A bookstore next to my place was closing down and putting all its hidden shelves' stock out on display to sell. I found in the middle of other forgott...moreA bookstore next to my place was closing down and putting all its hidden shelves' stock out on display to sell. I found in the middle of other forgotten books this very cool artistic cover. I fell in love with it immediately after reading a few key words on the back cover "intense relationship", "painful past", "dreadful accident" and "disturbing, manipulative influence" (yes, yes, it's all me, Miss Glass-half-full) and bought it without any other form of questioning. The story revolves around Olivia, who is getting to know better and better her boarding school friend Leila, a brilliant and very lonely girl, who seems to be carrying a burden from her past. Going to her house for the summer, Olivia discovers bit by bit what happened 9 years ago, with Leila's baby brother, her bitter stepmother Katherine and her evil friend Rosie.
The first surprise is that it is the author Sarah Stovell's first (and only for now) book, and that it is a very interesting debut novel. Not only is the writing pretty gripping with its change of narrator / change of point of view style where you discover new clues each time over what happened. But the plot is incredible because you question the past events until the very end. The second surprise is that the two main characters - Leila and Olivia - are actually a couple (talk about all-girl boarding schools fantasies...), and you discover the intensity of their feelings as the novel unfolds, but the LGBT theme in itself is not the point of this book. The real theme of the book is love, not the gooey glittery pink love that you see in most romances, but the love for the other (whomever), for who that person is (flaws, mistakes, doubts, evil included). This love encompasses the love between lovers, between friends, but also between members of the same family. The relationship between Leila and her stepmother Katherine has always been strained, even from the very beginning, and I feel that Stovell's talent has been to create such a depth in their feelings for each other without leaning too much on it by plainly describing it.
Sarah Stovell's Mothernight page on her editor Snowbooks website specifies that the title comes from the night of the Winter Solstice, called Mother Night in Norse mythology, which is the night where Leila's baby brother dies nine years before. But my curiosity googled the title and it also comes from a paragraph in Goethe's Faust which hints that there can be no light without darkness. Voluntary or not, this reference is totally embodied by the characters, all of them on different scales. I can't resist to put the very poetic extract from Faust:
"A man, the microcosmic fool, down in his soul Is wont to think himself a whole, But I'm part of the Part which at the first was all, Part of the Darkness that gave birth to Light, The haughty Light that now with Mother Night Disputes her ancient rank and space withal, And yet 'twill not succeed, since, strive as strive it may, Fettered to bodies will Light stay." Faust - Goethe
I wouldn't say that this is a must-read or one of the best books I have ever read, but it is a very promising debut, and Sarah Stovell is definitely a writer I will look out for in the future, hopefully not in hidden and forgotten stacks of books.(less)
This book is very simple and short, but it is so beautifully written that its meaning is very powerful and feels just right. It happens often that in...moreThis book is very simple and short, but it is so beautifully written that its meaning is very powerful and feels just right. It happens often that in the moment you need your friends the most because of how much you struggle with your identity, they reject you or don't know how to talk to you, and you end up feeling more alone than you could ever feel. And often, help and advice comes in the most unexpected manner from a most unexpected person. Even though the subject is very serious, I found that the story gave hope.
Lissa struggles with her sexuality after she and Kate kissed at a drunken party, and it hurts her even more that Kate ignores her whereas she is the only one whom Lissa could talk to about these things. Kate, after the kiss, seems very concerned about what people could think, how they could find out. As if they did something wrong. And she prefers denying those feelings rather than trying to understand them.
One of the main things I liked in Lauren Myracle's book was the doubts and interrogation Lissa felt after what happened between Kate and herself. I found it very touching and it was very well brought up in the book. Lissa says at one point that she can't possibly tell people in high school: they would either laugh at what a freak she was, avoid her, or make nasty comments about two girls going with a guy "if they were hot enough". That is what many people usually get when they mention their sexuality. Being a teenage girl is already very hard on Lissa, because she never felt like she belonged before, and now it feels like she is doing something bad. I found that the relation between Lissa and Kate before and after the kiss was incredible. Because no matter how people are "ok with homosexuality", it is still a very "not in my backyard" kind of ok. I also found it interesting how Lissa interacts with her sister about issues of growing up, and how she takes the place of her Mom to help her little sister throughout her teenage years.
I like the character of Ariel *weird people rock*. And I love how Lauren Myracle writes about different people. As in people who are different. I am not saying this to say that it's good to have those characters as a "diversity quota", it is just that in many YA books that I read, I find that diversity is practically inexistent. People are white, healthy, have no important physical and intellectual issues, and reading Kissing Kate felt like a breeze of cool air on a very sunny day (not that we would know what this feels like in the UK). Lauren Myracle invents and describes characters that exist everywhere and yet are highly overlooked in fictions. They might be seen as boring, too loud, not funny, hardly pretty, have a lazy eye and wobbly knees but they are way more common than the flawless-perfect-hair-perfect-body-perfect-bank-account girl types you read in other books. And they're the only characters worth reading, but that's just my point of view ! I also found that the adult characters were very sweet and well described, especially the singles' club.
It is such a wonderful book ! I think that even if you are not questioning yourself about what you like, or having a tough time at school, you should read this book, it is fascinating and makes you look at things from a different perspective. But more than that, the book is an ode to people in general with all their little habits and flaws which make them irresistibly human.(less)
I whole-heartedly love this book. If you haven't read it, don't read my review and go buy it. I hadn't read anything about this book when I bought it...moreI whole-heartedly love this book. If you haven't read it, don't read my review and go buy it. I hadn't read anything about this book when I bought it and I think it made a difference when I did because I had no idea how the retelling part would work out and what would change from the original story. I will divide this review in two parts, one for the people who haven't read it, and a second part with spoilers. Don't read the spoilers if you want to read this book. Seriously. By the way don't you love my Spoiler Alert Bat ? *I LOVE it !*
I like all the characters, they are all very well described and faithful to the spirit of the original tale. And I say spirit because they are not entirely similar to the original story. Ash is much tougher than in the original version for instance, she is much more linked to the fairy world and that is very interesting. I find the stepmother very mean but - not that I excuse her attitude towards Ash - has her reasons to and it looks much more credible. It is the same for the two daughters.
