Seeing as I absolutely loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, I absolutely had to read Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, Levithan's companion novel, this time featuring Tiny Cooper - but with a difference. This is the script for the play Tiny performs in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, where he gets to be the star. Sadly, I didn't love this as much.
Despite being a musical novel, through the directions, Tiny gives a more in-depth look into how he was feeling at each moment. However, it wasn't in-depth enough for me. I didn't feel I got to know Tiny any better than I did in WG, WG. I know it's a musical novel, but being a novel, even if in script form, I thought we'd still go deeper. But I guess the style doesn't really allow for that. Levithan's awesome writing style, with his beautiful way with words, doesn't get to shine as much, except in the stage directions.
We do get some really quirky songs, and on occasion some of the lyrics are quite touching, but in all they felt kind of cheesy - but seeing as this is Tiny's story, it was always going to be cheesy. Big and bold and in your face with a lot of glitter and sparkles. I'm a huge fan of musical theatre, and I loved some of the references made, and some of the songs I could actually almost hear as I was reading along. They didn't sound the same, but "Dude, You Couldn't Be Gayer", which is sun by Phil Wrayson and Tiny, really reminded me of "Thank Goodness" from Wicked, where Glinda sings about how she "couldn't be happier".
Despite not going as deep as I would like, and as funny as it could be with it's big, boldness, there were moments when Hold Me Closer was really quite moving. Towards the end, there are moments that overlap with WG, WG, and seeing those moments from Tiny's point of view, through the medium of song, it was really poignant. The songs get a little less cheesy, and a little more serious, and Tiny can be really quite emotional. It's really sweet, and yeah, I was moved.
However, I do think I would have preferred this to be an actual novel, and got into Tiny's head a little better, but saying that, that wouldn't be Tiny's story, that would be fitting Tiny's story into a shape they want, rather than what was really him. A musical novel is so Tiny, and probably the only way to tell it. It just wasn't something I could get into as much as I would have liked. But still, a quick, fun read, and getting to see those characters we fell in love with in WG, WG again is just awesome!
From the moment I heard about We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, I new I had to read it. And just like I hopOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
From the moment I heard about We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, I new I had to read it. And just like I hoped, it's amazing!
It starts off just looking like a blue star in the sky - but soon it is announced that star is actually an asteroid, named Ardor, and there's a 66.6% chance it's going to collide with Earth, and wipe out the human race. Four ordinary high school seniors' lives are turned upside down by the news; Peter, an athlete, Eliza, a budding photographer outcast for being promiscuous, Andy, a skater who spends his time getting high, and Anita, a high achiever who's parents always expect more, find themselves thrown together in the events leading up to Ardor's impact, have their worldview changed, and discover what it really means to be alive.
This book! Oh my god, this book! We All Looked Up is such a genius idea, the premise is fantastic and is so, so promising, but Wallach takes the story so much further than I expected! It's so thought-provoking, and leads you through all these little epiphanies about how you live your life, and what you should be doing with it. I am so excited by this story, and think it's going to be such a hit!
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the plot and events of this book, because I feel it's the kind of story where you should discover everything as you read it. I was most interested in Eliza and Andy's narrations. That's not to say that Peter and Anita's narrations weren't interesting, they were. In fact one of the brilliant things about We All Looked Up is how well Wallach wrote the voices of these four very different teens and kept them so distinct and individual. I loved them all! I just found their stories to be more emotional in the case of Eliza and just so different to anything I have experienced in the case of Andy. I think Andy was probably my favourite of all the characters; he was flawed and he got up to some really questionable and unwise things, partly due to his relationship with his best mate Bobo who is such a loose cannon, but he's also pretty funny, and I found some of his emotional moments really endearing. He makes some bad choices, but I think if he was helped on to the right path, he would be such a great guy. I really loved him.
I loved how sex was looked at in this book, especially into relation to Eliza and her sleeping around. She is shunned for it, which is really awful, but she's just a girl taking back her power after one kiss seems to ruin her life, in a way that she enjoys. The girl likes having sex, and there's nothing wrong with that, and it's so wonderful to see that juxtaposed with the grief and reputation she gets for it. Andy at one points mentions the "slut shaming" Eliza is on the receiving end of, and I know that's a common term, but considering everything it says about Eliza and her sex life, I wish the term was addressed; the term is basically saying "shaming a slut", which just isn't great. That word should just not be used, in general, even in a term that's meant to be against it - but that's just my opinion on terminology, not a put down on the book.
