Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, young adult

Leah On The OffBeat – Becky Albertalli

“I should have told him a year ago. I don’t think it would have been a big deal then, but now it feels insurmountable. It’s like I missed a beat somewhere, and now the whole song’s tempo.”

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Blurb: “When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.”

Becky Albertalli has cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. For someone who keeps saying she doesn’t like contemporaries (but still seems to read them anyway), I will happily devour anything she releases.

Do you need to read Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda before reading Leah On The Offbeat? Absolutely. From the get-go this book is riddled with spoilers as, after all, it is a sequel.

Leah very much appears to be the outsider of the group at times. She is often the one looking on while everyone has their in-depth discussions and she rarely adds her own input until she’s with certain individuals such as Simon. It’s senior year and, as to be expected, conversations and plot are peppered with college worries, the concept of friendships ending and prom. Leah, just like possibly everyone who’s ever been a teenager, is worrying about everything.

She is also having her own internal battle with her sexuality. She is bisexual and only out to her mum. As a fat bisexual girl myself, I was able to relate to Leah in the way that she is quite comfortable with her sexuality but feels like she missed the window in which to declare it to the world; as the title implies, she’s offbeat. She doesn’t quite understand why she is unable to tell people, especially her best friend Simon who is out as gay. However, there is one particular scene that really does not sit right with me (for the sake of preserving the experience I have changed the name to Kelly). During a heart-to-heart with Leah, Kelly comes out as “low-key bi” and in response, Leah completely shuts her down, invalidates the sexuality of someone who is questioning and proceeds to storm off in a huff. In a time where LGBT books are reaching the mainstream in YA, it seems a very odd and harmful thing to include in a book. Normally I’m fine with problematic things as long as it’s called out within context and it isn’t. Leah never apologises and the scene just becomes a footnote in the overall plot. If I had read this book when I was questioning, it probably would’ve had a negative impact and I hate the idea of a questioning teen reading this book and feeling the same. It just seemed a very odd choice for Albertalli to make and I’m not sure how it slipped past editors.

There is also an instance of racism towards Abby which Leah is quick to step up and shut down and while it was lovely to see and appreciate, once it had been solved and Abby expressed this, Leah continued to hold a grunge.

But, moving on. I liked seeing Leah and Abby getting to know each other better outside of their friendship group obligations and it was nice to see some references to The Upside of Unrequited. I did struggle getting into this book at first as I reread Simon for the film and a few characters in the book are not present in the film, so once I found my feet again the book started to flow better.

Another thing that bugged me was the formatting of the Ebook. A few conversations take place through text messages and there were no bold or italic sentences to make it clear what was part of the message and what made up the narrative.

This was one of my most anticipated reads for the year, and sadly, it missed the beat.

 
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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | Love, Simon

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”

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*This post contains mild spoilers*

Love, Simon is an adaptation of the bestselling novel Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli. When I read the book, I instantly fell in love with it and held the story close to my bisexual heart, having related so much to a lot of Simon’s narrative. Naturally, like many readers, I was over the moon to hear that it had been picked up for a movie and secretly prayed that it would eventually make its way onto the big screen. (Given there are many instances of rights being bought and things never happening)

It’s a coming-of-age and, well, coming out story of a gay teenage boy called Simon Spier who is threatened to be outed by a school bully, armed with screenshots of private emails between Simon and the mysterious Blue.

This film is so important for many reasons that you’ve probably already heard about a million times. To be “that adult”, if I’d seen this film when I was a confused 13 year old girl, maybe my own story would be different  But anyway, back to the film. I liked that it emphasised that no one comes out once. There’s always going to be friends you have yet to tell, new people in your life and every time is met with the same hesitation; Simon even uses the “I’m still me” line. Every scene is met with the same intake of breath as he waits to hear their response and I felt it so deeply.

I was unsure about Nick Robinson as Simon when the casting was announced, but I didn’t need to worry at all. Simply put: he is Simon. I was completely invested in his portrayal from every little smile when reading his emails, to every laugh and cry. The “that was supposed to be my thing” scene hit me like a ton of bricks. You could just feel the pure rage oozing from the character and the following sequence left me quietly sobbing into my popcorn. Katherine Langford, known for 13 Reasons Why, was another stand out for me. Leah is a quiet force in the overall drama of the story but Katherine managed to capture the essence of her character: feeling lost, overwhelmed with the possibilities open to her. But when she gets her big moment, my god she shines.

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I loved the contrast between the first and second halves of the film. The former felt slightly darker and like there was a restraint to Simon and the interactions he had with his friends. As Simon’s mother (played by Jennifer Garner) points out: it feels like he’s holding his breath. In comparison, the latter feels much brighter, Simon smiles more, he feels closer to his family and friends. After his first coming out scene, when he finally lets go of that breath, his character moves in a different direction and it’s beautiful to watch.

I also really like how Blue’s email sequences were littered with a different person each time, alternating with whoever Simon suspected to be Blue based on little things he dissected from the emails. It kept it interesting and tried to give a face to the person behind the emails before it’s eventually revealed.

From an adaptation point of view: it’s solid. The best internal narrative bits of the book are littered in voiceovers and all the major plot points are there. There is a big addition to add more drama to the story but it makes sense in the context of the film. The book is a quiet story, and on screen it needed that extra push to keep viewers interested. I was fascinated to see how the emails would be shown and it’s pretty much like in the book: you’re reading them along with Simon which I thought was a nice touch. You really are following Simon on his journey. I don’t feel that Martin was emphasised as much as he was in the book. One of the main points of his character was that he didn’t know/understand that people cared about other people’s sexualities and the result his actions would have. (Not that it excuses his idiot behaviour) In the film it felt like he very much knew what he was doing and trying to take the heat off himself. Which, I guess in its own way, kind of worked. The essence of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is in very single frame of this film. If you love the book as much as I did, you’re not going to be disappointed.