I love Malinda Lo's take on fairies in the story. In the original version, there is a fairy godmother, but nothing much is said about that. Whereas in Ash, the whole fairy theme is fully explored and used in this story. I also like the part where Ash doesn't receive the magic, she trades it and I find it to be very interesting to see her make that choice. I also like the fairy tales and legends that are told in the book. I really loved how it was linked to nature and tradition. I grew up in a small village, and everyone knows the old sayings and beliefs. And I also like how the story is centred around nature, and I feel that Malinda Lo really gave the book this feeling of nature being more than just leaves and eath and something which ought to be respected.
Now for the romance, I absolutely love Malinda Lo's take on the fairy tale. The love story doesn't come as the poor girl falling in love with the rich and handsome prince. In this version Ash has a real active part in the relation and the love comes from mutual respect and admiration. You see Ash grow up because of the situations in her life, but also when she realises her feelings.
The writing is absolutely beautiful and you fall in this story right at the beginning.
FYI: why the name 'Ash' I don't know if people actually wonder why on earth Malinda Lo called the book Ash but I will explain anyway: Cinderella is a fairy tale that has many origins, but has been made famous by the 1600s version of French writer Charles Perrault. The original name in French is Cendrillon, of which Cinderella is a simplistic translation. In the German version though, the Grimm brothers called the character Aschenputtel or Aschenbrödel which contains the word Ash. The first part of the word (Cendre) means ash and the second comes from souillon which means dirty/soiled. There are at least two reason why the character has a name related to ash. First because in the original tale, when Cinderella has finished her chores, she goes to sleep on ash (so she is always full of ash herself and was nicknamed Cendrillon). And second, ash has always been a symbol of humiliation and punishment.
I am advising this book to everyone really, this is such a beautiful story. *awww look at me getting all sentimental*
Do not read further if you don't want to be spoiled !
Yeah, I can see you still reading here ! Last chance not to.
I couldn't bring myself not to talk about this subject, but I still wanted people who don't like spoilers to discover the interesting twist to Cinderella in Ash. And this is actually the same reason why I have labelled this post "LGBT" and linking it to my LGBT Challenge 2010.
Intrigued, are you ?
I personally didn't know about Ash being "the retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist" when I started reading the book, and I am so happy I didn't because I was so pleasantly surprised by what followed.
Ash, after so many horrible years spent serving her cruel stepmother, finds a reason to love again. This reason is Kaisa, the King's huntress. Their love starts as a mutual profound respect and admiration for each other, which evolves in something more. I cannot possibly express how much this is a very important twist and how beautifully written it is. Some newspaper critics were harsh on Malinda Lo for that but I disagree.
I personally believe that the essence of Cinderella is for a girl, who lives in the most despicable conditions, to be looked at for who she is and not what she was made to become. And that her kindness of heart and qualities are so powerful that they are seen by whom has his/her eyes open. It made me remember this classic sentence from Jane Eyre "Beauty is in the eye of the gazer". The character of Kaisa is such a good person that she sees beauty where it doesn't seem to be. And this is for me the most important quality for someone ever deserving of Ash's love.
Cinderella isn't about a poor girl being married to a prince. And no matter what people say, I was thrilled, while reading, that Ash wouldn't fall in love for a person who had the most power, respect and wealth, but rather to the person who could see and understand her.(less)
What a beautiful book ! I read it mainly in the tube and I couldn't stop crying, which really doesn't help my social life by the way. The book is at ti...moreWhat a beautiful book ! I read it mainly in the tube and I couldn't stop crying, which really doesn't help my social life by the way. The book is at times incredibly funny, and at others very touching (crying your heart out kind of touching). Charlie is one of a kind and his story is about growing out of one's shell rather than growing up and about finding people who would be the kind of people to like and accept one person no matter how strange and alien they are.
The book is composed of letters that Charlie writes to a stranger. Stranger to the reader, but most certainly stranger to Charlie too. It is very well written and you get taken by surprise by Charlie's way of seeing things and you grow so fond of him you just wish he could exist so that you could take him in your arms which doesn't help my social life either.
Charlie is a sweet, innocent and clueless teenager. At the beginning of the story, one of Charlie's friends has committed suicide and it is clear throughout the story that it had a very deep effect on him, as well as his Aunt Helen's death. All of these tragedies seem to be too much for Charlie's little shoulder, but the he reveals throughout the book to be more courageous than you would think.
I like the relationship between Charlie and his friends, as well as Charlie and Sam in particular (who are you calling hopeless romantic?!). Charlie's relation with his family is very sweetly portrayed, and I found it very touching. I also like how the theme of homosexuality in high school is presented through the character of Patrick, Charlie's friend. It is interesting to read about the pressure that is put on young boys about "being a man" and where being gay isn't accepted.
I also like the small parenthesis on how girls are treated by guys in relationships in high school: being raped, ending up pregnant and getting dumped for it, being cheated on etc. and how they are put in contrast with other characters and situation that show the complete opposite: Charlie and Sam, Bill and his girlfriend, Charlie's parents etc.
As a passionate fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I would have loved to be with Charlie, Sam and Patrick every Friday night to sing along and dress up as characters of the film !! I didn't really say that, did I ?! On a more serious note, I like the literary references made in the book, not only because I have read and liked most of these books, but because they are important books that need to be read and reflected upon. Charlie's teacher, Bill, is an amazing character and I like how teaching Charlie has changed things for him as well as for Charlie.