Peter was a really great guy. I loved how, even before anyone knew about Ardor, he was starting to rethink his view on life, because of a question asked by a really awesome teacher in class. Is what he plans to do with his life really worthwhile? And once Ardor makes it's presence known, that questions becomes a lot bigger, more important to him. He doesn't want to waste his life, whether there's a collision or not, he wants his life to count for something, wants to do something that matters. Here's this ordinary guy who's pretty nice, pretty smart, and pretty awesome athlete, who then becomes this amazing guy who wants to make a difference, somehow. I admired him so much. Anita is also a wonderful character who finds freedom in the announcement of Ardor's possible imminent collision. Life is short, so why spend it under the rule of parents who continually put too much pressure on you, and completely giving up on your dreams because they disagree with them? This girl has some guts to do what she does when the end of the world is nigh, and I thought she was just so brave. I do wish we also got some of Peter's sister Misery's point of view, who goes out with drug dealer Bobo, because I think her story would have been amazing!
I could go on and on about how completely awe-inspiring this book is, but as I said, I think you should discover it all yourself, but this is definitely going to be one of those books that I'm going to be talking about for a while. The climax at the end is just unbelievable and totally unexpected, and really had me getting emotional. We All Looked Up is just such a fantastic novel, an absolutely stunning debut and you all have to read it!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children's Books for the review copy....more
After hearing from Jim at YA Yeah Yeah that The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell was a really good book, I was really interested to read it for myself. Unfortunately, it didn't really do it for me.
Sora has ALS. He is going to deteriorate, lose control of his body, and eventually die. He is having a hard time coming to terms with this, especially when people look on him with pity. Sora's only solace is in the poems of long dead samurai, and talking to his online friends, who don't have to know about his condition - that is, until they meet. Sora is surprised to find that Mai and Kaito accept him for who he is, and still want him in their life. But as Sora progressively gets worse, he starts to question his quality of life.
I found The Last Leaves falling really difficult to get into. There is such a lack of contractions it would really distract me while reading. Constantly reading "do not", "it is", "I am" was really jarring and stopped the story flowing well for me. Unless I was reading the book for a long period of time where I could get used to the writing style - which wasn't often as I read during breaks at work and travelling to and from most of the time - it was a continuous struggle. When talking about this on Twitter, Rhys of Thirst for Fiction said how it felt like an actual translated work, although it's not, and I have to agree.
I also had trouble getting emotionally involved in the characters. There was something missing from this book for me that inhibited me from really caring, despite the subject matter. I just wasn't that bothered about Sora and his condition. The story was also a lot less about ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Motor Neurone Disease as it's known in the UK) than I expected, too, and more about how Sora felt dealing with it, his emotional state. I was intrigued by how he was coping and what he thought about his uncooperating body, but I could have cared more than I did. I wanted to. It just wasn't working out that way for me.
But this might have to do with the fact that I found the characters to be quite immature most of the time. They felt a lot young than their actual ages, more like they were all 13 rather than quite a few years older, and I found them really frustrating. There was a lot of eye-rolling while I was reading.
It wasn't until the last third of the book that I got interested in any real way. I don't want to spoil the story, but it got more emotional, and only then did I start to feel something, did the story start to grab me. But by then it was too late, and the story was almost over.
However, I did find it interesting how Benwell used the group emails sent by "The S Club", that were trying to convince teens to rebel against adults and take a stand over not being hear and being controlled by taking part in mass suicide. It was a good way of contrasting with the events of the book, and having the two side-by-side made you think. It did feel quite intentional though, like those emails were there for this purpose of juxtaposition, rather than something naturally occurring within the story, which I was a little sad about.
I really enjoyed learning about the Japanese culture, it was really quite interesting reading about the samurais' poems, hearing the superstitions, the talk of food, and so on, but for a book set in Japan, there wasn't as much Japanese culture as I expected. The story was more about Sora and his condition, and his relationship with his friends, but I would have liked to understand and learn more.
Unfortunately, The Last Leaves Falling was quite lacking in a lot of areas for me, and I finished it feeling really disappointing. However, I know there are people who really enjoyed it, so do check out some other reviews before deciding whether to read it or not.
Thank you to Definitions at RHCB for the review copy. ...more
I first heard about Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills during LGBT+ April, run by CaycOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I first heard about Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills during LGBT+ April, run by Cayce of Niji Feels (then Fighting Dreamer) and Laura Plus Books, and actually won my copy in a giveaway during the event. It received so much praise during the month, I was really interested to read it. There was just one thing that made me wary; although I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, I don't have great knowledge of music in general, or major interest in music outside of the songs themselves. Would I get this book, or would it go on about things I have no clue about? Happily, I had nothing to worry about, and Beautiful Music was a brilliant read!
