Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi

“Time is beyond our finite comprehension. It’s endless, it exists outside of us; we cannot run out of it or lose track of it or find a way to hold on to it. Time goes on even when we do not.”

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Blurb: “It should have taken Juliette a single touch to kill Warner. But his mysterious immunity to her deadly power has left her shaken, wondering why her ultimate defense mechanism failed against the person she most needs protection from.”

After rereading Shatter Me and not loving it as much as I did previously, I approached the sequel with trepidation. It took a few restarts because that fear was too much. And after I got passed that, I discovered that I didn’t need to worry at all.

Tahereh Mafi is a superb writer. She has this incredible way of stringing together metaphors to describe feelings that fit every single time. She manages to balance every thread of a story so perfectly that nothing feels neglected.

The narrative choice of crossed out sections continue to show Juliette’s state of mind. It’s an interesting framing that really works well for the character and this story. They are less frequent than Shatter Me and I already know that they continue and change over the course of the series. It’s a great way to show the crucial moments when the protagonist doubts herself.

Unravel Me doesn’t fall to that “second book syndrome” and I think a lot of that is the knowledge that it is now an extended series. At the time of release, it was a trilogy. Now, it’s a six book series. Either way, even in the slow moving sections I was completely hooked.

Unravel Me is a triumph and Tahereh Mafi continues to prove that she is a writer that is going to be around for a very long time.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Outgrowing Favourites

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The reason I love books so much is because they’re almost like time capsules. I can take any mound of paper off my shelves and tell you the story behind it. Not just the magic woven into the pages, but my story; the story of who I was when I bought that book, the milestones it marked. The collectors edition of Divergent was a reward to myself for handing my in dissertation which marked the end of my university degree, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story helped me see the light when I didn’t want to live any more, City Of Bones made me realise that writing YA fantasy is where my talents lie. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Like every other reader on the planet, I have favourite books. While I am very much a “I love it or I’m indifferent to it” person when it comes to all types of creative art, when I say a book is my favourite I really mean it with the very core of my being. Those books are have massive sentimental value as well as maybe being a big turning point in a series, or something significant happened that I come back to time and time again only to receive that same joyous rush as if it’s the first time I’m reading it. However, we never stay the same person forever and, as a result, we never stay the same reader. Genres that once enticed us no longer fill up with excitement, plot threads we once loved are now deemed wildly problematic once viewed with an adult perspective. So what happens when books that used to be our favourites no longer are? Trust me, if I’d worked out the solution, I’d be a millionaire from selling vials of the stuff.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself gravitating back to old favourites and then leaving the experiences slightly terrified that they didn’t have the same impact. Shatter Me, which I last read in 2015, I rated 5 stars and boldly claimed it was the best YA dystopian I’d read. Revisiting it recently led me to drop that rating to 3 stars because I just didn’t connect with the story and the characters as much as before. I never understood why non-fans of Cassandra Clare said her writing was so bad in The Mortal Instruments series until I reread City Of Bones and noticed the issues in the writing even though it was her debut and she’s improved dramatically since then. That series has a massive place in my heart because it was the first time I’d seen bisexual representation in a book. It meant the world to me and yet, I don’t think I can ever go back to that particular series. Sure I can consume the new stories, but it won’t be the same for the old. I tried to read The Book Of Lost Things which I’d declared one of my favourite books of all time, only to bow out of it at the 100 page mark because I wasn’t enjoying it anywhere near as much and didn’t want my memories of what it felt like to read it the first time be tainted.

Admittedly, it’s left me afraid to reread any other favourites in case I pick them off one by one. But I guess the empty spaces left behind are opportunities for new books to take over.

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Posted in contemporary, young adult

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea (Chapter Sampler) – Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea is about giving a voice to the Muslim American teenager in a world where they’re seldom given a chance to speak. It’s about love and hate and breakdancing. It’s my story, and I’m grateful to you for reading.”

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Blurb: “It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.”

*This Sampler was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Additional Note: I am very aware that as a white reviewer that there are aspects of this story I cannot connect to and I am sharing this from a place of privilege. If you know of any own voice reviews of this sampler please let me know and I will add them here.

Like probably everyone, I know Tahereh Mafi from her best-selling YA series Shatter Me and I have been a follower of all her social media platforms for many years. She has been quite reserved when it comes to her personal life which made it even more interesting when she announced a new book – a YA contemporary taking aspects of her experiences growing up as a Muslim in America, oh and her love for breakdancing.

