‘This time I am stuck in the very middle of the case. I am not just a detective, I’m a witness. And I think that I might even be a suspect.’ After the death of Hazel’s Ah Yeh, she and Daisy travel to Hong Kong […]
‘The truth was that it was about Whit and Kyle, and about lying to friends and wishing I could travel back in time to the start of the summer, when everything felt normal. It was about Bryan going to college five hours away. It was about people disappearing.’
When Maya’s boyfriend Whit breaks up with her, she’s heartbroken. They were planning to sleep together for the first time in a matter of weeks, and now he’s leaving her for Andrea Berger?! This is not the way her last summer before college was supposed to go.
Maya confides in her Aunt Cindy, who suggests that she look into the research her mom was doing just before she died. Turns out that Maya’s mom was trying to develop a serum that would renew attraction in couples, making it less likely that they would separate.
After she discovers the research, Maya runs straight to her mom’s old work partner, Ann. Ann begrudgingly agrees to continue Maya’s mom’s research, on the condition that Maya find a friend and a stranger that they can use the serum on as control subjects. Maya is overjoyed. In a couple of weeks, she’ll be able to remind Whit of why he fell in love with her in the first place, and everything will be back to the way it should be…
Chemistry Lessons was a huge disappointment. I will admit that I was primarily drawn to it because of its beautiful cover, but the concept of a serum that could fix relationships was an intriguing one. However, I couldn’t see past how unethical Maya’s research is. Her and Ann develop three serums using DNA from the test subjects, but none of them are notified about the experiment. Stealing people’s DNA? Not only is that creepy, it’s seven shades of wrong.
This is paint by numbers YA. So many of the scenes were ripped straight out of other stories – the stereotypical description of the abandoned attic, the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ excuse for ending the relationship… There’s nothing new about this book (apart from being based in science, which I’ve already told you I have problems with). Top it off with a gay best friend who’s about to move across the country to college, a swoony YouTube star and a friend who could be more, and you’ve got one of the most predictable cast lists.
It doesn’t help that the writing is basic and undeveloped. All the characters are described in very basic ways: brown hair, brown eyes; red hair, blue eyes; six foot one, five foot two. You can’t get emotionally attached to the characters because they’re flat. Even Maya’s feelings towards her dead mother are bland. Then there’s the use of vocabulary, which features more uses of the word ‘like’ than you can shake a stick at. Yes, people do say ‘like’ in real life, but not often in every single sentence.
However, Bryan is a gem of a character. Sassy and sarcastic, he had me giggling out loud at a few points throughout the story (especially with his inappropriate attraction to Maya’s dad!). If Meredith Goldstein decides to write a companion novel following Bryan to Syracuse, I’ll definitely pick it up.
If you’re looking to read a YA contemporary that’s a bit on the older side, Chemistry Lessons might appeal to you. With characters worrying about going to college and moving away from home, it’s refreshing to see those kind of aspects featured in a YA contemporary. Unfortunately there were too many issues for me to rate it any more highly, but if you can see past the unethical nature of the experiment you might have a bit more fun reading Chemistry Lessons than I did.
If you’re interested in learning more about Chemistry Lessons, 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!
I’m so pleased to be welcoming debut author Aminah Mae Safi to the blog today, to talk about how she finds inspiration. Before I pass you over, I’m going to share a little bit more about Not the Girls You’re Looking For, just in case you […]
‘I think I might be a murderer. Although, as I didn’t mean to kill, I suppose it was manslaughter, so technically I would be a ‘manslaughterer’, although I don’t think that’s a word.’
I finished S.T.A.G.S way back towards the end of April, but it’s almost impossible to find the time to review the books which I’m reading at the moment. (Blah blah blah, insert something about juggling a baby and a job.) That’s why it’s taken me so much time to start work on this review. Such a long amount of time, in fact, that I’ve actually dropped my rating from 4 stars down to 3 stars, because I can no longer remember exactly what it was that charmed me so much about S.T.A.G.S in the first place.
Split into three sections – huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ – S.T.A.G.S follows scholarship girl Greer into the exclusive world of the Medievals, a gang of prefects who rule her school. Greer gets invited to a weekend at head Medieval Henry’s house, and she believes they’re giving her a chance to finally fit in, but the truth of the matter is far darker than that. The other two invitees, Chanel and Shafeen, are openly ridiculed and hated by the Medievals, and the only reason that they’re all invited is so that they can do huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ on more than just animals…
The first half of S.T.A.G.S is absolutely brilliant. The pacing, the setting, the characters: it all falls into place, dragging you into the world of the Medievals and making you yearn along with Greer to be a part of their gang. Henry seems like the stereotypical posh player, but you want to believe that he has a soft heart underneath all of the swagger. You want them to be knocked down a peg or too, but you also begin to think that they really might be untouchable.