Gabe is mad about music, it's his whole life. He spends a lot of his time hanging out with his old neighbour, John, listening to music, and hearing John's tales of his time as a DJ. John has managed to get Gabe a slot on the local community radio station, and so starts Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, his own radio show. The only thing is, not many people know him as Gabe - not even John. Gabe only recently came out as a trans male to his family and best friend a few months back. Everyone else knows him as Liz. His family are having trouble coming to terms with it, and, despite not knowing he's trans, he has been bullied for quite a while at school for not dressing like a "regular" girl. But on his show, he can be himself, right? That is until one listener finds out that Gabe was known as Liz before he graduated, and outs him to all his fans on Facebook. And then the threats begin.
Beautiful Music is a really great story! Gabe is such a great character! He is brave and wonderful, but just like any other teenager. He's really into his music, he has girl problems, he gets excited by the awesome opportunities that come his way, and... he's just wonderful! I loved his voice, his humour, his relationship with John. He's just a really nice guy. And despite the fact this book gets quite serious more than once, it's mostly an uplifting, feel good book, and left me smiling.
I don't want to spoil the story, so I'm not going to go too much into the plot, but I will talk about the things I enjoyed. The relationship between John and Gabe is wonderful. John is 71, and a radio legend. For Gabe, who lives right next door to him, he's one of his closest friends; he's his mentor and he's family. John doesn't treat Gabe like a child, and Gabe doesn't treat John like a doddering old man. They learn from each other, they debate and argue about music, and share vinyl, CDs and cassettes. John will captivate Gabe with his stories from him time as a DJ, and Gabe will listen raptly. There's is a beautiful relationship!
I also loved the relationship between Gabe and his best friend Paige. They have been best friends since kindergarten, and despite only finding out a few months before the book starts, Paige stand by her friend. Their relationship is just so brilliant. There are moments where things get rocky for multiple reasons, but you can just tell there is that solid foundation of love that their friendship is built on, and it's wonderful seeing them together. When they're there for each other, when they're joking and laughing together. It's so lovely to see such a strong friendship - despite the issues they deal with in the book.
There's one character I have to mention. Heather Graves. She's wonderful. Her sexual orientation isn't discussed, but she is attracted to Gabe at the start of the book, when to most people Gabe is still Liz, and despite what most people think of him then, she seems to accept him as he is, even though she doesn't know him all that well. And when she knows Liz is now Gabe, she's still interested. It doesn't make a difference to her. It reads like it's not to do with her sexuality, and it's not to do with Gabe's gender, it's simply to do with Heather being attracted to this individual person, to Gabe. Again, I don't want to discuss the plot for spoiler reasons, but I think it's just fantastic that a character like her exists in YA fiction. More characters who see and are attracted to people rather than genders, please!
Beautiful Music is a really wonderful book. There are some really grim and disgusting moments, but there are so many beautiful and wonderful moments, too. Hopeful moments. Beautiful Music is an incredible story, and if you like LGBTQ YA, I implore you to read it!...more
When I was emailed by Andersen Press to ask if I wanted to review We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin NielOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
When I was emailed by Andersen Press to ask if I wanted to review We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, they sent along the first chapter, saying something along the lines of, "Read the first chapter. If that doesn't make you want to read the book, fine, but we think it will." Jim of YA Yeah Yeah had recommended this book to me before receiving the email, so I was already intrigued. I was sucked right in by that very first chapter and couldn't wait to read more! There was no question about it, I needed this book - and what a fantastic book it is!
Stewart's mother died over a year ago from cancer. Ashley's dad told his family he was gay about a year ago. Now, Stewart's dad Leonard and Ashley's mum Caroline are now together, and Stewart and his dad are moving in with them. Highly intelligent Stewart is mostly happy about the situation, popular, superficial Ashley is most definitely not. When Stewart leaves his school for gifted teenagers to join Ashley's school, and is put up a year to her grade, their lives get even more complicated.
