Hey everyone! In case you’re new here, I am obsessed with the YA Book Prize. Every year I challenge myself to read the ten book shortlist in its entirety before the winner of the prize is announced so that I can choose my own winner, …
Tag: five star review
Hello everyone! This is the most exciting blog tour I’ve been involved in all year, and I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory’s third novel – with you all.
I absolutely loved Countless and Skylarks left me speechless (quite literally: I still haven’t been able to put my thoughts into enough words to review it…) so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed I Hold Your Heart just as much as its predecessors, but there are so many reasons why.
Before I dive into my review, here’s a bit more information about I Hold Your Heart – if you’re not already interested, the blurb alone makes this one unmissable.
“You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,” Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. “I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.”
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.
I Hold Your Heart is an utter masterpiece.
Gemma first sees Aaron as she’s leaving one of her brother’s football matches, their eyes meeting across the pitch – sparks flying, a soaring orchestral soundtrack playing in the background – and she’s instantly attracted to him. Heading straight to her shift at the cafe with her best friend Esi, she can’t stop wondering whether she should have given him her number when – lo and behold – in he walks.
A huge fan of country songs, Gemma has always believed in true love and soulmates, the love stories that all of the greats sing about. She just hadn’t expected her first love to be it, but Aaron undeniably is. He’s perfect.
Karen Gregory approaches the topic of abusive relationships very intelligently.
At the beginning, I Hold Your Heart feels like it’s the worst kind of contemporary, filled with cringey instalove and soppy moments that have you rolling your eyes and trying not to be sick. It’s a genius decision, though: the reader feels exactly like Gemma, so swept off of her feet by Aaron that when he starts to show his darker side it’s almost impossible to believe.
As the book hasn’t been out very long I’m not going to go into some of the worst aspects of Aaron’s behaviour, but the slow and steady escalation makes I Hold Your Heart one of the most realistic depictions of abusive relationships that I’ve read. I’ve seen it touched upon a few times in YA, but normally the change in personality occurs at such a breakneck speed that it feels highly unbelievable. Instead, Gregory gets her readers care deeply for these characters – to even care for their relationship, at its more tender moments – only to see it come crashing down very dramatically.
You really feel yourself rooting for Gemma and Aaron at points. It’s hard not to agree when she pushes away Esi, who is getting overly involved in her relationship, because she should be allowed to be happy! But that’s the most dangerous thing about abusive relationships: if people think you’re happy, it’s even harder to tell people – or even yourself – that you’re not, and before you know it there’s no one left for you to talk to because you’ve pushed everyone away.
The inclusion of Aaron’s perspective really is the icing on the cake. As Gemma starts to realise that she isn’t happy, the story jumps across to Aaron more and more regularly, showing us how he justifies all of his actions – even the most horrible ones. It’s pretty scary stuff, because things that would be inexcusable to most people seem like common sense to him.
I think I Hold Your Heart could have a huge positive impact, as it showcases the warning signs so eloquently that it’s bound to have readers reaching out to close friends just to make sure that they’re doing okay.
This book is perfect for fans of Eve Ainsworth and Louise O’Neill – both authors who aren’t afraid to tackle emotional and controversial subjects in YA – and for fans of Holly Bourne, as some of Aaron’s behaviour later in the novel reminds me so much of It Only Happens in the Movies (one scene in particular, but you’ll know which one after you’ve read it!).
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of I Hold Your Heart, it’s available on Amazon.
About the author:
Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.
Before I go I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faye Rogers for organising this blog tour. It’s been a dream to review this book: with every new release Karen Gregory is further cementing herself as my favourite author!
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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. …
“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 life, the one who got away – tells him she’s pregnant, he has a panic attack. It’s the first time he’s ever experienced anything like it and he thinks he’s dying, so he’s lucky when his step-niece’s new college roommate appears out of nowhere and saves the day.
Penny is that roommate. The perpetual outsider, she struggled to fit in at high school and is already having the same issues at college. At least there are some pros: she’s managed to escape from her mother and is studying how to be a writer, her dream career. She exchanges numbers with Sam, vowing to be his emergency contact, but their blossoming text friendship makes her far too anxious to confront the possibility of seeing him IRL again.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know anything about Emergency Contact when I saw it on the list of Free Reads that Riveted Lit were offering near Valentine’s day, but I fell in love with the cover instantly. Not only does it introduce you to Penny and Sam, it’s also not ashamed to reveal that their friendship primarily plays out through their phones – an aspect of teenage life that a lot of YA authors avoid exploring.
I’ve made plenty of friends online who I’m unlikely to ever meet face-to-face (one of the perils of being a blogger!), so I very much related to the story. Some of the deepest friendships I’ve had have developed and grown through texts – sharing secrets in the dead of the night, able to voice thoughts that you’ve hardly even looked at head-on before – and I think that’s likely to become even more common in future generations. Technology and social media are here to stay, and they’ve altered the way that friendship works for good.
It’s difficult to review Emergency Contact without giving too much away – something I’ve been trying to avoid, which is why it’s taken me a week to write this post – but I will say that it’s a story about falling in love, not about being in love. Penny and Sam are the definition of a slow burn romance, and you will find yourself screeching in desperate need of a sequel when you turn the final page.
Emergency Contact is the most enjoyable YA contemporary I’ve read in a very long time, and it’s uplifting despite the fact that it deals with serious issues such as alcoholism and anxiety. Aimed at the upper YA age group, this book is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl or anyone who is going through a big life change and feels alone.
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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 …
‘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?
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