Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Created – Peiri Ann

Blurb: “After a devastating world war, our government has manufactured genetically altered humans. These “creations” are designed to manage and enforce law and order among the citizens. Creations don’t know fear or pain. Their sole function is to fight the enemy and live to battle again. Orphans Kylie and her twin brother, Lukahn were born for this purpose. Dedicating their lives to sharpening their deadly skills and forfeiting the chance of love and freedom. They ready themselves for Separation, the deadly rite of passage where the oldest teens are drafted into the final preparation for war. Humans and creations alike have become lethal foes when a plague of the living dead becomes the number one hazard. Strategies change as the twins discover they may not be the saviours of humankind after all. They may be the real enemy of the people.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I’m not really a big sci-fi fan. I’m just going to put that out there. But every so often a book catches my attention and draws me in. Created is one of them. Just look at the utterly breathtaking cover!

The story follows twin orphans Kylie and Luke (narrated by Kylie) who live in a world made up of “normals” (humans as we know them) and creations. Kylie and Luke are the latter. They train hard, knowing they need to be prepared for a war and eventually they are taken by force in the night to a training camp: “our government holds a training camp every year for us. It’s practically three months of death. They try to kill us and we fight to stay alive.” The duo find themselves among other creations and are placed into groups. Naturally, Kylie and Luke are made leaders of different groups. As the story develops, Luke and Kylie are told in secret what it is they’re going to be fighting.

It’s really hard to review this book without giving away all the twists and turns that make it interesting. Overall, I came out of this reading experience feeling very mixed.

I like reading books about siblings that have a strong bond and there’s an emphasis on that: “You were each born in twos. You each will die in twos. This is not every man for himself. You live for your twin and them for you.” It made a nice change from some sibling relationships I’ve read before. It was refreshing seeing them work together as a team. However, this relationship they had became quite unhealthy and kind of creepy the further you delved into their characters.

The training sequences felt very similar to the way Dauntless train in Divergent so nothing felt particularly exciting or new. I could deal with this though, because there isn’t any really way you can make hands-on fighting original.

What really lost all hope in this book for me was the love triangle. You read that right. Love.Triangle. I hate them with a passion. They just made the arc of the story really tedious and I’m surprised I actually finished reading this book after this development occurred. I understand that the prospect of having affections for another being was new to Kylie but I eye-rolled so many times. I don’t mind if they add something to the story but it felt like this plot device was used to fill up the pages to when the real action happened.

When I finished the book I found a chapter entitled “the beginning” which basically explains how everything came to be. This would have been more useful to have at the start of the book to provide some context into what actually makes the creations different to normals before going into the story.

I just feel a bit let down by this one.

Let me know your thoughts!
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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, young adult

What We Left Behind – Robin Talley

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Blurb: “Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college – Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU – they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive. The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship. While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide – have they grown apart from good, or is love enough to keep them together?”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

*Toni uses “they/them” pronouns at the end of this book and so those will be used in this review until Robin Talley informs me otherwise*

There are so many things that attracted me to this book. For one, this is a story more about the relationship rather that how the relationship came about. For another, it’s realistic in terms of how a distance relationship is handled, and most importantly, it features a genderqueer character.

Quick definition of genderqueer for those who don’t know:

Genderqueer (n): a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders.

As the “we need diverse books” outcry seems to be growing in numbers, there are a lot of books featuring trans characters dominating the shelves: recent books include The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and George by Alex Gino. However, there doesn’t seem to be many books tackling genderqueer characters. Although genderqueer is a term that falls under the trans umbrella, genderqueer folks are a lot more fluid in their gender.

This book has so much complexity to it and that it’s hard to know where to start.

The plot is centered around Toni and Gretchen who are in a relationship and makes use of both “before and after” and dual perspectives to tell the story. While I’m getting slightly bored by books that follow this format, Robin Talley couldn’t have told this story in any other way. The reader sees the two characters going to university and through Gretchen’s perspectives we learn that the pair originally planned to go to the same university – Harvard – but Gretchen feared she would spend her time there focused entirely on Toni. Gretchen wanted the freedom to explore herself in an entirely new place with entirely new people and so applied (and got into) NYU. So there’s already some tension bubbling under the surface. As the story progresses, each chapter states how long it has been since the duo last saw each other.

