I was so intrigued by The Summer I Wasn't Me when I first heard about it, the second book I'd heard of about...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I was so intrigued by The Summer I Wasn't Me when I first heard about it, the second book I'd heard of about a place that "turns" you straight. As gripped as I was, I liked it, but I didn't love it.
After the death of her father, Lexi's mother fell apart, and is struggling to get past her grief. When she discovers that Lexi is a lesbian, she can't handle it. With her mum being all she has left, she agrees to go to the New Horizons "degayifying" summer camp, full of hope that the camp will make her straight, make her someone her mum will love and be proud of. But at New Horizons, Lexi meets Carolyn, and is immediately attracted to her. Lexi tries so hard to believe what New Horizons teaches and make it work for her, but her feelings for Carolyn steadily grow. Should she go after what she wants, or try to save her relationship with her mum?
The story itself would be pretty awesome, if it wasn't for Lexi seeming much younger than 17. The way she acts and thinks seem more like a 13/14-year-old, in my opinion, and it just didn't feel true to her, with other aspects of who she was. Her relationship with Carolyn wasn't very believable to me, either. I just didn't feel it. "Love" is a really big word to use, and it just wasn't there for me. I don't mean there needs to be an epic love story, but it felt like a crush. More infatuation than love. There was a lot of eye-rolling on my part. This aside, The Summer I Wasn't Me was a really great story!
Lexi really doesn't want to lose her mother. She desperately wants to make it work at New Horizons, because her mother is all she has left. She wants, needs her mother to go back to who she used to be before her father died, and believes if she doesn't really give this a good shot, there's no way her mum will be able to handle it. Despite initial disagreements and doubts with some of the things she's told and sees at New Horizons, she decides to give everything a go. It worked for Mr Martin, and some of those counselors right? Kaylee, the young, cool counselor who was "cured" of her SSA isn't a stepford-wife, is she? She's straight, and normal, and still perfectly herself. That's what Lexi wants, and what she strives so hard for, for her mother. But her feelings for Carolyn complicate it all.
New Horizons is so screwed up. It's a highly religious camp that believes that people choose to be gay, that homosexuality is a symptom of having been corrupted by someone or something, a "Father Wound", and that teaching the campers what their appropriate gender roles should be, along with various other activities, will give them the tools to fight their SSA - Same Sex Attraction - every day. And it works. Because Mr Martin, the founder, was cured himself. As are some of the counselors. Oh my god, this place! I was prepared to be angry, but not to the level in which I was. Appropriate gender roles, my backside! The idea that being stereotypically male or female has any impact on sexuality is absolutely ridiculous! Making the boys play sports, and not allowing the girls to do anything but watch. Teaching the girls how to do laundry and knit, and how to raise children! Made me so, so angry! And the fact that people fully believe this is right, this is going to "fix" these teens, that the counselors genuinely feel they are actually helping dumbfounds me. And things only get worse. Much, much worse. It's so highly disturbing and twisted. Absolutely disgusting!
The Summer I Wasn't Me, despite my issues with Lexi, is a gripping read. I had to know what vile methods of "degayifying", as Lexi calls it, would be dished out next, what ridiculous brainwashing crap was going to be fed to the campers. It's such a great novel at showing just how wrong and ridiculous this kind of thing is, especially as a fair number of the main characters actually want this to work for them. Thank god for Matthew, a friend Lexi makes, who is absolutely comfortable with his sexuality and thinks the whole thing is as twisted and wrong as I do.
It's a seriously important novel, and one I would recommend reading for having your eyes opened to this kind of thing. It's much more brutal than anything that happens in The Miseducation of Cameron Post by E. M. Danforth. A really good story!
Thank you to Soucebooks Fire via NetGalley for the eProof.(less)
After finishing Just One Day, I was so eager to read Just One Year! Just One Day was so beautiful and inspir...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
After finishing Just One Day, I was so eager to read Just One Year! Just One Day was so beautiful and inspiring, I was sure I was going to get more of the same from Just One Year, Willem's book. What I got was not what I expected, but just as wonderful!
Just One Year covers the year after Willem met Lulu (Allyson) in Paris. When he is attacked by skinheads and hospitalised, he is late to return to Lulu at the artist squat, and when he does return, concussed and confused but desperate to find her, she has gone. As time goes by, Willem discovers he cannot forget or move past that one beautiful day with Lulu, and as he travels from Paris to Holland, Mexico to India, he realises she has changed his life.