I know that the book has several references to sex and drugs, but I think that the message isn't "take drugs" or "have sex young is great", it is more about friendship, family, love and growing up. The situations faced by all the characters are faced by millions of teenagers every day, and it is interesting to see how the characters went on with their lives after these.
This book reminded me of a few other things so if you liked this book, you might want to check out:
The novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005) which is a heartbreaking and very original novel about a young boy who lost his father in the World Trade Centre and goes on a quest in New York, learning more about his family and himself on the way. A must read.
The film Rocket Science with the very talented Anna Kendrick about a 15 years old boy who stutters but decides to join the debate club in high school after having a crush on one of the members.
The film Charlie Bartlett with Robert Downey Jr and Kat Dennings on a teenager who starts giving therapeutic advice and prescription drugs to his fellow classmates in order to become popular.
The song Lean on me by Bill Withers, I have no idea why in particular, just because it's the feeling I had after reading the book.(less)
I have most entirely fallen in love with this book and will soon take all Julie Anne Peters books from the library to discover all the other fascinati...moreI have most entirely fallen in love with this book and will soon take all Julie Anne Peters books from the library to discover all the other fascinating character she came up with. I find that she deals with such a sensitive subject with a lot of understanding. Her writing is simple yet very profound and all the characters in the story seem genuinely real.
Throughout the story, you realise that Regan has known her "brother" Liam was a girl ever since she was a young child, and has always thought of Liam as Lia Marie and then Luna. Through Regan's eyes, we witness Luna's constant struggle to keep the illusion of Liam and restrain herself from being who she really is. It is really well shown in the book how lifeless Liam is when Luna is just burning to live her life. Luna continues to pretend, withering away more each day as Liam, until the one point where she can no longer and outing herself is the only solution and truly a matter of life and death.
I was also deeply touched by the character of Regan. Such pressure has been constantly put on her tiny shoulders for years. When someone is discriminated, his entire family, friends and acquaintances receive the aftershocks of such feelings. She is being literally sucked in by Luna and her misery. I found it as interesting to witness Luna going out of her shell as Regan coming out of hers. I loved the love story building itself between Regan and Chris. It is so sweet to see those two stumble on each other *awkward & clumsy people rule*. I also liked the fact that everyone has issues and that every families has something that isn't perfect, and that's just why there isn't *a* definition of perfection or normal.
I liked the distinction that has been made between transgenders and gays: Regan insists that Liam isn't gay, he is a woman trapped in a man's body. It is such a beautifully written book that I believe it is a classic story for the theme of transsexuality. I liked also the importance the book gave to transsexual associations who play such a great role for those wanting to make the transition (i.e. changing sex), because it is not an easy nor short process. My roomie who is a nurse (in the UK) told me that patients had to follow psychological examinations for several years before being granted the right to change sex.
I reviewed this book for the Body Image and Self Perception Month and this book is the perfect illustration of self perception vs the perception of others of one's body. Luna has always felt woman but everyone else only sees Liam and each time Luna tries to be herself, she encounters mountains of misunderstanding and hate. I believe that persons who don't understand transsexuals should read this book. It is a powerful story which shows what it feels like to be born in the wrong body and the effect the rejection has, not only on the person, but on their families and friends. And understanding is the key to accepting, no matter what the subject is.(less)
This book is a breeze of fresh air in the recent books I have read. It is extremely sweet, fun and original. I don't know exactly what I was waiting b...moreThis book is a breeze of fresh air in the recent books I have read. It is extremely sweet, fun and original. I don't know exactly what I was waiting before reading the book, I had read some good reviews and thought it would be a fun love story, but it ended up being much more original than that.
The narrator Paul lives in a town where there is no discrimination against people's sexual orientation. The LGBTQ and the straight crowds have mixed several years before and you can see the utopic city where everyone is respected even Infinite Darlene the homecoming queen and star quaterback of the football team of Paul's high school. I loved reading about this, it represents such a change from the less positive and optimistic LGBT books. Paul's voice in the book grips you from the first page and you share his emotions as the story evolves around him, his friends and his love interest Noah.
The story is about that moment in life where you meet someone and you know. You know this isn't like anything you have encountered before. You know this is the real thing. Or maybe not. Though it looks like it. Your entire life gets attached to that person and it makes you the happiest you've ever been in years but it hurts and scares you so much at the same time. Not that I know the feeling. :-D I absolutely loved reading about Paul and Noah. Their feelings, their doubts, their fears, their hesitations and certainties. It was just extremely swoon-worthy and cute.
I liked all the characters. I feared it might look like an accumulation of stereotypes, but all the characters felt real to me. As real as they would be in this utopic society where they wouldn't have to justify their existence to the others and could live openly. They don't have to hide themselves and their feelings cease to become an issue: they feel attracted to others, they have doubts, they try, they realize their preferences, and they can do all that in a peaceful environment. At the beginning of the book I felt that Paul was more a narrator than a character so to speak, but his personality emerged through the story. Even though the story talks a lot about being gay and coming out, it is first and foremost a love story between two characters and their journey towards this love.
I particularly enjoy the character of Tony. He lives in another town and goes to another school which isn't as open-minded as Paul's. His parents are devoted Christians who feel that homosexuality is the work of the devil. He is an extraordinary character. I loved all the moments where he showed his courage and sensibility.
I don't even need to say anything on Infinite Darlene, she is absolutely wonderful (and definitely knows it).
I hate labels in general, and these ones in particular. It feels like you constantly need to add a letter at the end of LGBT to include everyone. This multiplication of labels doesn't have the result of making people more accepted in general, it just gives them a name and a group in which they can be recognised. As Paul says in the book, people love labels. I liked that the book presented the characters without having to label them automatically. They are all human beings - the other labels are superfluous.
