronic illness like that. Especially at the beginning of the book, we follow Flora as her memory “resets” several times in a day and it is so disconcerting to see her retracing the same steps over and over again. It really brought home how difficult simple things must be for Flora.

How can I have forgotten that I have amnesia? How, though, could I possibly remember?

And it is precisely that which makes the plot of the novel so much more compelling. Although I know the premise of a kiss/boy spurring Flora on to undertake a cross-continent journey has understandably rankled some readers, I thought it was less the kiss and more the profoundness of her recalling something. I’d like to think if it was any other memory, she’d react in the same way purely because of how rare it is for her to remember anything. It was heart breaking to see Flora deal with having a memory and her desperation in wanting to believe it an indicator that she is healing.

I check my hand. FLORA, it says, be brave.

I loved reading about Flora’s coping mechanisms. I could vividly imagine her with her arms scribbled on and her house with things to trigger her memory of who she is. Flora’s voice is so captivating, her thoughts, fears, and dreams really jump off the page. I found it inspiring how candid Flora is about her memory loss and how she’s both naive and brave at the same time – she doesn’t let her chronic illness and constant reminders that she shouldn’t try to function alone stop her from going after Drake and the truth. 

This is how my journey will begin. One thing at a time.

The story itself kept me intrigued, wanting to know why she’d remembered the kiss and what would happen when she found Drake. The setting of Svalbard was brilliant – Barr really excelled at using the desolate landscape to draw comparisons with Flora’s state of mind. The other characters were intriguing in how they dealt with Flora’s amnesia, especially how they must adapt to her forgetfulness. For 90% of the book though we are “alone” with Flora seeing things through her eyes so you’re always wondering how much of a reliable narrator she is.

He does not know me, or he would never ask what I did yesterday. People tell me what I did yesterday: they do not ask.

For me, the book picked up the pace in the last quarter of the book and I was riveted by the last few chapters! However, it felt like it ended rather abruptly – I actually would’ve liked to see more development and the aftermath of what happens in those last few chapters. Without giving away spoilers, I’m also a little disappointed at how some things were explained away rather easily when they seemed to me to be pivotal parts of the narrative and plot.

Despite these few niggles though, The One Memory of Flora Banks is great if you’re after a good slow-burn thriller with a compelling narrator and story or if you’re interested in a good YA exploration of living with a chronic illness. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Eileen Cook’s With Malice. This book was Barr’s first foray into YA but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for her other offerings. The One Memory of Flora Banks is out next week on Thursday 12 January!

Are you looking forward to The One Memory of Flora Banks? Are you a big fan of mystery/thrillers? Any recs for great YA similar to TOMoFB? Drop me your thoughts in the comments below!

Bookish Review: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

9781848454576The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Published: June 2016 by Harlequin Teen

GenreContemporary, Realistic, Romance, YA

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

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So it’s Halloween (happy haunting guys!) but anyone who knows me knows I don’t do scary movies/things. At all. Like I’m that person who got scared at the slightly jumpy scenes in Stranger Things and hides during Scream Queens which is slapstick horror at best. So… I decided to go total 180 and do a romance contemporary review instead on this hallowed night of horrors. Don’t worry though, it’s not all sunshine and roses – keeping it real with some Armentrout *cool dude emoji*.

Mallory Dodge has been home-schooled up until senior year of high school because of a traumatic childhood. After four years of intense recovery, following her adoption by a pair of doctors, she still finds speaking up, or sometimes at all, difficult. After all, a habit of silence reinforced with threats of violence is hard to break… Senior year is Mallory’s way of breaking out of her comfort zone. But she didn’t expect to be totally thrown in the deep end which is exactly what happens when she comes face to face with Rider Stark, her protector from childhood whom she hasn’t seen in four years. As sparks fly and old feelings resurface, Mallory finds herself in deep with Rider and his complicated life, and she realises that she must find her voice if she is to save the only boy who has always been there for her.

I’d thought I’d already closed the chapter. Now it was reopened, flipping all the way to the beginning.

The Problem with Forever in a nutshell was pretty so-and-so for me. There were some great things, a few not so great. The characters fall in the latter camp – they were underwhelming and seemed one dimensional: Rider was the broody saviour; Paige, the “bitchy” obstacle of a girlfriend; Jayden, the kid who’s in over his head; Hector, the long-suffering older brother; and Ainsley, the sassy best friend. I would’ve liked to know a bit more about each of their back stories – how they got to where they were, why they behaved the way they did. There are some hints that Paige is from a broken home but it is never explored beyond the perfuctory mention. And I really disliked that Ainsley and Jayden were just plot devices to provide Mallory some perspective.

