Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: book review

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie is heartbroken, so spending the summer in Ireland watching her Aunt Mel get married (again) is not the one. It’s made even worse by the fact that her and Ian – her brother and her closest friend – are at each other’s throats constantly. […]

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “You’ve known from the day we met. Even on text, where there are no inflections or nuance or tone for non sequiturs. You’ve always spoken fluent me.” When Sam’s ex-girlfriend Lorraine – the great love of his […]

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

‘It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.’ 


When Starr’s friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, her world is turned upside down.

Already struggling to juggle two personalities – the person she is in her ‘hood, Garden Heights Starr, vs. the person she has to be at her majority white private school, Williamson Starr – Starr now has to contend with police interviews and the constant worry that One-Fifteen is going to be found innocent of murdering one of her oldest friends.

‘I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. 

I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr and signed every petition out there. 

I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. 

Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.’

The Hate U Give is extremely hard to review, because it’s hard to put into words exactly why I loved it so much.

It’s unapologetic, attacking the American justice system and the systemic racism authority figures exhibit towards black people (even touching upon what happens when the authority figure is black).

It’s educational, breaking down stereotypes while offering a realistic snapshot of everyday life in the ‘hood. Filled with references to Huey Newton and The Black Panthers – a political party which I’d never heard of before – it’s the perfect way to begin learning more about black history.

It’s powerful, a pull no punches debut. Reading this book you’d genuinely believe Angie Thomas had been releasing novels for decades, because it takes a remarkable amount of bravery to write such a politically charged first novel.

But it’s also much, much more.

There are bits that will have you laughing out loud, which I certainly hadn’t expected. The conversations between Starr and her family had me giggling, all of them trying to out-sass each other – particularly her mother, Lisa, who takes no shit from any member of the clan.

Meanwhile there are bits that are utterly infuriating. The close-minded attitude of Hailey, one of Starr’s white friends, had me wanting to tear my hair out. Some of the things she said weren’t even that extreme, but they were still aggravating. It made me take a moment to think about how I’d feel if I was experiencing constant low-level discrimination on a daily basis and how quickly it would add up.

A book that makes you have to physically stop and think is rare, but I lost count of how many times I had to pause to take everything in during The Hate U Give. From Khalil’s funeral to the riots which erupt across Garden Heights, it’s surprising that a book focused on such serious subjects has had such a success in the mainstream, but it’s proof that this is a relevant subject which the general public are heavily invested in.

One of the aspects that stands out the most was the incorporation of online activism, and the way that it bled into the real world. As so many young people are heavily involved in online activism, it’s important to raise awareness of the good that it can do. It’s impossible for people to claim that sitting in front of a screen can’t do any good, because every little helps.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white, The Hate U Give teaches a very important lesson to all. I strongly believe it should be made required reading. However, I’m hoping that it’ll be a lot less relevant in five or ten years. It shouldn’t be possible that this book was released almost two years ago and there are new cases from the past six months – like those of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and Jemel Roberson – in which black men have been killed by police officers who have faced little to no repercussions.

If you haven’t read The Hate U Give because you’ve been scared that it won’t live up to the hype, don’t be. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I wish I’d read it sooner.

Alyce

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Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race. It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an […]

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

‘I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing his silhouette; his ghost crawled from the sewer drains. But in a town covered in residue, how could there have been such a lack? Outrage. Sound. Where were the sirens? The panic? Benjamin Whitaker was dead! Dad was dead! […]

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

When Saffron discovers a briefcase in the attic of her family home, she discovers that her father has lied to her. Ten years ago, he told her that her mother was dead, but she’s alive and out there somewhere and Saffron is determined to find her.

Saffron runs away from home, unwilling to be around her father or his new wife Melanie for a moment longer. But when her oldest friend Tom refuses to let her stay with him, telling her instead to just go home, Saffron ends up sleeping rough and discovering there’s a lot more to life than designer labels and having a walk-in wardrobe.

I wasn’t a fan of Phyllida Shrimpton’s first novel, Sunflowers in February, but I decided to give The Colour of Shadows a chance. There aren’t many young adult novels that feature the characters running away from home or sleeping on the streets, but it’s a scarily common problem – over 100,000 young people asked for help regarding homelessness last year, according to Centrepoint.

However, it feels like Phyllida Shrimpton knew that she wanted to talk about homelessness and abandonment and had to string together a very unstable plot to allow her to explore the issues. It just doesn’t hold up under questioning.