We Are All Made of Molecules is told in alternating chapters from both Stewart and Ashley's points of view. I fell in love with Stewart immediately. He is so intelligent, but kind of innocent too, and he's just adorable. I kept wanting to give him a hug just for being so cute! I also really loved reading Ashley's chapters; she's pretty superficial and can be nasty at times, but her voice is addictive. She can be a bit slow on the uptake at times and has moments where she gets things completely wrong and you can't help but laugh, but Nielsen writes it in a way where you're not laughing at her, but warming to her as she makes them. Despite being quite a cow, I couldn't help but love her too. Nielsen is absolutely brilliant at writing voices, and We Are All Made of Molecules is really funny because of it
But this is also a serious book. Stewart's love for his mum, and his continual grief now she's gone is really beautifully written. It's really lovely to see how Stewart deals with the situation he finds himself in; he loves his mum, and wishes she was still here, but he can't change that, and if Caroline, Ashley's mum, makes his dad, Leonard, happy, when he's been sad for so long, then he's happy - plus he likes that he will gain a sister. He's always wanted one, and this may not be the way he hoped he would get a sister, but he's looking on the bright side, and, oh, Stewart is just wonderful!
Ashley's mum and dad, Caroline and Phil, aren't together because her dad chose to be true to himself and admit that he was gay. Although it's been over a year since Phil moved out and into the little converted garage behind the house, Ashley is still really hurt by it all, feeling like her whole life has been a lie. She's not had a relationship with her dad since, and they used to be so close. She's not told any of her friends because she's worried what they will think of her. She's very popular, and she believes if people find out, she'll lose her popularity and be made fun of. This is something she has a problem dealing with; she doesn't believe she's homophobic, but it's different when it's her dad, and it might change the way people look at her - or so she feels. And now some other bloke and his son have moved into her house, brought in their things into her home, and she didn't get any say in the matter. It's fantastic seeing both Stewart and Ashley's views of the situation, and how they deal with it. There are also other issues in the book I can't talk about without spoiling it, but they are dealt with brilliantly, too.
We Are All Made of Molecules is a really beautiful, moving and funny story, and it's just wonderful to see how Stewart and Ashley's relationship progresses. I implore you to read this book, it will definitely put a smile on your face.
I've heard quite a few people rave about Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton, and as it's LGBTQ UKYA, I thoughtOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I've heard quite a few people rave about Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton, and as it's LGBTQ UKYA, I thought I'd give it a read.
Kitty has a lot on her mind. Her mother has Multiple Sclerosis, her friends want them to enter a film competition, and she thinks she might be gay. Dylan has recently moved in next to Kitty's Gran, and Kitty has trouble keeping her eyes off her when she visits. Soon things blossom between the two of them, but what will people think if Kitty tells them she's gay? Her parents? Her friends? But Dylan doesn't want to be Kitty's dirty secret, so Kitty has some decisions to make; keep hiding, or be true to herself.
I knew Starring Kitty wasn't really going to be my cup of tea when I bought it, simply because I could tell even from just reading the blurb it was going to be a bit too young for my tastes. However, I decided to read it to read a LGBTQ YA novel for slightly younger readers, and for them, it's stellar.
Starring Kitty isn't my bag because there's enough detail for my personal tastes on most things, such as actually making the film, editing it, etc, and on Kitty's mother's MS. However, for it's target audience, it's actually really beautiful. The romance between Kitty and Dylan was really sweet and innocent, with all the first relationship butterflies and second guessing. Kitty does have a few problems worrying what other people might think of her because she's gay, and it comes between them, but the way the story goes is really lovely.
This is the first book in the Reel Friends series, the second is Spotlight on Sunny, and has one of Kitty's best friends Sunny as the central character. As she's Muslim, I think it will be a really interesting story, and this looks to be a really diverse series.
With that quote from Matt Haig on the front cover, I was really looking forward to reading In Bloom by MatthOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
With that quote from Matt Haig on the front cover, I was really looking forward to reading In Bloom by Matthew Crow. However, I'm sad to say that I found it a little disappointing.
Francis is a smart boy who has big plans for his future. When he finds out he has leukamia, his whole world turns upside down. Then he meets Amber at the hospital, and his life has a new focus. A romance blossoms between the two, but when you both have cancer, it's a constant shadow hanging over your heads.
It's too easy to compare In Bloom to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but it should be judged on it's own merit rather than comparing it to a similar, popular book, so that's what I'm going to do. In Bloom isn't really about cancer, mor about Francis and his relationship with Amber.
Francis has a very individual voice; he's humourous, but he's also quite innocent. He can be a little self-centered and melodramatic. It can be a little irritating sometimes, but most of the time it's endearing. He is quite smart, but he has an elevated opinion of his intelligence. He thinks he's smarter than everyone else, so tries to impress them all with his intelligence. Francis is the highlight of the book, with his funny way of thinking, and how he reacts to things.
Unfortunately, I didn't think much of Amber. This is because we mainly get Francis' opinion of her, rather than get to know her well. We don't see too much of her - it's more tell than show. When we do see her, she seemed a bit course to me, and I didn't really warm to her, despite her being a little funny. Because of this, I didn't really feel invested in the romance, which was the main focus of the story... so it fell a little flat for me.
