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)
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)
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)
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)
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)