Oh this book was wonderful. I’d never actually heard of this book before I read Rey’s gorgeous review of it. I’ve always been curious about YA books frOh this book was wonderful. I’d never actually heard of this book before I read Rey’s gorgeous review of it. I’ve always been curious about YA books from other countries (meaning not The Big Three: USA, Australia and the UK) because they must be out there. I know they’re out there but it’s difficult to find out about them because they never get the time of day which is such a shame because I know we’re missing out on all these beautiful YA books that are being lost in translation.
I’m thinking The Readventurer ladies need to do all the hard work do a Wall of Books of YA from Other Countries so we can all gorge ourselves on them. I wonder if they do requests? Ha..
Anyway… this book.
Lou is such a wonderful narrator and has a fantastic way of seeing the world for a girl so young. There was a lovely naiveté about Lou and how she saw both the world in which she was growing up and No’s situation. Normally in books, I get frustrated with narrators when they’re naïve because I just want to get them to open their eyes. But with Lou it provided the perfect vessel to allow Ms de Vigan to explore what it’s like to balance on that cusp of “young adulthood” in this modern world. I think thirteen is such an interesting age in your life because you’re not really anything.
There’s no way you’re a child anymore but you’re only just a teenager, and everything is changing. This is the time where your expectations and reality don’t always match up and it’s strange and it’s upsetting, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
And Ms de Vigan perfectly portrays this disillusionment that you get when you’re stumbling through this age. When you’re expected to go to parties at the weekend instead of timing how long it takes for wet footprints to disappear of the kitchen floor. When you realise it’s not “cool” to do well at school. When you realise that not everyone in the world has a roof over their head and a warm meal every day like you do. I really enjoyed watching the world change through Lou’s eyes. It was subtle, stripped back and often incredibly moving.
I’ve always said that, on the whole, YA books aimed at a younger audience are the ones that deal with darker subjects so much better than some aimed at older readers. (The 10pm Question and A Monster Calls come immediately to mind). I don’t know what it is, but I love it so much which is why I will never not read a book just because it’s on the younger side of the YA spectrum.
Not only does Ms de Vigan portray homelessness in a way that’s heart breaking but realistic, but also the subject of loss and family problems. I don’t really want to go too much into this aspect because I think it would be better to experience it first hand from reading it, but the passages describing Lou’s mother, father and their past combined with No’s history were so well-written. Even poor Lucas’ situation made me sad.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it was so different to anything I’ve read this year. It’s powerful in its subtlety and shows that you don’t need to clobber your readers over the head with emotion and angst to create a thought-provoking and moving book. The characters are fantastic (I had a little soft spot for Lucas. I can’t help but think a lot of authors need to take note of him because that’s how you write a lovely “bad” boy) and the tumultuous friendship between No and Lou was perfectly crafted.
Also? The ending was perfect for this story. I actually finished this book on Sunday morning and I mean morning. I woke up at half five and there was no way I was going back to sleep so I finished it and those last couple of chapters made my heart ache so much that even in my absolute knackerdness (Yes, I know that's not a word), sleep was the last thing on my mind.
Sometimes I wish for happy endings, even though I know that I would be annoyed if I got it. I think this is one of those books. I’m glad, so glad that Ms de Vigan didn’t grant me that wish with No and Me.
Some books need to be read while you’re eating pickled onion Monster Munch and I think this is just one of those books.
Let me explain.
I find pickled oSome books need to be read while you’re eating pickled onion Monster Munch and I think this is just one of those books.
Let me explain.
I find pickled onion Monster Munch e a very underrated crisp. They aren’t the coolest crisps on the shelf. Not everyone thinks of them instantly when they think of a delicious savoury snack. I mean, they don’t have Gary Lineker and Lionel Richie advertising them. They can’t be dipped in…um…dip. Or at least easily. I guess you would really have to want some dip to dip Monster Munch in dip.*
But they are the kind of crisp that you would buy because you’d not had a packet in yonks and then two seconds later, you’ve eaten the entire bag (well probably half, because the other half would be all down your jumper and in your hair. Is that just me and my ability to eat Monster Munch?).
They’re underrated in the savoury snacks stakes but they’re there if you look for them.
If you squint dead carefully at the above paragraph, you will see an eversoslightly passive aggressive commentary of the YA publishing industry.
I’m going to stop talking about crisps now just in case you get confused thinking you’ve stumbled onto my secret spin-off blog called ‘Eat the Delicious Crisp” where I eat crisps and blog.
However, I have to say quickly- that there is mention of Monster Munch in this book. I’m not just hungry, I swear. This book was brilliant. I actually had never heard about it until Keren David recommended it to me in her interview. As you know, I’m a huge Keren David fan and I know her style of writing so I’m pretty confident if she said a book is good.
I didn’t actually realise how good though.
First up, I get a bit nervous when I find out a book (especially by an author I’ve never read) is about mental illness. I’m very critical about it and I’ve given up on books that have dealt with it in a pithy, flippant or sometimes downright offensive way.
This was good though, great actually. It was the perfect mix of sadness and humour without belittling the seriousness of the illness but also, just as importantly, not making it gratuitous. I know gratuitous is my favourite word for serious books but I really dislike it when an author writes a subject in a certain way because they want you to feel a certain way. Gah.
It’s not always an easy book to read because when I was laughing (and I laughed a lot) there was always a sad under tone niggling in the back of my mind. Like if you were drawing a picture and did a bit wrong but thought “Ahh, I’ll just colour over it in bright colours and no one will know” but you can still see the mistake under your colouring in. I really loved how the issues were always present, even when they didn’t seem like they were because the story was going through a more light-hearted patch, and weren’t conveniently forgotten about when the story moved on.
There are some bits that were extremely infuriating but not because of Mr Cousins’ writing ability, but because of his great ability to write teenagers. When Laurence is wearing a wig and pretending to be his mum so he and his brother Jay don’t get separated by the social services, I admit I did roll my eyes a little bit. Because, let’s face it, it sounds stupid, right?
But let’s remember that I’m an adult…. ish.
And as an adult, I’m screaming at him to go and get help, to stop hiding the fact that they’re living with cockroaches and living off Mars Bars. But that’s when I forgot he was fifteen, he was scared, he was alone and he had to look after his brother. Of course he’s going to make silly mistakes, he’s fifteen! What do you expect?
I liked how Mr Cousins seemed to find the balance between the silly and the sad. I think that’s important in books like this not because we need to water down the silly with sad or vice versa, but because it’s real. That’s what life’s like, it’s not all doom and gloom, but then again it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
Before I go, I should probably mention Mina because she was brilliant. What? What? No I am not biased because she’s Northern and has a funny accent. I mean, Northern accents are definitely the worst… yes?
