Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the…
Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart…
I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to tell you that this collection of LGBTQ+ stories was just as delightful as I’d expected it to be.
I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the individual stories, as that’s how I’ve worked out my overall rating for the collection, so if you’d rather pick up your copy of Proud without knowing too much about the stories included I’d suggest looking away now!
Dive Bar by Caroline Bird:
Dive Bar – the first inclusion in the collection – is a poem that I just really didn’t understand? I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry though, so I’m probably missing some aspect of it that would make it make more sense to me… But as it stands currently I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. 3/5
Penguins by Simon James Green:
Absolutely glorious. Accompanied by art by Alice Oseman, Penguins is one of my favourite stories in the collection. I haven’t read any of Simon James Green’s other novels yet, but I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points as Cameron’s attempts to come out were constantly thwarted by the gay penguins at the zoo. 5/5
On The Run by Kay Staples:
Kay Staples spoke at the Stripes event, so I’d already heard her read the first page or so of On The Run, but it still made me chuckle when Nicky shared the story of how they ended up running away from home… to a Travelodge. Glamorous! 4/5
The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So:
Another story I was already slightly familiar with was The Phoenix’s Fault, the concept of which grabbed me when Cynthia So introduced her story at the Stripes event. This is a world in which the phoenix and the dragon are the marriage symbol, and Jingzhi is expected to audition to marry the prince – searching for a wife based off of whether their phoenix responds to his dragon. I had an idea in my head of how this story was going to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when it went a completely different direction! I’m hoping that So will revisit the world she creates in this short story, because there is so much more potential here. 5/5
As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan:
Not a fan of this one. I can see what David Levithan was trying to do – each characters innermost thoughts are justified slightly different on the page, so you can read the piece as a whole or read each character individually – but it just seems a bit too artsy, taking away from the impact of the message that he’s conveying. 1/5
Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne:
Another brilliant story. Orla is painfully cool – obsessed with music, constantly hanging out at her local record store and getting personal recommendations from the owner – but she’s also plagued with anxiety. When Mal introduces her to the music of Reeba Shah, she knows she has to get past her apprehensions and go to the gig, but although she gets to meet Reeba she still doesn’t get to see her perform. Almost Certain is a great reminder that having an LGBTQ+ identity is just one facet of a character and doesn’t have to be their whole story. 5/5
The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson:
When a team are told that they can’t play in a league match because of their transgender teammate, they decide to play anyway – even if it they won’t get any points and it won’t exactly ‘count’, it’s the principle. A funny cast of characters from a new voice who’s certain to have a bright future ahead of him. 4/5
I Hate Darcy Pemberley by Karen Lawler:
A lesbian Pride & Prejudice retelling? Yes please! I really enjoyed the over-dramatic high school scenes and how brilliantly they mirrored the high society drama of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m glad that Karen Lawler decided to take the prompt of what pride meant to her so literally. However, if a reader hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice yet it might go right over their heads, as the supporting cast of characters aren’t thoroughly introduced.4/5
The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell:
I’m sad to say that The Courage of Dragons was my second least favourite story in the collection. I absolutely loved The Last Leaves Falling and have been looking forward to reading more of Fox Benwell’s writing, but this story just didn’t appeal to me. I loved the concept – a non-binary kid and their group of friends overthrowing the school’s gender-conforming bathrooms and legislation – but the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of it just didn’t translate well (and I love D&D, so I can’t believe I’m saying that!). However, it was accompanied by the most beautiful piece of art in the entire book, so that was a redeeming feature. 2/5
The Instructor by Jess Vallance:
The Instructor is a predictable story, but it’s so very cute. A girl’s father is a plumber, and he gives one of his clients a reduced fee in exchange for his daughter getting free driving lessons from the instructor. 4/5
Love Poems to the City by Moira Fowley-Doyle:
My favourite story in the collection, and I would give this 10/5 if I could. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s language is beautiful and poetic, and the story that she tells – of two girls who aren’t necessarily in love, both with separated parents, campaigning for the right to marry – is passionately told. I cannot recommend this one enough. 5/5
How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta:
Another poem to round out the collection. How to Come Out as Gay is far more straightforward than Dive Bar and I enjoyed it a lot more. 4/5
So there you have it! Overall, Proud gets a rating of 3.8 (but I round my ratings up, so that makes it a four star read!).
I’d like to say another huge thank you to Stripes, for allowing me to read an early copy of Proud in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second anthology they’ve curated (the first, A Change is Gonna Come, being just as successful) and I’m looking forward to finding out which gap in the market they’re going to be tackling next. Keep up the good work!
Hiya! Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday post. It feels like I’m writing one of these every other day at the moment – time is passing so quickly this year, and I can’t believe it’s already March. This week’s topic is the ten characters that…
After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he stole his girlfriend, Ruby.
When the five involved in his death are invited to a murder mystery dinner to compete for a scholarship, darker forces are at play. Trapped in a house with Doll Face, knowing one of them is the mysterious Ringmaster behind it all, only one thing is certain: they aren’t all going to survive this night. Revenge is deadly.
I’m going to come straight out and say it: This Lie Will Kill You is one of the worst books I’ve ever read.
I’m not kidding.