Forever was something that we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist.

The main reason for the 3 stars though was that this was a veeeery loooong book (“The Problem with Forever-ongoing books” amirite?) The book could’ve been a fraction of the length it was without losing any of the substance and plot. The first 50% was pretty much the unrequited drama of “will they/won’t they” and I found myself repeatedly rolling my eyes because it was just endless flowery descriptions of how hot Rider is, how expressive his eyebrows/ dimples/ eyes/ insert body part here is, and how Mallory keeps stealing not-so-subtle glances (let’s be real, she ~stares~) all whilst his girlfriend looks on – lovely. And while we’re on the topic, I found Armentrout’s writing a little clunky – there’s a lot of eyebrows “slamming”, lips “kicking” and fingers “wiggling” i.e. in goodbye which I found plain jarring. Best of them has to be this nugget though:

The dimple made an appearance, blessing the hallway.

Lolz. I can’t even.

One of the things I did like was the portrayal of trauma and recovery. This is a great book when it focusses on how difficult it is to become “unstuck” after a traumatic event even if that’s years and years after the fact. Armentrout is unbelievably good at portraying the most harrowing child abuse without being too heavy-handed and we witness the progression of Mallory from being paralysed into silence to finally finding her voice.  I loved how The Problem with Forever  shows us that the physical scars and manifestations of trauma aren’t the only “symptoms”. Mallory has trouble physically speaking after years of silence as protection against abuse. However, we realise that sometimes the person who seems the most put together is actually the one who needs the most help. I think this is a really important aspect of mental health and it’s great that Armentrout gave it page time in this book.

Words were not the enemy or the monster under my bed, but they held such power over me.

So overall, the issues that The Problem with Forever deals with and how Armentrout writes about them was a positive for me and quite unique enough to warrant the 3 star rating. It’s very sympathetically done and the process of healing that we follow Mallory on is a touching one. However, the story that these issues are couched in just didn’t do anything for me and I felt disjointed from it. There was just a little too much swooning and not enough connecting for me when it came to Rider and Mallory and although understandable that their background would draw them together, I thought there was a reliance on their shared history for the romance to develop.

My past was a part of me and it molded who I was today… but it did not control me.

Have you read The Problem with Forever? Should I give other Armnetrout books a try? (If so, recs are v welcome!)

Bookish Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Published: February 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Issues

Rating: ♥ ♥

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I read Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls not long ago and was disappointed by the portrayal of female friendships so I had high hopes for Beautiful Broken Things especially as it seemed to be receiving rave reviews.

Caddy and Rosie have been best friends since forever, and whilst Rosie is the confident one and Caddy the shy and “uninteresting” one, their friendship is comfortable and stable. Enter Suzanne, the exciting but mysterious new girl and before long, Caddy finds herself overcoming her jealousy of this intruder and thirsting after the freedom and rebellion that Suzanne brings. But Suzanne is running from her own demons and Caddy soon finds herself swept up in a tumultuous friendship.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Sadly, I was very disappointed with this book, and I’m aware I’m in the minority! It took me a while to get through Beautiful Broken Things and honestly? It was a slog. My biggest issue with the book was that for the first 75% we have a ridiculous amount of repetition. Nothing seemed to happen that hadn’t happened once twice multiple times already. Let me explain. Essentially, we had a Groundhog Day-esque loop of situations:

  • Step 1: Suzanne does something reckless
  • Step 2: Rosie gets annoyed and calls her out on it
  • Step 3: Caddy would stand up feebly for Suzanne whilst rejoice in feeling needed
  • Step 4: Suzanne would apologise (I am not even kidding, “sorry” appears a grand total of 88 times in the book!)
  • Step 5: Rosie and Suzanne would make up
  • Step 6: Repeat ad infinitum

And I’m sorry to say but that gets tiresome really quickly. The same can be said for the characters but special shout out to Caddy here (just as an aside, I really couldn’t get over this name, I actually took to calling her Cadence in my head because seriously Cadnam). So the idea is that Caddy, through Suzanne, will finally stop being “uninteresting”. Unfortunately, I felt like Caddy exploited Suzanne’s recklessness to make herself feel needed and validated which was so dangerous for Suzanne who was essentially spiralling out of control and needed support and stability more than anything. Also, I didn’t see any character development in Caddy, she was just as insecure, naive and selfish in the last chapter as the first, and especially at times when her friends needed her. There was one point where I wanted to throw the book across the room because of her sheer idiocy but Rosie’s reply stayed my hand:

Caddy: “How could we know this was going to happen?”
Rosie: “But the thing is, you should have known that something like this could happen. Like, that’s pretty much exactly why people don’t do things like this.”