But she was great and had the right amount of love for our hero and “What on earth are you doing?” And yes, she was a sassy Northerner. I probably am a little biased.
Anyway…. this is a remarkable book and Mr Cousins is definitely an author you should be reading.
I have to say if you asked me last week whether I had read Skellig by David Almond I would have looked at you blankly for a bit and then said “Well, II have to say if you asked me last week whether I had read Skellig by David Almond I would have looked at you blankly for a bit and then said “Well, I have a feeling I read it in primary school. No, I definitely did. But I can’t really remember what happens in it.”
I realise that that kind of means that I saw it as forgettable but please bear in mind it was about thirteen years ago and I have a horrible memory for books. Seriously, I can forget my favourite books that I’ve only just put down and that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them. I just have a shoddy memory.
But I guess the best thing about re-reading books is that you can start to remember bits that you had completely forgotten about.
Like, for example, I remember being a little bit scared of the character of Skellig. To me, back then, an angel was ethereal and glowy and had these huge, gorgeous wings full of beautiful thick feathers the colour of snowdrops. So when Skellig emerged from behind the boxes of Michael’s garage, wheezing and smelling of rotten gunge, with dead insects in his hair… my ten year old self was horrified. Now, of course, I am older and wiser and know that angels can come in all sorts of forms. They can have "bones and sinews and muscles”and be more natural than otherworldly. They can also resemble Nicholas Cage.
I also remember 27 and 53 and I remember that it’s the food of the gods. I have to say, I’m more of a crispy seaweed/ lemon chicken kind of girl. I also, rather unfortunately, remember Mr Almond’s obsession with dead bluebottles and regurgitated owl pellets. Yum.
And I remember Mina, Michael’s gloriously spirited best friend. She’s the one who doesn’t believe in education and would rather draw pictures of birds, create models out of clay and quote William Blake at all those nay-sayers. She’s the one who’s wild around the edges and doesn’t make apologies for being different. And she’s the one who is "extraordinary” and will hold Michael’s hand and give it that extra squeeze if he’s feeling like he’s drifting away. I also remember how quiet this story is, and how it’s poignant and beautiful and occasionally uncomfortable to read. And I remember that joyous ending. And I also remember how I wished I had friends I could communicate with using an owl call. “Hoot. Hoot hoot hoot.” And I remember Whisper and how much I used to want a cat just like him.
And, most importantly, I remember why humans have shoulder blades.
So this book may have been forgettable when I was ten when I was more interested in reading Animal Ark books (Was Lion in the Larder one? Or did I make that up? I remember the titles got more and more ridiculous as the series went on), but I seriously doubt it will be forgettable now.
OK, I’m going to start this review with some maths. No! Wait, don’t go. It’s going to be YA style maths and, well, it’s me… so it’ll be dead easy. ThouOK, I’m going to start this review with some maths. No! Wait, don’t go. It’s going to be YA style maths and, well, it’s me… so it’ll be dead easy. Though before we begin, you can leave your payment in the basket just over there. Not vegetables. I want chocolate. Not got any? No worries…I’ll wait until you come back from the paper shop*. Back? Right:
I’m almost tempted to just leave this review at that because, honestly, if you’re not intrigued by that equation then I can’t recommend this book to you. Also, I can’t save your soul from eternal damnation.
I’M KIDDING. Ish. But I won’t stop there because I like the sound of my voice or, you know, I like to see my typed words on a computer screen.
I have always said that when I’m rich and famous, I’m going to rent out a cottage in the middle of nowhere armed only with food, wine and Discworld books and just spend a week reading every single one of them from start to finish**. I’ve read a few of them (five, I think) and enjoyed them immensely but I think they are the kind of book you just need to immerse yourself in. And Discworld is so impeccably created that it’s the kind of world you need to spend a lot of time in, exploring it and learning its quirks and getting lost and finding your way out again. It probably helps if you’re slightly tipsy. Even though Tiffany Aching’s adventures are set in Discworld and I understand they have a lot of overlapping characters, I believe that this could count as a standalone series. If you’ve read Discworld books before, you might get more of the jokes that have gone over my head but I honestly don’t think you’d need to have read any of them to get this story. Actually, these books may be a great place to start.
Sir Pratchett gives you just enough details about the setting to make sure you don’t get lost and I love that about him. I always think that Sir Pratchett has so many more ideas about the world that he keeps to himself so we as a reader only get to see about 75% of what he has created. And I just love that restraint… because there would be nothing worse than if he was like ‘HAVE ALL THE DETAILS. MY IMAGINATION IS AMAZING. LOOK. LOOK. LOOK HOW BRILIANT I AM. YOU’RE NOT LOOKING AT THE BRILLIANCE.
Because if you read a book like that you’d just get a headache and you’d probably need to lie down with a wet paper towel on your forehead. I just like the fact that even though he doesn’t share all the details, you know he's thought of everything and he's probably hiding them in his hat.
I like to think that a Pratchett book is the reading equivalent of colouring in. Bear with me… His mind has created the most breathtakingly brilliant pictures, one that will take you a whole miserable Sunday afternoon to colour in because of all the rich detail and the intricacy. And then he just leaves a packet of pencil crayons on the table next to you and lets you go wild with it. You have free reign in Discworld and you’re encouraged to colour it in with whatever colours you want. As long as they are bright. And he’d probably encourage you to colour out of the lines in certain places too. He strikes me as that kind of guy. Even if you know hardly anything about Sir Pratchett, you will probably be aware that he is funny. Really funny. I made the mistake of reading this book in the presence of other people and found myself having to explain about pointy horses and backwards moving sheep. Needless to say, I got a few blank looks. ”A pointy horse…IT’S HYSTERICAL.” I would yell in their faces. ”A UNICORN IS A HORSE THAT ENDS IN A POINT! ”Why are you shouting?” They would say, backing away slowly. “BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY!!!!!” “Stop using excessive punctuation.” “NEVER.”
Trust me, it’s hysterical. I just love his humour and I lovelovelove the fact that it hasn’t been dumbed down because this book is for… *gasps* *recoils in fear* younger readers. I can’t imagine any Pratchett fan being disappointed in these books.
“Are you listening?” “Yes,” said Tiffany. “Good. Now… if you trust in yourself…” “Yes?” “… and believe in you dreams…” “Yes?” “…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on. “Yes?” “…you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye.”
