It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it. Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are …
Stepsister is a brilliant fairytale continuation with a lackluster ending (and far too many chapters!). I wrongly assumed that Stepsister was going to be a fairytale retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the ugly stepsisters. Instead it’s a continuation of …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin for accepting my request to read Breathless via NetGalley.
Breathless was my first Jennifer Niven read, and it didn’t live up to the hype. Following a girl called Claude as her parents decide to get divorced and she goes away with her mother for the summer, this novel should have had a very strong emotional impact but left me feeling disappointed.
The main issue that I had with Breathless is that Claude doesn’t sound like a contemporary teenager. She speaks as though she’s older than her years, wiser than her peers, and it’s wholly unrealistic. I’m not a fan of YA novels trying to be literary fiction. It’s one of the reasons I struggle to enjoy John Green’s writing, so if you’re a fan of him I’d definitely recommend you give Jennifer Niven a try.
It also felt as though the book was set in the past, rather than in the 21st Century. Putting your character on a remote island with bad signal to interrupt their communication with their best friend (and to give the love interest an excuse to refuse to hand over his number) is a bit of a lackluster plot device. It would have made more sense if the novel had been set before smartphones were readily available. That would have also gone some way towards explaining why Claude didn’t feel like a modern teenager. If this had been a historical YA I would have enjoyed it more.
Those two issues combined kept throwing me out of the story, and I found it hard to emotionally connect with Breathless. While talking about this book in my January wrap up I couldn’t even remember Claude or Miah’s names, which shows how impactful I found them!
That being said, I did like Miah’s character. He has a bit of a damaged past so he has a lot of layers, and the reason I kept coming back to this book (rather than DNF’ing it, which Sean ended up doing) was because I was interested to learn more about his character. His relationship with Claude developed in an interesting way – it starts off as a summer fling but quickly becomes apparent to both of them that they’re feeling more than just lust for each other – but the ending left me feeling frustrated.
My favourite things about Breathless were the island setting, and the discussion of female sexuality.
The island setting is written in such a gorgeous way. You can tell that Jennifer Niven has either researched this location very deeply or has been on holiday there a few times herself, as the entire island was perfectly crafted. The turtles burying their eggs on the moonlit beach is a scene which is certainly going to stick in my mind for a long time.
Meanwhile, the discussion of female sexuality and pleasure is everything I wanted from YA books when I was younger. Whereas male YA authors never seem ashamed of either featuring masturbation scenes or having male self-pleasure innuendos throughout their stories, female YA authors traditionally seem to shy away from these subjects. Featuring scenes of Claude masturbating, discussions of virginity and how important it should/shouldn’t be (to both society and the individuals concerned) and discussions of female pleasure during intercourse, Breathless is a breath of fresh air in these respects. I particularly loved Claude berating Miah after their first time, telling him that it’s not over when he comes and that he should treat every time like the first time. Seeing characters having these discussions will empower female readers to assert themselves in regards to their pleasure, which is a hugely sex positive inclusion.
All in all, Breathless just wasn’t the book for me. It was too slow and introspective, and Claude came across as a little bit patronising at points so I didn’t like her all that much. However, I will definitely be recommending this book to readers who are looking for sex positive YA.
If you’ve read any of Jennifer Niven’s other novels, please let me know down in the comments which one you would suggest picking up next!
Thank you for reading,
There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The …
First things first I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books, who accepted my request to read Game Changer via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I have been so excited about reading a new Neal Shusterman novel. Having read and loved Dry and the entire Arc of the Scythe series, I thought that I might have discovered a new favourite author. I featured Game Changer in my most anticipated 2021 releases video, and I thought it was going to be an easy 5 star read to start off 2021 right.
Unfortunately, Game Changer took those hopes and dashed them to pieces.
Game Changer tells the story of a boy called Ash, who hits his head badly during a football game. He feels cold and uncomfortable, and wonders if it might be a concussion until he’s driving home and runs a blue light.
Yep, a blue light.
Ash realises that the world around him has changed, but he has no idea why. The only thing he can think to do is make sure to hit his head again during his next game in the hope that things might go back to normal. Unfortunately Ash finds himself quickly shifting further and further away from the life he’s used to.
I think the concept of Game Changer is utterly brilliant. The idea that the entire world could change due to such a small, seemingly inconsequential event makes you reconsider the impact that your actions may have. It could have had a positive impact on the behaviour of a lot of people, if it wasn’t trying to do quite as much.
