‘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…
Tag: young adult
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…
‘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. Poof. Gone. But not just from their hometown, Cloud Lake. Tommy has vanished from the memories of everyone who knew him, and Ozzie is the only one who knows something has changed.
Oh, also the universe is shrinking. No one else has any idea that that’s happening, either.
I wasn’t sure what to make of At the Edge of the Universe to start with. A few bloggers I follow are huge fans of Shaun David Hutchinson, so when I saw the book pop up on Riveted Lit’s Free Reads I couldn’t resist giving it a go, but I almost abandoned it within the first few chapters because it’s just weird.
For the majority of the book, it’s impossible to tell whether Tommy is a figment of Ozzie’s imagination. I wondered whether he may have been suffering from a mental disorder causing him to personify his anxieties about the future, but the next thing the sun disappeared and no one would listen to Ozzie, let alone humour him by explaining how they thought daylight worked.
From that point on, I was hooked. I read the rest of the novel in one sitting, a direct contrast from the slow and steady pace at which I read the first half.
It helps that the cast of characters are all so intriguing. There’s Lua, a rock star whose gender identity is in flux; Dustin, the class valedictorian who has no choice but to apply for local colleges over Ivy League schools; and Calvin, Ozzie’s new physics partner who has had an unexplained and utterly drastic personality change over the summer.
Ozzie himself deserves an award for being one of the most sarcastic characters I’ve ever read: despite going through some seriously tough stuff, he retains a wry sense of humour that had me snorting through my nose at multiple moments.
I’ll be honest, although I grasped the overarching moral of the story – that losing yourself in a relationship at a young age isn’t worth it, because there’s a whole world out there to explore – I’m pretty sure there’s loads of important allegories that have completely gone over my head. This is a book filled with philosophical aspects, but I was so focused on the mystery of Tommy’s disappearance that I missed a lot of the nuance in this story.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this book finds itself on required reading lists within the next ten years, as it makes you ask yourself a lot of tough questions.
I’m still wondering whether I would be as strong-minded as Ozzie, refusing to accept that Tommy wasn’t real despite hearing it repeatedly asserted by everyone around him. How do you think you’d respond?
‘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,…
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…
“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 the Power of Five series, but I’ve never felt compelled to pick up either of them, so when I spotted a short story collection on my library app I thought I would give it a go.
I’ve always enjoyed short story collections, but I often find scary short stories lacking: either they’re utterly predictable, or they aren’t horrifying at all. I was pleasantly surprised that neither of those things was true about Scared To Death, which contains some pleasingly horrifying moments, some gasp-inducing twists and not one story that lets the collection down.
As usual, I’m going to write a little bit about each story and tell you the individual star rating I allocated each of them. With the average rating for the collection being 3.5 stars, it’s a very successful group of gruesome tales.
Bet Your Life (5/5 stars): winning this gameshow is a matter of life-or-death – literally. If you get a question wrong, you’re toast.
You Have Arrived (3/5 stars): trust your instincts, not your stolen satnav.
The Cobra (3/5 stars): try to control your spoilt brat behaviour if you ever meet a snake charmer.
Robo-Nanny (5/5 stars): before you go away on business, make sure to check the settings on your Robo-Nanny.
My Bloody French Exchange (4/5 stars): if you think someone’s a vampire, they probably are. Probably…
sheBay (4/5 stars): when your parents run out of money, you’ll probably be the first thing they’ll try to sell.
Are You Sitting Comfortably? (4/5 stars): sometimes phoning the first mechanic you find in the phone book is inadvisable.
Plugged In (3/5 stars): bad things happen to good people, too.
Power (4/5 stars): Power is the only one of the short stories which I would describe as predictable, but it’s tongue-in-cheek and made me laugh, so it gets forgiven for that.
The J Train (3/5): it’s really important to listen to directions when you’re trying to get the subway for the first time.