As it's from his point of view, we get to know Willem a whole lot better in Just One Year, and I was surprised at who I came to know. Apart from a few glimpses of things he was hiding, Willem seemed to free-spirited, not a care in the world, floating where ever the wind blew him and loving life. In actual fact, Willem is grieving. Bram, his father, died three years ago, and after flunking out of school, he ran from his troubles by going from one country to the next. The reason Willem was to return to Holland rather than go to Paris with Allyson? Because his mother, Yael, was selling the houseboat that was his home, and as she was in India, she needed him to sign the forms. He was to go home, to finalise the sale of the place he grew up, where all his memories of his father are. It doesn't help that his relationship with Yael is pretty non-existent. When Bram died, she locked herself away with her grief for three weeks before moving to India, leaving 18-year-old Willem to deal with his own grief alone. Willem is lost and hurting, and constantly running from pain.
But Lulu has changed him. In her way, she showed him what it's like to have someone around who cares, and her way of looking at things, so opposed to his, changed his way of thinking. She opened his eyes, without realising it, to what life is really about, what his life has been missing. And he wants that back. To the point that he searches for her, too - just like she did. And although he doesn't find her until she finds him, he finds her in other things; Shakespeare, acting, purpose, life.
There are near-misses, there are moments of pure beauty when Willem thinks about her and what a difference a day can make, what can happen in a day, and how much he loves her. With wonderful stories from the past about his parents and his grandfather, with the wonderful people he meets along the way, Just One Year is such a fantastic book! Beautiful, romantic, but quite different from Just One Day, because Allyson and Willem are two very different people. I really cannot express how much I love these two books. The world needs more real, affecting romance like this.
Thank you to RHCP via NetGalley for the eProof.(less)
I was really intrigued by the pain of this book when I first read about it. What had happened to these two p...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I was really intrigued by the pain of this book when I first read about it. What had happened to these two people? Why were they hurting so much? How were they going to help each other? It sounded so good! And I'm pleased to say it's awesome!
The pain and sadness in Boys Like You is palpable. It's thick in the air, and the grief of both Monroe and Nathan weighs them down. Boys Like You is a story that will tug hard on your heartstrings, and had me so close to tears a number of times. What happened with Monroe isn't something we find out about until maybe half way through, but there are little clues throughout the first half, and most of the time my theories were wrong. You can guess from the description above what happened with Nathan, however, and what happened with him is pretty much shared from the get-go. It's a heartbreaking story, but an uplifting one, as together the two find a away through the sorrow and back to life. It's beautiful and hopeful, and completely wonderful!
Boys Like You felt like a very quick read. I read the whole things in about three or four short bursts of an hour or so, and I'm a slow reader. Although there was obvious chemistry between Monroe and Nathan,, kind of felt like we missed a fair amount of development between the two as time skipped forward in time, a week would go by with only the barest of mentions of what happened to them. Although their connection was based on their understanding and shared pain, it felt much too soon for them to believe themselves in love; for what I saw of them together, those gaps made it seem like the time they spent together was about six or seven days - the days we actually witness - rather than a whole summer. The intensity for love was right, and there was some serious sexual tension, but it felt like too much too soon as I didn't get to see enough of the romantic development. But that's probably because the focus was more on how they helped each other through their pain with understanding and love, rather than strictly on the romance itself.
Boys Like You is such a sweet and moving story of hope, self-forgiveness, and stepping out of the dark. A fantastic YA debut!
Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley for the eProof.(less)
The Lover's Dictionary is a story of a couple's relationship, from beginning to end. The story isn't told in...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
The Lover's Dictionary is a story of a couple's relationship, from beginning to end. The story isn't told in chronological order of the events, but in alphabetical order of the words. With each word, there will be a memory or a feeling or an idea about their relationship sparked by the word, with each entry being from either one line to a page and a half. We know the nameless narrator is male, but we don't know the gender of the also nameless "you." The story works for "you" being of any gender.
I misunderstood the book, first of all. Half the time, it felt like the Dictionary was written after the break up. It felt like the narrator decided to flick through a dictionary, and write a memory/feeling/idea for each word that spoke to him. And with the memory/feeling/idea comes an emotion. The story isn't told chronologically, as I said, but each entry is written one after the other by the narrator - and the emotions jump depending on the word and what it sparks. So one moment is a happy remembrance, in another, there is such hurt and anger. This is how it feels. It's not so much a story, but as someone writing it all down, maybe as a way to deal with the break-up. At least that's how it felt.