I absolutely loved the artistic vibe there was in the story. I now want to paint the music like Noah and create origami flowers like Paul! The writing is beautiful especially in those moments. I liked walking with Paul through his city and share what he saw in it. I also liked following Tony in the nature where he likes to be alone.
This book literally took me by surprise. It is a very sweet and original read and the LGBT theme is presented in a very unique way through amazingly vivid characters. The love story is so romantic... *swoon* :)(less)
It would be easier for me to list all the things this book isn't rather than find a couple words to describe it. It is one of a kind. I can't even tel...moreIt would be easier for me to list all the things this book isn't rather than find a couple words to describe it. It is one of a kind. I can't even tell you if I liked it or hated it. One thing for sure is that it didn't leave me indifferent at all.
In A Strange Room is composed of three short stories which were each written at a different time and place. Yet, since these stories are autobiographical and tell the meanderings of Damon Galgut, there is a link between them. Though not one you would expect.
The book uses both a first person and a third person narrative, in the sense that Damon Galgut writes about some episodes of his life using most of the time a third person point of view and sometimes talking about himself in first person. The reader is left wondering why. Is it a way of talking about events so far in time that it doesn't even feel like him anymore? Is it a way to dissociate himself from who he was? Is it a pure exercise of style? The book also only uses commas and full stops, never any question mark or exclamation point. The story-telling appears as tumultuous as the emotions of the narrator - as in entirely flat. Things are just going without any ups and downs.
Other than the mysterious style of writing, there seems to be no evolution or sense of resolve in these stories, they seem to have been written just for the purpose of the exercise, more as a diary than to tell a proper story. There are rules to tell a story which the book evidently doesn't want to respect. Damon Galgut travels through Africa and then India, he meets several characters with whom he interacts and he tells the forgotten story of some characters who died since then or whom Damon never saw again. In a way, you get a glimpse of a story which should have never been told. How very voyeuristic to be fascinated by those stories!
There is a restlessness in this book that the author doesn't seem to overcome. He needs to be constantly on the move trying to find an answer to a question he himself doesn't even know. He is trying to find a home but all the places he sets foot in seem strange. You come to empathise with him at times, over his own inability to connect with people and to express what we know he feels inside, and at other times you simply resent him for being so selfish, childish and without any goal in life. I find the book to be halfway through spleen* and absurdist fiction.
They say that what is important isn't the destination but the journey. But the character in the story seems so intent on his ever elusive destination that he doesn't even appreciate the journey. He walks in what could be gorgeous landscape, but the reader is never granted a description. The reader could be travelling through his eyes to unknown lands but is never given the chance to.
I am at loss to think or feel something precise about this book. In a way, I am glad that I read it because my head is still full of interrogations as to what it all means. Most likely, it isn't meant to mean anything and it is interesting in this respect.
The book has also a latent homo-eroticism between the narrator and two other characters, one in the first, one in the second short story. There is much internal emotional upheaval which struggles to come out. You are left wondering if the narrator ever came to terms with his feelings for men or not.
The book is an interesting read, part focused on human nature, part wanting to take the reader as testimony of a life. I chose to over-think the whole thing, trying to find a meaning out of the book, but you could as well enjoy the book and take it for what it is. It is an easy read which you will probably read in one sitting as it is a book which keep you wanting more. I honestly wouldn't know who to recommend it to besides anyone with a curious disposition and a willingness to read unconventional books.
* Spleen comes from the English word, a synonym of melancholy, which was made popular in French literature with poet Charles Baudelaire. It became a symbol of many writers of the late 1800.(less)
A little while back, I was rummaging through Amazon to find lesbian teen novels and fell on Empress Of The World. I found the cover so beautifully poe...moreA little while back, I was rummaging through Amazon to find lesbian teen novels and fell on Empress Of The World. I found the cover so beautifully poetic and evocative that I immediately bought it. The story is beautiful, the characters endearing and the story-telling wonderful! I searched for other novels written by Sara Ryan and realised that she had written a companion novel to Empress Of The World, The Rules For Hearts. This second book is different from the first and brings different themes and feelings. You definitely need to read them both!
Nicola is one of those girls who spends her time over-analysing things in her head and isn't very sociable, she goes to the Siegel Institute Program for Gifted Youth for the summer to confirm her lifelong dream of being an archeologyst. Nic doesn't know what to expect from the Institute and is very surprised to become friends with a bunch of people on the first day. People who even *gasp* want to spend time with her. There is Katrina the crazy computer girl who has the best personality ever, Isaac the shy nice guy who is attracted to Katrina, the annoying Kevin (like Nicola, I found him utterly annoying, so there, last time I will mention his existence) and then there is Battle. Battle Hall Davies is a beautiful girl named after a building (parents are just so cruel sometimes) who has already been to the Institute the year before and is studying history.
Nicola may not have been that much bothered about defining her identity and her sexuality before, but she only needs to glance at Battle once to feel profoundly attracted to her. Battle is not only beautiful but clever and spiritual and full of mystery. At first, Nicola thinks that whatever is going on in her is a sort of admiration and jealousy for the perfect Battle, but she soon realises that there is so much more... and that it might be mutual [insert swoon here].
This is a very sweet tale of finding yourself and first love. The writing was very sensitive and the story adorable. It felt very real and relatable the way they realise their infatuation and tiptoe around each other wondering what it would be like to be together and then relax and start to be themselves with each other. Very much like A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, the story isn't about "I am a lesbian, and I've always know I was a lesbian, and I will never look at a boy in my entire life", it is about falling for someone whose personality and attitude makes your heart beat faster and brings butterflies in your stomach, regardless of who that person is. It is about finding someone with whom you can be yourself.