Not a bad story, but one that didn't really work for me, sadly.
Thank you to Much-in-Little for the review copy. ...more
I decided earlier on in the year, when The Bookseller first announced that it was creating its own YA Book POriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I decided earlier on in the year, when The Bookseller first announced that it was creating its own YA Book Prize for UK and Irish YA, that I would try to read all the 2015 shortlisted books once they were announced. Finding a Voice by Kim Hood is one of the titles nominated, and I was lucky enough to get hold of a reading copy through work. It's such a beautiful story!
Thirteen-year-old Jo has a tough life. Her mother has a mental illness, and Jo's her main carer. Sometimes there are good days, where her mum just seems eccentric and strange, and sometimes there are bad days, when it's all Jo can do to keep her mum from going right over the edge. Sometimes she can't. School is the only place Jo can escape the stress at home, but she doesn't have any friends because of her "crazy" mum. Then she meets Chris, a boy with Cerebral Palsy in the Special Education Unit after volunteering to help him out at lunch. Chris can't speak and has very little control over his limbs. It seems to Jo that most people fail to see the boy inside the disabled body, but Jo is sure Chris is more aware of what's happening than everyone else seems to think. She's determined to help Chris have a better life, but Chris isn't the only one who could do with some help.
I have to say, if it wasn't for the YA Book Prize, I'm pretty sure Finding a Voice wouldn't have crossed my path. It's been out since August, but I hadn't heard of it once. Which is such a shame, because it's such a beautiful debut novel, and really quite thought-provoking.
In a way, Finding a Voice reminds me of Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern. Both stories involve mental illness, and both have a teenager volunteering to help out a fellow disabled student. But that's where the similarities end. This is not a romance, this is very much a book about friendship, and it really is beautiful to witness how important Jo and Chris become to each other. Because of Chris' disability, Jo notices that the people who work with him - his carers, his aides and teachers at the school - either talk to him like he's a baby, or talk about him as if he's not there. At first, Jo isn't sure how much Chris is aware, and that's why she finds it so easy to talk to him. While visiting the Special Education Unit at lunch times to feed Chris, she finds it very easy to open up about how she feels looking after her mum, and very quickly, through his behaviour, she becomes aware that Chris seems to be listening to her intently. The fact that she is actually being listened to encourages Jo to talk more, but also to talk to him as if he's an actual, normal teenager. Jo has found someone to talk to, and Chris now has someone who's treating him like a person.
It's only when during one lunch time that Jo realises that Chris is flailing his legs to kick her on purpose rather than through lack of control this time, that Chris is trying to tell her something - he doesn't like the food. From that point on, Jo focuses a lot of her attention on trying to help Chris communicate. She knows Chris has things to say, he just needs a way to say them. Jo puts in so much work in trying to find ways to help him speak, thinking of ideas, in an attempt to make his life better. No-one else asks what Chris thinks, or wants, or likes, because he can't tell them. All decisions are taken away from him. Jo can't sit back and let this continue when she knows Chris wants to be able to tell people what he wants. It's really just incredible to see her try so hard to make things better for her friend. It's so heart-warming.
And it's even more incredible when you put this into context with her own life. Her mum suffers from a non specific psychiatric illness. At first I thought she had bi-polar; she would have very strange, eccentric days most of the time, or she would have terrible, awful days no child should have to witness. But it seems the doctors haven't been able to nail down a specific mental illness to her mum. Jo has to walk on tiptoes most of the time, trying to keep her mum calm and happy, keep the routine, keep things normal. The slightest thing wrong, and they're both in for days of heartache. Jo's mum's episodes are horrific to read about, and to imagine that Jo has had to deal with this her whole young life is so heartbreaking. And she's so scared to tell anyone how bad it can get some days, because she feels she'll be letting her mum down.
Finding a Voice is such an emotional story, and a really powerful one. It's an incredible debut novel, with such a wonderful ending. I implore you all to give Finding a Voice a read; I guarantee you'll find yourself moved.
Thank you to O'Brien Press via Foyles for the reading copy. ...more
I first heard about The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson when Jim of YA Yeah Yeah raved about it, but for some reason, it didn't really appeal to me. It's only when I arrived to work one day and was told a reading copy had been left for me that I really took an interest. Being a 2015 YA debut, I saved it to read until this year, and wow. This book is really worth all the buzz you're hearing!
