When I’m feeling pretty shoddy I have this thing I do where, basically, I get in bed and watch comedy panel shows. Sometimes it’s QI (XL if I’m feelinWhen I’m feeling pretty shoddy I have this thing I do where, basically, I get in bed and watch comedy panel shows. Sometimes it’s QI (XL if I’m feeling proper sad) , sometimes it’s Have I Got News For You…. Occasionally Mock the Week, depending on who’s on it.
A few weeks ago I was watching 8 Out of 10 Cats. I’m not sure which episode it was because I think it’s one of the older ones but, long story short, one of the questions was something along the lines of “73% of women would rather go out with a bad guy than a good one- True or false?”
Jon Richardson said that the reason why women love bad guys so much, apart from the whole “Oh, I can change him” thing, is because they can get away with a lot. They can be twats for days on end and all they have to do is buy flowers or chocolates or YA books one day and you’ll say “Oh, isn’t he wonderful?”
But if a nice guy, bearing in mind he’s nice all the time, is a bit cranky one day or forgets to bring you flowers or chocolates or YA books then you’ll be like “I cannot believe he did this!” as you fashion some garters made from his guts. Now, of course, I know that Real Life women aren’t that ridiculous and, of course, the fact turned out to be false. Women in Britain would rather date a good guy who brings her YA books.
Or… um… something like that.
But, and this might just be me, this doesn’t seem to apply to YA paranormal heroines and their bad boys. Because they certainly love them, don’t they?
One of the things that makes me angry about YA books (sorry, I promise I will talk about The Raven Boys some point soon) is that the bad guy seems to always win. And this is because the “nice” guy has, for some reason, become synonymous with boring. Why is that? Why?! Why does “not a twat” have to mean he’s dull as dishwater? Why are they mutually exclusive?
Enter Maggie S.
Oh how I could kiss your mind.
Finally, finally, finally… a book where the love interest (you have no idea how tempted I was to put ‘s’ on the end of that then… but shhh) is a decent guy who isn’t boring. They’ve got their issues, they’ve got their flaws but what I loved the most was that this was never used an excuse for him to be a horrible guy to the heroine.
Because, guess what? He wasn’t a horrible guy! Bliss.
Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. You have no idea how much I’ve been wanting to read a book where I actually get why the two characters like each other and don’t fall in love inexplicably with zinging things flying between them every time they look at each other. Needless to say, I adored this book. I was a bit nervous when I read the synopsis because… “if you kiss your true love, he will die”… ehhh.
Then I remembered that Practical Magic (Midnight Margaritas!) is my go to film and I was fine. And when I actually got into the story, my doubts were obliterated.
I wasn’t really prepared for how much I was caught up with these boys and how invested I became in their thoughts, feelings and fear. I know this book alludes to them, but I wasn’t expecting the raven boys to really be the main part of this story. I thought it was going to be Blue and her reaction to them that was going to be the driving force of the novel but I have to admit, when Gansey, Ronan, Noah and Adam were on the page I completely forgot she even existed. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like her or that she was badly written, quite the opposite actually, but the connection and the relationships between these four boys was perfectly executed that Blue existed in my periphery (I’m hoping the second book will delve a bit more into Blue’s family life). I loved how Maggie S really dug her nails into the boys’ bond, prying them apart so nothing was hidden. And I liked how they didn’t fit into the clichés. Sure Gansey was the hero but he’s not always heroic and he certainly isn’t perfect. And yep, I guess you could say that Ronan was the “bad boy” but you’ll probably be waiting for a long time if you think you could change him. And Adam is probably the sensitive one but… you get the gist.
I have absolutely no idea how Maggie S managed to write them in such a vibrant way, a way that was so realistic that I wouldn’t be surprised if I got on the train tomorrow morning and a group of boys, one with his mobile in his hand with high-tops on (I don’t even know what they are, I had to Google them), I wouldn’t be surprised. I think I’ve got a lot to learn from her when it comes to writing not only boys but friendships.
Also, I loved the actual story. I think psychics are my favourite of the paranormal genre… sure, I didn’t know this before I picked up this book, but Maggie S has definitely convinced me. I’m a possibly-not-so secret fan of ghosts and to read all about scrying and candles and energy and ley lines and all that sort of thing was absolutely fantastic and such a change from what I’d normally read.