Seven Cuts (5/5): a bonus short story, this note from the chairman of Walker Books made me a little bit apprehensive about reviewing this collection. Hopefully Anthony Horowitz won’t think I’ve been too harsh, or you might not be hearing from me again…
If I’d read Scared To Death when I was younger it probably would have given me nightmares, so I’m glad I’m a little bit older than the target audience. Horowitz has a twisted imagination, but most of the unique turns in these tales were unpredictable and I felt utterly delighted by each one.
Have you read any Anthony Horowitz books yet, or are you thinking of starting with Scared To Death like I have?
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,…
‘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…
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 days, they quickly move onto the next person to commit an online faux pas. Meanwhile, Winter’s life is shattered: the college of her dreams revokes her acceptance, and the Spelling Bee committee disown her, handing her rightfully earned victory to the boy who came second.
Winter’s mother – mummy blogger extraordinaire, the mind behind Turn Them Towards The Sun – finds her reputation damaged, too. In desperation she suggests hiring a company whose job is to flood the internet with good news stories about people who’ve said bad things, pushing their infamy onto the second or third page of the search results. This doesn’t sit right with Winter: she wants to BE better, not just LOOK better.
That’s how Winter finds a Reputation Rehabilitation Retreat. While all of her friends are packing for their first semester in a new town, Winter heads to Revive in the hopes that she can look inside herself and discover how she could be mean enough to say that in the first place.
I LOVED Leila Sales’ Tonight The Streets Are Ours, so when I saw her latest offering in the library eBook catalogue I hit the borrow button in the blink of an eye. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say sounded like it was going to be a relevant examination of the outrage culture we’ve all experienced in some way, shape or form, and I felt certain that I was going to be on Winter’s side. If you’re hoping to show the bad side of internet shaming, you need to have a cast of characters who are sympathetic and easy to relate to, right?
This book is the definition of great concept, poor execution.
First of all, it’s hard to write a book like this when you’re explicitly stating the tweet that your character put out, rather than simply alluding to its poor taste. You can’t say anything too risqué, because there’s a chance you could damage your own reputation as an author, so you need to put a dash of terrible alongside a whole heap of not that bad. Due to this, Winter’s tweet is vanilla. I’ve only been on Twitter for five minutes this morning and I’ve seen a couple of tweets worse than Winter’s, so the internet exploding and her life imploding doesn’t seem realistic. Honestly, I think most people would accept Winter’s explanation – all be it begrudgingly – and move on.
Sales’ message is further undermined by the motley crew of characters Winter meets in Revive. Half of them shouldn’t be focusing on rehabilitating their reputations but should instead be taking legal action against the people who wronged them (particularly apparent in the case of the politician whose relationship was ruined by a data leak á la Ashley Madison, or the young girl coerced to give sexual favours to a band in return for them making her a member), while a couple of other characters seem like they need actual rehab, not just a place that will shift the way other people view them.
The last chapter is the most infuriating bit of the novel, so if you don’t want spoilers look away now. I was enjoying the story, even if I didn’t completely agree with the way that Leila Sales had chosen to deliver her message, and then came Winter’s big revelation. She decides to start offering her support to those who receive the same internet hatred that she did, sending emails telling people that things will get better. This sounds nice and harmless… Until Winter emails a journalist who catfished and outed gay politicians, saying that everything will get better and he’s not really a horrible person. Yeah… Nah. That guy is the WORST. Pretending to be gay and outing people is a heinous crime, and one that deserves immense levels of hatred.
That was the final nail in the coffin for me. I’d been questioning aspects of If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, but I’d still been enjoying Leila Sales’ writing technique, so I thought I’d found enough to merit giving it three – or possibly four – stars. I was so close to dropping this to one star due after that inclusion.
It feels as though Sales knew what she wanted to say, but couldn’t think of the right examples to give her a good reason to say it. Perhaps the moral of this story should be: if you don’t have anything to add to a conversation, don’t say anything at all.
If you’re interested in learning more about If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, 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!