But let’s talk about the main event: Tiffany. I can’t decide whether I want to be best friends with Tiffany Aching or actually be her when I grow up. She is intuitive, watchful and extremely smart. She’s the kind of girl who reads fairy tales but doesn’t want to be the princess, she wants to be the witch because “where’s the evidence” that they’re all wicked? I can’t put into (um..intelligent) words how much I loved her so I’m going to give you an example of her brilliance:
“…did the book have any adventures for people who had brown eyes and brown hair? No, no, no… it was blond people with blue eyes and the redheads with green eyes who got the stories. If you had brown hair you were probably just a servant or a woodcutter or something. Or a dairymaid. Well, that was not going to happen, even if she was good at cheese. She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things…”
*OK, I have just realised that this review will probably make no sense to people who haven’t read this book. But that’s not my fault. It’s clearly yours. So go and read it and then come back and tell me how brilliant and ingenious this review is. And…. ok, I guess the book is.
**Well, ok… I’ll spend the first day trying to decide which order to read them in.
So normally when I dislike a book that is obviously a well-written, unique and great book, I normally say something along the lines of “Oh well, thisSo normally when I dislike a book that is obviously a well-written, unique and great book, I normally say something along the lines of “Oh well, this book obviously wasn’t written for me.’ I can’t really say that for this one, because… well, this book was written for me. Well, not literally. Ms Buzo didn’t sneakily e-mail me and say ‘HEY JO! I’ve written a book AND IT’S FOR YOU’. But I’m the same age as the heroine and this is kind of a big deal for me. There are tons of books written about children, there are even more books written about teenagers but then… there’s kind of a lull. And then we jump right ahead to the twenty seven year old business ladies who work in the city but have a LIFE CRISIS so they move to a rural farm where they fall in love with a gardener and/or an underwear model or something. But where are the books about the people who have just left university? They’re expected to be grown-ups for the first time ever. Life is staring at them and saying: “Go on, it’s your move.” Imagine the angst! The last time I read a book where I was the same age as the heroine was Harry Potter. But that probably doesn’t count because SPOILER I am not a witch. But in Holier Than Thou, Holly is my age! Now! And she has problems and issues that I have! Right? We’re going to be the bestest of friends! Well, in theory. I’ve had bad experience with media about leaving university before. In the month or so after we handed our dissertation in and before we got kicked out of our student house, my best friend and I watched Post Grad. Now, I refuse to apologise because I was basically watching any film that wasn’t directed by Scorsese and Allen but… wow. That film was pretty much the worst film in the entire world to watch after you’ve just graduated. Luckily, this book didn’t have the same effect on me as that film did (read: I don’t punch wildly at things when it’s mentioned) but I still didn’t enjoy it. I don’t know what it is about Ms Buzo but it seems that she has a great knack for writing great stories with characters I really dislike. I just really, really didn’t like Holly at all. I found her extremely negative and cynical and… well, kinda whingy. Now don’t get me wrong, it would have been just as bad if she’d been Mary Sunshine, happy happy, joy joy for the whole book, because no one is like that. But…I don’t even think she laughed once. Apart from when she was laughing bitterly at how her life was over before she was twenty five.
What follows is a conversation that I had with Flann about this book because it’s interesting and I think it will explain a bit better the problems I had with it than I could. Also, it will get me off the hook from actually writing a proper review.
Jo- I’m really struggling with Holier Than Thou, by the way. Flann- Yeah? What don’t you like about it? Jo-I don’t know. I don’t really like Holly. Flann- No? I totally liked her. Jo- I find her really aggressive, like she has this sense of entitlement about everything just because she doesn’t know what to do with her life. I’m not that far into it but, yeah… I’m not in love with it. Flann-Hm. I’m trying to think about what you mean. She definitely has an attitude towards her friends because she think what she is doing is more worthy. Jo- Yeah…just her whole outlook on life is just really difficult for me to understand. Flann- Do you have a lot of friends doing business/finance jobs? Jo- No, most of my friends are in retail or admin. Flann- I think I could just relate to her a bit because after college, I was honestly digging through flooded houses and shit and building stuff and I'd visit my college friends and they'd just go to work in a skyscraper and then go get drunk every day after work and it was hard not to think what I was doing was more worthwhile. If that makes sense? So I can identify with the feelings Holly has towards her friends who aren’t doing anything that is blatantly helping others. Jo-Yeah it does. Maybe it's because I'm kind of in her situation... but it’s very different. Like, I've graduated but because of the times, I’ve had to move home and except for like two of them, all my friends are doing jobs that have nothing to do with their degrees. Flann- I think you are at an interesting point in your life right now. Like you aren't doing something that you love, but I think Holly's at that point, like a few years down the line (even if she is the same age) when people are settling into permanent jobs and it's like a crisis because this is it. Shit's scary Jo- It’s weird because Holly reads a lot older than me. I'm not saying I'm immature (although I probably am) but hardly any of my friends have permanent 'real life' jobs. I feel like I'm kind of in limbo at the moment and even though it’s annoying and doing an admin job feels tedious to me, it’s exciting. Maybe it's because Holly has kind of written it off as 'this is it, nothing exciting will happen now'... but I (and my friends) are still, probably naively, thinking that our 'real life' hasn't begun yet. There's still stuff to be excited about. I think I just quoted a Colin Hay song. Flann- That’s exactly it. Jo- But yeah, Holly doesn't read like a 23 year old to me, tbh. She takes herself very seriously and she’s so cynical. It’s just like…. Show us a smile, Holly! Flann- I was thinking you'd like it because I wrongly assumed a bunch of your friends would be in but I wonder if you'll like it more a few years down the line Jo- I think a couple of years ago, I would... but because of the recession and how difficult it is to get a job at the moment. Only one of my friends actually has a job that she would quite happily stay in for the rest of her life (primary school teacher) Flann- I really liked it because it reminds me of early 20s me. Though I am still pretty lost. Jo- But all my other friends have their passions (related to their degree) but they do it on the side and they don’t get paid for it. Like me with my writing/blogging, my friend doing amateur dramatics... etc etc. Do you understand what I'm saying though? I feel a bit lost trying to sort out my feelings with this one. Flann- no, I totally get what you're saying about HTT. I think in a few years, many of your friends will give up their passions. That's the point when you would like the book more. (sad but true)
I realised I made a mistake in the above conversation. Holly is actually 24. So that means I still have just over six months until I turn 24. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like this book because I don’t believe that I only have a year left of being passionate about things I love and looking forward to what’s next. I’m 23 and I don’t share that outlook that this is it. Yeah, I’m not where I want to be in life, but unlike Holly I can add one more word onto that sentence. I’m not where I want to be in life…yet. Call me naïve, but I don’t want to settle and I’m not going to stop believing.
You expect me to review this book? Me? You're surely new here. My reviews are... and this book is... OK fine.
Well, for a start, I can’t say aYou expect me to review this book? Me? You're surely new here. My reviews are... and this book is... OK fine.