Toni becomes involved with Harvard’s LGBT society where they meets a lot of interesting and diverse people. Being round this group and people gives Toni the freedom they’ve be waiting for to explore their identity. The most prominent internal monologue for me was this: “If I call myself trans I’m afraid people will think I’m a dude when truth is, I’m not really there.”

I found Toni a very frustrating character to read most of the time. They are relatively open with their gender, trying out different pronouns to see which best fits before abandoning pronouns only to use them again, which gives an insight into the thoughts of someone who identifies as non-binary. However, Toni is obsessed with putting other people into boxes and gets internally stressed when they can’t place people’s sexuality or gender. The most memorable scene that is an example of this is when some of the LGBT group are out together and Toni is unable to genderise a particular character until Toni spots the binder under the character’s shirt. They then automatically label them as trans and wonders if this character is on hormones and even internerally discusses with themselves how much this character “passes” as a specific gender.

(It actually reminded me of someone I used to know who would constantly force people into boxes. I had a conversation with them once about sexuality as I identify as bisexual and when I was asked if I’d ever date someone trans, I responded with “if I liked the person and enjoyed spending time with them, then yes. Genitals don’t matter to me” to which this person then said “well you’re pansexual then, not bisexual. But back to the actual review…)

Naturally Toni exploring their gender creates a big issue in their relationship with Gretchen because Toni never actually talks to Gretchen about well… anything. Toni lets Gretchen know they’ve started using pronouns, might try hormones but doesn’t actually discuss any feelings with Gretchen which ,as you would expect, feels like a punch in the face for her because she makes mistakes and Toni takes things badly. Something that’s pointed out later in the book when Gretchen says “you can’t be so hard on everyone, sometimes people make mistakes, say the wrong-” to which Toni responds “whatever” and shrugs it off.

It was really interesting seeing both sides of the relationship because Gretchen identifies as lesbian, but if her partner starts identifying as male and is thinking of transitioning, doesn’t that make Gretchen straight? This combined with the distance makes for a very stressful, complicated read but it felt real.

Anyone who’s ever had a distance relationship can relate to this: the time spent apart, wondering if anything will be different and if you’ve changed too much as people when you’re finally together.

The internal monologues of the characters -especially Gretchen – just added to the layers and I wanted to physically crawl into this book and just give Gretchen a hug.

You also have the horrific scenes where characters aren’t too accepting of trans people that just made me sick to read them, but you also had more accepting characters.

This book was just so well written.

If you are going to pick up any book in October, make sure you mark October 27th on your calendar because you don’t want to miss this book.

 
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Posted in adaptations, discussion, review, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | The Scorch Trials

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*Warning: This post is not spoiler free*

When I see a trailer for a film and learn that it’s based off a book, if I’m interested in the premise, I read the book before seeing it. This was the case with The Maze Runner. However, this series is out of character for me in some elements: I read primarily YA, I love dystopian, but if it’s heavily sci-fi orientated, I tend to be put off by it. But there was something that compelled me to read The Maze Runner. I did and loved it. I watched the film and loved it just as much. But I wasn’t overly interested in reading the next book in the series The Scorch Trials until I discovered that it was being made into a movie. I did a review of the book which can be found here and based off the two, I much preferred The Scorch Trials.

The Scorch Trials movie was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I went to see the movie and I am so horrifically disappointed.

While the film primarily follows the surviving “gladers”, we have some new additions:

Aris played by Jacob Lofland 

Aris

Brenda played by Rosa Salazar

Brenda

Jorge played by Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo-Esposito

Jansen played by Aidan Gillen

janson

I’ve seen a lot of reviews from fans of the book that seemed to really enjoy the film. This has left me feeling like I went to see a completely different film.

Brief overview of the book plot: The book opens after the gladers have been rescued from the Maze. Thomas wakes to find the facility being attacked by cranks (victims of the flare) and they escape to a common room area where they discover their rescuers are death. Along the way they discover a boy named Aris and learn that they weren’t the only Maze and that he is part of Group B, the gladers all have tattooes on their necks which read “Group A” and then a role. Thomas’ reads “Group A – to be killed by group B” They return to the common area to find the bodies of their rescuers are gone and in their place is one of the scientists from WICKED (Jansen) who tells them they have been infected with the Flare and have two weeks to get to the scorch (the outside world), and find a safe haven to get the cure. If they refuse, they will be shot.