Until the tense would break up, and became present. And for a moment, I get stuck. At first, I would think "Oooh, recent break up. Sometimes it's difficult to go to the past tense." But then you would get an entry written in present tense that is quite obviously in the middle of the relationship, and it would throw this whole idea out the water. The narrator isn't writing this after a break up. He is living his romance, it is a story, and each entry is a certain time within the relationship. It took a little getting used to, once I figured out there was no actual logical to the back and forth accept for the alphabetical dictionary entries. It made it easier to follow to think it was, as I said, written after the break up. But in the end, you have to just let it go, and accept it's not going to make any logical sense when it comes to time. It is all over the place, but once I accepted that, I really enjoyed it!
I have to admit that I had to read the book with a dictionary. I didn't know maybe half of the words, and without knowing the definition made the entry seem a little random. You need to understand the word to understand the relevance of the entry. But it's such a great book! Full of Levithan's usual style, with beautiful language and awesome insights! Loved it. One of my favourite entries:
These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.' (p120)
I can relate to this one so much, and not just about love, about any emotion! Oh my god, sometimes, words just don't work.
The Lover's Dictionary is a great book! A fantastic idea, a quick read, and quite a touching story. I loved it!(less)
As soon as I saw this book on the shelf, I knew I had to have it. Without knowing what it was about. Had to...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
As soon as I saw this book on the shelf, I knew I had to have it. Without knowing what it was about. Had to have it. Last year at work, we had a beautiful window display for Rob Ryan's picture book, The Invisible Kingdom. It was so, so beautiful! And I knew, when I saw This Is For You, I had to have this book for my own, knowing it will be just as beautiful. What I didn't expect was for This Is For You to be so deeply moving!
Everything in this book is papercut - words and pictures cut from paper. Every single page, and there are 64 pages of these intricate, detailed, stunning images. The time and effort that had to have gone into this book is astounding. This Is For You isn't just a book with a cool story/message, it's a complete work of art. Although each image links to the one after for the story, each image is a completely singular thing of beauty. You're reading the story, but you're also amazed by the art!
And then there's the story. It's pretty much a love letter from the narrator - and considering it mentions papercutting, I would assume perhaps, actually, the author - to some unknown person, the person they will end up being with. Think Michael Bublé's "I Just Haven't Met You Yet", in some ways, it's along similar lines. It's a love letter of hope and joy, of yearning and looking forward to no longer feeling "empty" once they're big heart finally holds someone else's too, and of the complete joy that, despite still feeling empty, knowing that emptiness will be filled. With love. It's an absolutely exquisite story; uplifting, full of hope, and profoundly moving.
This book is too beautiful for words, and I absolutely must get my hands on every other book Rob Ryan has written and collaborated on. I am completely awe-inspired.(less)
When I first heard about Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian - an eBook only novel here in the UK - I was r...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
When I first heard about Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian - an eBook only novel here in the UK - I was really intrigued, but a little worried it would be quite heavy. And although a serious book, it's nothing like I thought it would be. Sex and Violence is awesome!
Evan Carter is good with the girls. He knows who to go after, and who will give it up, and gets into a lot of girls' underwear. But when he goes after Colette, everything goes wrong. He gets beaten to within an inch of his life by Colette's ex-boyfriend, and the ex of a girl who's interested in him. Mental scars as well as physical ones are left behind, and Evan is a changed boy. His views on girls and sex goes from one extreme to the other - something to be avoided at all costs. When his father moves him to the family cabin in Pearl Lake, the close knit group of seniors who holiday at the lake take him in. As the summer goes by, he has to deal with his now changed ideas towards sex, and his fear.
Despite it's rather unfortunate title, Sex and Violence isn't about sex and violence, but Evan, his mental state and his view on the two. Nor is Sex and Violence graphic, in either area. What happened to him and Colette is absolutely disgusting, and Evan has a lot of demons to battle, but it's a lot more of an internal story. Mesrobian does it really well; Through Evan's narration, you know that what took place is was horrific, too horrific to spend too much time thinking about, without making it seem like she's not writing about it because it's too much. It's Evan that doesn't want to go there in reliving and describing. You get the jist and the after-affects, but he's not in any place to really talk about it.
Because of how badly he is affected, Evan really struggles for a good while to form real relationships with his new "friends" at Pearl Lake. There are a whole group of people who've known each other their whole life, and they welcome Evan into their fold with open arms. They're such a great group of people, some making only brief appearances, yet each character is so well developed, they all make a big impression. It's a great cast of characters, and it's great to watch Evan's relationship of each, and see his changing opinion as time goes by. He's the new guy, and sometimes keeps to himself, and despite not knowing what his issues were, everyone was generally really nice to him in their own way. It's great to see a huge group of just normal teenagers just being nice.