Well, for a start, I can’t say anything about the plot. I read this book not knowing anything more than what the synopsis told me and that is the best way to go into this book. The only thing you need to know about the plot is that it has one. And it’s absolutely outstanding.
This book is so powerful and completely unforgettable. The writing is magnificent. The world-building is incredible. And the characters and the relationships between them are some of the most brilliantly constructed ones that I have ever read.
And the plot twists… I can’t stop thinking about them. I honestly can’t remember another book I have recently that has given me the gut-wrenching “No…no….no, they’re not going to do that. They won’t. Will they? They can’t. Can they?’ feeling that this book gave me. I never saw it coming and I still don’t want to believe. Actually, I refuse to believe it.
So there, Ms Blackman.
I’m not doing a very good job here, am I? Are you convinced yet?
Please just say yes and put me out of my misery so I can stop writing this review. I’m trying to be coherent and make intelligent observations but it’s difficult to make coherent and intelligent observations when all I want to do when I think of this book is sob into a chocolate cake. Yep, that’s right. I don’t want to even eat the chocolate cake. I want to sob into it.
I still have the dodgy sunburn marks I gained from sitting in the garden on the weekend Manchester was hotter than Hawaii because I was so engrossed by this book.
So yeah, you expected me to write a review for this book. I can’t.
In an incredibly long-winded way, of course. Hey, you wouldn’t want it any other way, would you? But, I officially pass on reviewing this book.
Why Malorie Blackman isn’t the name on everyone’s lips, I don’t know. Read this book and then come and talk to me. You bring the gin and I’ll bring the sun cream.
I’ve never really been technological. I mean, I can use a computer. I can use a phone. I can use a Kindle. Sometimes I kind of link them all togetherI’ve never really been technological. I mean, I can use a computer. I can use a phone. I can use a Kindle. Sometimes I kind of link them all together if I’m feeling particularly frisky one day.
But when people say that they prefer Windows to Apple, I zone out. I don’t know whether I’m a Mac or a PC. The adverts meant nothing to me except omfg it’s Jeremy and Mark!* I mean, if Jeremy is a Mac and Mark is a PC, then surely they’re both as awesome as each other? Do I have to choose between them? I don’t want to. No, I refuse.
What’s Super Hans? Let’s face it, I’m going to be whatever he is. In all seriousness though, I cannot believe that this book was written by the same author that wrote Nakedwhich was such an excellent book that I can’t recommend it enough.
This book was… I don’t know. I can’t even say it wasn’t what I was expecting because it was basically exactly what I was expecting. A boy is standing under a block of flats and someone throws an iPhone off the 30th floor and it embeds himself into his head. When he wakes up from his coma he discovers that his brain is now an…iBrain (Brooks’ words, not mine). Needless to say, he’s not an ‘App-y chappy. Geddit? App….y? Never mind.
OK, so first up I’ll talk about the idea. I’m OK with suspending my disbelief when I read books. A fact, I feel, that was proven by me actually picking up this book. I understand that this story will never and could never happen. If I wanted to read a book where the science was 100% and everything was believable, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to read a book where a boy turns into an iPod….would I?
So I was OK with this and I was quite happy to read a story where everything was left a bit up in the air. Unfortunately, it seems, Mr Brooks wasn’t. There were times when this story descended into a bit of an instruction manual and it left me completely lost and it managed to yank me out of a story that I was actually really involved in. There was absolutely tons of info-dumping. And I’m not saying that in the way that most people mean it with huuuuge chunks of descriptions about a fantasy world just in case you missed that point where the author was being really clever.. I mean actual info-dumping. There is part of the iPod instruction manual in a chapter. I’m not even joking. I did try and understand the mechanics (again, literally) of what happened to Tom but…I mean… OK, I get that he can hack into people’s phones and bank accounts and stuff… but how can he create a forcefield around himself? Have I just got a crap iPhone that doesn’t do that? I have to admit it would be handy. Anyone who was annoying me I could just be like “Oh, one sec… someone’s ringing me!” and I’d whip out my phone and ZAP right in the face. The more I tried to understand… the more delirious I became. One of my notes is actually: “LOLOL. But why doesn’t he electrocute himself in the shower?”
The thing that was most frustrating about this book was that I know how brilliant Mr Brooks is at writing a great and engrossing plot. He did it in Naked and, to some extent, he did it with iBoy. If you took away the iPlot and the zapping, this book would have been so good. Seeing the gangs of South London and all the horrifying things they do through Tom’s eyes wasn’t always easy. Mr Brooks has this way of really getting into the story, into the characters’ psyches and you can be reading it, hand over your mouth, thinking “No, he’s not going to go there…” and guess where he goes? There. And I love that about him because, even though it was uncomfortable and it was realistic and brilliant.
But then iBoy got involved and zap, zap, zap and… I don’t know, it just really took something away with it. I won’t go into all the gritty details of what happens in this story but it’s so sad and so horrifying and the iPlot seemed to trivialise it almost. Which is crazy because I know that Mr Brooks can write emotions and darker subjects with subtlety and tact but this one was just way too much. Also, for extra iLOLZ… this main event of this story happened the day before my birthday.
You may be thinking why I carried on reading this book if I didn’t like it at all and that was because of the characters. When Tom was Tom and there weren’t any lowercase is lurking anywhere, he was brilliant. The perfect balance between hero and regular kid, I really wanted to get to know him and not iBoy. And, of course, I loved Lucy. What a little sweetheart. Also, Gram was BRILLIANT.
I so wish this had been a contemporary book because I know that it would have been unforgettable instead of being memorable for all the wrong reasons.
*And omfg there’s a new series coming soon. Who’s excited?!
Cross-over fiction is a genre that I’ve thought a lot about. Well, OK not really, I just said that so I sounded like I was ‘in the know’ about all thinCross-over fiction is a genre that I’ve thought a lot about. Well, OK not really, I just said that so I sounded like I was ‘in the know’ about all things publishing. Before I read this book, a ‘cross-over fiction’ kinda book, I’d never really thought about it. But for reviewing purposes I have decided to do just that. I’ve narrowed all my thoughts, highly highly intellectual thoughts, down to one question that I will attempt to answer in this review.
Is a book that is classed as ‘cross-over fiction’ a YA book that wants to be an adult book or is it an adult book who wants to be a YA book?
Now, you know that yours truly is a YA book blog so going off that fact alone we can establish that adult books are definitely cooler.
Nah, I’m completely kidding. YA books are all the rage right now and rightly so. Real people are reading YA books and they’re not ashamed because SURPRISE there are actually some great YA books out there. But adult books will always be the ones that top the bestselling charts and the ones that people talk about over canapés and champagne at high-brow dinner parties. So are cross-over books, books that straddle the genre and appeal to all readers the way forward?