The plot for the movie however, is completely different. It opens where The Maze Runner left off, with the gladers being rescued. They are taken to a facility where they are introduced to Jansen who tells them they’ve been rescued from WICKED. He shows them around the facility and they learn they weren’t the only maze.  Aris meets Thomas after climbing into his dormitory via the vents and tells him he has something to show Thomas. They learn that something is definitely not right and begin investigations through which they learn that Jansen is actually part of WICKED and working for Ava Page. Safe to say, this sends Thomas into panic mode and he hurries back to the dormitory to tell the other gladers.  A big action scene ensues where they try to escape as WICKED chase them until they willingly run out into the scorch.

Now, I’ve seen enough book-to-movie adaptations over the years to know that sometimes things get cut because they can slow down the pace of the film etc. but to completely change the entire plot arc and character motivations? What on earth were the people making this film thinking? Also, James Dashner was very involved with this movie as the Director kept him up to date on changes and asked his thoughts, so I have no idea how he agreed to these changes.

This alone ruined the film for me. The start in the book is gradual. You slowly uncover things and then BAM action. The film’s start was really rushed and it seems like they tried to include action but sacrificed the story in the process.
Winston’s death for example, in the book happens when they try to get through a storm. In the movie, he dies when he shoots himself after getting bitten by a crank (thus getting the flare) – note how this is completely irrelevant in the original plot as they have already been infected with the flare – The group is also considerably smaller: The leftover gladers, and Aris are the driving force for this movie. Along with Brenda.

Speaking of which, Brenda and Jorge want nothing to do with the gladers in the book when they know they’re from WICKED, Thomas convinces them to help by offering them some of the cure when they get to the safe haven. In the film, when Jorge learns they’re from WICKED he plans to use them to get into the “right arm” – the rebel army.

Personally, I just couldn’t get past the plot. The important explanations are missing and this film as a whole just makes the events of The Maze Runner completely irrelevant.

The only things I can say I enjoyed were the scene where they hung upside down which took a whole two days to film because they didn’t have stunt doubles and you can only last 3-4 minutes upside down before the blood rushes to your head. The other was Aidan Gillen. He was perfect in the role of Jansen and had fabulous screen presence and pretty much the only thing that stopped me walking out of the cinema.

I haven’t been this annoyed and disappointed at a film in so long that it actually doesn’t make me want to continue the series, and quite frankly I’m just going to pretend they made The Maze Runner and that was it.
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Posted in contemporary, feminism, review, young adult

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

asking for it

*Warning: This post is not entirely spoiler free*

Blurb: “It’s the beginning of summer, and Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy and confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next day, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show – in great detail – exactly what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what’s right in front of them, especially if the truth concerns the town’s heroes…”

I first started hearing Louise O’Neill’s name a few months ago when everyone in the booktube / book blogging world was talking about her debut novel “Only Ever Yours” which was labelled as a “feminist Young Adult Novel.” This book sounded interesting because here we had a woman coming out with a book basically saying things most of us girls are too afraid to say except to each other for fear of being scorned. Sadly, with an intimidating TBR I just didn’t have time to pick it up (although I very much intend to). Then I started seeing Louise tweeting a lot using a hashtag #notaskingforit I discovered she had a new book coming out titled Asking For It and she had written an article talking about why she had decided to write it. After reading that, I knew I could not and would not miss out on reading this book.

The story is told from the perspective of teenager Emma O’Donovan who was certainly an interesting character to read. I’ve seen a lot of reviews where bloggers have said that if she was in any other YA novel, she would be the bitch in that stereotypical mean girl group roaming around the High School. While I can see why they thought that, I didn’t agree. Emma isn’t short of narcissistic comments via internal monologue – even about her best friends – but come on, who hasn’t heard someone say something – friend or not- and thought to ourselves “God that’s stupid” / “Wow she’s a bitch.”

The only issue I had with this book was that there wasn’t much physical description of the characters so I had to do a lot of filling in myself.This made the first 50 pages a struggle because I just couldn’t picture them yet.

To start with you have the general build up of characters and the way things are in this world. However, through little hints dropped via Emma’s internal monologue it is suggested that something bad happened to Jamie a while ago and Emma made her keep quiet about it. As the tension on this subject continues to build it’s finally revealed that Jamie thinks she may have been “that word” because while she didn’t say no, she didn’t exactly say yes either. (Issues of consent are so important with young people and bringing this up in a novel aimed at teens is ridiculously important) In Jamie bringing up this topic again, the reader learns that Emma told Jamie she should keep quiet about what happened because this boy was a) popular and b) on the football team and so by coming forward about the “that word” Jamie would ruin: his future, his chances of getting into university, everyone would hate her and she wouldn’t be invited to parties anymore.(Boom. Victim Blaming) Emma also adds “it happens all the time. You wake up the next morning, and you regret it or you don’t remember what happened exactly, but it’s easier not to make a fuss”. So the “that word” was kept quiet.