Sex and Violence is a really moving, and I think, powerful novel. I'm sure Colette would have her own story to tell, but to have Evan's story is really different, but important, as he's not just dealing with what has happened to him, but with what happened to Colette too, and his guilt over it. Such a great story, a brilliant debut, and a read I highly recommend! Definitely look forward to what Mesrobian writes next!
Thank you to Michael O'Mara Books for the eProof.(less)
As I'm interested in LGBTQ YA, I was recently asked by Charlie of Charlie In a Book if I would be reading Far From You by Tess Sharpe. I looked it up to remind myself, and said no. From the description (above), it didn't sound like my cup of tea at all; not a fan of crime, not into reading anything to do with drugs as I am so against them. However, both Charlotte and Jim of YA Yeah Yeah involved me in their Twitter conversation about just how awesome it was, with Jim saying it's probably the best LGBTQ YA novel he's ever read, and I knew I just had to give it a go, despite massive misgivings. And, oh my god, it's amazing!
After being admitted to rehab despite being clean when her best friend Mina is murdered, Sophie has just been released after three months. Her only focus now is to find out who killed Mina and why. All Sophie has to go on is that the person Mina was meeting that night wasn't a drug dealer for her, but a source for a story Mina was working on for her internship at the newspaper. What was she investigating? Why would someone murder her for it? And how on earth will Sophie cope without her? The search for justice spurs her on.
Far From You is so, so good! Told in alternating chapters of present day and various points in Sophie's life, it's like two stories running concurrently; the story of Sophie and Mina's relationship and Sophie's battle with her addiction, and the story of finding out who murdered Mina and why. Because of this, it doesn't feel so overly heavy crime-wise, and it's more mystery thriller than crime anyway; no running against time to get yourself out of danger with lots of talking to cops, like I expected, but more trying to piece a puzzle together with the help of friends - though it's not Scooby-Doo either. The mystery was intriguing, and absolutely had me sitting on the edge of my seat as he story moved on and things were becoming more clear, but Mina and Sophie's lives before the murder were equally captivating.
I loved the way Sharpe wrote Mina and Sophie's relationship. Despite the fact they had their issues regarding sexuality, it didn't "feel" like an LGBTQ novel, by which I mean it just felt like two people who were into each other, rather than two girls who were into each other. Although I love most of the sexuality based LGBTQ YA novels I've read, there were some that felt like the relationships were different from any realtionship I could have as a straight woman. I don't feel that with Far From You. They're just two people. Sure, there are problems and fear, but when it was just the two of them, the romance felt like any other romance, which is exactly how it should be. Just wonderful. And the way they felt about each other... well, it's just inspiring.
As I said earlier in my review, I am really anti drugs. So this part of the story really put me off, even though Sophie was clean. I am so against drugs and the problems they cause, I do not want to know. But with Sophie, it wasn't a case of her trying something, and getting hooked, but a result of becoming addicted to the pain killers she was prescribed after being in an accident, which I found easier to swallow. It was so heartbreaking, seeing the decline Sophie goes into, and her reliance on the pills as a way to cope with how things are between her and Mina. It's such a difficult situation to be in, when everything hurts, physically and emotionally, and there's these pills a doctor gave you to make you better, that make everything go away. It's hard to fight an addiction when it's already there, but the hurt and the lies that come along with it... I find it so difficult to deal with - though when I was thinking, "What on earth are you doing?!" at Sophie, it was with sympathy rather than anger.
Back to the mystery! Oh my word! Just incredible! Especially towards the end. Sixty pages from the end, I had had my suspicions for the suspect for quite a while now, and none of the characters suspect this person at all. I was getting all antsy like you do when watching a movie and you want to shout, "Look out!", but for Far From You, it was "It's so-and-so, it's so-and-so! You're looking in the wrong direction!" I was so desperate for them to work it out before it was too late, before the pages kept going and danger would be on their door step. I was half right in my suspicions, but that's not to say that Far From You is predictable or obvious. There are a number of people it could have been, as discussed in the book, and as I discovered when talking to Charlie about her suspicions. And the part I was wrong about, woah! I did not see that coming whatsoever, until it was happening! I don't think I've ever been sat at the edge of my seat for a book more than I was for Far From You during those pages. My heart was in my mouth for Sophie as I had no clue what would happen next, while everything was slowly being revealed. Mouth open, heart racing, desperately thinking comeoncomeoncomeon! Just brilliant!
Such a fantastic debut! I loved the contemporary/romance entwined with the mystery thriller, it worked so well! I will definitely be reading whatever Sharpe writes next, no matter what the description say! So, so good!