The book also talks about parents/children relationships. Nicola comes from a very sheltered background, in a family where her parents love each other and she feels loved, and she has never questioned the relation they had. But then she meets this group of people and half of them have parents who are divorced and others have terrible relations with their families, etc. It is a recurrent theme in YA and even MG novels where parents are either dead, divorced, unknown or don't care about their children but I felt that it was subtly and realisitically shown through the story of the characters in here.
And talking about them, the characters are the best aspect of the novel: multi-faceted, believable, full of crushes and silly aspirations in life, I really felt like I was back in high school and had a life of choices in front of me. I really liked how different Nicola and Battle were. Nicola is at times a bit fastidious by over-thinking things all the time, but I was exactly the same at her age and a tiny crush would roughly take over my life for a week until I was becoming ill of it and ended up rationalising that it would never work and found something else to occupy my thoughts (*cough* I mean, I know someone who knows someone who may have been doing that, not me at all *cough*). I loved Battle's character and I'm really glad we get to see more of her in The Rules For Hearts. Katrina is literally the best character ever and you need to read the book to discover her complete awesomeness. She made me laugh out loud more than once and I really wish she was real. Isaac isn't very present at first, always shy and crushing on Katrina, but he progressively gets more and more open and I thought he was genuinely adorable. They are all geeks (the real deal, not the fake ones who think that wearing glasses makes them intelligent), they work hard at school and do think about other things in life than partying and be ultra cool and popular all the time so they were fantastic to read about. Even though Nicola faces some harsh dumb homophobic comments and there are some dark passages, it is a really uplifting story. I love this book to pieces, it has everything that I love in books from the setting to the characters, the humour and the more serious themes in the background. The romance is the cutest thing ever so all you romance lovers will love it. I cannot recommend it enough!(less)
I have been a huge fan of Julie Anne Peters after reading her beautiful and sensitive book Luna about a girl born in a boy's body and I think that Kee...moreI have been a huge fan of Julie Anne Peters after reading her beautiful and sensitive book Luna about a girl born in a boy's body and I think that Keeping You A Secret is my favourite lesbian young adult novel. I love the story, the writing, the characters and the themes present in this book. But I know this is my favourite because this is the one book I wish was translated into French so that I could give it to my parents to read. I don't come from a place where homosexuality is seen as remotely ok, you often hear that gay people are "disturbed" or that "you wouldn't leave your children with them" and I found that Keeping You A Secret showed a lot of things I felt inside and never been able to express. It talks about the beauty of love and the hurt one feels when confronted with the hate and ignorance around.
Holland lives a pretty regular life, she is in her senior year in high school, is class president, has a lot of friends, does sports and has a loving boyfriend. For her last semester in high school she took way too many classes, including an Art Class she has no reasons to be in. Then she meets Cece, she has a long blond ponytail, a cryptic t-shirt (IMRU?) and a whole lot of confidence. From that moment on, Holland can't stop thinking about her and starts to question herself and her sexuality.
Holland's self-discovery is brilliantly told in this book. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling the read for you but I could really relate to what was going on in her mind and how she couldn't put words on the feelings for Cece which were starting to grow inside of her. Holland and Cece feel passionately attracted to each other but it's by getting to know one another that they really fall in love.
Another side of Holland is how misunderstood she is by her own family. Her mother, who had Holland at 16 and had to go to work early instead of going to College has a love/hate relationship with Holland. Of course she loves her daughter and is fiercely protective of her, but you feel the resentment coming through every now and then. Holland's mother also wants to live through her so Holland doesn't get much of a say over her life. She used to find it annoying before, but now that the college application deadlines are coming up, her mother is becoming downright unbearable and will not let Holland choose a future for herself. This type of pressure on teenagers is very common from parents and Julie Anne Peters shows brilliantly the consequences it has on teenagers. Holland has no idea what she wants to do in her life, she is doing good in all her classes but doesn't have real affinities with any. Then she starts this Art class as a way to fill in a blank period. Art is obviously not a career possibility for her mother, but Holland realises that she really likes it, and quite surprisingly, that she is good at it.
Throughout the book is also shown the type of homophobia that gay people have to go through regularly. Everyone is "fine with homosexuality" (you know, because it isn't very proper to be full-on against it) but you realise that their actions don't add up to what they say. That parents have this attitude, you can sort of see where they're coming from, but a lot of the hate comes from teenagers themselves. When Cece wants to create the Lesbigay club in Holland's high school, everyone says that "there are no gays in the school" and they don't understand why a Lesbigay club would be useful anyway. Obviously, this isn't true and many of the teens questioning their sexuality would rather wait for college to actually come out because there is no way they would "survive high school" if they didn't.
The book is about a lesbian love story and how a teenager has to face her family and peers to be accepted for who she is, but it's also a universal story for all the people who go through this type of bullying in school and who feel there isn't anyone to help them. One of the aspects of the book I loved is how Cece's character explains what a Lesbigay club entails and how they help people how to come out and that if all hell breaks lose and your family and friends turn against you, you are not alone because there is a big loving family just waiting for you. There is a real positive message in this book without the reality being sugar-coated in any way. It really shows you that things do get better. This is a very powerful book that really hit home for me, but I am sure other people will learn a lot by reading it, especially those who are not themselves questioning their sexuality. I really feel that for parents or friends of people who just came out, reading this book would be really helpful.(less)
This book was published in 1984, and you can feel through the book and some situations that the action is set at the beginning of the epidemics from t...moreThis book was published in 1984, and you can feel through the book and some situations that the action is set at the beginning of the epidemics from the very few medical options Lacy's brother has, but at the same time, some of the reactions Lacy's family go through do not seem so far away from what happens today.
