Rapid Reviews #2: The NetGalley edition
Boy howdy, it has been a while. I’ve been vaguely reviewing over on Goodreads, but it wasn’t until I was looking through NetGalley this morning that I realised that there are so many books on there that I’ve read and just haven’t had a chance to review yet.
This edition of Rapid Reviews is gathering together eight titles from NetGalley that I really should have reviewed months ago, but I still don’t have a lot of time to blog so I’m only going to put my main thoughts down about each one.
Here goes nothing…
All We Could Have Been by T.E. Carter – 3 stars
All We Could Have Been didn’t come across as very realistic to me. Lexie constantly spoke in metaphors, making her the second most pretentious YA character I’ve come across (the first prize going to Augustus from The Fault In Our Stars), and the way the other characters reacted to Lexie’s past wasn’t authentic. I’ve known people who have been related to murderers and if anything it’s caused them to be pitied and wrapped in cotton wool, not treated as though they themselves have slaughtered whole families on a whim. It didn’t annoy me enough to rate it any lower than three stars, but it was pretty bland and didn’t do anything for me. I’ve heard that T.E. Carter’s debut is more successful than this book, so I might give that one a go instead.
Big Bones by Laura Dockrill – 1 star
I’m so surprised that Big Bones managed to get shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, because it’s highly damaging. Bluebelle is an overweight character who loves herself and doesn’t care about her size (something I would normally applaud in YA, as embracing yourself for who you are is an extremely important lesson to teach teenagers) but so much of this book is handled terribly. The first thing that springs to mind is the overly detailed description of how to make yourself be sick, as it would have caused me a lot of problems if I’d read this book at a younger age while I was struggling with my weight. Bluebelle’s general selfishness got on my nerves, and I was very close to DNFing it but I thought something redeeming must happen to merit that shortlist appearance. Sadly, I was wrong.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard – 5 stars
I absolutely loved both Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder, but Goodbye, Perfect surpassed my expectations. I’ve read a LOT of YA books focusing on student/teacher relationships (I don’t know why, I had a bit of a thing about them at one point) but this one was the first one I’ve read which has really done it right. From exploring the worried people left at home to investigating exactly how something like this can happen, Sara Barnard leaves no stone unturned, and she once again nails the authentic teen voice through Eden. I’m so glad that she won the YA Book Prize with this one, and I can’t wait to read Fierce Fragile Hearts and be blown away by that one too.
In Bloom by C.J. Skuse – 2 stars
A highly disappointing sequel to one of the most fun adult thrillers I’ve ever read. In one of the most cliched depictions of pregnancy I’ve encountered, Rhiannon became a completely different character as soon as she got pregnant, and it made reading In Bloom feel like a complete chore. I honestly couldn’t believe how long it took me to read this one – I read Sweetpea in a week and it took me four months to convince myself to finish In Bloom, something that hardly ever happens. I’m very much hoping that there isn’t going to be a third installment in this series, because this one was highly unnecessary: there wasn’t enough going on to merit a second book, and I feel as though some chopping and changing in the first book could have made it possible to combine the two together.
I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman – 4 stars
The last of the YA Book Prize shortlisted books in this wrap-up, I didn’t love I Was Born For This as much as I thought I was going to because the story took so long to get going. From the 50% mark I flew through it and loved following Jimmy and Angel, bouncing backwards and forwards between their perspectives, and I thought that the way Alice Oseman explored fandom and the idolatry nature of teenagers was very interesting, but it just didn’t quite recover the momentum that was missing throughout the first half.
Naked by Stacey Trombley – 3 stars
Anna is a teenage prostitute living in New York until she’s arrested and sent home with her parents. Having left home at 13, Anna has a lot of catching up to do at school so her parents’ first ruling upon her return is that she must get back to school as soon as possible. I feel a bit torn over Naked because, although Stacey Trombley does a good job of exploring the idea that you can never really leave your past behind, a lot of this story just doesn’t feel authentic. If you really had run away from home for three years and you had very rich parents, I highly doubt sending you back to public school would be at the top of their list. Anna’s relationship with Luis also makes me raise my eyebrows: at the start of the story she defends him wholeheartedly because she says he’s never done anything wrong to her and that he saved her from a life on the streets, but later she admits that he both a) sold her and b) hit her, so I can’t imagine her feeling that loyal to him after those experiences. I didn’t feel strongly either way so I decided to sit in the middle on three stars, but I do wonder if I’m being generous.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – 5 stars
Opposite of Always is the best 2019 release I’ve read so far this year. Jack and Kate meet on the stairs at a party and quickly fall in love, but their relationship does not have a happy ending: Kate has sickle cell, and it kills her. However, something doesn’t want this to be the end of Jack and Kate, and her death constantly sends Jack back to the moment that they left, leaving him fighting against death in a race against time which he seems destined to lose. Taking the idea of Groundhog Day and combining it with two star-crossed lovers is brilliant, but the thing that really grabs you about Opposite of Always is the cinematic way that Justin A. Reynolds tells the story. If this one isn’t adapted into a film sooner rather than later I’ll be highly surprised.
Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak – 5 stars
A heart-wrenching exploration of grief, Wild Blue Wonder brought me to tears twice – unfortunate, as I was reading it on my phone and walking around town both times. It’s difficult to explain exactly why I loved this book so much, but there is literally nothing I can criticise about it. The way Carlie Sorosiak organises the story – jumping from the winter following Dylan’s death back to the summer leading up to it happening – gives you a bittersweet sense of inevitability that propels the plot along at a breakneck speed, while the way it’s told is utterly beautiful. I’m looking forward to reading If Birds Fly Back as soon as possible, because at this point I genuinely believe Sorosiak could become one of my favourite authors.
I hope you enjoyed these Rapid Reviews! Fingers crossed I’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to blogging and can get back to posting regularly, but until then I’ll carry on sporadically hopping in and out every couple of weeks.
Thanks for sticking with me,