David has wanted to be a girl for as long as he can remember, but he's yet to find the courage to tell anybody other that Essie and Felix, his two best friends. Trapped in the wrong body, he hates the way he looks, and only sometimes lets the real him - her - shine through. Leo starts Eden Park with a history full of secrets and pain. All he wants to do is fly under the radar, get through this final year, then move the hell away for college. But he's come to school with a reputation, and everyone is talking about him. When David is being picked on by the school bully, Leo can't help but defend him, and people start talking even more. So much for going unnoticed. David is so grateful that Leo helped him out, and soon a friendship forms - one that is going to change both their lives.
The Art of Being Normal is such a good book! First of all, I want to explain that I will talk about David and refer to him as a boy; there are very few moments when David allows himself to be the girl inside, everyone calls him David, even those who know, and he outwardly presents himself as male for the majority of the book. Normally, in a book about transgender characters, I would refer to the transgender character as the gender they feel inside, but this time round, it suits the story to refer to David as a boy.
The thing that I loved the most about The Art of Being Normal is it's not about being transgender. It's about two individual characters, and their friendship. Unlike other transgender stories I've read, there isn't a whole lot about what it means to be transgender, how that feels. It's there, it's just not the main focus of the story. David is transgender, not a lot of people know about it, and that's the stage in his life that he's in. The fact that's he's transgender is important to the story, because it's important to his identity, but, for David, it's more about him as an individual person. Everyone's lives, everyone's experiences are different. People who have read the story may disagree with me, but I can't explain myself further here without spoiling the story.
So, David goes to school with his two friends, and tries hard to ignore the comments he always gets. Most people call him "Freak Show", and he gets a lot of grief. He is bullied quite a bit, and it's really bloody awful, the extent to which some of it goes. The incident where Leo defends him, before he steps in, I was just dying inside on David's behalf for the utter humiliation David is put through. It's absolutely disgusting, and that all these people were either just standing around laughing and enjoying it all, or keeping their heads down and not getting involved had me fuming! It's not until Leo steps in and punches Harry, the bully, that anything stops. Nobody else does a thing. And it kills me.
Leo doesn't have a great life. His dad isn't around, and his mother is pretty useless and treats him like crap. He lives in a really rough town, and just wants to escape. Something happened earlier in the year that we don't know about, that has led him to move to Eden Park. Questions and rumours are flying all over the place. Eden Park is a very good school, and it has a zero policy for violence, and simply wouldn't take on a violent student - yet the rumours all say that Leo was expelled for sawing off a teacher's finger. So what's the truth? What is he really doing at Eden Park? I have to say I really didn't see his secret coming. Once I found out, and I looked back on all the little hints, I thought, "Of course!" but I just didn't see it before then.
The friendship between Leo and David is a really sweet one. I kept forgetting throughout the story that David is only 14, that he turned 14 at the very beginning of the book, and he can come across a little young sometimes. There were a few eye-roll inducing moments, but then I would remember his age, and let him off. Leo is 15, but in his final year, so he will be 16 soon, so their friendship is a little unlikely. They're different ages, they live completely different lives and have different interests, and Leo only grudgingly starts being friends with David when he asks him to tutor him in Maths. They slowly get to know each other, and towards the end of the book, they really make a difference to each other's lives. It's a really beautiful friendship!
The Art of Being Normal is such a really awesome book! Such a wonderful debut, and a UKYA novel to be proud of! Will definitely be reading whatever Williamson releases next!
Thank you to David Fickling Books via Foyles for the reading copy....more
I'm one of those people who likes to read inspirational quotes on Pinterest, it's the kind of thing thatOriginally published on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I'm one of those people who likes to read inspirational quotes on Pinterest, it's the kind of thing that really gets me thinking, and I enjoy how reflective it makes me. Although I wasn't the biggest fan of Wonder, I did love the precept lessons taught by Mr Browne, and the discussions that were had about them. When I discovered that R.J. Palacio had written a book as if written by Mr Browne full of precepts for the whole year, I knew I had to read it. And this book really does give you so much to think about.
The book is set up with an introduction from Mr Browne, before going into the precepts, a whole page for each day in the month. After each month, Mr Browne includes an essay about his thoughts on certain precepts, how he came across them, or correspondence he's had with some of his students - characters from Wonder. These sections update us on some thing that have happened since the end of Wonder, or just give another point of view to the year that Wonder spanned. It's really sweet to get these little glimpses back into the world of Wonder, and see the precepts the characters came up with.