(Note: the reoccurring use of “that word” rather than “rape” is used very often in this book because the characters feel that once you say “rape” it’s out there and can’t be taken back so the easiest way to avoid it, is to not use the word at all- the word in itself is a taboo.)

It’s now time for the party mentioned on the blurb: Your good ole high school party with drinking and drugs and cute boys making those harmless “I’ve heard she’s easy” comments *eye roll* Emma gets drunk, flirts with some boys and has sex with one of them, fully aware he has a boyfriend. All the way through their intercourse she thinks about how she doesn’t want to really do it and is relieved when he finally *ahems* Moving on from alcohol to drugs offered, her vision starts to become hazy. Next thing she knows she’s woken up lying on her front porch severely sunburnt as she’s been asleep there all day. She has no memory of how she got there. Or what happened to her.

That is until she sees the Facebook page.
This part made me feel sick. But it is something that is actually happening out there. Social media makes it only too easy to spread rumours or in this case, pictures at lightening speed.

Her friends turn on her, downplaying her defense by saying she was clearly “out of it” and Jamie is only too happy to repeat some of Emma’s choice phrases back to her (It’s easier not to make a fuss, right?” The story then spirals into the media, becoming one of those horrific ones we often hear on the news for example the Mattress girl who said she would carry her mattress around her college campus with her until her rapist was charged or at the very least, expelled. She recently graduated…. with her mattress.

Emma is subjected to stories about her on chat shows as to whether she “told the truth” and people even taking sides with the boys who “that word” while a hashtag #IBelieveBallinatoomGirl trends on Twitter as the court case draws closer.

The review on the front of the book reads “O’Neill writes with a scalpel” and that is without a doubt the best way to sum this book up. O’Neill is not afraid to push this book out there with a very serious topic and bring to light the issues we so easily gloss over or try to avoid talking about.

We need to talk about consent.
We need to talk about the rape happening to young people.
We need to support them.
We need to believe.
We need to stop questioning whether they were “asking for it” before we decide to take their side.

As O’Neill says in the afterword:

“I see young girls playing in my local park and I feel so very afraid for them, for the culture that they’re growing up in. They deserve to live in a world where sexual assault is rare, a world where it is taken seriously and the consequences for the perpetrators are swift and severe. We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut-shaming and the double standards we place upon our young me and women. We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed.”

I firmly believe this book is a step forward in helping the “emmas” of the world and if I had it my way, it would be made complusary reading in schools.

*Trigger Warning: due to the theme of this book if you are a victim of sexual assault or rape I would be wary about reading it as there are a lot of very explicit scenes*

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Posted in adaptations, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | Paper Towns

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*Warning – this post is not spoiler free*

I first discovered John Green’s books through a friend. We were wandering aimlessly through a Waterstones store looking for a new book but coming up blank. My friend then had the wonderful idea of us picking a book for the other person: something we thought they might like. I gave her a copy of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, and she gave me The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I was sceptical to say the least as I had come out of what I call my “contemporary phase” and had moved on to fantasy in the Young Adult genre. But, part of the deal was we had to buy the book and read it. So I did. Now, to anyone on the planet who has read The Fault In Our Stars you’re probably aware of how hard it is not to fall in love with that book. I am an “author reader” in the sense of when I discover a new author, I read everything they’ve released and move on while I wait for them to write more.  I unfortunately found most of his books to be subpar compared to TFIOS until I read Paper Towns. 

Brief summary here: Paper Towns follows Quentin, a boy who has been “in love” with his neighbour Margo ever since she moved onto his street. They had a few good years of friendship but as happens with all children moving into their teens; they grow apart. Cut to their senior year of High School and one night, Margo climbs in through Quentin’s bedroom window and says she needs help “righting wrongs and wronging some rights” as she puts it. They have a nightly adventure and the next day she’s gone. Quentin realizes clues have been left for him and that Margo wants him to find her.

