Although this wasn't my favourite David Levithan collaboration novel, I still really enjoyed it, and I loved the fresh angle that Nina LaCour gave it.Although this wasn't my favourite David Levithan collaboration novel, I still really enjoyed it, and I loved the fresh angle that Nina LaCour gave it. At the very beginning of the book, I was convinced that this was going to be quite similar to the 'David and Rachel' books – boy meets girl at an evening event and they have a one-night adventure where, despite their differences, they begin to fall for one another. But no, this was not that. For one, the boy meets girl had a different purpose – Kate and Mark quickly become friends in order to help the other overcome their separate relationship woes. And another thing? Both of them are gay. That's right – a lesbian in a David Levithan novel! Thank you, Nina! This is a rare occurrence for David Levithan, his books mostly being about gay boys (not that I don’t love David, because I really do!).
It was refreshing to see a platonic relationship at the centre of the story, and also to not have the romances in the book written through rose-tinted glasses. Not everything works out as the characters want it to, which I felt was so much more true to life than if things had always gone their way. And these ups and downs allowed their characters to grow and to find themselves in amongst the messes that they found themselves stuck in at the beginning of the story.
The only thing I might pick up on about the friendship between Kate and Mark is that it happened way too quickly. Kate approaches Mark and simply asks him if he wants to be friends (while noting that that is a question only small children might ask). He accepts, and suddenly they're friends who would go out of their way to help each other. This doesn't strike me as completely real – would you really, as a teenager, trust someone that immediately (especially when it comes to something as personal as romantic problems)? I soon forgot this problem though. They worked so well together, despite how different they were, and the story they create together swept me up in its own unique whirlwind. And where the whirlwind dropped me at the end was equally as satisfying as any of David’s other books. The ending was a heart-warming and appropriate way to wave these characters goodbye.
Overall I enjoyed You Know Me Well; the characters felt real, the plot was interesting and I truly loved the platonic relationship of the two main characters. Not everything went to plan – especially when it came to their separate romantic interests – but that just made it feel all the more true to life. This is a quick and fun, and although light and easy to read, it’s still thought-provoking enough to stay in your thoughts. It won’t go down as one of my favourite David Levithan books, but I would definitely read it again in the future. ...more
I first read Cecelia Ahern when I was about 17, starting off with A Place Called Here, a book that I realOriginally reviewed on my blog, Pen to Paper.
I first read Cecelia Ahern when I was about 17, starting off with A Place Called Here, a book that I really loved. Despite that, though, I haven't really read too many of her books, mostly because I rarely read the kind of books she writes. But when I heard she was publisher her first YA novel, my interest was immediately piqued, and I knew I had to read it. Her style was always easy to get on with when I did read anything of hers, so I expected it to be similar with Flawed. If anything, I think Flawed was even easier to get on with than her adult books, and I was drawn into the story almost immediately. But it wasn't until things started to go seriously wrong that I became totally engrossed.
The main character, Celestine, is thought of as the perfect girl – perfect grades, perfect boyfriend (the son of Judge Crevan, the leader of the Guild), not a misfit but not too popular, and she knows where she's heading in life. She never puts a hair out of line and always knows exactly the right things to say. That is until her seemingly perfect neighbour, Angelina Tinder, is accused of being Flawed and taken away to be branded. This rocks Celestine's world and she begins to call into question the system that is supposedly there to keep her world safe and untainted from those who are morally corrupt.
Once Celestine begins to see the cracks in the system, they appear everywhere, and a further incident occurs that leaves her unable to stand by and simply watch. But this act calls her own character into question and she is faced with repercussions that could be with her for a lifetime. But it's what happens when a seemingly perfect and innocent 17-year-old girl is punished for acting out of kindness, logic and compassion that really throws their society into chaos. Celestine never wanted to be the face of change, but this is what she is fast becoming, and she's left scrambling to find her own way, and her own voice, in the sudden chaos of her own life.
Just as I was only really gripped by this story once things started going wrong for Celestine, I only really found myself beginning to like her at that moment too. It was only when she opened her eyes to the wrongs that were being committed around her and began doing something about them that I found her tolerable. Before that she was just like everyone else around her seemed to be; a sheep, a drone. But once she started to act, I found myself really rooting for her. She took things into her own hands, and although reluctant to be a poster girl for either side of the campaign, she was never truly reluctant when it came to doing what she thought was right, and that alone was bringing about change. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and Celestine's shout the loudest.
I guess the main function of Flawed is to discuss what makes 'perfection'. The Guild was set up to remove 'flawed' and corrupted people from positions of power, people who had made mistakes and errors of judgement that had lead to the near-collapse of their society. There are some fantastic quotes that discuss this:
"If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you're never the wiser. These so-called perfect leaders we have no have never made a mistake. How can they have learned what's right and wrong? How could they heave learned anything about themselves? About what they feel comfortable doing, about what they feel is beyond the scope of their character? The more mistakes you have made, the more you have learned."
This is probably one of my favourite quotes from the book, simply because I love (and totally agree with) its message. Making mistakes is one of the most important things you should be allowed to do, because, like the quote states, how else can you grow as a person?
But it wasn't really a mistake that Celestine was making – her act was one that I feel was right, and that is portrayed as right, even if some characters do not agree with it, so there is a level of irony to that – to mark a girl Flawed when she has actually been more right than those who condemn her to be forever branded as wrong.