The precepts in this book are just brilliant. There really is something to speak to everyone, I think. What I love is that 74 of the precepts included in the book came from real life youngsters. Palacio asked readers of Wonder to send in their own precepts for the book, and 74 were included. Some are precepts they really like, and some are those they made up themselves. It's really beautiful to see the great things that these young people have thought about and have come up with. It really is wonderful. I could list my favourite precepts, but I'd quote about half the book, probably. instead, here are a few:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take our breath away. - Unknown.
The best things in life are not things. - Ginny Moore.
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together. - Carl Sagan.
Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. - J.M. Barrie.
Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they're always there. - Unknown.
Most sound really nice at first, but then I'd think a little deeper on how they relate to my own life. There were some I agreed with, there were those where my thoughts went a different direction than from the obvious, and there were even those I disagreed with. But there's something to really think about with each one. The book itself made me think so much, that I have decided that next year, should all go well, I will start a 365 Weeks of Wonder blog project, where I make my way through the book discussing each precept in a blog post, with how it made me think and reflect. I've had permission to do this from RHCP, so I'm looking forward to starting it next year.
There's one thing about 365 Days of Wonder that, after a while, slightly annoyed me a bit. The precepts focus on "kindness, strength of character, overcoming adversity, or simply doing good in the world," (p3), and, reading it from start to finish in a short period of time, they do begin to get kind of samey. Kindness is the main theme of these precepts, and after a while, different precepts come up repeatedly all seeming to say exactly the same thing about kindness. But then again, this book isn't meant to be read in a short period of time, it's meant to be read every day of the year, one precept at a time. Quite a number of days would go by before coming across a precept that was similar to a previous one if read like that, so I suppose it's not so bad. Of course, for reviewing purposes I read it over a few days, and, as a reflective person, coming over such similar precepts caused me to brush past a few because I've already thought about kindness, and the precepts weren't adding or changing what I had already thought about. It would have been nice if there was a bit more of a change in what the precepts focused on, but kindness is the main focus of Wonder, so it would be for 365 Days of Wonder too.
A really fantastic book, one that would make a great gift! I can see parents sitting down and discussing the precepts with their children each day, getting the child to think, and that can only be a good thing. A beautiful book!
With it's striking cover and intriguing and unique premise, Noggin by John Corey Whaley was not a book I couOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
With it's striking cover and intriguing and unique premise, Noggin by John Corey Whaley was not a book I could pass up. A full cranial transplant? How can that not spike your interest? I was surprised to find that Noggin was a lot more serious and thought-provoking than I was expecting, and wonderful for it.
Travis Coates contracted terminal leukemia, and fully expected to die. That was until he was approached by Dr. Saranson, who informed experimental procedures were being undertaken, and there was a possibility he could save Travis' life. All it would mean is removing and cryogenically freezing Travis' head, and attaching to a healthy donor body. Travis decides to take the chance, even though he doesn't really believe it will work. However, it does. Travis has a nap, and wakes up five years later. But his new life is not what he expected. Everyone is older, and everyone has changed. How is Travis supposed to find his place in this world that has moved on and left him behind?
Because of how absurd and impossible the premise of this book sounds, and the title of Noggin, I expected this to be a comedy. It's not. There are quite a few funny bits, but Noggin is a much more serious book than I was prepared for. This was such a good thing, because it surprised me how much depth there was to this book, and how it really go me thinking. Travis' new life is far from easy. He wasn't expecting the procedure to work, but if he did, he was expecting to wake up 100 years into the future. Not five, where so much is familiar, and yet other things so different. To him, it literally feels like he's only had a short nap, but now his best friend, Kyle, and his girlfriend, Cate, are 21 and in college, his bedroom is completely bare as his parents threw his stuff out, and there's something strange going on with his Dad.
He find it hard to accept that some things have changed so much. Cate, his girlfriend... is no longer his girlfriend. She mourned for him, then she moved on. And now she's engaged to someone else. But to Travis, she was his girlfriend only a few hours ago - a few weeks ago, as the story goes on. This affects him the most, really; the girl he loves is no longer by his side where she should be. And he doesn't know how to deal with that except by trying to get her back. It is hard for him to accept five years have gone by, but what isn't sinking in for him is that those five years did go by for everyone else. For all intents and purposes, to everyone who cares about him, Travis has been dead and gone for five years, and suddenly he's back. And it's difficult for everyone to deal with. They had to spend five years without him. They had to grow up without him. They had to move on, without him. It hurt them, but it happened, and they can't undo the past five years and all the changes they've been through just because he's back now. They love that he's here, but it's still so difficult to get their head around. But of course Travis is young, and can't help focusing on his own problems.