Lacy is a young girl in high school, she lives for swimming and the fast approaching regionals. She misses her big brother a lot but is very happy in her life. When her big brother comes back home with AIDS, everything changes for her and she has to deal with all the changes in her life, family, friends and swimming.
This book didn't lose anything after 25 years, you might see a few differences here and there in ways of life, but the story in itself is not dated. Lacy is a girl like any teenagers, she does her homework, helps out at home, hangs out with her friends and has a very strong commitment to swimming. Being in the water is like an obligation for Lacy, and, when you read through her eyes, you understand how vital it is for her. Lacy also trusts her coach more than any other teacher and she really wants to bring the best for the team.
The book is written in third person point of view (following Lacy) and some tiny chapters are entries from her diary in first person. Even through it is slightly complicated at first, you get used to the double narrative and really get into Lacy's head.
Lacy's brother, Jack, left his small town to become a lawyer in Boston. He is gay and even though you can read that Lacy and her friends have no issues whatsoever with this, it is still a bit tense when the subject is brought up by her parents who "know without knowing" and ignore the subject. When Lacy confronts her father on this later in the novel, he explains that his attitude isn't against Jack being gay, but that he is afraid people might harm him because of this, like Lacy's father did when he was younger to another teenager. Though the book is mainly about AIDS, the prejudice over gays is also part of the story.
Jack had been in a serious relationship with Lincoln and lacy couldn't wait to meet him. But Lincoln had HIV and unknowingly contaminated Jack. Before going back to live with his parents in the last stages, Jack took care of a dying Lincoln. He saw everything that would happen to him on the person he loved the most. Jack loses the love of his life and cannot seem to try to survive. When Lacy confronts Jack asking what it feels like, he tells her how empty he felt and how afraid he was to touch anyone and anything. Those couple pages were the most beautiful of the book, truly heartbreaking.
Lacy chooses AIDS as the subject of a science project. She learns a lot about the virus and shares it with friends and her parents. Even though her parents do not want Lacy to tell people about it, fearing they might prejudice Jack and talk, Jack is happy for Lacy to share what she feels. Lacy's relation with her parents changes a lot and the book is a coming of age story about Lacy.
The story gives a perspective on a person living with AIDS and what he goes through, but also on the family living with him and going through the same prejudices from people. The book is beautifully written and the characters are all fascinating. The story brings together various themes important in YA novels like family, friends and growing up. (less)
Even though the book isn't a sequel strictly speaking (you can read this one without having read Empress Of The World), it is still set after Empress...moreEven though the book isn't a sequel strictly speaking (you can read this one without having read Empress Of The World), it is still set after Empress Of The World so I will try to keep the spoilers at bay, but be warned!
Battle has finished high school and the summer before going to college she goes to Portland to live in the cooperative house with her brother Nick. Nick left his parents' home at 16 and never gave any news to them, but he kept a bit contact with Battle. Battle loves her brother and she missed him so much. You have the feeling that during his absence, she kind of idolised him. Progressively, Battle gets on with the day-to-day life at the house and begins to see through her brother and learn more of who he is as well as who she is herself.
As in Empress of the World, the focus of the book is on characters and The Rules for Hearts has a bigger cast of varied personalities. Since we are seeing the story through Battle's eyes, we get a much better glimpse as to who she is and how she has evolved since the previous year. We also get to know more about what happened in her family and why Nick left. His personality is interesting and I feel that one of Sara Ryan's talent is to show a person with everything laid out in the open and you can't say this person is good or bad because this is so irrelevant. I *love* Meryl :D she is just so unique! I don't agree with everything she does but she has a great personality and she is a nice counterpart for Battle. I love the characters in the house, I live myself in a shared flat and having roommates is awesome (except when they do karaoke every night)!
The family is explored in this, but it is more the family you choose than the one you inherit. You might not be able to fit in with your family as much as you want, and sometimes, you create your own family along the road with people you meet and who know and understand you. It definitely symbolises the change from the friends and family you might have during high school when still living with your parents to entering adulthood and daring more to stand up for yourself. That's for me why it would be a really interesting book for 16 year olds and older to read before they leave their home for Uni themselves.
I love how homosexuality and other gender identity themes are present in the book without being the focus. It *is* an LGBT novel, but that's not all it is. If Empress Of The World explored that part of Battle's life where she comes to term with her sexuality, The Rules For Hearts is more a time for Battle to experience life, which is one of the reasons why those two novels are so different in a sense. There is some romance in there as well and I loved how realistically and sensitively it was portrayed.
The book is centred around A Midsummer's Night Dream which Aurora (owner of the house where they live) is directing so there's a cast list at the beginning and the chapters are divided in Acts and scenes. I *loved* that! Such a great way to link style and plot and the preparations for the play are great to read.
Sara Ryan's stories are like a snippet of her characters' lives. It follows them during the few months of summer and then leaves them without trying to force on a resolution or some sort of closure on the story. I like that aspect because it feels like real life so much more than a story with a clear-cut beginning, middle and end.
In just two books, I became a huge fan of Sara Ryan and her style and I really love her take on the characters she created. This story features some more "grown up" themes and really explore that moment where teenagers become adults and choose their lives for themselves. Everyone should read this book :)(less)
Huntress is set in the same world as Ash but takes place some eons of time before. Huntress's setting though has some clear Chinese influences in term...moreHuntress is set in the same world as Ash but takes place some eons of time before. Huntress's setting though has some clear Chinese influences in terms of cultural and religious aspects.
I really felt that the setting was very important in this book and that it grounded the plot and the characters. Malinda Lo is a very strong advocate of Diversity in YA and not only does the book touch LGBT themes but it has also some feminist and POC aspects.