I received this as an unsolicited review copy. It didn't sound like my thing, but with it came a letter from...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I received this as an unsolicited review copy. It didn't sound like my thing, but with it came a letter from the publisher, raving about how wonderful it was, and imploring that I, the reader, read just the first few pages, just to see. I was due to start a new book, so I thought I'd give the first few pages a go as it was in my hands... and I couldn't put it down. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is absolutely mesmerising. And I cannot stop thinking about it.
On 1st March 1944, a girl is born. Born with wings. This girl was Ava Lavender. Some people were appalled by her. Others fell to their knees in prayer. Her mother, fearing for her safety, keeps her within the boundaries of their home, away from prying eyes and harsh words. But at 16, Ava steps beyond the boundaries, wanting to experience true teenage life among those her own age. But once seen, her life is forever changed. This is the story of Ava's life, and of the women in her family before her, three generations back, a quest to understand why an ordinary girl was born with wings. A quest to understand her fate.
Ava Lavender is an absolutely magical tale. Told in it's literary style and requiring you to suspend disbelief - like how, for example, Ava's grandmother Emilienne's youngest sister Pierette turned herself into a canary - it reads like a fairy tale. Strange happenings occur in the lives of the Roux family. Emilienne can read the signs that tell you what is to come - Emilienne knew if a spoon was dropped, it meant someone was coming to visit - Viviane, Ava's mother, had a keen sense of smell, and could even smell emotion, Ava has her wings, and her twin brother Henry, mostly mute, is sensitive to words, to touch, and understands warnings no-one else can hear.
As the story unfolds - Emilienne's early life to adulthood, Viviane's too, then the birth, childhood and teenage years - layers are peeled away, like a present in a game of pass-the-parcel. Everyone has a story; Emilienne's parents and three siblings, Ava's father, Gabe the lodger, Fatima Inês de Dores who lived in the Lavender house in the 1800s, everyone. Histories and individual lives; you have whole stories within a story. Each story overlaps or affects someone else's story, all feeling like fate, all leading to a child being born with wings, with certain people around her in certain circumstances. To lead to what can only be called inevitable. And the one thread that touches them all is love. Love that brings only pain. "Love makes us such fools."
Ava Lavender, in this way, with the impression of fate and with the strange "gifts" of the various characters, reminded me of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, not in plot but in the sense of the magical, the whimsy that completely captivates you and whisks you away with it's gorgeous, rich story and sumptuous, beautiful language. There is beauty in the strange; there is no "how", but there is beauty in everything, on every page. This book is a wonder, and completely took my breath away.
A book I will read over and over, and love forever. A book to be revered and handled as the treasure it is. I am completely bowled over, and no review I could ever write could convey just how much this book, these characters and their stories, have captured my heart and my imagination. I didn't want it to ever end. Absolutely incredible debut. Beautiful. I absolutely cannot wait for what Walton shares with us next.
This picture book is brilliant! It's a great reminder for children just how great their parents ac...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
This picture book is brilliant! It's a great reminder for children just how great their parents actually are, when they're feeling like they just tell them what to do all the time.
The rhythm of this rhyming story is wonderful, and that alone, read aloud to children, would be enough to make them laugh, but the story of Meet the Parents is bound to make children really giggle. With some of the cheeky-naughty things that children do to their parents, as well as sharing all the fun they can have together, it's really amusing. I'm sure it will give children ideas too; who wouldn't want their Dad to help them make a den?
Most of the illustrations in this book are awesome, but there are some that look really scribbled, especially when it comes to the toning of the illustrations, and the characters' hair. I understand that's Ogilvie's style, but it just seemed a little messy to me. I'm sure others will like it, but I just think it's such a great story and some of the illustrations let it down a little. It's not a big thing though, just personal preference, and children are sure to love it!
I will be looking out for more of Peter Bently's stories in future, he's got just the right sense of humour. I love it!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children's Books for the review copy. (less)
I Love Mum is a cute story that celebrates the special bond between mother and child. It gets right into how...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I Love Mum is a cute story that celebrates the special bond between mother and child. It gets right into how special children think their mothers are, and how they put them up on a pedestal.
It highlights just what multitasking mothers have to do, with entertaining the children, cooking, and doing everything else too, but also how mothers can simply make everything better, with a soothing hug or kiss.
There was no mention or illustration of a father at all in this book. I hope there will be a second book about how great dads are too, because without one, it almost makes it seem like fathers are unnecessary, which I don't think is fair. I do hope there is a second book coming. Dads are awesome too.
Really cute book. Definitely a book for mothers with young children on Mother's Day
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children's Books for the review copy.(less)
Just One Day by Gayle Forman is a book I have wanted to read for quite a while, but only recently discovered...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman is a book I have wanted to read for quite a while, but only recently discovered was published in the UK. I believe I must have forgotten just how awesome a writer Forman is, because although I was excited to read it, I didn't expect it to be just so beautiful!