There were a couple of redeeming features hence the two star rating. First, I appreciated that Barnard portrayed the complexity of female friendships with all of its obsessions, jealousy and conflict without having to rely on any romantic subtext. Teenage female relationships are messy and passionate and sometimes authors seem to feel the need to justify it by weaving in romantic subtext – honestly there’s enough drama in platonic female friendships that you don’t need to amplify it! Secondly, I liked that Barnard was original in looking at the aftermath of abuse in Beautiful Broken Things and how the trauma doesn’t magically just go away once a victim is removed from an abusive situation.

Despite those few positives, the best way I can sum up this book is that I felt like a rubbernecker. You know when there’s been a car crash on the side of the road and drivers slow down to stare as they drive by? Well with Beautiful Broken Things, I was the driver and the book was unfortunately the car crash. Beautiful Broken Things was interesting enough, in a morbid “I know something bad will happen” kind way and that’s why I stuck around (I wanna know how it ends dammit!) And to continue the analogy, exactly as you would with a car crash you’d rubberneck for a minute, maybe two, and then be on your merry way, the whole thing forgotten and filed away as insignificant in the grand scheme of your life. This pretty much sums up my feelings about Beautiful Broken Things – it was just about interesting enough to pique my curiosity but totally forgettable once put down.

Bookish Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

everything-everythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Published: September 2015 by Corgi Books

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥  1/2

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

I haven’t read any YA contemporary romance in a while and was in the mood for some. Everything, Everything has been on my TBR pile for literally aaaages (along with every other book on the planet *sigh*) and I remember there was much hype around it when it was first released so it looked promising.

Madeline Whittier is ill. So much so, she hasn’t been able to leave her house in 17 years. Maddy is allergic to the Outside and for as long as she can remember, the four walls of her home have been the boundaries of her world and her mother and nurse, Carla, the only other inhabitants. Maddy has accepted her lot in life and tries not to dwell on all that she is missing. But everything, (everything) changes when Olly moves in next door and is determined to penetrate the bubble Maddy has had to build around her life…

I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.

So this book was all kinds of awesome… until it wasn’t. I think that’s the best way I can think to sum it up. Those who have read it will understand what I mean but let’s focus on the good parts first. Obivously, Maddy’s disorder is the most unique and important aspect of the novel. I found her illness intriguing and whilst this was a contemporary romance, what I took away from the book was Maddy’s outlook on life – her philosophy if you will. She was as positive as one can expect under the circumstances and I found it admirable that she found ways to look on the bright side of the very limited life she lived. Everything, Everything really made me  appreciate all the small things I usually take for granted, things like literally being able to step outside our front door without pain of death.

Instead I wish for something more likely than a cure. Something less likely to make us both sad. “World peace,” I say.

There were a couple of other things that I really liked in Everything, Everything. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout with fun doodles (by the author’s husband btw, adorbs) which gives a little relief to the heavy topic at the centre of the novel. I also liked the cute IM conversations and the messages on the window, it broke up the narrative a little whilst also reinforcing just how isolated Maddy is. Nicola Yoon also used a really interesting way to emphasise just how different Olly and Maddy’s situation is – Olly’s constant movement, fluidity and momentum contrasted with Maddy’s cautious, stationary and predictable life and it was a really awesome example of an author showing rather than telling.

His body is his escape from the world, whereas I’m trapped in mine.

But I’m afraid that’s really where the goods end for me and the not so greats take over. Besides Maddy’s outlook which I did connect with, I didn’t particularly warm to the character herself. There were times I wanted her to be less passive about her situation especially towards the climax of the novel and I felt when she finally did take the initiative to control her own life, it came a little late. Same goes for Olly’s character, I couldn’t warm to him either beyond a superficial level (hello addition to book boyfriend list!) because he was damn near perfect, seemed to always know the right things to say and do and didn’t appear to have *any* flaws. I didn’t really care for Olly’s difficult family situation as it seemed contrived by the author to show he isn’t perfect – sorry Ms Yoon, I’m not convinced and am firmly of the belief that poor Olly basically suffered from Augustus Waters syndrome.

Before him my life was a palindrome- the same forward and backward.

So yep, its probably obvious that whilst there were some things I liked about Everything Everything, the ending which I found a little disappointing, meant it knocked off a star and a half for me. In the end, the innovative novel that I was hoping for fell a little flat and ended up being pretty meh for me. I think fans of The Fault in Our Stars may enjoy this and it is worth a read for the glass half full approach it promotes.