Marketed as a cross between Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale, this story has a lot more in common with Cluedo (except it’s nowhere near as fun).
The reasons I disliked this book are endless.
The creepy house stuffed with secrets is reminiscent of the more melodramatic moments of Pretty Little Liars, but at least the people in that show feel like realistic teenagers. Every single character in This Lie Will Kill You is an over-dramatised and completely inauthentic portrayal, and I hated all of them equally.
There’s the instalove between Ruby and Shane, who meet in the corridor at school on his first day, slow dance to some kid’s ringtone and have a deep and meaningful chat in the middle of the night a couple of days later when Ruby sneaks in through his window.
Shane himself is the most pretentious character I’ve ever had the displeasure to read on the page, going on about sand and pyramids and gods and blegh. The way he talks to Ruby is so cringey – honestly, if anyone tried to give me the nickname ‘strawberry’ I’d probably punch them in the face – and if anyone genuinely believes that their relationship is #goals then I’m seriously concerned. I wouldn’t have been sad if all of the characters died and joined him, because none of them have any redeeming features.
There are unnecessary almost-romances sprinkled all over the place, too. Gavin and Juniper are obviously both attracted to each other, but instead of talking about it they wait until the least appropriate moment to make their move. It’s also hinted that Juniper is in love with Ruby – because, come on, who in this novel isn’t in love with Ruby – but it feels more like queerbaiting than any legitimate exploration of bisexuality. Then there’s Brett, who treats Parker like a brother for the majority of the novel… And then is suddenly revealed to be in love with him? Sure, sure.
If you’ve read any of Chelsea Pitcher’s other novels and would recommend them, please let me know. I can see that her writing has potential – it’s lyrical at the start of the book, with the first 100 pages being tightly woven and gripping, and I genuinely thought this was going to be a huge success – but it becomes far too over the top very fast.
‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that…
In case you missed it, yesterday the YA Book Prize revealed this year’s #YA10. I put my predictions up on Wednesday, so today I’m going to share my thoughts on the shortlist: which inclusions surprised me, and which ones I feel stupid for not guessing!
A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood
A Sky Painted Gold was praised by a lot of bloggers last year, so I’m surprised that I didn’t think of this one (but Amy of Golden Books Girl did, so well done to her!). I didn’t really know all that much about it – apart from the fact that it seems to be universally loved – but as soon as I checked out the blurb on Goodreads and saw the word ‘Gatsby-esque’ I got very excited. I’m looking forward to giving this one a go.
Big Bones by Laura Dockrill
My NetGalley request to read Big Bones was approved, but at the time I planned to pick it up a whole slew of negative reviews appeared on Goodreads and really put me off. I’m going to read it to make up my own mind, but I am really surprised to see this book make it onto the shortlist.
Clean by Juno Dawson
I KNEW Clean was going to be on the list, and I’m already rooting for it to win. It’s hard to focus on anything when you have a newborn, but Lexi’s narrative was so engaging that I read Clean in a couple of sittings. I think I might try and find time to reread this one before the winner is announced, but I can’t see my opinion changing.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
I’m still gutted that A Quiet Kind of Thunder wasn’t on the 2018 shortlist, but I’m glad that Goodbye, Perfect made it onto the list. I didn’t get a chance to read it last year, but this is the first of the shortlist books which I haven’t read yet that I’m going to pick up.
I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
I’ve been intending to pick up I Am Thunder for a while, but every time I’ve tried to borrow it from the library it’s already been out on loan. That’s already proof that it’s popular, and I’m mad at myself for not predicting this one – it was one of the most talked about debuts of last year, and almost everyone reviewing it gave it five stars.
I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
I wouldn’t be surprised if I Was Born For This ended up winning the prize, because it was the only book anyone could talk about for months following its publication. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but if I love it anywhere near as much as I loved Oseman’s Radio Silence, it might be a strong contender against Clean as my winner.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
I debated putting Only Love Can Break Your Heart on my list of predictions, but I changed my mind at the last minute because I also thought Wing Jones deserved to be shortlisted last year and I was wrong about that! I haven’t picked up Katherine Webber’s second YA novel yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it now that I have an excuse to purchase a copy. Hopefully it’ll be as brilliant as Wing Jones was, because I read that it one sitting.
Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw
Outwalkers was the biggest surprise on the shortlist, because I’ve literally never heard of it. According to Goodreads it’s a dystopian, and I normally enjoy dystopians… Although Outwalkers is chonky, coming in at over 400 pages. I’m going to leave Outwalkers until last, because I need to borrow it out of the library and I don’t have the time to read a book of that length right now!
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
I had The Surface Breaks on my list of predictions, but I removed it at the last minute and switched in Karen Gregory’s Skylarks instead (a book which I was so emotionally invested in seeing on the shortlist and am absolutely devastated by its exclusion). Although I love The Little Mermaid and I normally enjoy retellings, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one.
White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock
This was another book that people couldn’t stop talking about after its release, so I was kicking myself for forgetting to include it. I borrowed it from the library already and am looking forward to reading this one, because I was planning on reading it at some point in the next few weeks even before it was on the shortlist!
What are your thoughts on this year’s shortlist? Do you already have a winner picked out from these ten?
New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see. While the other students…