The characters in this story all have their different stories, experiences and outlook on life. Kaede is the daughter of the King's Chancellor and has a path already prepared for her where she marries a rich important man to secure stability in the Kingdom. But Kaede doesn't want to get involved in politics and get married to a man she hardly knows (*cough* to a man, period. *cough*). She wants to choose her own life and keeps opposing herself to her father. Taisin comes from a very modest family and only owes her place in the Academy thanks to her extraordinary gifts. She is very talented and dedicated to become a sage. The secondary characters also have their personalities and their own inner struggles. I liked Con, the King's son, who, having spent time in the army with trusted soldiers, knows how to take care of himself and his people, as well as Shae who is a badass warrior despite being a woman (that is no me being sexist, it is the general idea in the book).
The Kingdom is organised as a patriarchal society (aka ruled by those little things known as "men") from what we can gather from the beginning, and even if some strong female figures exist in the Academy as sages, they are magically gifted. The society isn't big on homosexuality either, in case you were wondering. So a very important part of the story is that Taisin and Kaede are both fighting social conventions (kapow!) to be something which doesn't exactly exist and which they don't know they can reach. Slowly, they realise that everything that have been fed to them by everyone since they were children doesn't apply to the reality before their eyes and doesn't prepare them to anything they will have to confront. And no matter how hard the situation is (may it be going to the Xi or understanding they feeling) they cannot not fight this fight.
That is why I really loved the romance part (yes, that is really me saying that :) )! You really could feel Kaede and Taisin's feelings for each other grow every day more. It started as a tiny spark and kept growing as their mutual respect and admiration for each other grew. Their story was very sensitively portrayed and it didn't distract the reader too much from the main action of the book nor did it seem too boringly romantical.
In the book, the main fairy characters are the Xi who are a type of Elf/Fairy/You-Name-It who live eternal lives, have very developed magical skills and are very close to nature. Their personalities are very much in line with their species' characteristics so it felt realistic (as realistic as fantastical creatures in a fantasy world can get). It was also interesting to see the human characters discover the contrasts between the two species. The fantasy aspect is also not too heavy so non-fantasy fans can read this without risk of sudden death. Malinda Lo has fantastic story-telling skills and I really loved the fact that the story took some very unexpected paths and didn't go the way I anticipated it would go. The story uses a third person narrator who goes in the head of all characters.
Colour me partial but this is definitely my kind of book through and through. I love the style of writing, the story, the characters and the setting. I really want to read more about Kaede and Taisin (and it does feel like a sequel might be possible)!(less)
I found this book in Foyles and the original cover caught my eyes on a table, then I had the pleasant surprise to discover that this was a lesbian you...moreI found this book in Foyles and the original cover caught my eyes on a table, then I had the pleasant surprise to discover that this was a lesbian young adult novel and that the book was set in the author’s native country, Australia - I couldn't be more thrilled!
The book is about 19-year-old Anna who lives in small town and works in a bookshop. She lives far from her family and has no friends but she finds all she needs in books. Especially the dark ones written by dead Russian writers. Then one day she meets Flynn (well, she really is Rose but everyone calls her Flynn) and Anna realises that she needs more in her life, that she needs Flynn in her life. They both fall for each other and they start getting to know each other even if they are cautious to share some parts of their past.
The book perfectly encapsulates the characteristics of first love. It's like being short-sighted all your life and suddenly putting on glasses: you finally realise what you've been missing out your whole life and what you now can't live without. Anna thought her entire life that she was not lovable and that no one would ever love her. The day before, Anna was roughly satisfied with her life (as much as a lonely and depressed 19 year old could be, that is) and the day after she can't stop thinking and obsessing about Flynn. Because love may be a beautiful thing but has some obsessive, absolute and all-encompassing aspect to it. And as Anna and Flynn get to know each other, we get to know more about them and reevaluate what we have been thinking all along since the beginning.
A part of the book tells the teenage years of Anna and how she had to go through the divorce of her parents and how her little sister has learning disabilities. Even though Anna loves her sister Molly, she sometimes resents the attention her sister gets instead of her. Anna also feels "like a freak" for being gay and she closes herself to the people around her. One aspect of the story is Anna's depression, and I thought that young adult novels on the subject are far too few. It is very respectfully and realistically described and I thought it added a very interesting layer to Anna's personality.
Creativity is an important part of the book as well: Flynn is a musician and has a very lively personality (she names her belongings and talks to her guitar). It also shows how a creative activity can bring out your deeply hidden emotions which you feel you can't talk about. It definitely reminded me of Melinda in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson who progressively finds her voice in art class. Some traumas are hard to get out there and I loved how Flynn tried to find a way to express herself.
The story is very much centred around the two main characters and their stories. The book is told from Anna's point of view and her obsession with Flynn was hard to follow at times, but the book’s writing kept me going. You might not be able to like the characters or be fascinated by this love story, but the writing is very beautiful that it holds you until the very last page. It really has been a pleasure to read and I highly recommend it if you are reading books leaning on the more literary side of the force.
This is a very sweet love story, but most of all the coming of age story of a girl who needs to get away to find herself. The passages on Anna's depression and on Flynn's creativity as a means to escape and deal with reality as well as the beautiful writing really made this book special for me. I will be looking out for Joanne Horniman's other novels!(less)
I completely fell for this beautiful story which has some truly laugh out loud moments. I would advise you to be mainly alone and in reaching distance...moreI completely fell for this beautiful story which has some truly laugh out loud moments. I would advise you to be mainly alone and in reaching distance of a box of tissues while reading though.