When good girl Allyson decides to ditch watching the RSC's production of Hamlet for an underground theatre group's cool interpretation of Twelfth Night after being given a flyer while in the queue, that's accident number one, and a decision that changes everything. It's after the production she meets Willem, Dutch traveler who goes wherever the wind takes him, letting accidents rule his decisions. When he offers to take Allyson - who he decides to call Lulu - to Paris for the day, she decides to be bold and say yes. What follows is an incredible day of discovering how freeing it is to just go with the flow and do things simply because you want to, and the wonders of love.
I cannot tell you how amazing this book is! I was expecting the whole book to be the one single day spent in Paris, but it's much more than that, and so much better for it. It's almost like three separate parts (though the book is told in two parts); the first being the day in Paris, and the other two being after. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil it, but it's just so good! It tells two stories, the story of the romance between Allyson and Willem, but also Allyson's self-discovery.
The romance is so, so sweet. In a way, it feels like a fairy-tale; real life is suspended, and an adventure with a beautiful guy takes place instead. There is no real plan, whatever happens, happens, but their time takes them to various parts of Paris, Willem showing Allyson what living really is, all the while the initial spark between them grows. Willem has a unique way of looking at life, with his ideas on accidents and fate, and falling in love versus being in love. He shows Allyson a different way to be, to think.
It's so refreshing for Allyson, because her whole life has been regimented. Every aspect of her day planned and regimented, in the hands of her mother. As the book goes on, it feels very much like who Allyson is isn't actually her. Rather who she feels others want/need/expect her to be, who she must be if she's not to let anyone down.
'What if Shakespeare had it wrong? To be, or not to be: that is the question. That's from Hamlet's--maybe Shakespeare's--most famous soliloquy... But what if Shakespeare--and Hamlet--were asking the wrong question? What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?' (p3)
That's how the Just One Day starts, and that's what Allyson discovers throughout this book. How to be. Who exactly she is, and then how to be that person, when not only is fear getting in the way, as it means stepping out into the unknown and being bold, but also because no-one who loves you knows this person, and expects you to be - stay - completely the same. The person they want. Discovering she's a girl who likes adventure and taking chances, and then watching Allyson take control of her life and become that person... it's just so beautiful. The awakening to who she is, and the daring to live the life she wants, it's inspiring, empowering.
Both aspects come together to create such a beautiful and unbelievably moving story. The whole section towards the end felt so romantic and brave, so exciting because of how scary it was. The uncertainty that runs throughout, of not knowing where Allyson will be taken next, either by Willem or by life, is just so awesome, and left me feeling like that's the way to live. No plans, just following the hints given to you by fate and going with what feels right.
I feel so inspired to go out and try to live this book. Go see some Shakespeare! Go travel and allow myself to just get lost! Be bold and daring! To meet new people and experience new things! Have one single incredible, life-changing day I will always remember! To simply do stuff!
Just One Day is so, so gorgeous! A book I will always treasure. I absolutely cannot wait to read Just One Year, the companion story told from Willem's point of view. I have no doubt it's going to be just as incredible!
Thank you to Random House Children's Books for the review copy.(less)
When I first heard what Deeper was about, I knew I just had to read it. A book about "revenge porn"/"non-con...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
When I first heard what Deeper was about, I knew I just had to read it. A book about "revenge porn"/"non-consensual pornography"? Something you don't read about often, but such an important subject. But Deeper is about so much more than that. It's an absolutely beautiful love story.
Caroline's life is turned upside down when her ex-boyfriend posts photos of her having sex with him online. The whole college has seen those photos, and she can help but imagine what these people think of her whenever she leaves her room. But when resident bad boy, West, defends her when her ex is mouthing off about her, everything changes. Through their non-friendship, West shows her that she doesn't have to hide, that she should stand up and fight, and go for the life she wants. West's own life isn't a breeze, and knows what it's like to fight for to make life better. As their feelings for each other grow, and their non-friendship heads towards something more, they show each other there is a possibility of a life they would never have imagined.
Deeper is a beautiful and powerful story narrated by both Caroline and West in alternating chapters, generally each person narrating a month within the story. At first, I thought it was going to be a similar, more grown up version of Good Girls by Laura Ruby. But Deeper isn't about non-consensual pornography. What Nate, Caroline's ex, does is absolutely disgusting, and is a huge part of the story, of Caroline's story, but Deeper is about Caroline's life. And West's. So the fact that those photos have been seen by hundreds of people, although a huge deal, it doesn't overshadow the whole story. It's not the soul focus of every single page. I was expecting it to take up a hell of a lot more page time than it did, but I'm glad it didn't. It's not about how awful it is, it's about beating it and moving forward. It's done in such a fantastic way, with West showing Caroline there's so much more that should be taking up her head space, that she could be spending her time on.