It’s very hard for me to judge this story fairly until the book I actually out as I was only given a first-chapter sampler but what I read has left me begging for the rest of it.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea follows Shirin who has just started at a new school; her fourth in two years. Initially, Shirin comes across as abrasive and the epitome of “fuck you and fuck the world.” However, her demeanour began to quickly make sense: she is growing up in a world that constantly takes her at face value, judging her before they even get the chance to know her. It was expected from her classmates but shocking to also see the teachers acting the same way. She addresses the double standards compared to her brother: while she is attacked for wearing a hijab and receives a torrid of islamophobia, her brother is fawned over by girls who find him “exotic.”

The reader really gets the sense that she’s struggling to find her place in the world and break dancing will become something positive she can invest her time in; something where who she is outside of the moves won’t matter. Also I’ve never read a book that really focuses on breakdancing before and I’m very intrigued to see where the rest of the story goes.

Publication Date: 16th October 2018

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Posted in children's fiction, review

Furthermore – Tahereh Mafi

“Colour was life. Colour was everything. Colour, you see, was the universal sign of magic.”

 

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Blurb: “In a world brimming with colour and magic, Alice’s pale skin and milk-white hair mark her as an outcast. For the people of Ferenwood, colour and magic are one and the same. Alice is determined to prove her magical abilities and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. To do so she’ll have to travel into the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore. But nothing there is as it seems, and Alice may never find her way home.”

Ferenwood is a place which is alive with colour. It’s a land rich in the natural resources of colour and magic. Every citizen was born with some kind of magical talent, given to them by the land. If they want any more magic then they have to buy it. Alice is a girl completely without colour except for her eyes; a fact which makes her stick out like a sore thumb. Every year the Surrender comes around which gives children of the age of twelve the opportunity to present their magical talent in exchange for a task to prove themselves. This year is Alice’s turn and she’s hoping it will give her the chance to find her missing father. Her adventures take her to the land of Furthermore which has countless rules where breaking them means death. Thankfully, Alice doesn’t have to face this alone as she finds a companion in the form of Oliver a boy with the power of persuasion.

This book has a very whimsical feel to it and that comes across in the writing style. However, at time I found it hard to picture and understand things and even had to re-start the book a few times to make sure I could fully understand the world. As the story gets more and more into the plot it’s a lot easier to follow. The chapters are quite short and then become longer once Alice reaches Furthermore which I felt reflected how Alice was engaging more with the world around her and gains more of a purpose.

Alive is a character very set in her ways and quite stubborn at times, especially when in Furthermore. I don’t think she could’ve done this adventure without Oliver (who I found annoying at times but he did have all the answers).  Though I loved the character of Alice, the one scene that really stood out to me is when she dances. It was written in such a vivid, beautiful way that it was like watching her perform before my eyes.

The ending is much like being brought to a halt. It’s abrupt and while answers a lot of questions, doesn’t give that feeling of closure because it is so unexpected for the story to just end.

The moral of this story is important. It showcases the fact that you should take what you consider to be a weakness and turn it into a strength.

A wonderful little adventure story that will satisfy the magic-minded.

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Posted in review, young adult

Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

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Blurb:” I have a curse
           I have a gift
I am a monster
I’m more than human
My touch is lethal
         My touch is power
I am their weapon
         I will fight back.
No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time – and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.”

Shatter Me has been on my TBR for many years. I finally got around to reading it because a friend of mine recently did and demanded I read it (she’s not normally wrong with her book choices). All I can say is, I’m so glad she told me to read this book.

If anyone ever asks me why I love reading Young Adult fiction so much, I will direct them to this book. I don’t often read dystopian (aside from The Divergent Series) so I wasn’t sure how I would tackle this book. The format takes place as the opening few lines of the blurb: a mix of text and crossed out text. I think this was a very good move, it kept you hooked in the slow moving sections as you weren’t entirely sure whether to trust the narrator or not: Is she really locked up for having the power to kill with a single touch? Or is she in a mental institute and believes this to be true?

There’s was something so simple, yet so engaging with the writing and there were many brilliantly crafted lines that I had to take a moment and think I wish I could write something like that.

As I delved further into this book, I wasn’t really sure where it was going to go. (I was aware going into it that it is a trilogy) But there is a nice twist that answered all the questions I’d been building up over the pages. When I’d put this book down for the final time, I wanted to run to my nearest book store and get the second installment. Sadly, I have too many books on my TBR to get through.

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