I think one of the things that impresses me most about Lauren Oliver is how diverse she is as a writer. Everything she lends her hand to is completely...moreI think one of the things that impresses me most about Lauren Oliver is how diverse she is as a writer. Everything she lends her hand to is completely different and everything she writes absolutely shines, whether it's young adult or middle grade, series or standalone. Being a good writer is difficult enough but being a good writer across numerous genres and age ranges is staggering. So, a moment of appreciate for Lauren Oliver, please!
The teenagers in Carp are bored, bored, bored. It's a tiny town with nothing going on and summers stretch out endlessly, with no entertainment in sight. Apart from Panic, that is. A dangerous, exhilarating game that is open to all graduating seniors each year, Panic pays out a huge prize to the winner, and this year is the most competitive yet.
Panic is a dual narrative, shared between Heather and Dodge, two competitors who are brought together because of the game but live very different lives. As the story progresses we learn more and more about both Heather and Dodge, their personalities, dreams and motivation. Heather is in it for the money, so she can escape Carp and make a better life for herself and her little sister, and Dodge is in it for revenge, pure and simple.
Panic has a lot going on under the bonnet, so to speak. It's not only about the games and the pressure it puts the competitors under, it's about the competitors themselves, and how all of their lives change over the course of this one summer. We get to know Heather's best friends, Nat and Bishop, who are both important characters, though they don't have their own narrative voice.
The only place where I think Panic suffered ever so slightly is that the scope of the novel is pretty hefty, as it's set over an entire summer, so there are a lot of subplots woven throughout the story. There were so many interesting little stories simmering beneath the surface and I feel a couple of these were skimmed over because of time constraints - particularly Nat's brush with modelling, which was hinted at having a darker side more than once, but unfortunately we didn't really get to find out more, which I was a little disappointed by.
Still, I was gripped by Panic the entire way through and I couldn't wait to find out who the eventual winner would be. I was really pleased by the ending of the story, sure the epilogue was a little cheerful but sometimes it's nice to feel like (most) loose ends have been neatly tied up. Though, in true Lauren Oliver fashion, not everything ended 100% happily, which did give the ending a nice realistic feel.(less)
Now, for the sake of full disclosure I need to let you all know that I didn't finish reading Grasshopper Jungle. In fact, I only made it about a third...moreNow, for the sake of full disclosure I need to let you all know that I didn't finish reading Grasshopper Jungle. In fact, I only made it about a third of the way through before I put it down for good. I'm calling this a 'sort of review' because I haven't read the whole story so I can't give it a full review, but I still wanted to share my thoughts.
Sometimes books just don't work for the reader. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. I was really, really excited to read Grasshopper Jungle and I was sure I'd love it. The summary was great, I tend to always love Electric Monkey's releases, I thought the cover was brilliant - it was all good. Except, however hard I tried, I just couldn't get into the story.
I can't really explain why I didn't finish Grasshopper Jungle, as there's nothing to dislike about this book. The story is unique, the characters are interesting and the writing is great - but I just couldn't connect with the characters and I found myself distanced from the story.
I'm so disappointed as I keep reading amazing reviews of this one and I feel like everybody got something that I didn't. I read a few chapters, put it down for a while, picked it up and read a few more, took a break, read a couple more... and it just wasn't happening. Reading this was a chore and my mind kept drifting to tens of other books while I was trying to get into it. It happens, and it sucks.
It happened with Darcy Burdock, it happened with Geek Girl, and now it's happened with Grasshopper Jungle. It's blinking annoying but it's the way things go; sometimes the whole world loves a book but you just don't get it. And that's okay, because if we all loved the same things how dull would the world be?
Don't let my (sort of) review put you off - I am pretty much the only person in the entire world who didn't love this book! Just hop over (hilarious grasshopper pun) to the Grasshopper Jungle Goodreads page to have a look and some infinitely more positive reviews. (less)
I devoured the Mates, Dates series when I was a teenager so when I met Cathy Hopkins at an event last month I was ridiculously excited - isn't it grea...moreI devoured the Mates, Dates series when I was a teenager so when I met Cathy Hopkins at an event last month I was ridiculously excited - isn't it great when somebody you've admired for years turns out to be even lovelier than you thought? When I was offered her newest novel for review I jumped at the chance - and boy, am I glad I did!
Playlist for a Broken Heart follows Paige's journey as she moves from Surrey to Bath, after her family suffer financial losses and have to downsize...majorly. Paige has to leave her best friend, Allegra, her crush, Alex, and her part as Juliet in her school's production of Romeo and Juliet.
She feels lonely and isolated in Bath and isn't sure how she's going to fit in, though when she spots a home made mix CD in a charity shop and discovers each of the songs is somehow relevant to her situation things start to look up. Throw in her sharp but sweet cousin and her fashion-forward friend, Clover, and Paige starts to enjoy her new life in Bath. Plus, she quickly discovers the boys aren't all that bad either!
When Paige goes on a quest to track down the person who made the 'Songs for Sarah' CD that seems to be matching her own stresses and worries she realises that her new home might just be the best thing that happened to her.
Hopkins does such a brilliant job, as always, at writing realistic teenagers and Paige's thoughts and feelings are absolutely spot on. I love the way the mystery surrounding the CD slowly unfurls as the story progresses and the romantic elements of the book are handled really well. Hopkins has always been awesome when it comes to dialogue and Playlist for a Broken Heart is no exception - the dialogue feels fresh and current.
I have to say, though, my favourite part of the book is the setting! Lovely, beautiful Bath! Ah, it was great to read a book set in the city I'll always think of as home and Bath is such a wonderful place to set a book - it's such a vibrant, gorgeous place that it becomes a character in its own right.
Playlist for a Broken Heart is a sweet, funny story that I adored. It's a perfect summery read that'll leave you with a big grin on your face - and you'll be packing your bags ready for a trip to Bath, I promise.(less)