There’s questions unanswered and secrets still shimmering under the surface but I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next. I have a feeling this is a series I will be following like a ley line… or a boy with a faded Coca-Cola t-shirt.
I wonder if Gansey and the Gang know that King Arthur and his knights supposedly sleep under Alderley Edge? I think I could forget about my slight fear of flying to navigate a helicopter around the skies above Cheshire... well, as long as Adam’s there to hold my hand.
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 love this series so much but I have a sad feeling that it isn’t going to be as well-loved as it deserves to be. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s probaI love this series so much but I have a sad feeling that it isn’t going to be as well-loved as it deserves to be. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s probably because it’s more for younger young adults or because there’s no love story (unless you count Freddie, which you should. You should always count Freddie) and there’s no angst and the world isn’t complicated and edgy and it’s a magical-historical romp through Britain.
But… um… well, those are all the reasons why I adore Ms Burgis’ series. They’re so much fun. This might sound like a negative point to a few of you but when I pick up one of the Kat Stephenson’s books, I know exactly what I’m getting. I know I’m not going to be left glaring at the author photo in anger that the ending left me in tatters and I know that I’m not going to be rolling my eyes at the simpering heroine. It’s safe… but it’s the good safe. I like reading books knowing that I’ll enjoy them. And I very much enjoyed this book.
I have to admit, I didn’t get as carried away with this second book as much as I did with the first one and I think I know exactly why this is. In my review of An Improper Magick, I discussed how much I loved the relationship between the sisters (I invoked the Power of the March sisters. Which is always a good thing) and, unfortunately, this story kind of skimped on that.
Slight spoilers for the first book. I’ll tell you when you can come back.
(view spoiler)[Elissa is in marital bliss with the jittery Mr Collingwood and is only in the first few chapters of this book before she disappears on her honeymoon. And Angeline… well… well. I’ll let you find about that when you read this book. But it involves Freddie (*girly sigh*) and she’s hardly in it either. (hide spoiler)]
OK, come back now.
As much as I love Kat, I think her sisters bring the best out in her. They kind of amplify everything that I adored about her and their interactions were wonderful. I also think that this would have been a great opportunity to get to know Charles and Kat’s dad a bit more. We got brief glimpses of Daddy Stephenson but not nearly enough. I think they’re really different and unique characters and Charles always makes me laugh and, trying not to spoil it here, he had a really important part in this story… I just think it was a bit of a waste. This book got a lot better towards the end where the story seem to find its feet a bit more. I’m not sure what it was, possibly that it took me a while to find the time to read it, but it definitely lost some momentum in the middle.
But apart from that, it’s a great story and Kat’s still brilliant and the world that Ms Burgis has created is still fantastic. I can’t wait to read the next one (last one? Possibly?) and see what other mischief Kat gets up to, hopefully with more family members in tow.
And Freddie, of course. Always Freddie.
You can find this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog, Wear the Old Coat.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Under the Mesquite by Ms Garcia McCall was one of the most underrated books I read last year. I’m not sure whether it was because I’ll always have a sUnder the Mesquite by Ms Garcia McCall was one of the most underrated books I read last year. I’m not sure whether it was because I’ll always have a soft spot for well-written, beautiful verse novels, or because it was just a gorgeous and very affective story, but it’s wonderful and I would recommend it to you all in a heartbeat.
And while I didn’t have the same love for Summer of the Mariposas, I still really enjoyed it.
The Mexican and Aztec influences absolute thrum through this story, weaving all the other threads of character and plot and creating a rich and gorgeous book. Unfortunately, I have limited (read: zilch) experience and knowledge in Mexican or Aztec culture so I have a feeling that a lot of the references went over my head. And, I guess, a lot of the magic went with it. I took as much from this story as I could but I can’t help but think the reason why I didn’t love this story as much as I wanted to was because it lacked the magic that I found with Under the Mesquite.
That’s not to say that Ms Garcia McCall skimped on the detail and just threw random Aztec beliefs at you left, right and centre. They were wonderfully incorporated into the girl’s adventure but some of them just didn’t really stick with me. Also, they kind of got a tiny bit repetitive. I guess that’s one of the sad things about reading a book about a completely different culture; unless you have an already existing knowledge of it, as much as you want to it’s sometimes difficult to not see it through your own eyes that you are used to seeing your own world through.