Anyway, let’s talk about this particular cross-over book. I have decided to create a scoring system to see if I can determine whether this book is a YA book asking an older book to buy it some Strongbow or whether it’s actually an adult book going through a mid-life crisis and pretending it’s in its late teens and is…. um… probably going to get something pierced or, I dunno, buy a motorbike.
Jo plays a snappily titled game of "Adult Book or YA book"?
1) I loved this book from the first page. That may sound completely cheesy and cliché but I literally did love it from the first page? Literally, Jo? LITERALLY?! DO YOU KNOW THE MEANING OF LITERALLY. I hear you bellow. Yes, I do and if you’d let me finish I’ll tell you why. This book has a Sylvia Plath quote as its epigraph.
“You do not do, you do not do Any more, black shoe In which I have lived like a foot For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”
-Daddy, Sylvia Plath
If you’re starting with a Sylvia Plath epigraph you have to have guts because, I mean, it’s Sylvia Plath. If you write a pithy, awful book after starting with Plath then you’ll always be known as the author who thinks they’re good enough to follow Plath and no one wants to be that author. Luckily, Ms Reid did not write a pithy, awful book.
And while I’m not saying that young adults can’t read and love Plath (I actually read The Bell Jar when I was 16), the mere act of quoting a dark and uncomfortable poem perfectly sets up the reader for a dark and uncomfortable read. Black Heart Blue is difficult to read, it’s harrowing and it’s dark. I don’t want to go into the plot points because of spoilers but… wooosha. And you can quote me on that… though you probably wouldn’t want to.
So, re: Dark tone of the book. Adult book or YA book? Adult book.
2) It seems every YA heroine has a tortured sister nowadays. Not that it’s a bad thing and I’m not saying that this book is about a heroine with a tortured sister. It’s about two heroines with a tortured sister. That’s right! We have twins! I’m always wary of books about twins because even though in theory, they are a great way to explore sister (or brother, though I haven’t actually read any books with male twins) relationships they always just fall flat for me. The jealously. The angst. The bitchiness. Yawn. But what I liked about Rebecca and Hephzibah were that they were completely different from each other. They didn’t really like each other at all. Hephzibah was a bitch to Rebecca but Rebecca wasn’t all sunshine and kittens either. I loved how they had two separate personalities but there was always that bond that they shared, both from what they had gone through but also just because they have the almost supernatural bond that they have. Like I said, normally I’m reluctant to read twin books but in this case, the sisters and their relationship added lots to the overall feel of the book.
Re: Twins and tortured sisterly bonds. Adult book or YA book? YA book.
3) OK, this next bit is a bit of a quibble I had with the book. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the setting. When I started reading this book I thought it was going to be set in the 50s or something but then there was talk of A-Levels, Glee and Cheryl Cole. It’s obvious that Ms Reid knows how to deal the twisty, dark human emotions but when it came to writing general teenager stuff… it didn’t always ring true for me. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a seventeen year old boy who would want to ride a moped. I think most of them would be happy to settle with a Megarider or a lift from their parents. Maybe that’s just me. To me, anyway, this book sometimes read like a historical book… but I like historical books, so I was fine with that but I don’t think that’s what Ms Reid intended.
Re: Adults thinking that teenagers care about if Cheryl Cole rides a moped. Adult book or YA book? Adult book.
4) Tiptoeing delicately here but the adults in this book (bar one) were absolutely horrible. Despicable. Terrible. Seriously, I was so angry and scowly. Really well done though.
Re: Horrible adults. Adult book or YA book? Seeing as adults aren’t allowed in a YA book. Adult book.
5) Insert bad boy love interest. Adult book or YA book? YA book.
6) Hopeful ending. Well Ms Reid took us for a ridiculous sad ride through this book but there was a hopeful ending. All the nastiness is still there but all was not lost. Thankfully. I seem to talk about hopeful endings an awful lot on my blog but I think, as a whole, YA books like to have hopeful endings. I think adult fiction is a lot happier at slashing your hopes and dreams and leaving you to sob and what have you.
Re: Everything’s going to be alright…. Eventually. Adult book or YA book? YA book.
So, is it a YA book that wants to be an adult book or is it an adult book that wants to be YA?
It’s neither. And it’s both. It’s a cross-over book.
Sorry, I felt like I needed a wink at the end of that. Like I was starring in an advert for a book genre and that was the tagline. Do book genres have taglines? They should. Whatever Black Heart Blue is, it’s good and you should read it.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers.
This book as a film: A Discussion. Or Jo gets hypothetical and reveals far too much about herself.
First Scenario Mr Harnett, the love interest of this bThis book as a film: A Discussion. Or Jo gets hypothetical and reveals far too much about herself.
First Scenario Mr Harnett, the love interest of this book, would be played by Justin Beiber or one of the lads from One Direction/The Wanted. Their face would be plastered all over the world and they would be trending on Twitter. What? I know, I’m being stupid. One Direction trending on Twitter? Gettouttatown! I would vow never to leave the house/put the TV on/open my eyes until everyone had calmed down and the dust of a thousand pre-teen girls had settled. Um... ok that analogy didn't quite work but you get the gist.
Second Scenario. Mr Hartnett would be played by Zac Efron. His face would be plastered on the buses and billboards at the train station and I would sneakily look at him when I thought no one was looking and make a mental note to text my best friend and demand that she came with me to see it.
It could go either way. This book could’ve done the same. This book had the danger of being so ridiculous and cringey and omgursoannoying (see: One Direction) that I would fling it out of the window and vow never to read a book again. That’s right. I would never read a book ever again. If anything could make that happen, the existence of One Direction fanfic would be it. Or it could be sweet, funny and I would love it in a way similar to the way that you love something that you can’t explain because it’s so different to what you normally love and, with everything considered, you should probably hate it (see: Zac Efron, WHO before everyone gets all giddy is actually nearly two years older than me).
Luckily, this book was the latter. Honestly, I wouldn’t buy it on DVD but every time it was shown on TV on a Sunday afternoon I’d probably watch it and I’d enjoy every minute of it.
I’ve been on a bit of an intense-stint recently so it was good to just read something that was light, cute and fun. I know I’ve said ‘fun’ about a million times but you can really tell that Ms Rushby had lots of it when she wrote this book. Sure this book isn’t going to change your life and it’s not going to challenge you and shock you to your core and yeah, it was pretty easy to guess what was going to happen but I didn’t care. Zo-Jo was a cute heroine, the kissing stuff was lovely and I didn’t find the jokes cringey in the slightest.
