Just when I thought I was maybe growing 'out' of young adult books, along came Cammie McGovern, and alongside her came Amy and Matthew, reminding me e...moreJust when I thought I was maybe growing 'out' of young adult books, along came Cammie McGovern, and alongside her came Amy and Matthew, reminding me exactly why I fell in love with YA in the first place.
Amy and Matthew seems like a book that was written for me - it contains everything I love and most importantly, two imperfect protagonists who were easy to admire from the very beginning. Both characters have diagnosable 'disabilities', Amy has Cerebral Palsy and Matthew has OCD. Though both conditions can be very disabling, the characters certainly don't just sit back and let their problems dominate them, which is probably the main reason why I admired them so much. Their lives are undoubtedly affected, as anybody who has (or who has had) an illness will know, and it that's certainly a largely covered issue in the book, but I absolutely loved, and was so relieved, that the personalities of the characters were at the forefront. I enjoyed seeing how the two characters leaned on each other and how their relationship helped improve their wellbeing.
Amy and Matthew learn a lot about themselves through each other and this creates such a perfect chemistry between the two and it's something very special. Amy and Matthew are, quite simply, perfect for each other. If I was Amy, I would love a guy like Matthew, and if I was Matthew, I'd love a girl like Amy. I don't think that anybody could deny that. The two characters are really quite different and that is patly why they work so well together. Though Amy is less physically able than Matthew, she's perhaps slightly stronger emotionally, where as Matthew is more physically able but has a harder time with his emotions. I was very interested to see what Amy was really like, what she really thought and felt, as she seemed like, and was, a very complex person. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in her situation, but I think that McGovern portrayed her amazingly well. I liked seeing how both characters changed throughout the book - I was particularly impressed with Matthew's improvements and recovery.
As someone who has both chronic physical pain and mental illnesses, from what I understand of Amy and Matthew's issues, they were described well and I am glad that their issues were portrayed in a very frank, but not hyperbolic way. I sympathised with them, but didn't pity them. It is good to finally be able read a book about real people with real issues, trying to lead a normal lifestyle.
I hope it's clear how much I loved this book! It's difficult to write in a review, as you really do have to 'meet' Amy and Matthew through reading. I can not thank McGovern enough for getting me back into this genre and reminding me of everything I love about contemporary YA. Amy and Matthew is definitely one of the top YA books out there at the moment. Move over, The Fault In Our Stars and make way for Amy and Matthew! (less)
Salvage is a book that has had many positive comments and quite a bit of excitement revolving around it, especially here in the United Kingdom, so I w...moreSalvage is a book that has had many positive comments and quite a bit of excitement revolving around it, especially here in the United Kingdom, so I was very excited to receive a copy for review. Salvage is a young adult book with interesting subject matter, exploring an interesting story. I usually really enjoy books about real life issues, so I was really hoping that I'd love this one.
I really liked the idea behind this book. We are introduced to Cass, our female narrative, as her adopted family has started to break up. As her father is a well known politician, the story hits the newspapers, one including a photograph of Cass. This is when we're introduced to our male narrative, Aidan, who despite having not seen her for years, almost instantly recognises his long lost sister. As Aidan contacts her, a lot of his history unravels and we read through the complexities of both Cass and Aidan's lives and learn a bit more about their past. In Aidan's eyes, Cass received the best adoptive middle-class parents possible, whereas he himself had more problems, partially due to issues with his birth mother's partners and also with his own emotional/anger problems.
Cass was a reasonably likeable character, she wasn't anything special which worked to the novel's advantage, it's easy to imagine her as someone you know and it was great to see her as a regular daughter to her adoptive parents, rather than simply seeing her as an adopted child - it just seemed like a 'normal' family dynamic. I can't say that I loved Cass, because there wasn't anything about her that particularly enamoured me, but I found her simplicity to work well, especially when paired with perhaps the quirkiest member of her school, the desirable and individual Will. I really liked Will ask he did seem to have an edge to him - he didn't go out of his way to be different, he simply was and he was also a very loveable character and if he was real, I would definitely like to have a friend like him.
Aidan was a much more interesting character to me and he certainly had, or at least remembered, a much more unstable beginning, living with some abuse and also, understandably, going through periods of time where he found it difficult to control his own emotions. Aidan is now living with his girlfriend and her son, a family relationship which is explored in the story and possibly the most interesting exploration, in my opinion. It was interesting to see how Aidan coped when bringing his past and current life together, and seeing how he and Cass both differed yet bonded.
Overall, Salvage was a well written and easily to read book that I would recommend to teenagers and fans of realistic YA. I think that the book was written simply and modestly enough to attract young teens, but perhaps it's a little too simplistic or modest for those older young adult fans who prefer a little more complexity. The story is interesting enough to hold your attention throughout, though I admit that I did find it a little too predictable to enjoy the 'big reveals' towards the end. Nevertheless, I can see why this book has been given great praise as it is exactly what it offers, a page turner which will attract young adults who enjoy reading about gritty real life issues.(less)
When Mr Dog Bites is a rather difficult book for me to review. I should start by saying that I didn't know all that much about this book before I star...moreWhen Mr Dog Bites is a rather difficult book for me to review. I should start by saying that I didn't know all that much about this book before I started reading - I only read the blurb, and I haven't read anything by this author before. From that alone, I was excited to get started. I loved the sound of this contemporary YA read.