Does that make sense? I’m not sure if it does but I can’t think of how else to explain it.
But I did learn something from this book and I will always adore stories that are steeped in tradition and folklore and superstition. There’s something so pure and interesting about them and I always want to know more. Actually, this book has a wonderful “Author’s Note” that explains more about the inspiration behind the mystical things that the sisters experience which was much appreciated and gave me a great starting point to begin to find out about the stories that are referenced in this story. All of this folklore and beliefs gave this book an incredibly beautiful “campfire” type of feel or, because you don’t get many opportunities to sit around campfires in Manchester, the kind of story your grandparents would tell you on a rainy day while you drink tea and eat ginger biscuits. If Under the Mesquite made me realise that Ms Garcia McCall could work her way around beautiful verse, Summer of the Mariposas ensured my belief that she could do the same with prose. The language was stunning and gave the book a dreamy feel to it, like when the sun’s setting and everything is painted in that glorious dusky orange colour.
“We splashed around in that cold, clear water like river nymphs, born to swim and bathe till the end of days. It was a magical time, full of dreaminess and charm, a time to watch the mariposas emerge out of their cocoons, gather their courage, and take flight while we floated faceup in the water.”
All in all, this book is lovely. It’s a story about the connections between sisters, growing up, finding out who you want to be and a gorgeous exploration of the bond between a daughter and her mother. If you’re looking for a gentle story with an important moral, then you should definitely pick up this book. And then read Under the Mesquite because it’s even better.
Although, I must warn you: if you’re hungry, you should not read this book. I swear one of these days Ms Garcia McCall is going to end up with me on her doorstep with an empty plate held out and an expectant look on my face. When she keeps talking about tortillas like that, she only has herself to blame.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers. ...more
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.
There is something wonderful about finding someone you know you can send them e-mails in the middle of the night full of capital letters and shoddy puThere is something wonderful about finding someone you know you can send them e-mails in the middle of the night full of capital letters and shoddy punctuation and even just ‘THIS BOOK’ and know that they will understand exactly what you are feeling. Mine is Rey*. When I saw that she had picked up Creepy & Maud and loved it, I knew that unless something drastic happened (we won’t mention this book) I will love it too. So I read it and…. THIS BOOK. The first chapter of this book is probably one of the most bizarre opening chapters I’ve ever read. I was reading it while I was sat on the train and a very serious looking business man reading The Times was sitting next to me and I was so conscious that he was reading over my shoulder I sort of angled myself away from him. I was so nervous that I would rather have my shoulder rammed into by the food trolley than have Serious Man see what I was reading. I mean, how do you explain why you’re reading a book where someone has pissed in someone’s shoe? I’ll leave you with that thought.
This book is a revelation in Young Adult fiction. I’ve never read anything quite like this before and I don’t even know how to review it. As you can tell, I’m kind of dancing around actually talking about the book because it’s been about a week and I still don’t have my thoughts sorted out. I have a Kindle full of underlined words and a note pad full of sentences separated into five syllables but that’s it.
So I’ll try.
When I read the synopsis I had serious misgivings. A creepy boy using binoculars to watch his next door neighbour who is also endearingly weird as well? Urgh. The girl is obviously going to be edgy and have crazy coloured hair and listen to Indie Bands You’ve Never Heard Of and be kooky and bizarre in the best kind of way, right? But Rey and I both have Thoughts and Feelings about those kinds of girls so when she said that Maud was wonderful, I trusted her. Kinda. Not that I doubted her but usually when an awkward boy falls in love with a girl in a book she’s so quirky and different and nooneseverbeenlikeherbeforeandthey’llneverbelikeheragain and, well, yawn.
Maud is nothing of the sort. I’m actually going to start by talking about Maud because she is glorious and she broke my heart in a subtle and roundabout way.
“I live my life through a glass darkly, waiting for the light to fascinate me”
One of my major gripes with young adult fiction is when a character gets lumped with a mental illness so they’re seen as ‘quirky’. Mental illness is not, and will never be, a quirk. Nor is it tragically beautiful. As Rey said in one of our e-mails there is no such thing as ‘tragically beautiful’. It is either beautiful… or it’s tragic. Thankfully, Ms Touchell knows this and portrays mental illness and problems absolutely brilliantly. It’s never dwelled on just to make sure you realise that Sad Things Are Happening or glorified or sensationalised. It is what it is and it’s there. And that makes it all the more poignant.