This book was so thought-provoking. Really. I had a conversation about the whole idea of this book with my own best friend, about what life would like - what we would be like - if this happened to me. How much would be different. How I would feel to be stuck here while everyone else moved forward and left me behind. It actually really upset me, the though of what I would miss out on, how this gap might affect my relationships. Really upset me. So in that sense, I really sympathised with Travis, despite the fact he's a real idiot at times. But I also really understood where everyone else was coming from. What if it was the other way round, and my best friend "died", only to come back five years later, and I had to spend the next five years without him. How much would I change? Would he still really know me then? Could our friendship survive such distance, such a shake up? This book is incredible at getting you to think about what something like this could really mean. It's unbelievably moving.
Saying all this, from about half way/two thirds of the way in, things got a little samey. There was no real change in the plot; time went on, Travis was still having trouble accepting, the people around him were still learning to deal with his return. Travis carried on with his obsession of trying to win back Cate, and even got a little ridiculous with it at some points (though, to be fair, he does love her, and I can't really blame him for trying all he can think of). It kind of plateaued here until the end. The only real change is finding out what was going on with his Dad, but I had worked that out really early on, so that was no real surprise. In any other book, this would have been a major problem for me, this plateauing, but I was so fascinated by the emotions and confusion, that I finished Noggin thinking this part was mildly frustrating rather than a huge let down. I still really enjoyed the book on the whole, still something I would really recommend.
There is a lgbtq subplot that fits in really well with the story. Of what can change - or not - for someone in five years. What it would mean to have a secret literally taken to the grave, and how that would affect you as you go forward. What it would then mean when that person is no longer dead. Coming back and finding secrets are no longer secrets, but something altogether different. It's not a major part of the story, but it's a major part of the relationship between Travis and one other person in this book. I found it really interesting, and not just the lgbtq aspect of it, but the secret aspect, the idea of only one person knowing your secret, and dying with it. No-one knows again, yet you have actually shared that secret. What now? I think that particular person's story would be really interesting as a short story or something. The different ways that would go, and how that's figured out internally.
Noggin is a brilliant story, and so thought-provoking. It's about letting go of the past, and moving on with the future - but how it's not always that easy, on either side, when the past comes back. A really powerful story, a fascinating idea, and one that has me interested to read more by Whaley, to see what else he can get me to think about.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy. ...more
Having loved the first two books in the trilogy, I was so eager to read Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and SiobOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Having loved the first two books in the trilogy, I was so eager to read Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian - especially with how Fire With Fire ended! And I am so pleased to say Ashes to Ashes was absolutely gripping!
Lillia, Kat and Mary are reeling from Rennie's death. Lillia and Kat are buckling under their grief, and Mary has gone MIA. What they don't realise is that Mary is a ghost, and she finally discovered it when she drove Rennie's car off the cliff, and it didn't end her torment. Feeling guilty over what happened with Rennie, Lillia tries to stay away from Reeve, but they can't fight their feelings for each other, and Lillia and Kate become closer friends over their shared grief and the loss of Mary. But Mary sees everything. Now she knows what she is, now she understands her power - now she realises she did die when she attempted to kill herself over Reeve's bullying - she's determined to get the revenge she feels she deserves. Her life is over because of Reeve, it's now time that his was, too.
Oh my god, Ashes to Ashes is so, so good! I absolutely loved it! It was brilliant, but I expected the epicness to start right from the get go, considering Mary now knows what she is, but she hardly shows up for the first half of the book. There's a lot of time where she just blacks out, so there's no narration from her for a big part of the book, just the odd chapter here and there. But I think this works really well; it gives things to kind of settle for Kat and Lillia, they miss their friend, and they're both suffering with their guilt and grief, but life isn't about revenge any more, it's about friends, graduating high school, and getting into their chosen colleges. And it also works for Mary because when she does have chapters, we see how her anger increases and increases as she sees Reeve's happiness with Lillia, and this evil person she becomes as she learns more about what she can do. She is so twisted and cruel, and it's pretty horrifying, the extent to which she's willing to go. If it wasn't for the fact we've had two books previously to get to know the real Mary, Ashes to Ashes would be close to being a horror novel, because she is just so bloody terrifying in this book.
The climax to this book was epic! Oh my god, it was just mind blowing! Seriously something straight out of a nightmare, it was so horrific! I could not change the pages fast enough! However, I do think the ending was too abrupt. I would have preferred there to be at least one extra chapter at the end that dealt with the immediate aftermath of what happened, rather than jump straight to the Epilogue. I also wanted more from the Epilogue. It was too short, and some things were too convenient, I felt, a little too nicely wrapped up. And some things didn't go the way I wanted them to for certain characters, but that's a personal preference....more