Also, I found it hilarious that the main bloke was named Hartnett because it brought back vivid memories of when I was about fifteen and I was obsessed with Josh Hartnett. I know, isn’t that the weirdest crush ever? I was so obsessed with him that wrote a Christmas poem/song about him… I think that is the epitome of Crazy Girl With Crush, right? I’m thinking it was because I am a huge fan The Virgin Suicides, both the book and the film where he plays Trip Fontaine with a dodgy bob. If that’s not the reason, god knows what is. Anyway, that’s all in the past now and now I have moved on and I mean, I don’t even think about Josh Hartnett anymore…. Unless I have one of my “I’m going to stay in my pjs and watch The Faculty and eat Frosties out of the box” days.
Which, um, never happens.
What was I even saying? Ahh, book review, that’s it. I don’t know why I liked this book; especially when I’ve strongly disliked books that are the same style. Maybe it just caught me at a good time? Maybe it’s because Ms Rushby’s writing was fresh and funny? Maybe it’s because this book didn’t try and be something it wasn’t? Or maybe it’s because I’m biased that the heroine almost has the same name as me? Or maybe I just have a weakness for books where the hapless heroine meets a Hollywood movie star and shenanigans and kissing ensue. It’s probably that. I’ve got a lot of time for shenanigans and kissing.
I try not to call books ‘fluff’ because I find it kind of patronising and dismissive. I always feel you can enjoy a book you wouldn’t normally enjoy without it being classed as ‘fluff’. Except that this book was fluff. Not the kind that seems to attach itself to black clothing but the edible marshmallowy stuff in a tub that you get from Selfridges. Sure, if you ate a whole jar of it you would be sick and probably go blind and slightly rabid but a sneaky table teaspoon full when no one’s watching every now and again? Absolutely.
Can you enjoy a book where pretty much every one of your favourite characters gets chomped on by a zombie?
I’m going to say yes because this book was bCan you enjoy a book where pretty much every one of your favourite characters gets chomped on by a zombie?
I’m going to say yes because this book was brilliant.
This book was genuinely creepy and I like to think I’m made of strong stuff. Unless clowns are involved… and boats….and, like, those huge Australian bugs that Mandee and Reynje take so much pleasure in sending me pictures of when I’m expecting wallabies and koala bears. OK, actually…. Maybe I am a bit of a wuss. But one thing that struck me about this book was how atmospheric it was. I know I made a similar observation in my review for This is Not a Test, but one of the first scenes (the bit in the swimming pool, for those who have read it!) was like the beginning of a horror film. A group of kids are inside somewhere and it’s quiet. Too quiet. But they’re safe in here. Aren’t they? You get an idea of the individual characters. You have the leader, the cocky one, the cheeky two and the one who keeps looking over his shoulder. Better safe than sorry, right? And they’re all talking and sniping at each other and behaving like boys do. And none of them have noticed that something is wrong. Really wrong. And that’s where I’ll stop. I can’t describe it because I’m not a writer like Mr Higson. I mean, you’ve read my other reviews, right?
“He’d always been scared of the dark. His mum had told him not to worry. ‘If you can’t see the monsters, they can’t see you.’ Back then there had been no monsters. Not real ones. Only imaginary. Now…”
See? *shudders* [FYI: That quote is from my favourite scenes in the book. SO GOOD.]
And also, it’s bloody disgusting. It’s really gruesome. We’re talking Yancey’s The Monstrumologist gruesome.
“The skin blackened, shrivelled and split, the overripe flesh inside squeezing out. His insides had turned to mush… Arran prodded the body with his trainer. As he did so the skin popped, a stream of pus oozed out followed by a bright pink blossom of soft fat.”
I mean, that’s disgusting, right? That’s so vile. That’s absolutely horrendous.
It’s also AWESOME. And that’s not even the best bit. That comes later and eeerrrrrrgrgrghhhh it’s brilliant.
Mr Higson certainly knows how to write a story. The twists and turns were perfectly executed and, even though if you’ve ever read a zombook or a zombie film you may guess some of the twists and turns, it didn’t bother me at all. There were certain scenes and certain things that happened that had me completely thrown. Mr Higson really took the phrase ‘Kill your darlings’ to a whole new level. Or at least ‘Kill Jo’s darlings’… so, yeah, THANKS FOR THE ANGST, CHARLIE HIGSON.
I think without Mr Higson’s attention to detail with the characters this could have fallen into the ‘Oh... a zombie book? Now that’s original!’ trap. I have lots and lots of notes about my favourite characters in this book but seeing as I’ve told you that most of ‘em turn into Zombie Snacks (similar to Scooby Snacks, by the way, but more…um, living) I’m not going to share my specific thoughts and feelings. I kind of loved every single one of them. Their back stories, their dialogue, their reactions to what was happening around them, how strong they were when…things….happened. Love love love. But even though I loved a lot of the characters individually, I adored how they worked as a group. They all had their roles to play without it being cliché and box-ticky. Yeah we have the smart one and yeah we have the one who wants to go zombie hunting, and the one who isn’t sure what to do but everyone’s looking at for help? Yep, they’re there too. But it felt fresh and exciting and by the time I got to the end, I really felt like I was part of their group.
Though, that’s probably wishful thinking because I would want to be part of their group. Because, if/when a zombie apocalypse happens, I’m going to be used for bait. I know this and I’ve accepted this. But maybe if I stuck with the kids in this book I’d last a little bit longer before they dress me in a bright colour and shove me out into the street before locking the door behind me.
You know that feeling when you read the first book of a series (although, from my understanding, they don’t follow on? Just the same universe, though I may just be telling you vicious lies) and you get all excited and giddy and you look at every grown up thinking they might eat you? I have it with this book and I’m really excited to read more because if that ending is anything to go on, a lot more scary brilliance this way comes.
Oh and also; zombie monkeys. What was that? You want me to elaborate? No way. If the phrase ‘zombie monkeys’ doesn’t make you immediately add this to your reading list, I don’t think anything will.
Anyway, I’m gonna have to go because there’s this really creepy bloke just standing outside my house. I mean… what kind of grown man wears a St George’s flag t-shirt and oh my god, I don’t believe it! He’s just got his friends to come too and… nope, I’m not having this. Hold that thought… I’ll be right back.
Can I just leave it at that? Can we just call that my review?
No? You want more? God, sometimes you are the most demanding readers ever.
You will know by now how much I loved Being Billy by Phil Earle so I was practically chomping at the bit to read his next book. Saving Daisy tells the story of Daisy Houghton, who you will know if you’ve read Billy’s story. I’ve been thinking about how to class Saving Daisy and I’m failing miserably. I wouldn’t call it a sequel and, you know… I wouldn’t even call it a companion book. Actually, you know what? I’m going to use my YA reviewing power (it’s a real thing, of course it is) to say that Saving Daisy is a standalone book. Definitely*. This is Daisy’s story and no one gets a look in. And this is her time. Of course I loved Being Billy but Saving Daisy, in my opinion, was even better.
