I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley. Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been …
To begin, I’d like to thank SOURCEBOOKS Jabberwocky, for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. The List introduces a dystopian world where vocabulary is being restricted and words are being systematically destroyed. The story follows Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice, as …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read and review Rules For Being a Girl via NetGalley.
Rules For Being a Girl is a book I wish I could give to my teenage self.
Marin adores her English teacher, Mr Beckett. He’s just awesome. Down to earth, relatable, more of a friend than a teacher. Until he gives her a lift home late one night. On the way to her house, Bex swings by his apartment to pick up a book he keeps forgetting to lend to Marin. While they’re in his home, he kisses her.
She doesn’t know what to do. Marin’s certain that it was a simple misunderstanding. She must have been giving Bex the wrong impression, sending signals that she hadn’t been intending to send. She resolves to put it behind her and not allow it to taint their relationship.
However, Bex does the exact opposite. Suddenly he’s treating Marin harshly, grading her unfairly, and even interfering with her future. Marin has always followed the unspoken rules for being a girl: she’s been a model student, a good girl, and would never dream of causing a scene. But she’s starting to learn that some rules are meant to be broken…
Marin makes the best of a terrible situation, deciding to focus on educating herself on issues surrounding women’s equality and the difference in societal expectations between men and women. Straightforward and unafraid, Marin calls it how she sees it. This makes her seem like a much older character – it’s the kind of confidence which comes with growing up, and I didn’t know anyone who could call out sexist jokes or stereotypically macho behaviour in their teens – but it also makes her the kind of inspirational character that teenage girls need as a role model.
I didn’t understand feminism until I was in my very late teens, but if Rules For Being a Girl had been out when I was younger I would have been calling myself a feminist much earlier in my life. It was brilliant to see Marin start a feminist book club, and recommending titles by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roxane Gay lays the groundwork for readers to explore feminist non-fiction written by women of colour. It allows interested readers to learn about intersectional feminism, and the way that feminist issues impact upon people from different backgrounds, from outspoken authors sharing their lived experiences.
I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marin and Gray, and I found myself rooting for them more than I have for a YA couple in quite a while. I’m hoping that Bushnell and Cotugno consider writing a sequel to this story, because Marin and Gray’s relationship has a lot of potential for development in the future. I felt sad at the end of the book because I was attached to both of the characters and I wanted to see more of them, and that’s not something which happens to me very often.
The only reason I didn’t give Rules For Being a Girl five stars is because I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It’s rushed. Compared to the rest of the novel – which builds up tension slowly, making you wonder what Marin will do next and whether Bex will get his comeuppance – the end of the story falls flat.
It’s hard to talk about my main issue with the ending without giving spoilers, but let’s say that it is highly unrealistic (which is a shame, because the rest of the novel is written so believably). If it had played out a bit more slowly, Bushnell and Cotugno might have been able to address exactly how the events are supposed to play out… But instead the main characters plot off the page, intending to give the reader a satisfying reveal when we discover what they’ve done, but it didn’t seem possible that they would have been able to get away with it.
However, if it wasn’t for the ending this book would have been a five star novel. The topics explored are relevant (even if some of the pop culture references already feel painfully dated for a book which was only released last summer!) and are important for young people to be able to discuss. I’ve seen this novel favourably compared to Moxie and The Nowhere Girls, so I’ll be checking both out as soon as I can.
I already knew I enjoyed Katie Cotugno’s writing, but this collaboration seems to have elevated her to the next level. If these authors decide to work together again in the future, it’ll be an autobuy for me.
I hope you enjoyed this review. See you again soon!
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Michael Joseph for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. How To Disappear tells the story of a girl called Zara, who has to enter witness protection after lying …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. All Our Hidden Gifts is a book which tries to do too much, but is still very enjoyable. Following …
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 getting divorced (and that they’ve actually been separated for almost a year, even though Natalie had no idea).
Natalie isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen next. She’d been planning on living at home with them while attending university in Melbourne, but now her dad is moving out and her mum is planning to sell their childhood home. Natalie doesn’t know where that leaves her.
One thing she does know is that she’s rapidly developing feelings for her best friend Zach’s older brother, Alex. After attending a party with Alex he quickly becomes all she can think about. However, Alex is popular, charismatic and works in a pub. Meanwhile, Natalie’s an introvert who doesn’t drink and suffers with serious self-esteem issues (mainly thanks to the acne she’s been dealing with throughout her teenage years, caused by her polycystic ovarian syndrome).
Their relationship seems doomed before it’s even begun, but will Natalie take a chance on love or avoid the potential for heartbreak?
The main thing I loved about this book was how much I related to Natalie. I never suffered with acne, but I did suffer with constant spots and oily skin. I empathised with how she felt about herself due to her skin condition, and the lengths that she went to to protect herself from judgment.
Teenagers can be horrible – I distinctly remember getting soap thrown at me on my birthday as a ‘present’ – so I believed every moment of agony Natalie had experienced throughout high school, from strangers commenting on her skin to other teenagers screaming obscenities at her on public transport.
Yes, it made me revisit some terrible experiences in my life (a trip down memory lane that I probably could have done without!). But Natalie’s shrewd, hilarious commentary on her life made me find my memories less painful. This book would have helped me a lot if I’d read it as a teenager.
Hilarious really is the best word to describe this book. If a book is described as ‘funny’ I normally end up hating it, but It Sounded Better in My Head was exactly my kind of humour. Natalie quizzing Alex over his past sexual experiences was a particular highlight. I’m embarrassed to say that I did the exact same thing with my partner, but if you can ask the awkward questions at the beginning of your relationship it’s a good sign! I lost count of the amount of times I giggled at this book, and I properly cackled at least twice.
