I have a NetGalley addiction. I check the site at least twice a day, and I request something nearly every single time I’m on there. I’ve tried – oh, I have TRIED – to stop myself, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything I …
Tag: two star review
‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’ It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting …
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 her.
Saffron runs away from home, unwilling to be around her father or his new wife Melanie for a moment longer. But when her oldest friend Tom refuses to let her stay with him, telling her instead to just go home, Saffron ends up sleeping rough and discovering there’s a lot more to life than designer labels and having a walk-in wardrobe.
I wasn’t a fan of Phyllida Shrimpton’s first novel, Sunflowers in February, but I decided to give The Colour of Shadows a chance. There aren’t many young adult novels that feature the characters running away from home or sleeping on the streets, but it’s a scarily common problem – over 100,000 young people asked for help regarding homelessness last year, according to Centrepoint.
However, it feels like Phyllida Shrimpton knew that she wanted to talk about homelessness and abandonment and had to string together a very unstable plot to allow her to explore the issues. It just doesn’t hold up under questioning.
If I found a briefcase in the attic filled with cards to my supposedly dead mother, I would assume that my father had kept them for sentimental reasons. I wouldn’t assume that it meant that she was actually alive.
Then again, if I was Saffron’s dad I would have disposed of the briefcase when I moved into a larger home with my new wife, rather than keeping it and risking one of my children discovering it…
Another aspect that doesn’t compute is Saffron’s age. Throughout the first few chapters I believed Saffron was supposed to be 13 or 14, but the way she was stomping around the house and refusing to let anyone speak screamed pre-teen behaviour. Then it was revealed that Saffron is actually meant to be 17. I was baffled. Some of her childish, spoilt behaviour can be explained away by her upper middle class background, but it makes the narrative jarring. I kept thinking I was reading a middle-grade book rather than a YA with a protagonist in her late teens.
Shrimpton gets points for discussing homelessness so cleverly, tearing down preconceptions regarding homeless people that I’m sure a lot of readers will unconsciously believe. She also explores the difficulties of being a young carer, although I hope she goes into this topic in more detail in a future release, as I can only think of one other YA novel focused upon the subject (Tender by Eve Ainsworth).
But although The Colour of Shadows is filled with important topics, I just can’t rate this novel higher than two stars. The plot is just far too transparent, and I feel as though the story needed to be stronger to make this book a success.
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 …
I don’t know why I keep picking up Megan Abbott’s novels, because they never impress me as much as I hope they will. I’ve already read The End of Everything and The Fever, and although I enjoyed Abbott’s writing style throughout both novels, I’ve constantly struggled with her …
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!
I wasn’t planning on reviewing Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? when I borrowed it from the library, but I have some thoughts about it that I’ve decided I’d like to get down on paper. It’s left me with a bit of a sour taste in …
I wasn’t sure whether to review The Bird Room or not, because it’s an… Interesting story. My copy is in pretty bad condition so I was only reading it before donating it to a charity shop, which means I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it, …
‘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!
When Jennifer Rayes contacted me asking if I’d like to read and review a copy of Intricate Deceptions, I jumped at the chance. Focused on the victim of a human trafficking operation, it sounded unlike any book I’d ever read before. With the amount of five …