I’m going to avoid talking about the plot because it’s good to know as little as you can before reading this book. I find that this book’s shocks and twists are infinitely better when they thwack you across the back of the head completely out of the blue. If you’ve read Being Billy, you may have an inkling of what happened to her before her cameo in BB. But take that inkling and throw it out of the window because, mate, you have no idea.
This book made me laugh hysterically. This book made me so unbelievably angry. This book made me want to put The Shawshank Redemption on and weep into a pillow. This book broke my heart.
At first I thought it was the subject matter, something that is very personal to me, and I thought maybe I was just connecting to it because of that and there was a chance that I was being biased. But then I thought that I was doing a huge disservice to Mr Earle’s writing which is the main reason my heart now lies bleeding on my bedroom floor. My favourite kind of writer is an authentic writer, one that knows what they’re talking about, and Mr Earle’s writing is 100% authentic. Through my unrivalled researching skills, (like… um.. Googling him and looking at his ‘About Me’ section on his website) I found out that Mr Earle used to work as a care worker before he became a writer. And this shows. He doesn’t sugar coat the issues that children like Billy and Daisy have nor does he make them more horrifying than they are just to make a good story.
Mr Earle employs a great subtlety to his writing that made this book so affective. In the hands of a lesser writer, Daisy’s story could have got very overwhelming extremely fast. I won’t lie to you: there is a lot of angst in this book. If you’re looking for neat, happy endings and conclusions that come with a nice bow then I couldn’t recommend this book to you. You can tell that Mr Earle is a huge fan of telling uncomfortable, unforgettable and realistic books that might not always be the most fun to read… but they challenge the reader and really make them think. Which is lucky because so am I.
I always find that there is a common criticism for authors who write for teenagers and it is: how can an adult write authentically for teenagers? And I won’t lie, some authors can’t. Their dialogue is cringey and unrealistic, the issues are picked randomly and sensationalised because that’s what they feel teenagers worry about and then some authors put horrifying cultural references (*shudders*) to show how ‘cool’ they are… luckily, Mr Earle doesn’t rely on that to show that he’s a brilliant teen writer. He relies on his writing. But what about a grown man writing from the perspective of a teenage girl? Nah, he’s got that covered too. Daisy Houghton was such a glorious character and I would like to be best friends with her. Without the risk of sounding like a fruit loop (What do you mean it’s too late for that?!) I like to judge my YA books on whether I would like hang out with the main characters. And with this I mind, I would like to be best friends with Daisy Houghton. I’m not sure how I feel about getting up early to go cliff-trekking but a third of my degree was in film studies so I would be more than willing to sit and watch and discuss films while I ate an entire bag of popcorn. Actually, no… strike that. I loved Daisy so much I would share my popcorn with her, something that is unheard of. People have lost fingers for attempting to get at my popcorn*.
When I looked back at my notes to write this review I noticed that, as the book went on and we got to know Daisy more, it seemed I became more and more protective of her. One actually reads “OMG DON’T YOU DARE DO THAT.” Well… not actually… because my Kindle-typing is ridiculous and I was trying to balance standing on the train so it really read “ohk font yu dare dp tht” but the sentiment still stands.
I loveloveloved her and she will be forever one of my most authentic, genuine, compassionate, broken, favourite YA heroines.
OK, just had a skim through my review and it seems to be sponsored by the word “authentic”, but I make no apologies because isn’t that what you want in a contemporary book?
It can also be sponsored by the word: “British”, “compelling”, “horrifying”, “hopeful”, “brilliant”, “powerful”, “unflinching”, “astonishing” and “OMGWHYAREN’TYOUREADINGIT?”.
The latter, word I feel, the most apt. And of course it’s a word, so be quiet.
It’s so wonderful to find yet another British YA author who will be added to my “Read Everything They Write Even if it’s on a Post-It” list.
Oh and before I go, I just want to say that it’s really refreshing to read a YA book set in Northern England. It’s good to see that there are authors believe in THE DREADED NORTH and not that the UK just ends after you’ve left London. It may be grim up here, but as Mr Earle has shown, it proves for brilliant stories.
*Actually, there is a part in Saving Daisy, right at the end, that was so wonderful and moving and gorgeous that I rushed back to read a certain part in Being Billy and it made a lot more sense and made both books more poignant. Maybe that’s me. Maybe I’ll bribe one of you who haven’t read either of them to read Saving Daisy first and then Being Billy and see if my theory is correct. Muhahahaha.. I’m like the Dr Jekyll of YA blogging. *cue lightning bolts*
*I very nearly fell out with my best friend who dared to suggest we got salty popcorn once. I mean… urgh..
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Young Adult book set in Tonga. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reaI don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Young Adult book set in Tonga. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Young Adult book that discusses the production of silk. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Young Adult book where I’ve rooted for a girl to get with a boy in… this situation. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Young Adult book which is so open to discussing (and discussing well) controversial and hard-hitting subjects as this one.
I think this is the thing I love most about Ms Jeffrey’s writing. Everything is absolutely unique. I’ve read a lot of YA fiction and sometimes, just sometimes, they begin to sound the same. But there wasn’t one part of this story where I thought ‘Urgh, I’ve read this book before’.
It’s difficult not to compare this book to Brown Skin Blue [my review] , which is the prequel to this book. I say prequel but I’m not sure whether you would have to have read it before reading this one. You’ll have to ask Mandee, who did just that. As you know, I love Brown Skin Blue so much. It left me numb, speechless and absolutely smitten that I had found another author that I could add to my ‘Aussie Friends- Send Me Books by This Author Because the UK is Missing Tricks All Over The Place’ list that I sneakily have and use every now and again. Whereas One Long Thread didn’t have quite the same impact as BSB did, I still absolutely adored it and it was the perfect addition to the story that Ms Jeffrey began.
Ruby Moon was such a delightful character and a wonderful narrator. She’s such a quiet character but very observant and I loved seeing the world through her eyes because even though it was incredibly sad, it was always beautiful. She had such a glorious way of seeing things and she was so normal. I mean, if things were going a bit skew-whiff in your life and you had the option to run away to Tonga, you’d do it, right? Of course you would.
And also, I loved that Ruby had a hobby. Seriously, why don’t more heroines have honest-to-goodness hobbies anymore? I loved hearing all about Ruby’s artistic designs, her passion for…. Sorry, I have to say it… fashion and, mate, I can sympathise with her desire to be surrounded by materials, ribbons, lace, strings of beads and spools of thread. I could quite happily spend the whole afternoon in a haberdashery just wandering in between the valleys of material. Actually, I could quite happily live in a haberdashery.