If I found a briefcase in the attic filled with cards to my supposedly dead mother, I would assume that my father had kept them for sentimental reasons. I wouldn’t assume that it meant that she was actually alive.

Then again, if I was Saffron’s dad I would have disposed of the briefcase when I moved into a larger home with my new wife, rather than keeping it and risking one of my children discovering it…

Another aspect that doesn’t compute is Saffron’s age. Throughout the first few chapters I believed Saffron was supposed to be 13 or 14, but the way she was stomping around the house and refusing to let anyone speak screamed pre-teen behaviour. Then it was revealed that Saffron is actually meant to be 17. I was baffled. Some of her childish, spoilt behaviour can be explained away by her upper middle class background, but it makes the narrative jarring. I kept thinking I was reading a middle-grade book rather than a YA with a protagonist in her late teens.

Shrimpton gets points for discussing homelessness so cleverly, tearing down preconceptions regarding homeless people that I’m sure a lot of readers will unconsciously believe. She also explores the difficulties of being a young carer, although I hope she goes into this topic in more detail in a future release, as I can only think of one other YA novel focused upon the subject (Tender by Eve Ainsworth).

But although The Colour of Shadows is filled with important topics, I just can’t rate this novel higher than two stars. The plot is just far too transparent, and I feel as though the story needed to be stronger to make this book a success.

Alyce

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Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Lost Man blog tour. I’ve taken part in the blog tours for both The Dry and Force of Nature, so I jumped at the chance to read and review another of Jane Harper’s novels. My excitement grew when I learnt that this […]

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

‘Even when there’d been a whole universe to explore, Cloud Lake and Tommy had been my everything. “So that’s it?” I said. “I’m just supposed to go on living my life no matter how much the universe takes from me or how small it gets?” Dr. Sayegh nodded. “It’s what the rest of us do, Ozzie.” Ozzie’s boyfriend, Tommy, has vanished. […]

Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

‘I’m so unwhole. I don’t know where all the pieces of me are, how to fit them together, how to make them stick. Or if I even can.’

Self-harm is a sensitive subject, no matter what form it takes. Some people find reading about cutting triggering, while others find it makes them feel seen and understood for the first time in months or years. It’s difficult to write about, because it’s almost impossible to strike the balance right: no matter how hard you try to help, you may end up hurting someone.

That’s why I think it’s impressive that Girl in Pieces has such a straight-talking, no-holds-barred protagonist. Charlotte Davis openly and honestly discusses not only her own personal brand of self-destruction, but also divulges the methods used by the other patients in the Creeley Centre. I’ve read books about self-harm in the past that have been filled with allusions, which always seemed false to me: in my personal experience, people who self-harm are often the ones most able to talk about it frankly, refusing to shy away from the truth of what they’ve done or why. It’s a relief to finally see that represented on the page.

Even without reading the author’s note at the end, it’s obvious that Kathleen Glasgow is telling this story from the heart. The short, diary-esque chapters bring Charlie’s character to life, slowly revealing her history and the reasons for her self-harm. Although she’s irrational and obtuse at times, you can’t resist rooting for her throughout the story. I found myself mentally cheering her along as she left Creeley and began adjusting to life on her own, valiantly battling the constant temptation to relapse.

However, self-harm isn’t the only story here. Charlie moves to Arizona to live near her friend Mikey, believing that he wants her to move closer to him so that they can be together, but it isn’t until she arrives that she learns he’s in a long-term relationship. She finds a job at a local diner and throws herself into it, finding herself falling for disgraced rock star Riley West.

Riley has his own issues, and Charlie finds herself learning that love isn’t the great healer she expected it to be. It’s always annoyed me that there’s a tendency in YA to make a character’s problems disappear as soon as they are in a relationship, so I was glad that Riley and Charlie didn’t fix each other immediately (although I’m not going to share whether they fix each other by the end of the book – you’ll just have to read it to find out for yourself).

If you’re a fan of YA that doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter, I’d highly recommend Girl in Pieces. If you find yourself easily triggered by discussion of self-harm, I’d suggest waiting to pick this up until you’re feeling a bit more stable: if I’d read this book when I was in a bad place, I’m not sure if it would have done more harm than good.

Look after yourself, first and foremost, and remember I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.

Alyce

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Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

‘Is this what marriage is like? she wonders. A constant balancing act between infatuation and impatience.’ At first glance, it appears as though The Flower Girls is going to be a pretty cut and dry thriller. A girl disappears from a hotel on New Year’s Eve, and when a terrible storms starts raging outside it’s a race against time to try […]