“I never know the right thing to say or think and sometimes I forget where I am and say things I should not. Or say things I would not if I took a minute to step outside my own head. I like it in here. In my head, I mean. It is other people who are worried about what is going on in there. I have decided not to come out of my head. If they want me, they can come in”.
But before you think that this book is just an ‘issue’ book about mental illness, it’s not at all. Just because Ms Touchell knows how to deal with “taboo” and “uncomfortable” and “edgy” topics fantastically well, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know how to write a hilarious joke.
Some books I find are trying so hard to make you laugh that they repeat the same joke over and over again until you’re at the point where you just want to bellow ‘YES. I GET IT.’ It’s almost like they tell the joke and pause, waiting for your laugh. Creepy & Maud doesn’t do that. The jokes are subtle and deliciously dark and uncomfortable and it takes them a while to sink in but when they do… I swear, my “I’m-on-a-train-so-I-can’t-belly-laugh-so-I’ll-just-snort-through-my-nose-in-the-most-unladylike-of-manners” came out so often I lost count.
Maybe I just have a messed up sense of humour, but I’m OK with this. There is a part about sandwiches after a funeral that is still making me laugh.
And that was down to Creepy, my little fruit loop. I have so much time for this boy. He’s strange and odd. The only way I can describe him is he’s not the kind of weirdo that you cross the road to avoid him… but that’s only because he’s hiding in the shrubbery watching you from afar, stroking a furless cat. No seriously. I won’t say that Creepy isn’t, well, creepy. Because he is. He is creepily creepy. I mean, he watches a girl from his bedroom window, there is no way that won’t be creepy. Ms Touchell doesn’t make it romantic or cute but she makes it uncomfortable and strangely captivating.
“Am I sounding creepy? Love is sort of creepy. When you fall in love, you presuppose all sorts of things about the person. You superimpose all kinds of ideals and fantasies on them. You create all manner of unrealistic, untenable, unsatisfiable criteria for that person, automatically guaranteeing their failure and your heartbreak. And what do we call it? Romance. Now that’s creepy.”
I-love-you-Cree-py. I have to talk about the writing in this book. It is absolutely stunning. I am so glad I read this on my Kindle so I could highlight to my heart’s content because I seriously think the ink in my pen would have ran out if I were to write all the quotes down in my notebook.
“But love is not rational or reasonable or logical. It is a bird’s nest made of capillary and nerve and dubious judgement.”
“From time to time, when I’m feeling sad, I draw myself reflected in his window, superimposed on him like a ghost, or a paper doll’s dress, with my gold and serpent belt. So he is looking at me and I am looking back at myself.”
“Coda: It is best to stay alert when it does not take much to make them crack.”
“At least, with blinds pulled up, she’ll get some sun. By mid-afternoon the sun will hit her window in such a way that I’ll hardly be able to see her. She’ll disappear inside refraction and glare.”
As much as I want you all to read this book, I know for a fact that some of you will absolutely hate it. This isn’t a love story. It’s a story about the love that exists in the gap between two windowpanes. You might think there isn’t a difference, but there is.
Some of you will think it goes too far. Some of you might think it’s a bit dull. Some of you might think it’s too distasteful. Hopefully, though, some of you will think it’s brilliant.
Without sounding like a cliché, I seriously think that this is an either you’ll adore it or you’ll hate it book. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratings on Goodreads and blogs for Creepy & Maud will be evenly split. I predict that there will be lots of one star ratings and there will be tons of five star ratings. I hope there will be discussion between these two tribes, though. (I regret nothing). Seriously though, I think that this kind of discussion is exactly what Ms Touchell would want her story to encourage.
It’s obvious from the subject matter, the characters and the way this story is told that she’s not looking to be safe author who is universally loved. This book obviously wasn’t written for world domination but that makes me love this book even more.