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However, this film isn’t without its faults. The “trying to be down with the kids” head teacher is a trope that I’ve never been able to get behind in teenage comedies, and in Love, Simon it really took me out of the film. It was just forced humour that didn’t really work and the most hilarious moments happened in a more natural way; they just felt part of the conversation. The beginning is very disjointed, like we’re rushing to establish Simon and his relationships. The film really finds its feet when Simon sends his first email to Blue and after that it’s plain sailing.

The stand out scene for me was Simon and his mother having a heart to heart after he comes out. It’s heartfelt and beautiful and apparently Nick Robinson didn’t know that Jennifer Garner was going to cry as it wasn’t scripted… which then made him cry in the take. But I mean, who wasn’t crying by that point?

The ending fell to some romantic, teenage cliché but you know what? As Jacques a dit: everyone deserves a good love story.

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Posted in discussion

Books I Want To Reread

The biggest piece of advice I give anyone who finds themselves stuck in a bit of a reading slump is read your favourite books again or reread books you once loved deeply. Dear reader, I am finally taking some of my own advice.

I wrote a list of fifteen books in total that I would like to revisit; for obvious reasons this list did not include works such as Harry Potter. I write the names down onto individual slips of paper, folded them up and commandeered my TBR jar for the purposes of this experiment. After I’d given the jar a good shake, I decided to pick out four books to start off with.

I plan on making my thoughts on rereads into a series here on my blog. But this will not be a fixed segment which means that I will post an update as and when I read them; though it will be made clear in the title if it’s part of this new series or not.

So let’s get into the books:

Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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The story follows a boy called Simon has been emailing another boy at his school. But when the emails get leaked and Simon’s sexuality is at risk of being made public, Simon quickly finds himself in an uncomfortable positon.

I know what you’re thinking: will Charlotte ever stop talking about Becky Albertalli? The answer is no. This made my list of favourite books in 2015 and admittedly I haven’t picked it up again since then. But this a rather promising-looking adaptation due to hit the big screen this year, it seems like the perfect time to give this another read.

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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The story follows a man called Nick who moved next door to a big mansion in Long Island during the Jazz Age. After receiving an invitation to one of the many lavish parties held by his neighbour – Jay Gatsby- Nick soon learns that no one has seen or met the man. He is quite simply a mystery to everyone.

I know you’re all probably sick of hearing me talk about this book but it’s one of my all-time favourites for a reason. This is such a beautifully written, poetic tale with so many complex characters. This Penguin’s Modern Classics cover is also my favourite of the many redesigns The Great Gatsby has received. I won’t be doing another review on here for it in terms of reread thoughts because I’ve actually already done one which can be found here.
Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell

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If you’re looking for a cute, all-consuming YA Contemporary love story, then Eleanor and Park is the book for you. I find it so hard to talk about YA romance without giving anyway any important details. But just know it’s beautiful.

The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly 

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This is another book that’s difficult to describe without giving away the main points of the plot. But at its core, The Book Of Lost Things is about a boy coming to terms with the death of his mother and his reality and imagination sort of merge together with a  fairytale twist.

And that’s what I’m planning on rereading! Do you have any plans to revisit some old favourites?

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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, romance, young adult

The Upside Of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli

“Certain nights have this kind of electricity. Certain nights carry you to a different place from where you started. I think tonight was one of the special ones.”

 

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
Right?”

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

When I finished Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda, I knew that she was going to be an “auto-buy” author for me. As known if you keep up date with me on my various social media channels, I am not always the biggest fan for contemporaries but that one spoke to me in a way not many books too. So when I got wind of a new book from her, you bet I was dancing around to kill the time until I could have it in my hands.

The Upside of Unrequited follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend and feels that she is quickly falling behind her peers (including her twin sister Cassie) who seem to find mutual love easy to obtain and are having sex or already in relationships whereas she is yet to experience any of those “firsts” that are so important to a teenager. The only experience she has is her list of 26 unrequited loves; one of which includes Lin Manuel Miranda. When she bumps into a Korean-American girl called Mina in the toilets of a nightclub she has no idea how much this girl will change things.

This book does a fantastic job of depicting what it really feels like to be a teenager from the concerns about lack of experience, to those constant buzzing questions when you do find someone attractive, to body image. Whatever you can think of, it’s covered and it isn’t glossed over either. Each topic is addressed with the right amount of time paid to it. Even the heart-breaking ones such as Molly being concerned that her weight will be a turn-off and how big girls don’t get boyfriends or have sex unless it’s a joke and she doesn’t want to be one. It all adds a layer of authenticity to the story because, as we all know, problems don’t disappear straight away.

The sexual diversity in this book is a breath of fresh air with characters identifying as straight, pansexual and bisexual which are all presented in positive and healthy ways. I’ve already spoken to the author about my thoughts but I am going to share them here too: I’ve spoken out in the past about the lack of bisexuals in YA, let alone female bisexuals and this book made me cry in the best way possible: because I was happy. Becky Albertalli included a female bisexual character and I felt valid. Representation is so important.

At times it felt almost as if I was reading an old diary from my teenage years because it captured certain experience so well and I am sure everyone will be able to find something that reminds them of a moment when they were a teenager (even if it’s a memory that is best forgotten). Becky Albertalli does not miss the mark with this one and not picking up a copy should be considered a crime.

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Posted in discussion, fairytale retelling, fantasy, young adult

Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

 

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

 

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

 

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

 

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
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