‘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 […]
Hello there, and welcome to my stop on The Leavers blog tour. First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little, Brown for inviting me to read and review a copy of Lisa Ko’s debut novel. It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not the sort of book I would normally read, but I enjoyed it so much!
Before I share my thoughts on The Leavers, here’s a bit more information about the book:
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.
So what did I think of The Leavers?
‘If you knew more about me, Deming, maybe you wouldn’t blame me so much. Maybe you would understand me more. I can only be as honest as I know how to be, even if it might not be what you want to hear.’
The Leavers is a timely exploration of the lives of immigrants in the US. Lisa Ko uses her debut novel to expose the exploitation of the most desperate people, humanising a group of society which have been ostracised by press and politics consistently in the recent past.
I’m going to avoid giving any spoilers, but what I can tell you is that Ko’s writing is elegant, captivating and utterly enjoyable. Despite the tough subject matter at hand, the story is beautiful, and despite its length – and the fact that it’s different to anything I’ve ever read before – I found myself being sucked in, and I read it in just a couple of sittings.
The Leavers is emotionally absorbing: although I easily predicted what had happened to Polly, I couldn’t stop myself from eagerly turning the pages, desperate to find out where Deming/Daniel would end up and whether he would ever be reunited with his mother.
If you’re hoping to find a new author writing about difficult subjects with ease and sensitivity, look no further. It’ll be interesting to see what Lisa Ko writes next: with such a brilliantly received debut novel, it’ll be hard to top the success she’s achieved with The Leavers.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Leavers, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
Thank you again for visiting my stop on The Leavers blog tour! Are you going to check out Lisa Ko’s book?
‘It was our 9/11, our Princess Diana, our JFK. You’d always remember where you were when you heard about Being No. 1.’ Ten days after Jaya’s mother died, Beings started falling from the sky. Over the course of eight months 85 Beings fall, and no […]
Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia and she’s unable to remember anything past the age of 11. That is, until she kisses Drake – her best friend Paige’s recent ex-boyfriend – on the beach during a party. Flora can remember kissing Drake, and she wonders if he might be the cure to her amnesia… But the party was his leaving party. He’s gone all the way to Svalbard, land of the midnight sun, and Flora’s been left behind wondering ‘What if?’.
That is, until her parents have to go to France to be with her sick brother Jacob. They think that Paige is going to stay with Flora while they’re away, but Paige isn’t talking to her because of Drake. Flora spends all of her days emailing Drake, completely forgetting to eat or wash herself, until Drake tries to break things off and she decides to go to Svalbard to win him back.
The start of The One Memory of Flora Banks made me extremely uncomfortable, and I thought I was going to end up hating the story. Drake kissing Flora was sleazy and inappropriate: he knows she can’t remember anything and that she’s vulnerable, so him making a move – especially on a night when she’s been drinking – set alarm bells ringing in my head. I wanted Flora to be happy and kissing Drake seemed to do that, but I felt protective of her instantly because of how disorienting and confusing Emily Barr makes her narrative.
For obvious reasons, this story is repetitive. Despite the fact that it’s quite short, it takes a long time to read it – you need to be patient, so if you’re looking for a quick read you should come back to this at a later date. It works beautifully, Flora’s constant repetition of basic facts about her life showing the extent of her memory loss and the fear and perplexity that she experiences on a daily basis. However, it really slows down the pace, and I found it frustrating that a book with so little plot progression could move so sluggishly.
It pays off in the end, though. Because of Flora’s memory loss she’s an unreliable narrator, and the last third of the novel is filled with twists and turns had me gasping. No, this book isn’t perfect, but it’s very clever and I can see why so many people have been hyping it up for the past twelve months. I wish I’d read it earlier, and I’m already planning on reading Emily Barr’s second novel, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, soon.
If you’re interested in learning more about The One Memory of Flora Banks, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
If you could only keep one memory from your life, which one would you choose and why?
Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and across the globe, I decided to combine these two reviews into one fun and informative post, shining a light on inspirational women who are vastly underappreciated. Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire […]
‘I wouldn’t say I’ve “lost” my life exactly, and I haven’t exactly “lost” my body but I have, for sure, somehow lost the connection between the two.’ When Lily Richardson spends her bus fare on a pair of earrings, she has no choice but to […]
‘Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper. Even the spirit of the Alchemist is said to wander these woods, trapping whole eternities in a breath.
I know better than to be afraid of stories.’
At first, Everless is hard to get into. We’re thrown into a world where blood is converted to money and the more you’re bled, the less time you have left. The stories say that this is because of the Alchemist and the Sorceress, who ‘bound time to blood and metal’.
We meet Jules on her seventeenth birthday. As she’s just turned seventeen, she’s legally allowed to bleed her years, and she plans to spend her birthday doing just that to ease up some of her and her father’s money troubles. Her father forbids her, but Jules knows that if the collector bleeds him then he’ll be a step closer to a death which seems unavoidable.
Luckily, there’s a royal wedding on the horizon, so Everless – the home of the Gerling family, whose youngest son will soon be marrying the Queen of Sempera’s heir – is hiring new staff members. Jules barters with the collector, promising to pay their debt when she starts working for the Gerlings. The collector agrees, but Jules’ father attempts to stop her, warning her from going back to Everless. Jules grew up in the castle, but the pair were forced to flee after witnessing one of the Gerling heirs attempting to throw the other into the forge. Jules saved Roan from his brother’s clutches, but returning to Everless means risking Liam’s wrath if he discovers her identity.
Obviously, Jules sneaks out and is chosen to work at the palace – the book probably wouldn’t be called Everless if she wasn’t!
But when she arrives at the palace, she discovers that all is not what it seems. Jules’ father turns up at the palace and warns her to stay out of the Queen’s sight, refusing to elaborate when Jules demands to know what’s going on. When the Queen’s party arrives, their carriage is covered in arrow holes and their servants are blood-stained and muddy. It looks like the wedding isn’t going to go smoothly after all…
There’s a lot of establishing, but the pace picks up dramatically after the Queen arrives at the palace. More details about Sempera, the Alchemist and the Sorceress are revealed throughout, and as the history of this magical realm is revealed the place takes on a life of its own. One of the most interesting places is a town which is stuck half a day behind the rest of the world! If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ll love the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey aspects of Everless. (In fact, the Alchemist seems to be quite similar to the Doctor, but I won’t tell you how!).
Everless seems predictable, but there are lots of unexpected twists. I thought I’d figured out exactly what was going to happen within the first quarter, but it all gets flipped on its head a couple of times throughout the book. You’ll change your mind on what you think is going to happen, and then you’ll have to change it again a couple of pages later! Sara Holland certainly keeps you on your toes, although there’s a bit too much going on in the last few chapters. Take your time towards the end and you should be okay (or read it twice like I did, just to get everything straight in your head!).
The epilogue tacked on the end is unnecessary, and the events that unfold in it could easily have been saved for the second book in the duology. However, because the main story ends on a dramatic cliffhanger, it’s going to be impossible to resist continuing on with the series. If you aren’t ready for a yearlong wait, put Everless to the bottom of your TBR and read it closer to the second book’s release date. The likelihood is that I’m going to reread it at the end of the year, because I’m going to want the events fresh in my head.
Everless is an extremely strong debut novel which will appeal to people who regularly read YA fantasy and to those who often find themselves avoiding the genre. Holland writes strong, believable characters, and you’ll find yourself wanting to be best friends with Jules by the time you turn the last page.
If you’re interested in learning more about Everless, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
Have you read Everless yet? If so, did you enjoy it as much as I did?
There are a few words I could use to summarise The Sacrifice Box. Gratuitous. Excessive. Unnecessary. I’m struggling to comprehend how a book like this managed to get published, let alone published as a young adult novel. Honestly, it’s my own fault. I should have known […]