But what I thought was really special was the mixed feelings Ruby had about her art. I think a lot of people would be able to relate to Ruby’s emotions and how she is reluctant to accept that she’s good, brilliant actually, at something. I mean, haven’t we all, at one point in our life, been self-conscious about our passions? Maybe that’s just me.
“I had a moment of looking at it, like Amona might have, seeing it for the first time and thinking how lovely it was, too. But then I retreated back into myself and could see only its faults.”
Going back to her passion for clothes making- yes, it was linked to a metaphor that ran through this book but it never felt false or convoluted. I know I keep rabbitting on about subtlety but tough, I’m going to go on about it again. The two books that I’ve read by Ms Jeffrey have both dealt with some of the most harrowing subject matters I have ever read about, but she knows exactly how to portray them with tact and restraint. Sure it’s horrendously sad and I had to back away a few times because of all the emotions, but it wasn’t overdone or sensationalised. It just shows that in the right hands, subjects that would put off a lot of readers can be absolutely stellar.
Have you noticed that I am staying as far away from the plot as I can? I really don’t want to spoil this book for you if you think you’d like it because, and I know I say this all the time, but you should read this book not knowing anything.
And of course, it would be impossible to write a review about a book Ms Jeffrey has written without mentioning her writing.
“I knew I’d never have another moment like this. Just a single place in time where everything had come together to breathe in harmony. Time slowed and I had gathered all her restless strands in my hands; where I had come from, where I was and where I was going was one long thread as I emerged to make my way into the world.”
It’s the connections between the characters that really make this book what it is though. My favourite relationship is the one between Ruby and her dad. Seriously, I loved this guy so much. They watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire films and they eat popcorn and drink cold lemonade and then they get dressed up and go to bad Chinese restaurants and tell each other the crappest jokes they can think of. Ahhh. Bliss.
Also, while I’m here I feel I have to talk about Barry again. Because I’m hopelessly in love with him, so what?
“The only living example of a Romeo in the modern world.”
He only had a cameo role (albeit a very important one!) in this book but he really stole the show. I cannot go on enough about how much I love this guy. He is definitely one of my favourite YA characters ever.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that I would read anything that Ms Jeffrey writes.
I don’t normally get scared by dystopian books. Yeah, sometimes they’re a bit..eeeehhh… but, usually, the ideas are so far-fetched and impossible thatI don’t normally get scared by dystopian books. Yeah, sometimes they’re a bit..eeeehhh… but, usually, the ideas are so far-fetched and impossible that I’m quite happy to shrug and think ‘Hey! Good fiction, author!”. I don’t know what it is about this book, where children can be ‘unwound’ and retroactively aborted when they reach a certain age, but it really haunted me.
Just the idea of it was so unsettling and absolutely horrid. The way the story is told (third person, present tense) has this almost clinical style to it. Normally in dystopians, it’s all about the characters. It’s about their feeling and that’s where the drama comes into it. But in Unwind, there are no dramatic scenes where the characters throw themselves against a wall and cry and how in just it is… everyone kind of just accepts things. It is how it is. And that was the most unsettling part of this book*.
I sometimes find that dystopian authors get so tangled up in a ridiculous plot and forget about the world building or get so giddy over the world building there is no plot. Of course, there are some authors that can juggle the two of them and find the right balance. But this idea got me thinking. What do you think is more important; the story or the world? I guess the world in Unwind isn’t overly different than ours, I mean there are hints that things are a bit futuristic but there certainly aren’t Districts or Factions or hover-boards. Maybe this was because Mr Shusterman didn’t think that the world was too important in the grand scale of things or maybe it was because Mr Shusterman wanted to create a world that was eerily similar to ours, to make it all the more frightening. Either way, I think Unwind is proof that if you’ve got a stellar, unique idea… you don’t need a convoluted world with complicated politics that show how clever you are to have a good story on your hands. The world he creates may be “basic”, but with the idea of unwinding embedded in my mind, I never once doubted Mr Shusterman’s imagination. Though, I think hover boards would have made this book just a little bit better.
I’m not going to go into the higher ideas and morals of this book because I don’t think this review is the place to go into my views and opinions. But I do have my views and opinions on this matter and I’m sure you do too. I think no matter which side you’re on and what you believe in, this book will still be hard-hitting and fascinating. I think it’s the evidence of a real writer when you finish a book and you have absolutely no idea where the author stands on a matter. This book feels very removed, possibly by the style it’s been written it, and it doesn’t feel preachy or has some kind of sly agenda to make you change your mind. I like that it challenges you but, ultimately, it lets you make up your own mind.
Anyway, let’s talk about the characters. I liked Connor, I loved Risa (Hurrah for a heroine is both feminine and strong!) but I absolutely adored Lev. And that’s who I’m going to talk about.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Connor and I really liked Risa. I think dystopian books need characters like them. They’re strong, they’re leaders and they take charge. But they’re not completely original, are they? Sure these two stand out among all the other faceless Children of the Dystopian Revolution (CDR), but they’re still a CDR. Again, don’t get me wrong, this book wouldn’t have been the same without these two and I think dystopian books need characters like them.
But Lev? He was the heart and the brains and the soul of this book. He really is a one of a kind character and I just loved what he brought to this story. He added so much more depth to it than any other character and the issues that he faced were the ones that affected me the most. I love characters that develop within the pages and seeing Lev’s journey was absolutely fantastic. For the first third of this book I thought I had him pegged. I didn’t like him because he annoyed me. I just wanted to get back to Connor and Risa. Next, OK, you have my attention Lev. I’m intrigued. And then at the end? BOOM. Consider my gob smacked.
Also, I feel like I have to give a shout out to my new best-friend Cyfi. What an absolute treasure. But that’s all I’m saying.
And before I read this book, I didn’t think anyone could make a character named Roland be sinister. HA. HA. HA. *nervous twitch* And that’s just what I think about the kids. Don’t get me started on the adults! Although I will say this- I enjoyed the nice, twisty surprise re: The Admiral. I didn’t expect that one coming at all. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted. Towards the end of the book there is one of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book and just thinking about it gives me the chivvers. I know without a doubt that that will stay with me for a long time. But if you love dystopian books with brilliant characters with a unique and completely terrifying plot and one that makes you think… and, of course, if you think you’re up for the challenge… go on.
*I know there are some characters who want to change things, but this ain't no Mockingjay**. The majority of the people in this book are quite happy with the way things are. So I’m sticking with that thought.