Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: young adult

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 […]

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: Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas by Andrea Pyros

Review: Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas by Andrea Pyros

When Josephine’s mum announces that she has breast cancer, it turns Josephine’s life upside down. Instead of worrying about getting invited to the hottest party in school, she’s now counting down the days until her mum has to have life-saving surgery. Josephine doesn’t want anyone […]

Review: Scared To Death by Anthony Horowitz

Review: Scared To Death by Anthony Horowitz

“Why go digging up the past when all it will give you is dust in the eye?” Scared To Death is the first Anthony Horowitz book I’ve ever read, which should be impossible because he’s published so many. I’ve been recommended both the Alex Rider series and […]

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie Loves Jack begins with a newspaper article detailing the story of a teenager with Down’s syndrome who has gone missing after running away from home to be reunited with her boyfriend.

When we join Rose, it’s before she embarks on her cross-country adventure to Jack, who gets taken away after throwing a chair at school. Jack’s brain was hurt when he was born, but Rose trusts that he won’t hurt her, no matter how much her dad worries for her safety. In fact, the only reason Rose leaves is because she finds postcards from Jack in her dad’s office which he’s hidden from her. Rose thought that Jack didn’t love her anymore, and in the postcards Jack expresses the same worry, so Rose decides to strike out on her own.

She’s not Rose without Jack, and Jack isn’t Jack without Rose.

Mel Darbon has written an astounding debut. When I realised that this was a book about a girl with Down’s syndrome written by someone who hasn’t directly experienced living with Down’s, I’ll admit it – I was apprehensive. There are a lot of stereotypes regarding Down’s syndrome laced throughout pop culture, and I was worried that this novel was going to regurgitate all of them, but Darbon directly contradicts the most common preconceptions regarding the syndrome.

Just think about the title: Rosie Loves Jack. So often, people with Down’s syndrome are represented as sexless beings who don’t think about things like love or relationships, but Rosie Loves Jack tears down this notion. Rose reminisces on times when her and Jack have kissed, romantic memories laced throughout the ongoing story making you root for a couple that barely spend any time together on the page.

Darbon includes background characters who scoff at Rose when she talks about Jack, and although this infuriated and upset me in equal measure it felt true to life. I was glad that she made Rose aware of – but not too hurt by – their comments, and I hope that anyone who reads this book learns to think twice before reacting in case people get hurt.

It’s easy to get emotional when reading this novel, because it’s much darker than it first seems. A man finds Rose in the park and helps her, but when she gets to his house she realises that he has girls there who are forced to do sex things with men. Rose makes friends with one of the girls and they attempt to escape together, but things go wrong and they’re taken back there. There isn’t a neat resolution to that aspect of the plot – another way that Darbon makes this book highly realistic: there’s no happy reunion at the end where all of the people who help Rose along the way are brought together to celebrate her bravery and the journey she takes. It would be highly cinematic and extremely pleasing to be reintroduced to some of the characters who help her, so that we could see where they ended up, but it just wouldn’t be genuine.

Rose states at multiple times throughout the story that she isn’t Down’s syndrome, she is Rose, and I think it’s important to keep this in mind when approaching any character – or, indeed, anybody – who has something that makes them different. It’s easy, when you have a friend who is dealing with something, to focus solely on that aspect of their life, but Rosie Loves Jack treats each character as a layered and nuanced individual. This is a cast fully of vibrant and lively characters, and it’s a pleasure to read.

The only reason I’ve marked down a star is because there were aspects of the book which didn’t translate well on my library eBook copy. I’m not sure whether these aspects work better if you read a physical copy of the book, but I enjoyed this so much that I’m planning on getting my own copy. When I manage to find the time to reread this book, I’ll probably end up bumping it up to five stars.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Rosie Loves Jack, 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!

 

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 12: Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Blogtober Day 12: Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

‘You can plot a course that will get you to your destination, but you can’t predict what you’ll find along the way.’  Zorie has a plan for the summer, and it involves staying as far away from the Mackenzie family as physically possible. But when […]

Blogtober Day 5: Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say by Leila Sales

Blogtober Day 5: Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say by Leila Sales

When Spelling Bee champion Winter Halperin tweets an ill-advised joke about the skin colour of the latest winner, she finds herself the most hated person on the Internet… For a little while. But while the rest of the world are infuriated for a couple of […]

Review: SLAY by Kim Curran

Review: SLAY by Kim Curran

‘Slay did two things, and they did them well. Play killer music and kick demon butt. Music done. It was butt-kicking time.’ 

If you love One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer and McFly, you’ll love Slay. JD, Tom, Connor, Niv and Zek are the next big thing, and fans all over the world are eager to get a piece of them. They never stop touring, for one reason and one reason only.

Yep, you guessed it: so they have an excuse – and the money – to fly all over the world defeating demons and keeping humankind safe.

Milly discovers Slay’s secret when her mother gets possessed by a demon. Unfortunately the boys are too late to save Milly’s mother, but they manage to save her and she’s quickly swept up in a demon slaying adventure.

The demon possessing Milly’s mother, Zyanya, is desperate to resurrect Tezcatlipoca – the god of all demons – and she needs the Blade of Shadows to do it. The only way to destroy the Blade of Shadows is to take it to the Aztec temple where the ritual to bring Tezcatlipoca back must be performed. Risky? Yes. But there’s no other way to get rid of the blade, and if they don’t demolish it they risk the demons successfully managing to bring back the biggest bad the world has ever seen.

SLAY is basically an episode of Scooby-Doo. There are bad guys running around all over the place, slipping through the net and causing all kind of havoc, but you never really think they’re going to get away with it because of the meddling kids in Slay (and Milly, of course). It’s been compared to Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer too, and these are both good comparisons. This isn’t the kind of story you normally see on the page, and that’s both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a good thing, because it means that SLAY is a unique book, and you probably haven’t read anything like it before (even if you’ve definitely seen stuff like it). However, some of the scenes blur in an incoherent fashion – it’s written rather cinematically, but there’s not much description which makes it hard to follow exactly what’s happening at points. I certainly found this when the band are initially introduced: there’s a brief montage of descriptions about each boy, but they unfold so rapidly that it’s hard to differentiate them (except for Niv, who has been mute since the death of his and Zek’s mother).

This book is definitely aimed at a younger audience, sure to appeal to early teens who are just starting to get properly obsessed with boy bands for the first time. I know this would have been one of my favourite books if I’d read it when I was a bit younger!

I was torn between giving SLAY three or four stars, but decided to drop it down because the ending is a bit too quick compared to the rest of the story, which takes a while to develop. With the sequel, Slay on Tour, coming towards the end of the year, it feels as though the plot goes off the rails in the attempt to ensure the reader will return. I’m certainly going to, because the book ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger which has captured my attention, but if you’re looking for a fun standalone you don’t have to continue on with the series if you don’t feel so inclined.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about SLAY, 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!

 

Alyce

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Review: Because You Love To Hate Me anthology

Review: Because You Love To Hate Me anthology

‘Villains. Stories are nothing without them.’  It’s been difficult to approach writing this review, because I’m conflicted about Because You Love To Hate Me. On the one hand, I think it’s a brilliant idea – making the villains into characters which it’s hard to resist sympathising […]