West is trying so hard to be someone he's not. He's flirty, he's sexy, and he does some things a lot of people wouldn't agree with, but he's not your typical bad boy. He's a great, great guy. West's family is dirt poor, and he's doing all he can to get them a better life. His mother is hopeless and keeps going back to his abusive dad, who only sticks around long enough to get what he wants until he's bored. West's younger sister is only nine, and he has to take care of her, because their mother is just so flighty and irresponsible. He has had to work his backside off and do terrible (for himself) things to earn money, to keep them all afloat. He's only at Putman because of a generous, rich donor is paying for his tuition, and he works three jobs and sells drugs to send money back home, and does all he can to keep his grades up. He will graduate and get a better life for his younger sister. He will get her out of that crappy trailer park and make damn sure she doesn't end up like their mum. He has a plan, he has people depending on him, he can't afford a distraction in the form of Caroline. So those two being not-friends is the only way to go - even if she does spend most nights hanging out with him as he works over night at the bakery.
If I was to talk about anything negative about the story, it would be the language. There is so much of it. Words are used to shock, words I don't want to hear, but in the right way, as these are words that aimed at Caroline because of her photos. She is treated so disgustingly by these anonymous commenters. But West is a swearer. A big swearer, he has a mouth like a sewer. And a word I find highly offensive is used several times throughout the book. Normally, this would stop me reading a book altogether, but I was so gripped by the story, in the end, my need to read this book won over my disgust at the language coming out West's mouth.
What blew me away about Deeper is how honest it is. Being NA, the characters are more honest about what they think than in other novels - even other NA novels. Like when small, completely normal things the other does turns them on, for example. It's less hot for the sake of it, but more honest, real. This is what people actually think. Not just sex related, but other things too. Things people don't say out loud, but things they think.
What I loved most is that the sex in Deeper didn't overshadow the characters. It was hot, but not as important as the two people having sex. Some of the hotter NA I've read just has sex for sex's sake. It gets a bit boring and, well, annoying. Deeper is just honest. People have sex, but there's more to people than sex. They have stories too. Sex is just a part of their lives. And Deeper really shows those stories are important, more important. Sex doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all of NA.
Saying that, there is a lot of sexual activity going on in Deeper. It's quite graphic, and I could say it's "dirtier" than other books I've read, but not in the sense that York was thinking, "I'll write this, and it will turn the readers on." More like, "This is what people do when they have sex." Again, honest. Real. Not hiding anything. And I think that links back to the photos. Caroline feels ashamed about the photos, and a lot of comments people leave on them are insults to her. But she didn't do anything wrong. She had sex with her boyfriend - normal - and some photos were taken - it happens. Nothing wrong. Nothing dirty. Nothing to be ashamed of. People have sex, it's one of the most natural things in the world, and what people do in private is no-one's business but their own. That's what comes across through the story regarding the photos, and through the extent to which sex is described.
Deeper is such a beautiful, beautiful story! The end is absolutely heartbreaking, and I've no idea what I'm going to do until Harder, the second book in the series, comes out. I didn't want the story to end, I love these two together! If there's one NA novel you read this year, it absolutely has to be Deeper.
After writing a blog post for my employer's website about YA LGBTQ fiction, a colleague gave me one of the p...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
After writing a blog post for my employer's website about YA LGBTQ fiction, a colleague gave me one of the proofs for Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin that we had in store. I was intrigued by the novel as there are so few books about intersex characters, but I had no idea what a phenomenal read I was in for.
I reveal something in my summary below, but it's not a spoiler. It happens very early on in the novel, and starts off the story.
To everyone outside his family and close family friends, Max is an ordinary boy. Popular, loving, smart and affable, he's everyone's friend. What most people don't know is that Max is intersex. After he is raped by a family friend, his whole world is turned upside down. Not only is the ordeal horrific enough, but it has repercussions that ripple out into the rest of his life. He is left, lost in a whirlwind of emotion, question everything he knows about himself. Who is he, really? Is he the golden boy, or is that just who everyone else wants him to be?