I love reading about real life issues, so reading about a teenager growing up with Tourette's was definitely something that appealed to me and I was interested in how well the subject would be portrayed. Our protagonist, Dylan, also believes he is going to die soon and so I was also interested in seeing what he found most important and what he had on his bucket list. Dylan soon takes action and attempts to win his best friend, Amir, a new pal, and hopes to seduce Michelle Malloy into having sex with him. Alongside that storyline, another issue which is explored throughout the book is Dylan's relationship with his parents, particularly with his father. I found the whole 'revelation' to be extremely predictable, but it did add another slightly more sensible issue to the book, which I thought was appropriate.
When Mr Dog Bites is a strange book to review, because even days after reading it, I'm not sure how I feel about it and I think that it may divide readers. I think the book was okay, it was enjoyable, because I was laid back and relaxed about the issues and situations discussed. There is probably quite a lot of parts of this book that people will take offence to - mocking of disability, racist slurs for example, but rather this is something that gives the story some authenticity, some realism and admittedly, it does add some humour. Conaghan certainly isn't shy in regards to approaching some of those more slightly controversial issues and casually throwing them out into the open. There is quite a lot of profanity in the book, and at points it sometimes unfortunately did feel quite forced, making reading a little tiresome. However, it can't be denied that these things are also what made the characters more real and in the end, more likeable. Despite not particularly liking Dylan's attitude or outlook at the beginning, I did feel like I really knew him by the end of the book and yes, I could understand him and his feelings more.
Overall, this is a book that I think that will be successful, as long as the potential readers are laid back and aren't going to over analyse it. It's not an ideal book to review, because I don't think it's some sort of masterpiece, nor is it trying to be. This book seems like an attempt to make readers open up towards some issues that probably shouldn't be so stigmatised in the first place, which can only be a good thing. (less)
Mother, Mother is a story unlike any other that I've read before it. When I first read the blurb of the book, I thought it sounded fantastic - like so...moreMother, Mother is a story unlike any other that I've read before it. When I first read the blurb of the book, I thought it sounded fantastic - like something I would find fascinating, and it was, but it was actually so much more. This book messed with my mind, it made me unsure of who to believe, what to believe and as soon as I thought I had a stable idea of a character, I could turn the page and the author could shatter the illusion. Strangely enough, this is why it exceeded my expectations!
Mother, Mother asks us a question - what if your mother, someone you are meant to trust above all, is your worst enemy? We are introduced to the Hurst family who help us to see what could happen. We're introduced to the points of view of Josephine and Douglas Hurst's two children - Violet, a teenage girl who enjoys experimenting with drugs and ends up in a psychiatric ward and her younger brother Will, who is homeschooled as he has been diagnosed with autism and seizures. There was another daughter in the family, Rose, who ran away years earlier. One night after taking drugs, Violet claims to see Rose, but is swiftly admitted into hospital. After receiving a letter from her, Violet tries to investigate what really went on with Rose.
It's difficult for me to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I will try not to mention any particular events or happenings. I was particularly interested in Rose's experience at the psychiatric hospital, as it seemed quite genuine and I also think that I connected with her above all of the other characters, she is the one that I trusted the most. I did however, also become very interested in Will's way of thinking - it was clear that he didn't think in the same way as others of his age, but the mystery of whether or not it was nature or nurture really fascinated me.
Other than that, alI can say is that the whole book seems is full of twists and turns, the author cleverly swaying your emotions and trust, surprising you until the last minute. Zailckas seems to have a fantastic psychological knowledge and certainly knows how to write thrillers like this one. I found all of the characters to be fascinating, each different and fighting their own personal battles - even the support characters, such as Detective Flores, Imogene, Finch and their mother. Although we did meet several characters, each felt important and as though they each added value and substance to the story.
I hope it's clear from my review that this is a book that I'd certainly recommend. I haven't read many books that I can compare this one to, but I would definitely like to read more books that are written like this and leave such an impact. The only book that compares to this, impact/afterthought-wise is Room by Emma Donoghue. I would recommend this to anyone because to be honest, I think a lot of different people will enjoy this - I'd imagine that the fan base will be spread very diversely. I truly look forward to seeing what Koren Zailckas comes out with next!(less)
Gretel and the Dark was a book that I was excited about reading, but it was also a book that I had slight reservations with as it seemed to cross over...moreGretel and the Dark was a book that I was excited about reading, but it was also a book that I had slight reservations with as it seemed to cross over several genres and themes. After reading, I realise that I shouldn't have had any of those reservations because although there was quite a fantastic complexity to the book, it was handled in the most incredible way, a way that has really left me in awe.
This is truly a book that you need to experience for yourself, rather than just read about. It's very difficult to review as I can't really say anything about the storyline without giving anything away - I found the complexity of it to be awesome, I would hold my breath at points, whilst still being desperate to turn the page to find out what would unfurl next. The writing was beautiful and though it took me a small while to adjust to, once I got into it, I was fully immersed into this book. I was sucked into the deep, dark setting, completely blocking out the reality around me.
The story is perhaps not one for those who are easily upset, as it's one which is certainly disturbing, unsurprisingly due to the but in my opinion, rightly so - though it's not pleasant to read some of the situations or conditions in the story, it has the desired effect on the reader. Embracing the emotions of this book is important and it certainly does have an impact on you. The characters are all very individual and play their own firm roles in the book. The story reveals more and more about the characters as the book progresses, and it only astounded me more as I read on.
Overall, Gretel and the Dark is perhaps one of the most unusual, yet definitely one of the most cleverly, well written books that I have read. It is a treat to become lost in the world of a book, and that is definitely what happened for me in this one. This is a story that really 'wow'ed me and one that I would recommend again and again for historical story lovers, fairytale lovers, or just fiction lovers in general. Pick this up, get quickly lost inside and let this book astound you. (less)