I enjoyed the direction that Celestine's story went in, but I think I would have preferred a little more to happen before the end of the first book. There was a certain character that I was expecting to play a much larger part in this first instalment, but their role after their initial introduction was only very small. This character was also accused of being Flawed while Celestine was locked up during her trial. Although they never really spoke, a bond was forged between the two anyway. And although we didn't see much of him, I liked him instantly and wanted to know more about him. I'm disappointed that we didn't get to see more of him than we did, but his lack of presence leaves me wanting the second book even more.
I also expected another reveal to happen in this book, which eventually didn't occur. It was a little frustrating, as I feel it's incredibly obvious, even though it's been set up as something apparently surprising. I'm just hoping that it's discovered and moved on from quickly in book two.
Overall, I think I would have wanted the story to be a little further along by the end of this first book, but I am fairly satisfied with it so far. It is by no means a perfect story, but wouldn't that kind of go against the message of the book anyway? (That nothing is truly perfect, and nor should it be?) Celestine is a strong character who I've enjoyed watching grow and develop, and I can't wait to see what happens with her in the next book. I would have liked a little more from some of the other characters, but there is still time for them to come into play in a much bigger way in the next book.
I really enjoyed Flawed and would definitely recommend it.
Other quotes I liked: "Courage does not take over; it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It's a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous."
"I can understand now why people read, why they like to get lost in somebody else's life. Sometimes I'll read a sentence and it will make me sit up, jolt me, because it is something that I have recently felt but never said out loud. I want to reach in to the page and tell the characters that I understand them, that they're not alone, that I'm not alone, that it's okay to feel like this."...more
Definitely my favourite of the series so far, and utterly unputdownable. There are so many fantastic new characters, plot twists, HUGE reveals ... it'Definitely my favourite of the series so far, and utterly unputdownable. There are so many fantastic new characters, plot twists, HUGE reveals ... it's utterly breathtaking. I can't WAIT to see what Queen of Shadows holds for the characters and their friends next.
The Next Together is marketed as a sort of time-travel romance, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s entirelyOriginally reviewed on my blog, Pen to Paper.
The Next Together is marketed as a sort of time-travel romance, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s entirely accurate. It is a romance, I suppose, in that there is a relationship between the two main characters, Matthew and Katherine, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the main focus of the book. Not really.
The relationship between the two characters seems to be a catalyst for other events throughout history. Each time the characters come together – be it in the 18th Century, or the 21st – they affect the events around them. The story seems to be more about what’s happening around the characters than about the relationship itself, especially as we know that the relationship will happen in one way or another each time they appear together in history.
As for time-travel, I don’t think this is necessarily accurate either. There is one moment in the book where you could perhaps call it time travel, but I think a more accurate description would be ‘reincarnation’. Although, if I’m totally honest, this may not be accurate either – there are hints that there is something much deeper going on that the characters don’t yet understand. The characters appear again and again throughout history, but they don’t travel through time. They often die before their ‘objective’ is completed, and appear again in a later period. Saying that, I do love the concept behind this reincarnation. As I said previously, there are hints at something much larger going on, and this mostly comes in the form of the dialogue that appears at the end of most of the chapters. Matthew and Katherine are referred to as ‘subjects’ and their ‘objective’ is mentioned a lot. However, we don’t yet know who or what is behind these messages, or why they are doing what they are. I’m hoping that all will be revealed in the second book.
The first thing that came to mind when I thought about reviewing this book is how easy it was to read. The sections are quite short, jumping from one time period to another quite quickly. This keeps the story moving at a really quick pace, and it almost feels as though you can watch the timelines develop simultaneously. There are also sections written as post-it notes, emails or online news articles, which made the 2019 timeline even more interesting. It felt like a personal glimpse into the characters’ lives, much more so than the chapters written in simple prose. All of these things made the book incredibly easy and fun to read.
I also found it interesting how Matthew and Katherine changed and evolved with each time period. They were clearly the same people, but they were, as you would expect, products of their time and upbringing. This altered their relationship in some expected and unexpected ways, but they always – inevitably – came together in the end. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that took place during the Crimean War, with Katherine (known as Katy, or Kit) impersonating a boy in order to work in a Lord’s house, and then as a journalist’s assistant (the journalist being Matthew). I thought that was a really creative and cunning way for Lauren to have both characters involved in this historical event, and it’s also something quite different to the other chapters (there is only one part of the 18th Century period that is similar).
I also enjoyed how the timelines eventually begin to blur together, with little snippets from their ‘previous lives’ leaking into their dreams or memories. This again hints that there is something bigger going on behind the scenes and I’m really looking forward to discovering what that might be (if it’s revealed in the second book … which I really hope it is).
The one major problem I had with this story was that about two thirds of the way through, other time periods and historical events in which Katherine and Matthew have played a part are mentioned, but we don’t get to see them. One of these is at Bletchley Park, with Alan Turing at the Enigma Code. While I know that there is a short story that focuses on this timeline, I’m still disappointed that it’s not a part of the main novel. I was really confused when it was mentioned so suddenly without having being hinted at previously.
The sequel to The Next Together, titled The Last Beginning, is released in the UK in October. I want to say more about it, to discuss where the story might lead, but that would be a huge spoiler for the ending of this book, so I won’t mention anything further. I will simply say that I am very much looking forward to seeing where the sequel will take me, and what things I might discover there.
This was a fun, light and highly creative YA science-fiction novel, with hidden depths yet to be discovered and plenty of adventure to be had. Although there were a few things that were a little confusing (that I haven’t mentioned because spoilers), it was an enjoyable and fast-paced read that has left me craving the sequel and ending to this daring debut duology (try saying that three times fast!). Highly recommended....more