Neal Shusterman uses Game Changer to criticise a lot of different injustices found across the world. The class divide, the racial divide, the gender divide – all of these and more are critiqued and torn apart throughout the course of Ash’s story.
Unfortunately, rather than educational and eye-opening, it comes across as extremely preachy. Ash is a white kid who struggles to listen to his best friend Leo, who is Black, when they talk about racist issues, yet we’re supposed to believe that Ash’s attitude changes remarkably quickly. One minute he’s contradicting Leo’s lived experiences, but a few chapters later he’s suddenly converted into a social justice warrior fighting the good fight for anyone who could be described as underprivileged.
I sincerely appreciate what Neal Shusterman was trying to do, but it doesn’t work. Stuffing this many important conversations into such a small book (while also introducing some pretty mind-boggling scientific concepts) is overwhelming, and sadly I didn’t enjoy Game Changer anywhere near as much as I was expecting to.
That being said, Neal Shusterman’s writing is still great. The conversational tone that Ash takes throughout makes him feel like a friend rather than like a character.
I cared about a lot of the background characters, even the ones that we don’t spend a lot of time with, because Shusterman has a skill when it comes to fleshing out characters realistically with only a brief description. This is something I noticed throughout the Arc of the Scythe – sometimes characters are only around for a chapter or two, but they stick in your mind remarkably – and it’s something Shusterman manages again in Game Changer.
I would still recommend picking up Game Changer – the early reviews seem to be extremely divisive, so you’re either going to love or hate this book – but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me.
I hope you enjoyed this review, even though it’s not what I expected to be saying about this novel!
See you tomorrow with my review of another anticipated 2021 release,
For today’s Blogtober post, I’ve decided to challenge myself to another round of #10in20. In this challenge, you write 10 books in 20 minutes, meaning you have only two minutes to write as much as you can about each book you review. This was a …
After finishing Dear Martin back in July, I wondered why it was getting a sequel. Justyce’s story resolves neatly in the first book in this series, and I couldn’t for the life of me see where the story could go from there.
Little did I know that the sequel was going to end up impressing me far more than Dear Martin. In fact, I think Dear Justyce is probably the most important book I’ll read this year.
If you’ve read Dear Martin, you’ll know that a large part of the story is told through letters. Justyce writes to his idol Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking for advice after being racially profiled, questioning the way that the justice system treats black teens and confiding his attempts to be a model citizen in the hopes that he’ll never have another run in with the law.
In Dear Justyce, instead of focusing on Justyce we focus on Quan, a background character from the first novel. Quan has been arrested for the murder of a police officer, and he’s facing life imprisonment. Quan starts writing letters to Justyce and eventually tells him the story of the night that changed his life, and it turns out that things aren’t as clear cut as they seemed…
I think the reason this sequel works so well is because in some ways it’s telling the other side of the same story. In Dear Martin, Justyce is a straight-A student from a well-off family and he gets treated terribly by the police. Dear Justyce takes things one step further, exploring what happens to the Black student who is flunking out and living on the rough side of town when they come up against the long arm of the law.
In a year when the public scrutiny of the actions of police officers has reached new heights, it would be brilliant if I could say that the events in Dear Justyce were unrealistic. Sadly, this is the reality faced by all too many young men due to systemic racism in American law enforcement. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if cases were handled incorrectly – in fact, hardly handled at all – and coercion was used, because once a decision has been made (and has usually been made based off of the colour of someone’s skin), it’s nigh on impossible for the black mark on their record to be completely removed.
Nic Stone does a wonderful job of exploring the motivations behind Quan’s actions, and the way that the daily instances of microaggressions combine to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people constantly treat you as though you’re stupid, as though you can’t succeed, as though you’re destined to become a lifelong offender, then soon enough you’ll start believing it, no matter how hard you try to defy them.
This is one of the most necessary sequels I have ever read, and I am so grateful to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advanced copy via NetGalley. I couldn’t see a way that Dear Justyce could surpass Dear Martin, but this book is uplifting and hopeful, focusing on the importance of friendship and having a strong support system in the face of corrupt power structures.
If you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth continuing on with Justyce’s story, I can confirm that it 100% is.
Dear Justyce is released in the UK tomorrow, so make sure to pick up a copy and support a very important novel.