Now that’s out of the way onto some of the cast:

Quentin played by Nat Wolff

Nat Wolff
Margo played by Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevinge
Ben played by Austin Abrams

Austin Abrams

Radar played by Justice Smith

Justice-smith

Lacy played by Halston Sage 

Sony PlayStation Unveils The PS VITA Portable Entertainment System - Arrivals

Angela played by Jaz Sinclair 

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When casting was first announced I was quite surprised to see Nat Wolff given that he was actually in the TFIOS movie. However, he seemed like a decent fit. The bigger shock came in the form of Cara Delevingne. Yes, she is that “model with the eyebrows” you see adorning most billboards of the massive labels. So naturally, people were not very happy about this choice as this was her first acting role (she’s also due to be in the upcoming Suicide Squad and Pan movies) so having a model playing the “manic pixie dream girl” didn’t seem to go down well. (However, people were skeptical about the casting choice of Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters when that was first announced)

Having said that, acting wise, Cara was by far the best actor in the film and due to the plot, she isn’t even in most of it. Nat has taken to playing samey characters. In all the films I’ve seen him in he’s the awkward teenager who mumbles whenever he talks to girls. Austin played Ben as the typical best friend who’s kind of funny on rare occasions. Justice was as spot on as Radar could get and as for Halston, I don’t have much of an opinion. I really warmed to Jaz in the role of Angela. Like I said, Cara is the stand out in this film. When she is on screen, she dominates the attention in such a subtle way that you feel like if you take your eyes off her for a second you may miss something.

The central thing that makes me love Paper Towns as a story is the idea of romantic obsession. Whether we dare admit it or not, we’ve all had a time in High School where we were attracted to someone and look back on it several years later and say “my god, if only I could go back and slap myself silly!” This story takes that idea but looks at the negative side of it: what you stand to lose. The stand out points in the movie for me were when Ben and Radar find out there’s going to be a party, they’ve never been to one, and like the idea of going to at least one party before they graduate. Quentin says they can go without him because he has to solve the clues in order to find Margo. When Radar rings a few hours later, at the party, worried about Ben and needs Quentin’s help, he only agrees to show up when Radar says there may be clues at the party since it’s hosted by Margo’s ex. Even then, he leaves Radar to deal with Ben on his own. The second stand out point is when they arrive at Agloe, New York and (veering from the book) Margo isn’t there. On the trip some big things have happened: Lucy asked Ben to prom, Radar and Angela had sex. These things are pointed out as good outcomes of the road trip despite not finding Margo. Quentin however, has a big rage that the trip was a waste of time and “not fun” if they didn’t find her. He pushes his friends away to the point where they drive back home and leave him to fend for himself.

Quentin does eventually find her walking around the so-called “paper town” and they go for a drink. It’s revealed that Margo never intended for him to follow her, and we start to see the break down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl while Quentin learns nothing will happen between him and Margo, he has a revelation that he’s been so focused on lasts due to High School ending when actually, there’s been a lot of firsts happening too. Example: this was his first road trip, the first time one of his friends had sex.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far worked well in the film but it fell very, very short of what it needed to get across. The breakdown of the manic pixie dream girl wasn’t done anywhere near enough of you, as a viewer, to see that Margo is in fact just a regular teenage girl and she isn’t the “miracle” that Quentin describes her to be. The romantic obsession, while in your face at times, doesn’t push the limits it does in the book and as as my boyfriend said to me after watching it, it felt very “hollywoodised” that this was a romance story about teenagers. Especially in the ending voiceover where Nat Wolf says that he’s stopped listening to rumours about Margo because he knows that she’s just a girl now, but then goes on to say that she’s “really something” and probably out there “doing something great.”

The film has its positives that’s for sure, Cara was the saving grace.
Everything else, just fell really flat.

Also, watch out for your may see a wild Ansel Elgort roaming around in one of the scenes. *wink wink*

If you’ve been to see the movie, let me know your thoughts!
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Posted in fairytale retelling, young adult

A Thousand Nights – E.K.Johnson

athousandnights_cvr

Blurb: “Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not be next. And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The premise for this book may sound very similar to The Wrath and The Dawn which was recently very popular in the Booktube world. That’s because they’re both based off the fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights.