But then things begin to change. Somewhere between huntin’ and shootin’, my attention began to waver. It might have been because I read the majority of this book in one sitting, but suddenly Greer’s constant film references began feeling tedious rather than quirky. The plot seemed predictable – of course it would, with the approaching murder foreshadowed in the first sentence and taking a painfully long time to arrive – and I couldn’t muster the energy to care anymore.
When I eventually reached the end I think I was more excited about finishing the book than the events which occurred, which is why I rated the book so highly in the first place. Looking back I feel fondly towards the first half of the novel, but something about the shift in pacing and the slow reveal makes it impossible for me to keep such a high rating in place.
I’m going to read M.A. Bennett’s second novel, The Island, because she has an intriguing writing style that lends itself well to thriller writing, but S.T.A.G.S just isn’t the greatest way of exercising that skill. Hopefully Bennett’s second novel will give her a chance to balance things more equally, and a bit less foreshadowing will keep the reader guessing rather than revealing her hand far too early.
Based off of the ending there’s a good chance that S.T.A.G.S will get a sequel, something which I’m actually hoping for. It would be great to revisit these characters and see how Bennett develops the world.
If you’re interested in learning more about S.T.A.G.S, 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!
The Make More Noise! anthology was released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of (some) women getting the right to vote, but that doesn’t mean that all of the stories are politically focused. In fact, it’s a rather conflicting collection: some of the stories are set […]
Hey again lovely readers! I’m sure you agree with me that sometimes you read a book that just fills you with wanderlust. All you want to do is fly across the globe and visit the place that you’ve just read so much about, and if money was no object you’d already be on a plane.
These ten books feature places that I’d love to visit, but am probably never going to be able to (and in some cases, definitely won’t!)
10) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I’m only putting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so low on my list because there’s no way that I’ll ever be able to visit most of the attractions featured. I’d love to dine at the restaurant at the end of the universe, but unfortunately I’ll be long dead by the time the universe does end. How unfair!
9) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Although I haven’t finished Northern Lights yet, it’s definitely filling me with wanderlust. The world is so beautifully crafted that you can’t help but want to go and discover the North along with Lyra and her companions, and even though it’s taking me an absolute age to read it, I’m consistently enjoying the descriptive sections.
8) Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I don’t feel the desire to visit the world of Weep, because it seems far too sad and stress-inducing. However, Lazlo’s journey itself fills me with wanderlust. I’d love to be slowly travelling towards a place I’d dreamed of seeing my entire life, filled with equal parts apprehension and anticipation.
7) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
I’m not a huge fan of sandy locations – it gets into inappropriate places and I can feel it on my skin for days – but something about Rebel of the Sands makes me want to walk into a desert and never stop.
6) The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Even though Flora shouldn’t, she can’t resist travelling to Svalbard. The Land of the Midnight Sun sounds disorienting and strange, but I’d love to see if it affects me as badly as everyone says it does (am I a glutton for punishment? Perhaps!)
5) Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl
Kids Like Us is set in France, and it’s described beautifully. Martin doesn’t like France much at the beginning of the story, but Hilary Reyl paints a beautiful picture of (what I imagine is) a gorgeous country.
4) Paper Towns by John Green
Paper Towns isn’t my favourite John Green novel (that accolade belongs to Looking For Alaska) but this is definitely the one that makes me want to travel the most. The idea of paper towns – fake towns created by mapmakers to protect their copyright – is an amazing one, and I hope I can explore some of them myself one day.
3) Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Unfortunately I’ll never be able to go to Mars, but this is one of the only books (other than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) that makes me wish I could travel around space.
2) Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
I didn’t enjoy Before I Let Go that much, but the way that Marieke Nijkamp describes Alaska makes it a character all of its own. This book made me shiver more than I could count, not because of the spooky elements but because of the atmospheric environment.
1) Stolen by Lucy Christopher
I mention Stolen as frequently as I can, because it’s amazing. Telling the story of a girl who is kidnapped and taken to the Australian outback, the descriptions are so vibrant that they’re still vivid in my head despite the fact that I read it nearly ten years ago.
If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link (found in the book’s title). If you’d like to read more about each book, please click their cover: you’ll be redirected to their Goodreads page.
Which books make you want to explore, and why?