Remember a few years ago when us Brits got together and rebelled against the fact that every year the same old same old X-Factor winner would get the Christmas number one? And there was a huge (and successful) campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name to number one? That’s what I want to do for books like this one and all the others that fly under the radar. I just want to see how many readers are out there who aren’t afraid to read something that is a bit odd and not necessarily something they’d think of reading. It’s nice to step out of my comfort zone every now and again. I wish more publishing houses took risks like this because this is what readers mean when they say they want something “different”.
And that’s why I love reading because I want to hear these stories that are simply dy-ing-to-be-told.
*When I told Rey that the beginning of my review had basically turned into a love letter to her, she asked me to write her an actual love letter. So here you go:
If this book was written by any other author, I would have probably avoided it. I think “16 year old girl wins 8 million on the lottery” is one of theIf this book was written by any other author, I would have probably avoided it. I think “16 year old girl wins £8 million on the lottery” is one of the most eye-rolling-inducing synopses since “Teenager girl meets vampire. Things happen.”
But after reading When I Was Joe, Keren David quickly become one of my favourite British contemporary writers. So I thought I’d give it a go.
From reading other people’s reviews of this book, I have gathered that people weren’t too fussed about Lia. She is spoilt, oblivious, used to getting what she wants and, well, she’s kind of a bitch. But, just to be difficult, I really liked her. I’m not sure whether it’s because of Ms David’s glorious ability to make even the most unlikeable characters into entertaining characters but I laughed a lot. Yes she was spoilt and yes she was ridiculous and, oh yes, she was a bitch. But…. Well, a lot of 16 year old girls are. Especially when they’ve just been given a cheque for £8 million. I thought she was great.
And then we have the love interest. He is called Rafael Forrest. Let’s just dwell on that for a moment…
Rafael Forrest. I mean… come on. I’m sorry but I, in my twenty three years of life, have never met a boy called Rafael. Am I just hanging out in the wrong places? About 84% of the boys I know are called Dave. Character names are one of my major pet hates in YA fiction. I’ve had this conversation with Anna so many times I have lost count (ok, maybe it’s a bit one sided. It’s basically just me sending e-mails full of capital letters to her saying “I WISH FOR THERE TO BE MORE YA LOVE INTERESTS CALLED DAVE”). I want normal names. Just because you have an interesting name, doesn’t automatically make your character interesting. I would like more YA boys to be called Matt or Joe or Dan or Chris. The chances of meeting a ‘Hunter’ or a ‘Wolff’ or a ‘Rafael Forrest’ while you’re freezing your kecks off at the bus stop are slim to none. Unfortunate, I know, but that’s the UK for you.
That being said, I quite liked Raf. I liked how he was a bit jittery and how even though he was a bit mysterious, he wasn’t paranormal mysterious. And even though normally I get really angry when authors mention Twilight in their books, Lia’s belief that Raf is a graveyard-dwelling-vampire made me laugh a lot. It was a nice touch and a cheeky ribbing to the YA genre, which I always appreciate. His backstory was a bit….. well, I’ll mention that later.
The story was fine. It’s pretty much what you expect when you think of 16 year old girl winning the lottery. There’s the initial “MUST BUY EVERYTHING” followed by the inevitable guilt and then the “girl learns things” bit. But Ms David writes in such a way that you kind of forget the clichés (well, almost) because of her wonderfully dry humour and, more importantly, the way she sees contemporary Britain. With humour and intelligence.
I have to admit, I got a bit muddled at the end. While I appreciate that Ms David didn’t go down the usual ‘What problems should a girl who has just won the lottery face?’ route, there were certain parts that I didn’t really understand what the point of adding them to the story was. For example, the whole Jack/Shaz/Lia… thing. In theory, I liked it but I wished that Ms David had elaborated on it more. But as there were so many other things happening at the same time, it kind of got ignored and only dwelled on briefly. I wasn’t really sure what it brought to the plot. Also, in the same vein, and I’m being very wary of spoilers, Raf’s situation. It would have been brilliant, if it was explored properly as opposed to kind of just “Oh yeah, that happened”. I just can’t help but feel that it took the emotional impact, and one that it deserved, away from it.
Overall, this book was OK. I wonder whether my ambivalence towards Lia’s story was swayed because of how much I loved Joe’s? Possibly. It wasn’t terrible but it was just OK. If you are interested in reading Keren David’s books, then I implore you to start with When I Was Joe.