The story opens with a village waiting nervously for Lo-Melkhiin to arrive and pick a new wife. The protagonist – unnamed- expresses her worries that her sister will be chosen because she is both intelligent and beautiful. Not wanting this series of events to come true, she approaches her mother’s sister and begs to be made to look like her sister: “dress me in my sister’s clothes, braid my hair as you would hers and give me those charms she would not grieve to lose.” (Think of it as a less dramatic “I volunteer as tribute” moment from The Hunger Games) The plan works and Lo-Melkhiin takes the protagonist back to his city and marries her. On their first night together, he asks if she is afraid on him and she says no. He then says he knows that she took the place of her sister and asks about her. The protagonist -surprised – wakes up the next day and the next… and the next.

The protagonist struggles to meet and talk to people as they all avoid her, believing that she will not be around long enough to get to know, so naturally she’s feeling iscolated. She gets to meet Lo-Melkhiin’s mother who is intrigued by the protagonist because she doesn’t fear her son. The mother says she will tell her a story about what made Lo-Melkhiin the way he is now.

The basis for the rest of the plot is the protagonist exploring her new home and getting to know her new husband.

So it’s clear that the latest “trope” in Young Adult literature is fairytale retellings. Which is all well and good, I love fairytale retellings! However, there is a way to make a good retelling, and this wasn’t it.

While I really enjoyed the world building that, for me, was the only redeeming quality of this books.

There were no names given apart from Lo-Melkhiin. This made it very hard for me to feel like the protagonist was more than 2D and throughout reading the book I just felt disconnected. Characters are referred to as “my sister”, “my father’s father” stripping them of any identity which would have vastly improved the reading experience. On top of this, there were no descriptions of the characters. It’s hard to care or connect to a story when they plot and ideas are there but the characters are wibbly wobbly figures that don’t really fit in place.

I know the bare basics of the original story but in terms of the relationship between the protagonist and Lo-Melkhiin and the fact it’s Young Adult, it’s only natural to expect some kind of creepy relationship to form as a result of the forced marriage. But that was not the case. Nor was there even a mutual respect between the pair by the conclusion.

Because the story was so lacking in terms of character, I actually found myself skipping sections and even, dare I say it, hoping it would end.
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Posted in contemporary, fantasy, thriller, young adult

Into A Million Pieces – Angela V. Cook

into a million pieces

Blurb: “Allison McKready is a succubus. So is her twin sister. But while Allison spends her summer break hiding in the library behind her Goth makeup, Jade fools around as often as she can. Allison can’t believe Jade would ignore their mother’s fatal example so recklessly, but concealing a cursed bloodline and its dangerous effects is far from Allison’s only problem. Mean girl Julie’s snob mob is determined to ruin her summer, and Aunt Sarah’s bible thumping is getting louder. Only her new friend, Ren Fisher, offers safe haven from the chaos of her life.

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The story opens with the protagonist – Allison – walking through her town, describing details of her surroundings in such a way that I felt as if I was walking alongside her. The basis of Allison’s home life is her parents are dead so she and her twin sister Jade live with the their religious aunt. However, Jade is rarely home leading Allison to naturally feel quite isolated. To add insult to injury, she’s not the most popular girl in school: choosing to dress in a stereotypical “goth” way makes her the target for bullies.

As mentioned in the blurb, Allison is a succubus and so is her sister. If you’re not sure what a succubus is, here’s a little bit of information. The main example of why it’s best to just stay clear of boys is given by the aunt: Allison & Jade’s mother fell in love with their father and he started to become ill. They got married and he died. The mother then took her own life out of grief and self-blame.

Allison chooses to dress the way she does in order to keep men away from her, whereas Jade actively goes out of her way to try and seduce even her friend’s boyfriends. When one of her seductive attempts goes terribly wrong she becomes a recluse while horrible rumours about her spread across the internet. This book does do a very good job of showing the negative side of the internet and how in the modern world, it’s just too easy to bully others and the “delete” button doesn’t mean it’s definitely gone forever.

While this plot element goes through the motions, Allison spends a lot of her time in the library only to stumble across Ren, a significantly-higher-on-the-high-school-food-chain boy, who just happens to work there. Of course, Allison has her preconceptions about him just as Ren does about her. But as they spend more time together they start to see each others faults and fears. I really enjoyed this part of the story because we all have our expectations and preconceived ideas of other people before we get to know them and find out that what we actually thought about them isn’t true at all.