Cass has been friends with Julia ever since they were young and their friendship is as strong as one between two very different and complementary personalities. Cass is very introverted and loves math while Julia is into theatre and music and anything arty. If Cass is mostly withdrawn, Julia is full of life and bubbly. Julia has a boyfriend and a group of theatre friends and she makes Cass feel included in this group. Then one day Julia dies in a car accident and Cass's world falls apart. She realises that without Julia, she doesn't have friends anymore, not even the theatre group who are so different from her. When they decide to do Julia's secret project - a hilarious musical with ninjas - Cass offers to help to create the set, until the group hires Heather, Cass's nemesis and the girl who has been bullying her at school, in the role that would have been Julia's, the ninja princess. They have a huge fight and Cass decides to go on the road trip she had planned with Julia for the summer. She is bringing Julia's ashes with her without telling her friends or even Oliver, Julia's boyfriend. Cass will not come back the same of this trip.
The book is divided between Then and Now, Then when Cass decides to go on the road trip and Now when she comes back home. Even though this is a tiny book, there are several themes present in the book and I liked how the serious aspects were counter-balanced by the slight craziness of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad and Julia's personality always present in the book.
Cass is a very interesting, though not always likeable, character in this story. She is very introverted and even though her parents love her, Julia is the one to matter for Cass. Cass is bullied at school and doesn't have any other friends - not that she is interested to make any anyway. Cass didn't have much in her life, but she had Julia who made everything ok. The loss of Julia hits Cass hard, so hard that she isolates herself from everyone else. Cass never really tried to understand her feelings for Julia - they were close friends and that was it. But when Julia starts seeing Oliver, Cass starts feeling a bit jealous. Of course there are rumours started by Heather that Cass is a lesbian and everyone assumes that Cass has always been in love with Julia, but Cass never realised this herself. Even though she toughened a bit because of this and she always had Julia to defend her, Cass withdrew herself even more. Her progressive realisation of herself and of her sexuality comes with the painful reality of the object of her affection being dead. Emily Horner describes this very sensitively I thought. Not everyone knows which gender they are attracted to since age 4 when they had a crush on their kindergarten teacher. Some people need to fall in love with someone to realise this and it is too bad that people always feel the need to know immediately and label people. Some people need time to get to know themselves, and Cass's story shows it exceedingly well.
There are some truly beautiful passages about friendship. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about the end of Cass's road trip and how the love they all felt for Julia brought this group of friends together. I really am and it is embarrassing since I'm at work. There's a really positive message in this and it's definitely the type of book people need to read to understand how some things may affect people deeply. The part of the story with Heather reminded me a lot of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and how one person's actions may cause very serious consequences. I won't spoil the story for you but Heather's character is very interesting and a fantastic counterpart to Cass. The novel also shows how much people hide from others and how much a person can change. This is definitely not a story where evil people are evil and nice people are nice. It is an age where people get to know themselves and decide which type of person they would like to be.
I loved the setting of the novel, may it be in Cass's epic road trip in bicycle through America or the set of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. I will be looking out for Emily Horner's next books as I loved everything in this one and I still have the story in me after reading it months ago. I am probably being confusing as there is so many things to say about this book and how it truly touched me. Cass's story is a beautiful coming of age story where one person loses everything and manages to find herself. It brings a very positive message for themes like bereavement/death, friendship and identity/sexuality. The characters are believable: full of flaws and preceded by a trail of mistakes but it doesn't make them either fondamentally bad or selfish, only human.(less)
The Sky Always Hears Me and The Hills Don't Mind is absolutely fantastic. Morgan's voice is unique and you will want to read this book only for this!
M...moreThe Sky Always Hears Me and The Hills Don't Mind is absolutely fantastic. Morgan's voice is unique and you will want to read this book only for this!
Morgan is a roughly regular teenager, she is a bit of a geek so she isn't very popular. She doesn't have any friends, just Girls To Sit By at lunch, her having a popular jock boyfriend was a bit of an accident, and now she is stuck with him whereas he's a bit boring. She has a crush on Rob who works as an assistant manager in the grocery store where she works (well, technically, she has more of a crush on his butt) and she was kissed by her friend Tessa a few nights before. Very complicated love life, indeed! She is a bit lost, especially since her dad is an alcoholic, and her step-mom kind of invisible and her brothers have very unique personalities. Morgan gives funny names to people and things and the only thing she wants is to get out of here fast. Her voice is grittily honest and it feels just like being in her head.
Morgan wants to write the Great American Novel as well as write fortunes. The entire book is filled with the fortunes she comes up with during the day. She has a very clear voice and her personality just comes through the narration. there are some truly laugh out loud moments in the book and there are some very touching ones (I read the book in one sitting in a café and I looked like an idiot laughing out loud and crying but oh well). Morgan is very close to her grandmother and she feels that she is the only one to truly understand her. When Morgan isn't feeling well, she takes her grandmother's car and drives up the hill and screams her frustration to the sky (hence the title).
The story is from the point of view of Morgan and how she is trying to help Tessa who is coming out. At the beginning Morgan doesn't really know if Tessa is just experimenting or if she is actually a lesbian. It is such a small and mostly narrow-minded town that when Tessa and another girl are found naked in the same bed, everyone assumes it is a "sleep-over" which is absolutely hilarious to read from Morgan's point of view, who knows it is more than that. Morgan has to deal with Tessa's crush on her and the fact that people think she is a lesbian too for being friends with Tessa. Morgan's position, as the straight friend of a lesbian in high school, is really fascinating to read. She herself wonders if she feels something for Tessa and she at times stands by her, at others doesn't know how to react. The reaction of everyone else to Tessa is very harsh but luckily she is one tough girl and can take care of herself, I really loved her character.
There are a lot of themes in this book and the most important one, I felt, was choosing a positive feeling rather than be mad, embarrassed, mean or spiteful. Morgan goes through the story making those choices and i really loved her for it.
I can't say much more not to spoil the story but Morgan's voice, the crazy (and quite realistic) personalities of most of the characters and the story will make you fall for this book. I cannot wait to read more by this author and I know that, the book being so fantastic, I will be rereading it soon!(less)