Golden Boy is absolutely incredible! It is such a powerful, thought-provoking, and completely heartbreaking novel, one that is going to stay with me for a very long time after. Max knows so very little about his intersexuality. For reasons of their own, his parents decided not to tell him too much about it. Regarding his genitalia and reproductive organs, he knows what he has and what he doesn't. But he doesn't know about the discussions with doctors his parents had when he was a child. So once he's raped by his mother's best friend's son - someone he thinks of as a cousin - a vile, horrendous, absolutely sickening act, his whole perception of himself changes. Max starts to question who he is, what he is, what he should be.
Golden Boy was a big surprise to me. I am not the kind of person who copes well with heavy, depressing books. I don't mind a sad novel, but hard-hitting, melancholic, shoving-serious-issues-down-your-throat type novels I just don't get on with. I get very emotionally involved in books, so they completely affect my mood. Even once putting the book down, I can be on a real downer I struggle to get out with. And yet I will slog through a book like that, because I feel I'm doing a disservice to the characters by not reading their story, to the real people who are in similar situations. But it's hard. It's emotionally draining.
However, despite the seriousness of Golden Boy, I had no trouble reading it at all. This might be because I had no idea going in how rough things were going to get for Max - and rough they do get, unbelievably so - as you're taken by surprise at the turn of events as the story goes on. But I think it has more to do with Tarttelin's writing, and how she wrote Max. His character felt so real to me, his voice so genuine. I don't think I've ever been so emotionally attached to a character before. His fears, his doubts, his questions; they run in all kinds of directions, but they're all so real, so valid, so believable. Max's narration felt to me like reading emails or letters from a real boy, someone I cared about, and someone I wanted to help so badly. Because I cared about the boy, the person, the individual, who he is at his core, so much, there was no slogging my way through this book. I was absolutely gripped, and absolutely desperate for things to turn out ok for Max, for him to be ok.
One of the things that is amazing about this book is how brilliantly, seamlessly Tarttelin can switch from voice to voice. Golden Boy is narrated by six people; Max, his mother Karen, his father Steve, his younger brother Daniel, his GP Archie and his girlfriend Sylvie. Each person has a very distinct, individual voice - each having an age. The difference between Max's voice and Daniel's, or Max's and Karen's is amazing. Karen is very much an adult, Max a teenager, and Daniel a nine-year-old, and they all sound it. Tarttelin manages to get inside the head of each character so completely that if each chapter didn't start with who was narrating, you would be able to tell from the narration. The differences in voice are that obvious, and it's just completely amazing!
I liked most characters, and besides Max, especially Archie and Daniel. Archie is a very pro-active GP. She's not had Max before she first sees him after his rape, and doesn't know too much about intersex people, and so for her own knowledge to do her job better, and for the sake of Max if he ever has questions about himself specifically, she really does her research (meaning Tarttelin really did her research). I learnt more about intersex people from this book than I have from the other two I've read (Panomime by Laura Lam and Annabel by Kathleen Winter), and it's so interesting. It goes right into the medical science of it, but it also talk about gender and the importance society places on putting people into one box or another. It was absolutely fascinating. I loved Daniel because he, in his way, brings the lighter side to the story. He is so incredibly smart for his age, but has anger issues and doesn't quite get things right socially. But the way he thinks and talks, and put things across, you can't help but smile, even when he is creating a huge scene. Sometimes, he seems to understand things so much better than adults do, not just because he's smart, but because he still has that innocence and acceptance that comes with being a child. Daniel is such a brilliant character.
However, I couldn't stand Karen. I wanted to slap her so hard on so many occasions! I wanted to scream and shout at her, because it was just unbelievable to me how she could treat her child the way she did. I think Karen is going to be one of those women some people are going to completely understand, some people are going to feel sorry for, and some people, like me, are going to loathe with a passion. I could understand where she was coming from, but understanding does not equal agreeing with her actions and reactions. But, as she says, there's no rule book for raising a child, and there's no saying how anyone would react in her situation. It makes you question what you would do if you were in her shoes. There are so many options covered in this book, choices and decisions that were or could have been made at each point in Max's life, and it made me realise there are only good intentions. You won't ever know what decision made for an intersex child while he or she is young is going to be right for that specific child until they're older... and yet you can't not choose one way or the other. Each choice has an affect, but you must choose when a child is unable to choose for themselves. So Karen's part in Max's story works for provoking thought, but a decision she makes later in the book... I cannot tell you how angry I was. Raging barely begins to cover it. Absolutely unforgivable. That woman... oh my god, I can't even begin to explain.
Golden Boy is an undeniably one of the most incredible books I have ever read. This review doesn't really scratch the surface. Such an important novel, one I wish everyone would read, one I feel should be read in schools. It's perfect, and I am so, so glad I've had the opportunity to read it.(less)