The use of first person perspective was fantastic. It worked so well in telling the story and I felt like I really knew Allison and as if she was telling the story to me, rather than me actually reading a book. She also made a wonderful protagonist, her outlook on things, despite her situation was intelligent, she spoke like you’d expect a teenager to and she was relatable But maybe that’s down to the fact I went through a goth/emo phase in High School. *hastily burns all photographic evidence*

I went into this book  feeling like it would be focused on Allison, which for the most part, it is. But the plot took a rather sickening and unexpected turn. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you! While this is the sign, for me, of a good book, the introduction of this plot twist made the last few chapters of the book feel very rushed and liked there was a specific point it had to end on and wasn’t allowed to go beyond that.

This book does contain mature themes which may be unsuitable if you’re at the younger end of the YA age bracket, but as always, I’m not one to tell you what to and not to read.
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Posted in contemporary, young adult

Dirt Daughter – Michele Shaw

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Elena Black had concealed the secret to her childhood friend’s murder for eight years. With the possibility of a college scholarship looming, she plans to keep that secret and flee her dysfunctional home; one with a drug-addicted mother, a stepsister she just met, and a bitter abusive uncle. But when a detective reopens the cold case and a friend sets her up on a date with the new boy at school, the past and present collide, threatening Elena’s future plans… and her life.” 

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The prologue opens with Elena in a police station, in the preparatory stages of giving her statement about the disappearance of her friend, Lucy. The story then takes a step back to a month before where we get to see more of Elena’s life: she’s in her final year of High School and just wants to get into a good college so that she can move away and forget about Lucy. Her dad is dead and his replacement – Rick – is well… not very nice. Let’s put it that way. To top off the pressure and angst Elena already has building, her friend – Charlotte – is only ever around when she isn’t dating someone; which is rare. Charlotte decides to set Elena with a guy called Chayton who is part Sioux (yay diversity) who just happens to live on Lucy’s street (which brings back bad memories for Elena). Rick’s child – Angela – from a previous relationship shows up and is forced to room with Elena, making her already claustrophobic life all the more intense.

The story follows Elena through her every day life, making a few references to Lily causing the reader to question Elena’s involvement. I found this relatively boring as it seemed to drag on for too long building up the elements that make you care about the character. Then Elena comes home one day to find a stranger in her living room. It is Detective Carter and she’s reopened the case of Lucy’s disappearance. *cue dramatic music*

Obviously, this is a Young Adult mystery novel: there were many points where I thought I had things sussed, only to be left gawking at my kindle several pages later.

One issue I had with this book is a personal one. I just didn’t like the writing. That’s not to automatically label it “badly written” because other readers may not have a problem with the writing. I just found it hard to digest at times and felt like I was forcing my way through it.

Another thing I didn’t like was the ending. Just as I was starting to think that things were finally looking up, that was it. BAM. ENDING. I was left with so many unanswered questions which work in some books, but didn’t in Dirt Daughter. I found myself putting aside the book feeling annoyed.

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Posted in young adult

Paperweight – Meg Haston

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped in her life. In her body. And now in a treatment centre on the outskirts of the New Mexico desert. Life in the centre is regimented and intrusive – a nightmare come true for private and obstinate Stevie. She doesn’t want to get better – she wants to disappear. And if things go her way, in twenty-seven days she’ll do exactly that.”

I came across this book on Epic Reads’ Most Anticipated July Books. I’ve been looking for more Young Adult books that tackle mental illness. So when I saw this on the list, I decided to buy it.

The novel opens with seventeen year old Stevie being driven to a treatment centre for an unknown reason. As the plot progresses, it is revealed that Stevie has an eating disorder, has been admitted to the treatment centre by her dad, and she is counting down to some “anniversary.” Stevie arrives at the centre which is described as more of a summer camp in appearance. Stevie is assigned a cottage which she will share with other girls and meets her therapist, Anna, lovingly labelled “shrink” throughout the novel by Stevie.

This is a hard review for me to write because for the first time ever, I cannot decide whether I liked a book or not.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible book,  because it isn’t. There are many qualities that make this book great. I believe that it is very important to have books in Young Adult that tackle mental illness. Not only to help those going through the issues to find solace, but to give those who don’t, a little bit of education so that they are more understanding and able to help anyone they may know going through them. The topic of eating disorders was handled delicately and very well in this book.  It was also a very easy read, I managed to get through it in two sittings.

The Shrink – Anna – was a fantastic character who went above and beyond for Stevie. She never pushed Stevie too much but just enough to make her want to start addressing her issues. Anna made me think about all the therapists out there who work with young people, and how they are not recognized enough for the fantastic work they do every single day.