I also really liked the Australian setting, and it was a novelty to read a book set at Christmas which was filled with descriptions of trips to the beach and hot summer days!
The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because – as I said at the beginning of the review – not an awful lot happens. It’s extremely short, coming in at under 300 pages, and although I enjoyed the writing style and fell in love with Natalie’s character, I wanted more from it. There’s a lot of potential for a sequel following these characters into the future, and I hope Nina Kenwood decides to write it. Even if she doesn’t directly continue this story, she’s certainly an author that I’m going to be looking out for in the future, as she has a talent for writing authentic YA experiences.
Have you read any funny YA novels that you’d recommend I pick up? Leave your suggestions down in the comments!
Thank you for reading,
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 …
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 list is endless.
However, I don’t think any of them live up to Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn. Combining Black Girl Magic with a fresh twist on the Order of the Round Table, this is a captivating debut which I found ridiculously hard to put down.
When the book begins we meet our protagonist, Bree, on the night that her mother dies in a car accident. It’s made worse by the fact that Bree had a huge fight with her mother the previous night, leaving her to come to terms with the knowledge that the last words she said to her mother were ones said in anger.
Their fight was about Bree’s enrollment in an Early College program. Bree signed up without her mother’s permission, thinking she wouldn’t get in (but if she did, attending the university where her mother studied had to sweeten the deal, right?!). But Bree’s mother wasn’t ever going to let her daughter go there, and Bree is left with no idea why.
Unfortunately, Bree’s mother’s secrets end up causing her to get embroiled in more trouble than either of them could have anticipated. Before lessons begin she goes to a party where she meets a mysterious guy called Sel. She spots something strange that nobody else seems able to see, and Sel ends up doing something to her memories… Something that makes her wonder if her mother’s death wasn’t a simple accident.
Bree is left questioning the truth about the world around her, fighting with her best friend Alice, and being assigned a (startlingly attractive) peer mentor. How will Bree get her head around the new world she’s discovering while still struggling to cope with her grief?
Going into Legendborn, all I knew was that it was a King Arthur retelling. The last King Arthur retelling I read was one which seriously disappointed me, so instead of intriguing me that aspect made me put off reading this book for longer than I should have.
I wondered how a King Arthur retelling set in America was going to work, but Tracy Deonn does a wonderful job of explaining the history of how Arthur’s descendants came to be across the pond. She has obviously put a lot of work into researching not only the original legend, but the history of America itself as well.
At its heart this story is a scathing look at the way that generations of Black people have been treated in America – from back in the days of slavery up until today, when Bree experiences microaggressions and prejudiced comments just because of the colour of her skin. It’s empowering, it’s a call to arms, and it’s high time that we get more YA fantasy retellings written by Black authors about Black characters.
I absolutely love Bree. Although she is a Chosen One (and that’s not my favourite trope!) she is such a well-crafted character that I can almost overlook it. As well as dealing with the discovery of a magical underworld, she’s also dealing with developing feelings for Nick, the strain that the Early College program is putting on her relationship with her best friend, and her mother’s death. That adds up to a ton of character development, which Tracy Deonn ekes out and takes time with. Bree doesn’t change within a few pages, and throughout the novel we get a lot of her inner monologue as she struggles to decide what to do about the situation she has found herself in and the way that it is changing how she sees herself.
The other aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was the possible love triangle between Bree, Sel and Nick. I wouldn’t describe Bree and Nick’s relationship as instalove because it does take her a little while to trust him enough to let him in, but their romance does develop quite rapidly. However, the friendship between Bree and Sel was what I was living for. They have a lot in common, and even though he’s the bad guy at the beginning you quickly learn that there’s a lot more going on under the surface. I’m describing this as a possible love triangle because by the end of the first book Bree and Sel’s relationship is still purely friendship, but I have strong feelings towards these two and I hope that they end up developing strong feelings for each other! It’s been a while since I’ve felt this drawn to a YA romance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tracy Deonn takes these characters in the as-yet-untitled second novel in the Legendborn series.
There are only two reasons why I didn’t give this book five stars. The first is a very minor one, but it’s the overly repetitive descriptions of the way that each boy smells. I was reading this book aloud to Sean and I lost count of the amount of times I said the words ‘laundry and cedar’ or ‘whiskey and cinnamon’. Those descriptions are very vivid and vibrant, but when they kept getting repeated every couple of pages it threw me out of the story entirely.
The other reason that Legendborn ended up being four stars is that the ending is too rushed. For a book which comes in at just over 500 pages, the climax takes place over just a couple of chapters, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the action at the end of the novel had played out more slowly. I loved the fast-paced nature of a certain reveal, but as a whole the book had such slow pacing and I really savoured the level of world-building that Tracy Deonn was putting into the story, so for the ending to be a complete 180 was a bit of a shame.
That being said, this is one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a long time. I loved the fact that it included such a unique twist on the King Arthur legend, I really enjoyed the unique magic system and I think it’s brilliant that this book sits beautifully between YA and Adult – definitely sitting at the older end of the YA fantasy spectrum.
Tracy Deonn is an author to watch, that’s for sure. I’m eagerly anticipating news about the sequel to Legendborn, and I’m already looking forward to rereading this story in preparation for Bree’s tale to continue.
Are there any other King Arthur retellings that you’ve read and would recommend? Please leave them down in the comments!
Thank you for reading,