There was a lot more mystery than I expected and the information was dealt out slowly.For example, the event the caused Stevie to develop this disorder and what this big “anniversary” is that she’s constantly addressing in the narrative.  It keeps you very interested, which was probably why it didn’t take me too long to read.

However, we come to the reason why I’m at a loss as to whether I actually enjoyed this book or not. Stevie is a horrifically unlikable character. It’s understandable that she’s volatile because she doesn’t want to be in the treatment centre, being in the centre interferes with her plans for the anniversary and she doesn’t want help. Stevie is so nasty in the narrative when she talks about the other girls in the centre. Everyone who’s a patient at the centre has a wristband of one of three colours.

Red = Bad
Yellow = improving but still resistant
Green= Good, well on the path to recovery

Stevie is very judgmental of the girls based on the colour of their wristbands. A section of narrative is focused on a “yellow girl” whom Stevie labels a “failure” and criticises her physicality, a “green girl” who is larger than the other is labelled “pathetic” and fat shamed, and a “red girl” who has feeding tubes attached to her is labelled “weak” and judged for not hiding her eating disorder well enough. These aspects of Stevie’s character made it really hard for me to feel sympathetic for her when more of her back story is revealed, especially the cause of her eating disorder and the mysterious anniversary.

My dear readers, I am at a loss.
I am so mixed about this book.
Would I recommend it? Re-read it?
I honestly can’t give an answer.

Let me know if you’ve read it and whether you felt the same!

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Posted in review, young adult

Downcast – Cait Reynolds

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Blurb: “It’s the start of Stephanie Starr’s senior year of High School, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza. What Stephanie doesn’t anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away… But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends. and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence… and nothing can save her from her fate. Except Haley.”

This book was sent to me by Booktrope Publishing and I was also involved in the blog tour for Downcast prior to release. Cait’s post on my blog can be found here.
So let’s get into it!

Downcast is narrated from the perspective of Stephanie, a high school senior coming up to one of the most important crossroads in her life. What doesn’t help this is the fact that her mother is very controlling: dictating everything from what she eats, wears, what she does, who she sees and constantly informs her of health risks. She reminded me a lot of the mum in Stephen King’s Carrie in regards to obsessive control of her child. But not as creepy… Okay maybe a little bit creepy. The only chances Stephanie gets to breathe are at work and school. However, her social status doesn’t make school much of a walk in the park.

One day Stephanie goes to school and discovers that there are some new kids on the block: male twins Haley and Zack Smith. In typical YA fashion, Stephanie takes more of a shine to Haley – he’s mysterious, quiet and drop dead gorgeous. Why wouldn’t she? And of course, Haley seems to like her too. At several points in the book he reminded me of Edward Cullen from Twilight by how he shows up at random times and mumbles a few words.This oddly gave me a bit of  a giggle.  Zack Smith on the other hand is precious and needs to be protected at all costs (me? having a favourite brother? How out of character! *shifty eyes*), Zack does the stereotypical approaching Stephanie and warning her about Haley and that he is just a sexy ball of anger mad at the world.

The introduction of Haley to her life makes Stephanie begin to wonder why her mother is so protective of her. Not only that but why she has never seen or heard of any other family members. Does she have any? Who is her father? Where is her father? These are questions she finally plucks up the courage to ask her mother only to endure negative consequences.

This book is a retelling of Greek Mythology and there’s not a lot I can tell you without giving it away and I try to be spoiler free on this blog. My knowledge of Greek mythology goes as far as the Disney movie Hercules *intro of Zero to Hero begins to play in background* so I couldn’t appreciate those elements of the same level of someone who loves it. But I still enjoyed seeing how they were incorporated to the story.

The aspect of Downcast that stood out to me the most was Stephanie’s character development. She starts off the novel as this timid, inexperienced, isolated teen who gradually builds up her confidence and starts to stand up for herself when the popular girls try to get a few digs in.  She becomes self-assured and such a strong character that we need more of in YA.

I found the writing a bit awkward in places but that could be down to how picky I am when it comes to phrasing. But when I can’t put a book down, and when I can’t stop thinking about the characters and imagining various scenarios when I am forced to put the book down,  that when I know it’s a good book.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading this, whether you have a big interest in Greek mythology or not, it’s still a very fun read.
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